How to See the Grand Canyon in 12 Hours

The Grand Canyon. It really is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s just baffling how a river—A RIVER—created this masterpiece over hundreds of millions of years. Last month my boyfriend and I made a stop at the Grand Canyon during a cross-country road trip from California to Virginia. We only had a few hours to explore the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas so we decided to make the most of our stop. Read below to see our itinerary for how we did the Grand Canyon in less than 12 hours!

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Ryan and I stopped in Sedona before making our way to Flagstaff, AZ where we spent the night. We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb that I highly recommend if you ever visit the area. It was a perfectly clean and comfortable home near the mountains of Flagstaff–less than an hour from the Grand Canyon. Our hosts were friendly, accommodating, and gave us great advice for what to see and do in the area.

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The next morning we woke up, ate a scrumptious breakfast with our hosts and another couple who was staying with them, and made our way toward the canyon. We approached via the Grand Canyon East entrance and stopped at the first viewpoint available once you cross into the park. This is where the Desert View Watchtower is located and it’s a great place to get a view of the Colorado River. We spent some time taking pictures and oohing and aahhhing at the first sight of the Grand Canyon. But it was very crowded with tourists so after 20 minutes we decided to travel to a new spot.

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Continuing along to the south entrance we saw many different viewpoints of the canyon, but our Airbnb host recommended a little known but spectacular view point called Shoshone Point. Between mileposts 244 and 245 is an unmarked gravel parking lot. It doesn’t look like much and most people fly right by it, but people can park their car and walk about ¾ of a mile through a wooded trail toward the point. After 15 minutes of walking, Ryan and I thought we were lost. There was no sign of the Grand Canyon and it looked like we had gone the complete wrong direction–until we finally saw what we were looking for.

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A long, thin, steep point sticking way out into the canyon. My legs were trembling as we were walking out, I could see the steep drop on either side of us. We were completely alone out there and it was just breathtaking. Standing on the point offered 240 degree panoramic views of the canyon and since the point jets out into the canyon we could look back and see it as if we were standing on the other side. I almost wanted to cry it was so pretty! There wasn’t a sound in the air, but I felt like I could hear the canyon breathing. It was so peaceful, the wind was blowing, birds were circling above us, and the view was absolutely magical.

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We stayed there a while, quietly admiring the sight, occasionally looking at each other in disbelief. After about 30 minutes we decided it was time to go. We took the hike back to the car, stopped at one more point to admire the canyon, and then exited the park.

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Leaving the park doesn’t mean the fun is over! A few miles from the entrance to the park is a Hopi Reservation at Little Colorado Overlook Tribal Park. It has stands to buy arts and crafts and dreamcatchers directly from the Hopi Indians. The money goes right to them and the gifts are handmade and authentic. I had so much fun picking out dreamcatchers to take home with me and even met the woman who made them! A walk down from the stands brings you to a mini canyon and the Colorado River Gorge. The views here were almost as impressive as the Grand Canyon itself.

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After a long, hot day of hiking and exploration we made our way back to the car and headed off toward our next destination: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

If you ever find yourself at the Grand Canyon be sure to stop by Shoshone Point–it will not disappoint. Stay tuned for more information on my road trip across the country!

Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? What was your favorite part?

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Erin founded the Wonderlost Travel blog in February of 2015 after her experience of studying abroad in Europe. Erin has had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of South America and Asia. She enjoys writing about and photographing her travel experiences in order to inspire others to get out and follow their travel dreams. She has collaborated with tourism departments, restaurants, and other travel bloggers to share reviews and travel advice with readers in over 100 countries. Erin has a passion for traveling the world to experience other cultures and explore nature!

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