Outstanding overlooks line this 25-mile drive from Grand Canyon Village east to Desert View. Grandview Point has an especially fine panorama, plus an exciting hiking trail. Other major viewpoints on the way to Desert View include Yaki Point, Moran Point, and Lipan Point. At Lipan, by looking both up- and down-canyon, you can see the entire geologic sequence of the Canyon.
Yaki Point and South Kaibab Trailhead
The turnoff is two miles east of Mather Point, but except in winter, visitors must take a shuttle service to these destinations from Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Bicycling is another option. Hikers can get an early start by taking a special year-round shuttle from Bright Angel Lodge and the Backcountry Information Center directly to the South Kaibab Trailhead. From Yaki Point, at road's end, you can see much of the central Grand Canyon. The South Kaibab Trail snakes its way along Cedar Ridge below.
Many people consider this aptly named point one of the best. It's 12 miles east of Grand Canyon Village, then 0.8 mile north. Sweeping panoramas take in much of the Grand Canyon from this commanding site above Horseshoe Mesa. The vastness and intricacies of the Canyon show themselves especially well here.
Historic Walk to the Grandview Hotel Site
If you'd like to seek out a bit of history, or just get away from the crowds for awhile, it's possible to walk out to the site of the Grandview Hotel, one of the first on the South Rim. There's little left, just some old pipes, broken glass, and a cistern, but the view is still grand. From the Grandview Point turnoff, drive east 0.5 mile on the highway to an unsigned pullout on the north side just before Milepost 251 and park. Walk east about half a mile along an old road, now open only to foot travel, then wander over to the rim. If you continue along the rim a bit farther east you'll come to a pair of small reservoirs.
Grandview Lookout Tower
Some of the prettiest country of the Kaibab National Forest surrounds the lookout. You can climb the 80-foot steel tower, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, for a panorama of the region. Turn south at the sign for "Arizona Trail" between Mileposts 252 and 253, two miles east of the Grandview Point turnoff, and proceed 1.3 miles on a dirt road to the tower. You can also drive east 15 miles on unpaved Forest Road 302 from the south edge of Tusayan. The Kaibab Forest Map (Tusayan District) shows the way in. Mountain bikers can follow trails from Tusayan to Grandview Lookout in 16 miles one way; the trailhead is on the west side of AZ 64, just north of Tusayan. See the Recreation section below for hiking, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking opportunities near the lookout.
The historic Hull Cabin and outbuildings, two miles from the lookout by bumpy dirt road, once belonged to a sheep ranch. You're welcome to visit the grounds.
Tusayan Museum and Ruin
Ancestral Puebloans built this village in A.D. 1185–90, according to tree-ring dating, then stayed 25–30 years before migrating elsewhere. Up to 30 people lived here, contending with poor soil, little rainfall, and scarce drinking water. Archaeologists who excavated part of the site in 1930 named it Tusayan, a Spanish term for Hopi territory. It's just south of Desert View Drive, 22 miles east of Grand Canyon Village and 3 miles before Desert View.
A small museum (928/638-2305, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily except in winter when it may close some days) introduces the ancestral Pueblo people and displays artifacts that they left behind. Illustrations show the village as it may have look during its occupation. You'll also see some split-twig figures made by archaic cultures. Other exhibits introduce modern tribes of the region. Related books can be purchased.
Outside, a 0.1-mile paved trail loops around the plaza and ruins of living quarters, storage rooms, and two kivas. A short side trail leads to an area that may have been used for growing crops. You can also take a guided tour; check The Guide for times. The trail stays open during daylight hours, weather permitting.
This overlook presents a stunning view at the east end of Desert View Drive. Although the surrounding pinyon pines and junipers suggest a lower elevation, this is one of the highest spots on the South Rim. Far to the east lies the multi-hued Painted Desert that gave the viewpoint its name. Below, to the north, the Colorado River comes out of Marble Canyon, then curves west through the main part of the Grand Canyon.
The Fred Harvey Company built the 70-foot Desert View Watchtower in 1932, using stone around a steel frame. Architect Mary Colter incorporated design elements from both prehistoric and modern tribes of the Four Corners region. It's not intended to be a replica of any particular watchtower, but rather an interpretation of Southwestern cultures. You enter the watchtower through a room shaped like a Navajo hogan with a traditional log ceiling. Follow the stairs up to the tower's four levels. A leaflet describes the artwork and background of the watchtower. A snake altar lies in the center of the Hopi Room on the first floor. The large circular wall painting depicts the snake legend. Look around for the wedding scene, gods, and other Hopi symbols. Out on the adjacent terrace, you can view the Canyon through "reflectoscopes," which deepen colors of the rock layers. Continue up to the second and third levels for a close look at replicas of Southwest petroglyphs. Finally, on the fourth level, you can gaze out windows from the highest viewpoint on the South Rim—7,522 feet.
The hogan-like building of the Watchtower has a gift shop. Nearby, you'll find a small information center/bookstore (9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), another gift shop, snack bar (opens for breakfast at 8 a.m.), picnic tables, general store (groceries and outdoor supplies), and a service station. The large parking area has separate sections for cars, RVs, and buses.
A short road leads to Desert View Campground ($10), which offers sites in a pinyon pine-juniper woodland from mid-May to the end of October, weather permitting. The campground has drinking water but lacks hookups; no reservations are taken.
Vicinity of Desert View
Highway AZ 64 continues east 33 miles from Desert View to US 89 and Cameron. Sheer 800-foot cliffs drop to the riverbed from two overlooks of the Little Colorado River Canyon on the Navajo Reservation. The first overlook, 16.5 miles from Desert View, requires a half-mile walk out to the best viewpoints. The second overlook, 5.2 miles farther east, has just a short walk to the views, plus a large market of Native American jewelry, pottery, and other crafts. Each turnoff is signed "Scenic View."
Cape Solitude, directly above the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers, lives up to its name and features amazing views of both canyons. Adventurous drivers with 4WD can take back roads on the Navajo Reservation to the park boundary (tribal permit needed), then walk the last 6.7 miles. Unless the Little Colorado is in flood, you'll see turquoise-blue waters from mineral-rich springs in its canyon. Hikers can reach Blue Springs on a very rough route, about 1.5 miles one way with an elevation change of 2,100 feet; it's on the Navajo Reservation (tribal permit required) and approached on 4WD roads from Desert View via Cedar Mountain or from the Kaibab National Forest farther east. The Little Colorado offers a challenging hiking route between Cameron and the Colorado River; conditions constantly change, and it should be avoided when in flood. Hiking books describe some of these routes. You may find a ranger knowledgeable in these areas; ask around at Desert View, Tusayan Ruin, and the Backcountry Information Center. See Cameron in the Northeastern Arizona chapter for details on obtaining Navajo tribal permits to explore this remote country east of the Grand Canyon.
On to Valle