This summer Seth and I spent a month road tripping Route 66. Before starting that road trip, we headed up to Grand Canyon for a week to see what we could find! I’ve been dreaming of seeing the Grand Canyon for as long as I can remember, so this week was beyond amazing. We had a VERY busy week, and saw so many amazing things, so I had to put together this Grand Canyon itinerary to share it all with you.
Typically, I’m not much of a planner, but knowing that we wanted to see everything we possibly could and not miss out on anything, I actually spent a lot of time researching this area. And I’d say it paid off! There is SO much to do in the area surrounding the Grand Canyon, it can be difficult to put it all together in a way that lets you experience as much as possible. This Grand Canyon itinerary can be modified to suit your schedule, and is jam packed full of cool experiences and great information.
Be sure to save this Google maps Grand Canyon itinerary that goes along with this post so you can refer to it while you’re driving!
Our 6 Day Grand Canyon Itinerary
Day 1, Phoenix to Flagstaff
To kick off your Grand Canyon itinerary leave Phoenix early and drive north on highway 17 about 1.5 hours to visit Montezuma’s Castle near Camp Verde. This national monument protects cliff dwellings that are very well preserved, though you can’t walk through them- mostly because they are high on a cliff! This is where you could buy your America the Beautiful National Parks pass, if you decide you want to. (Between here and Grand Canyon, it’s already halfway paid for!) There’s a nice loop to walk here to stretch your legs and a nice creek side picnic area, but you won’t be here for more than an hour. Montezuma’s Castle is a great and historic addtion to your Grand Canyon itinerary, so be sure to stop here!
Red Rock Visitors Center
From Montezuma’s Castle it’s only 25 minutes to the Red Rock Visitors Center, so don’t get comfortable! The visitor’s center lines up some amazing views, and great photo ops. If the weather is suitable, you could take some time to do a hike here before continuing on. If you are a hiker, you could easily add a day onto this itinerary, and hike the rest of day 1 before heading on to Sedona.
From the Red Rock Visitors Center you’ll continue on hwy 179, through the village of Oak Creek and into Sedona. This highway is known as the Red Rock Scenic Byway, and is a seriously beautiful drive! Take your time here, and be prepared to stop often for great photo ops. You’ll see signs telling you where there are roadside pull offs for you to take photos, so watch for them!
In Sedona you can browse one of the dozens of rock shops or wander Tlaquepaque, Sedona’s Arts & Crafts village. This is also a great place to stop for a snack & take advantage of the stunning views all around you! Here’s a list of some of the best restaurants with a view in Sedona.
Once you’ve had your fill of exploring Sedona, it’s time to head north again to continue on your Grand Canyon itinerary! This piece between Sedona and Flagstaff is long and winding, and you’ll likely find your phone losing service. So if you need your GPS to feel comfortable driving this road, make sure you download the map area so it’s available offline.
Slide Rock State Park
A worthwhile stop for this Grand Canyon itinerary is Slide Rock State Park. It is a natural, stone waterslide and waterhole, so is mostly advisable in swim-able weather. It is just north of Sedona, so you can see how time is looking when you’ve finished in town.
Once you’ve had your fill of Slide Rock Park, head to Flagstaff to spend the night. Use Airbnb to find a place to stay!
Day 2, Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Village
Note: Flashlights and solid footwear are required for this activity. A jacket or sweater is also recommended
If you’ve ever wanted to stand in the tunnel of an old lava flow, this is where to go! I had never heard of this place until a friend mentioned it shortly before we left Phoenix, while I was looking for things to do at the Grand Canyon. After a bit of googling, I found where it was located and quickly added it to our Grand Canyon itinerary. And I’m so glad we did! We both still count this stop as one of our coolest experiences to date.
Getting here is a bit of a drive through the country, and one that isn’t guided by any signs to show you’re going the right way. After 20 or so minutes of driving down bumpy roads and through cattle pastures, you’ll see a single sign telling you to turn right, and a minute later you’ll find yourself in a fair sized parking lot. There’s a good chance you’ll be alone… we only saw 2 other small groups in the 90 or so minutes we were there!
Please note that this activity on our Grand Canyon itinerary isn’t ideal for small children, anyone unsteady on their feet or anyone that has fears of darkness as it involves a moderate climb into a cave on rocky terrain in pitch black. It’s not difficult for the average adult, but would be difficult to do if you had to hold a child’s hand. Also be sure to bring a few flashlights with you! The brighter the better to get a good look and take cool photos! Once you get into the cave it’s pitch black with not a bit of light- find a steady place to stand and turn off your light to test it out! This rocky entrance only lasts the first 20-30 feet, so you will get to flat ground pretty quickly!
The lava tubes are located about 35 minutes west of Flagstaff, off of hwy 40, on your way to the Grand Canyon. Expect to spend around an hour here, depending on how far back into the cave you walk. It is 0.75 miles in and the same out. But you’ll want to take some time to pause and check out the patterns on the walls! If you bring a camera, be sure to bring along a tripod to get nice and steady photos!
Williams is a great little stop on our Grand Canyon itinerary! Known as ‘the Gateway to the Grand Canyon’, it is also the last town on historic Route 66 to be bypassed by hwy 40. Williams is home to the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, the train line that bring people north to Grand Canyon Village. The town is lined with eateries and hotels reminiscent of the days when Route 66 was bustling, along with many souvenir stores to mark your time on the Route.
After a wander up and down the main street, this is a great town to stop for lunch before driving north to the Grand Canyon. We recommend Twisters Soda Fountain for a great meal! It doesn’t look like much from the outside (though you will notice the pink Cadillac and ‘Eat Here’ sign!), but out of the 2 places we tried in town, this one wins our vote!
If you grew up watching the Flintstones, this is a must stop on your Grand Canyon itinerary! It’s on the left of hwy 64, about 30 minutes north of Williams. It IS dated, and won’t take you long to walk around and get a few photos, but is worth the $5 entrance fee for nostalgia’s sake.
Rocks ‘n’ More Shop
Directly across from Bedrock City is a nice rock shop called Rocks ‘n’ More. Not recommended if you have small children as it’s pretty tight quarters and filled with a ton of beautiful and valuable items, but is a nice little shop to browse! They have a large lot out back with some massive collections of stones that was cool to take a wander around!
Planes of Fame Air Museum
If you’re any sort of aviation fan, this would be a good, quick stop on the way to the Grand Canyon, in the same area as Bedrock City. We didn’t have time on our drive, and we’d already seen all of the planes on display in this museum thanks to Seth being a complete aviation nut! We always enjoy these stops though, so consider it if you have a bit of extra time! I’d guess you’d probably want around an hour to see everything on site.
South Rim Visitors Center & Mather Point for Sunset
Once you get to the Grand Canyon park gates it’s a 15 minute drive to the parking lot of the visitors center. Mather Point is the main lookout at the South Rim, but we enjoyed walking east along the pathway to get some varying views while the sun was going down.
You can camp or stay in a cabin at the South Rim Grand Canyon Village, stay in Tusayan, or continue on to Page tonight. We opted to continue on to Page that night, but it definitely makes for a long day so I’d recommend staying in the park and setting off the next morning. Doing it this way will allow you time to stop at some of the lookouts along the road heading east out of the park. From the South Rim Visitors Center to Page is nearly 2.5 hours and tomorrow is a pretty light day, so you’ll still have time to see everything we cover in this Grand Canyon itinerary.
Day 3, Grand Canyon South Rim to Page
Glen Canyon Dam tour & walk across
When in Page, you really can’t miss the Glen Canyon Dam. It’s a massively impressive dam built on the Colorado River at the edge of Page in the 1950’s to create Powell Lake, which works to distribute water equally among the 7 states within the Colorado River Basin. It is also a huge source of hydroelectric power for the area.
You can walk across the pedestrian walkway to get a view of the dam, but the only way to walk across the dam itself is to take a tour. They leave hourly, last about an hour and only cost $5 for those over 17, and $2.50 for kids 6-17. Not only do you walk across the dam on the tour but you also get to go to the bottom, 583 feet down to the base of the Colorado River. It truly is a worthwhile tour, and we highly recommend it for your Grand Canyon itinerary!
Glen Canyon Dam overlook
When planning your Grand Canyon itinerary you can’t skip this overlook! The views are beautiful, and it’s a great place to watch the sunset. You’ll see signs for the overlook and find a parking lot at the top. From there you can walk down a set of natural sandstone ‘stairs’ to get to the overlook. It’s a fun walk over and around the levels of sandstone, and the overlook offers a great view of the Colorado River, Glen Canyon, and the dam. You can stay here for 15 minutes, or an hour or 2. There will be a steady stream of people stopping to check it out, as it is a stop on most bus tours.
Get Waterholes Slot Canyon Pass
Waterholes Canyon is the lesser known little cousin of the popular Antelope Canyon. It is a similar slot canyon to Antelope, but because the upper section- the piece that is hikeable- is on Navajo land, you only need a hiking permit instead of a guide. Upper Waterholes Canyon makes for an awesome day hike, with some seriously photogenic angles. We spent about 3 hours there and only saw one other family as we were getting back to our car to leave. So if you’re not a fan of shoulder to shoulder crowds and fast moving tours, this is the canyon to choose!
You’ll get your pass from the Tribal Parks Office in Leche-e for $12/person and I’ve heard they’re also available from Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours office, but I can’t verify that. So leave me a comment below if you have bought it from there!
Explore Page & Lake Powell
Page is a cute, touristy town of about 7000 that sits on the banks of Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the world. If you stick to the main strip, you’ll find fast food stops, restaurants, souvenir stores and an abundance of tour companies. It won’t take long to get a feel of Page, so you’ll have plenty of time to check out Lake Powell!
Day 4, Page to Grand Canyon North Rim
Stop at Navajo Bridge
Navajo Bridge is an arch bridge spanning the Colorado River on the way to Lee’s Ferry, 5 miles north on the river. It was built in 1929, and was only the second crossing of the Colorado River at the time. There are now 2 bridges at the same spot- one open to vehicle traffic, and the other only open to pedestrian and equestrian traffic. You’ll find a parking lot on either side of the pedestrian bridge, but I recommend stopping on the west side of the bridge, as this is where you’ll find the state park office, washrooms, and a picnic area. From here you can walk across to see the view. On the east side you’ll find several Indigenous artisans selling their wares, if you’re looking for some authentic souvenirs!
Marble Canyon is the section of canyon that you’ll see from Navajo Bridge, through which the Colorado River flows. It stretches from Lee’s Ferry to the beginning of the Grand Canyon, and is named so not because it is made of marble, but because the many colors and smooth sides give the look of marble. You’ll be right alongside this canyon when you get to Lee’s Ferry and stop at the beach!
When you leave the parking lot at Navajo Bridge and head west (right), you’ll make another right pretty quickly onto Lee Ferry Road. This is a nice 20-30 minute drive back to Lee’s Ferry boat ramp. This part is definitely more about the journey than the destination, so make sure you take in the sights! You’ll find many spots to stop for photos, with easy pull off lanes to park in. We had a lot of fun playing with angles at the balancing rocks, and really appreciated the chance to put our feet in the water near Lee’s Campground. To get to the beach, take your first (and only) right, just past the Lee’s Campground turn. It’s a 2-3 minute walk to the shore, and you’ll be met with a nice stretch of sandy beach to stretch your legs and cool off. The water is cold, so don’t expect to go for much of a swim! If the weather is nice, you’ll likely see several people fishing from shore or sandbars!
Old Cliff Dweller’s Cabin
This is a quick stop on the Grand Canyon itinerary just to the right of the highway, about 20 minutes after leaving Lees Ferry Road. You won’t spend more than 10-15 minutes here, but it’s worth the stop to see some how the giant red rocks and balancing rocks were used as dwellings. You can go into a couple of the old homes, and wander around the balancing rocks. It’s likely you’ll see a local artisan or 2 selling their local wares, so if you’re looking for a souvenir this is a great place to get them.
The Vermillion Cliffs are the second step up in the Colorado Plateau. The 5 steps in this sequence make up the ‘Grand Staircase’ of the Plateau. You’ll be driving alongside these cliffs until you veer into the hills entering the Coconino National Forest. The Old Cliff Dwellers Cabin are also at the base of these cliffs, so you’ll get a great up close and personal look at them. If you are driving along them in the right light, you’ll be able to really pick up the different colors in the rocks!
Kaibab Forest Visitors Center
This visitors center sits at Jacob Lake, right where hwy 89A and hwy 69 meet. The scenery presents a stark change from the red rock and desert you’ve been surrounded by the last couple days. You’ll enjoy the lush forest and cooler temperature, and the abundance of wildlife. Stop into the Jacob Lake Inn for a nice giftshop, delicious ice cream and cookies, and a mini grocery store.
Note that hwy 69 is closed in the winter, so you won’t be able to continue on to the North Rim between Nov 1 and May 15. It is a beautiful drive up until this point though, so I would consider it a worthwhile scenic drive even so!
North Rim walk & Sunset (Closed October 15- May 15)
While this part is closed during the winter, it’s a must do part of this Grand Canyon itinerary during the rest of the year! We loved walking along the paths on this side of the Grand Canyon, and watching the sunset here was beautiful!
From the parking lot head into the Grand Canyon Lodge complex to get onto the Bright Angel Point Trail. It is paved the entire length of the 0.75 mi (1.2km) long trail, but can be narrow at parts. It offers several places to take photos and take in the views. We walked the path, then picked a spot to have a seat to watch the sunset. We were definitely not the only ones with this idea, though there were much fewer people here than at the South Rim! We even lucked out and sat next to a past Grand Canyon artist-in-residence and author of the book Chasing the Light- Grand Canyon, Adam Schallau! It was cool to meet him after pouring over his book in the South Rim gift shop, and he even offered some great advice to us budding photographers!
Day 5, Page to Grand Canyon South Rim
Horseshoe Canyon is only 10 minutes south of Page, and is an absolute MUST DO on this Grand Canyon itinerary! You’ll want to get there either early or later in the day to see the sunset. It gets packed with tourists pretty quickly, and stays busy all day. In hot weather the walk to the canyon can be pretty strenuous, so doing it before the midday sun hits would be ideal.
The walk from the parking lot will take you around 30 minutes each way, and is so worth it! Make sure you don’t forget your SD card in the car like I did… Seth was kind enough to offer to run back and get it… But I think he regretted it halfway!
Waterholes Canyon hike
Waterholes Canyon is one of our favourite parts of our whole cross country road trip! We did this instead of Antelope Canyon for a few reasons… We’re not fans of organized tours, so being able to buy a permit and have total freedom in our day was awesome. It’s also only $12/person for the permit, instead of $40-50 each for the tour. And, most tours are only 60-90 minutes, whereas the Waterholes Canyon permit gives you 24 hours to explore at your will.
Waterholes Canyon is a slot canyon similar to Antelope Canyon, characterized by the winding and narrow Arizona sandstone walls. You’ll park just off the road a little further south from Horseshoe Bend, and start your hike along the top of the canyon. When you enter the gate with the ‘no trespassing’ sign, you’ll spot a cairn-marked trail that leads you to the best place to descend into the canyon. Once there, you’ll find yourself on a sandy path through the base of the canyon. Walk a ways north, and you’ll soon feel the walls narrowing. Keep an eye out for the tiny lizards! We had fun watching those little guys!
You can plan on spending 2-3 hours here.
Drive to South Rim for Sunset
From Page it’s a 2.5 hour drive back to South Rim for the last sunset on this Grand Canyon itinerary. For our second sunset here we opted to spend it at the Desert View Watchtower lookout point. It was much less populated than Mather Point, so made for a nice relaxing evening. The watchtower itself closes at 7pm, so get there early if you’d like to go inside. We didn’t make it but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you try to!
There are a few different viewpoints on Desert View Drive, and all of them would make for a beautiful view for sunset. We also stopped at the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park & Gorge Overlook to take a look at the gorge there. A handful of vendors were just packing up for the day, and it was incredibly windy so we couldn’t go too close to the edge, but it was a nice place to stop and stretch our legs for a few minutes!
Watch the Sunrise at the South Rim
This was by far one of the most amazing experiences of my life. HIGHLY recommend doing this during your visit to the Grand Canyon. I promise you won’t regret it! You can always sleep later 😉
We had scoped out a place to sit a few days previous, so when we got to the park we just had to gather our supplies and head out to get comfortable. We got there for 4am, which proved to be the perfect time- enough time to get out there and get comfortable, and really immerse in the darkness before the sun started to rise. Flashlights are a must! As are warm footwear, blankets, a warm jacket and possibly even a toque depending on what season you’re there in.
Sitting in the pitch black, at the edge of a cliff 6000 feet tall, listening to the sounds of the world waking up… It is such an amazing, breathtaking experience that we’ll never be able to replicate. We heard a rock slide somewhere down below, and spent the first hour spotting all the bouncing flashlights of hikers crossing the canyon. After the sun was up and we made moves to head out we even spotted a deer and her 2 fawns on the path beside us!
If you do nothing else on this itinerary… Do this!!!!
South Rim shuttle tour
Once the sun has risen and you’ve had your fill of walking this section of the rim, drop your blankets and gear at your car and head over to the visitors center to hop onto one of the free rim shuttle buses. We took the blue shuttle then transferred to the red one that ultimately takes you to the far end of the accessible rim, at Hermit’s Rest. From March 1 to November 30 Hermit’s Road (the section past Bright Angel Trailhead) is closed to private vehicles, so the only way to get to the end is with the shuttle. You can choose to get off at each viewpoint (9 including Hermit’s Rest), or bypass some of them- we were getting tired so skipped 2 of them towards the end. The drive is 80 minutes round trip, and you can expect to spend 10-20 minutes at each viewpoint. The shuttle comes by every 10 minutes.
There are many hikes available for all skill levels, so if you’re not too tired from the early morning, check out this page to see if there’s one for you! If hiking isn’t likely, you can spend some time in the Grand Canyon visitors center and learn a bit about the canyon’s history, and pick up your Grand Canyon collectors token!
And that marks the end of our Grand Canyon itinerary! Now you can head back to Phoenix, or spend some time exploring Flagstaff. Their downtown offers a nice place to spend the afternoon before continuing to Phoenix!
As you’re putting together your Grand Canyon itinerary I hope our experience helps you with your planning! Visiting the Grand Canyon marked the beginning of our favourite adventure to date, and was definitely the stuff of dreams!
Do you have any suggestions that I’ve missed? Leave a comment below!
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