Desert View Drive was constructed to accommodate the growing motor traffic in the early 1930s. Located just inside the park’s eastern gate, the scenic trail hugs the entire south side of the rim for 23 miles (37 km), offering views accessible to drivers as well as hikers.
Extending from Mather Point to the Desert View itself, the trail offers year-round access to overlooks all along the south rim, with the exception of Yaki Point, which may be closed seasonally to private vehicles.
Located about two miles east of Yavapai Point and about a mile into your scenic drive along Desert View, Yaki Point provides stunning views of Zoroaster and Vishnu Temple, as well as part of your final destination, the Desert View Watchtower. At this point, the Colorado River is still an elusive thing, however the South Kaibab trailhead is barely half a mile away, should you like to see the Colorado up close.
Rather incredible given its location at the hugely popular South Rim, Shoshone Point is actually very low-profile- many visitors don’t know it exists. Okay, maybe the reason this gorgeous outlook is overlooked is because it’s being used as the background to a very tasteful wedding party and is closed to the public. If you do manage to make it to the South Rim between October 16 and April 30, though, make sure to plan for a stop.
Shoshone Point is only accessible by foot, so visitors invested in the drive-through aspect of Desert View often miss this opportunity. While you may find yourself slightly intoxicated by the expansive beauty before you, make sure not to wander too close to the edge- part of the thrill here is the abrupt way in which the cliffs fall off into space.
Grandview Point is where it all began, the place where the Grand Canyon became an entity. It was here that tourists would flock to in the late 1800s- it was, after all, the dawn of nature tourism. Possessing the main feature of a magnificent Grand Canyon view- the ability to trace the Colorado River- this outlook rivals Grand Canyon Village in terms of viewing range. Apart from the great river itself, visitors can gaze out at Horseshoe Mesa, Wotan’s Throne, Cape Royal, and Cape Final.
On top of its stunning views, Grandview Point is also one of the only places on the South Rim to find a lush forrest of ponderosa pine. At 7,400 ft (2,255 m) above sea level, the elevation here allows for more rainfall, thus the forrest environment you would usually only find on the more isolated (and elevated) North Rim.
The very character of the Grand Canyon as we know it may lie in this
When visiting the Grand Canyon, the most important goal is to get as much canyon as possible from any activity you pursue. When canyon-gazing, nothing is more spectacular than seeing geological variation. From Moran Point, visitors can view three distinct rock groups: the Grand Canyon’s main structural component, the Layered Paleozoic Rocks; the Supergroup rocks, which make up various Grand Canyon landmarks; and the Vishnu Basement Rocks. The Colorado River, which cuts through this last rock group, is also visible from Moran Point, along with the Red Canyon.
Forever the artist’s muse, Moran Point is named after one of the first to fall in love with its revealing panorama, Peter Moran.
Tusayan Ruin and Museum
The 900-year-old Puebloan settlement of the Tusayan people, or “the country of isolated buttes” is located four miles (6 km) from Moran Point and to the south of the highway. While other ruins in the southwest are much more impressive, the Tusayan Ruin alone allowed President Theodore Roosevelt to validate the entire Grand Canyon as a national monument.
Most of Tusayan Ruin is made up of low stone walls and short stacks of stone. This is due to the shallow excavation technique used to minimize erosion damage, which continually shapes the Grand Canyon’s landscape. The site features a central plaza surrounded by fifteen different rooms, thought to be storage facilities, and two ceremonial chambers known as “kivas”. The number of separate structures, as well as the two kivas suggest that this area was occupied by at least two different clans consisting of approximately thirty community members.
The nearby museum, built by archeologists in the early 1930s, interprets the culture of the Ancient Puebloan people and is filled with figurines and pottery found near the area as well as Navajo and Hopi artifacts.
A little over a mile east of Tusayan Ruin (about 2 km), you’ll find one of the most famous outlook points on the South Rim. Because of its expansive views (the widest on the South Rim) and solitude, Lipan Point is unarguably, the must-see viewpoint on Desert View Drive.
Starting out to the north, you can see the Colorado River emerging from Marble Canyon and intersecting the Little Colorado via the Marble Platform. The Grand Canyon Series, as well as Unkar Delta are also visible, as is the Walhalla Plateau and the magnificent walls of the Palisades of the Desert.
Towards sunset, Lipan Point transforms into a truly romantic, fiery panorama. While the view from here is similar to that overlooking Desert View, sunset-lovers prefer this one for its isolation. Desert View is, after all, the namesake of the south rim drive thru, marking the spot for overcrowding.
The last viewpoint on East Rim Drive is as impressive as expected, being the East Rim’s final and conclusive destination. Tracing the eastern border of the South Rim, the Palisades of the Desert stand out as starkly, lending a sharp transition to the Marble Plateau, a scenic separation between an aquamarine sky and rust-red rock.