Two Days in the Grand Canyon

How to get the most out of a short trip to the Grand Canyon. Two days, three nights, one car, and a crew of crazies.

two days in the grand canyon

Two Days in the Grand Canyon, Is it Enough??

Guidebooks, blogs, rangers, and everything in-between will tell you: Ya can’t truly experience the Grand Canyon in two days. I’m not here to disagree with that.

However, This post is here to help you out if you’ve gone and booked a 2-week vacation full of driving days, national park hikes, and wonders of the American Southwest…and maybe didn’t read all those guidebooks first. This itinerary should help you get the most out of your two full days in the Grand Canyon. Hint # 1: use your arrival and departure days wisely!

How to Get the Most out of Two Days

I was a total skeptic when it came to imagining the impressiveness of the Grand Canyon. For one thing, I had just seen Mesa Verde a few weeks early. For another, personal connections had various complaints about the overcrowding of tourists staring into a gaping hole in the ground. So ,when it came to booking campgrounds, I figured 3 nights ought to do the canyon justice. Despite short shrift on time, the Grand Canyon won this jaded traveler over completely.

First Lesson: book campsites early and hike into the canyon.

Sunny lil cacti on the South Rim

Day 1 (Arrival) – South Rim

Arrive at South Rim in mid-afternoon to set up at Mather campground. Drive to lookout point for first view (whooaaa! suffice to say it’s way bigger than I tried to imagine). Stay for sunset. We lucked out with a view free from the Indonesian Haze that haunted us in Malaysia, which apparently travels all the way over to Arizona. Then it’s back to camp for dinner, followed by early bedtime for some and late night run-ins with elk while stargazing for others.

Layers of light and rock for the sunset from Watchtower

Day 2 – Bright Angel & Desert View 

Warm-up hike into the canyon via the popular Bright Angel trailhead. Sunny and hot! Bring lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, and head-coverage. This trail has lots of switchbacks and even more tourists. Pay attention to who has right of way (stand closest to the rock when letting folks pass), though I often stood by the edge if folks heading uphill looked unstable. After the hike, we still had time to grab a bite at the overpriced grocery (the deli hot dog is your cheapest bet, $3) and drive to Desert View Watchtower in time for the sunset.

At the end of Day 2…

We drove the 5 hours around the canyon to the North Rim. [Which you absolutely must book months in advance or be bloomin’ lucky to have checked for open sites right when someone cancels!] It was dark when we arrived at the campsite at 11pm (good thing National Parks don’t give away your reserved site after a certain time!) and it was cold, much colder than the South Rim. Pack accordingly

Hidden gems at the Canyon floor

Day 3 – Bright Angel Trail 

Into the canyon!! If you’re not terribly slow in the morning, like myself & company, then I’d strongly recommend getting an early start to this day. We started our hike at 10:00am and staggered our way out of the canyon in the dark by 7:00pm. Goodness gracious!

Words cannot describe. Every turn in the trail brought a different surprise. Yucca plants. Quartz created from the impact of falling rocks. Trekking from red dirt, to yellow dirt, to green, and back again through the colors. We made it down the the not-so-roaring Roaring Springs before beginning the thank-god-I-did-squats uphill hike.

 Day 4 (Departure) – North Rim Viewpoints 

Waking up late as a halfhearted attempt to recover from yesterday’s hike, we took our time leaving the camp. After packing up, we were back in the car, toodling from one viewpoint to the next.

Not my favorite activity, but the views are unarguably stunning. Plus, we were fortunate enough to watch a storm make its way across the canyon, thunder echoing against the walls. Filled with views from two days in the Grand Canyon, our voyaging team settled in for a 4-hour drive to our next destination.

Nothing like reading a good book with a view like the canyon!

While I never touched the Colorado River, jumped in the Havasupai Falls, or took a mule ride during our two days in the Grand Canyon, I am very satisfied with this first venture.

We saw the sun and crowds of the South Rim, as well as the colder, more pine-covered North Rim. The best part about our two days in the Grand Canyon? A chance to touch thousands of years of geography

(Photography Credits: Philipp Schmidbauer)

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