National parks offer so much to do, and it can be intimidating when you only have a limited time to visit a park. If you only have two days to spend in a park, there really is no way to see it all. That is why I have created a series of blog posts to show you the highlights of the national parks that I have visited. Here is what to do if you only have 48 hours in the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is huge, so I suggest sticking to one side. If you only have 48 hours in the Grand Canyon, you don’t want to waste a lot of time driving from one side to the other. There is no quick way between the North Rim and South Rim. The following are my suggestions on what to do on the South Rim.
The North Rim is higher in elevation and therefor it is more cold. Because of this facilities on the North Rim are open from May 15 to October 15. I visited the Grand Canyon in March before the North Rim opened for the summer season, so that is why this post is about the South Rim.
To visit the park’s website, click here.
When I only have two days to spend in a park, I like to devote a little time at the beginning to get an overview of the park. That way I get a taste of the park and can figure out where I really want to focus my short time.
I always start at the visitor center to see what the park has to offer and to look things over.
When you only have 48 hours in the Grand Canyon, you should start with the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail is a 12-mile hike that follows the South Rim.
You can hop on or off the trail at various overlooks along the trail. Each overlook is spaced from about a third of a mile to about a mile and half. That way you can make your walk along the Rim Trail as long or as short as you like.
Have more than 48 hours? Check out my Grand Canyon National Park Trip Report post,and see what I did with a whole week.
Also, if you scored backcountry permits, check out my Bright Angel Trail – hiking rim to river Grand Canyon National Park post.
From the east end of the trail at the South Kaibab Trailhead to a little ways past the Bright Angel Trailhead the Rim Trail is paved and easy to walk on.
The rest of the trail, from Maricopa Point to Hermits Rest on the west end is an nice dirt path.
One of the awesome things about Grand Canyon National Park is the free shuttle service. This allows you to hike one way along the Rim Trail and not have to worry with doubling back to your car.
The Rim Trail is a great summary of the park.
After all that walking along the rim trail, you can take a rest and explore the rest of the South Rim by vehicle. Desert View Drive follows the South Rim for about 25 miles and has many pullouts.
You can explore the South Rim by car relatively quickly. That allows you to pull over, get out and take pictures, have a picnic, contemplate how big, yet small, the university is or whatever you feel like doing.
Some of the roads are closed to private vehicles from March 1 to November 30. I assume this is to keep traffic from clogging up the road.
Unfortunately you cannot hike all the way to the river and back in one day. However you can hike to about the mid-level of the canyon, so you can still explore below the rim if you only have 48 hours in the Grand Canyon.
Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail is my favorite trail. One of the great things about the trail for hiking on limited time is there are several areas along the trail that make for good markers for turn around points.
If you get an early start and are really up for a long hike, you can hike to Indian Garden before turning around and hiking back up. The park does not recommend going further than Indian Garden. It is about a 9-mile round trip and is extremely steep, just to Indian Garden.
Not wanting a hike quite that long, you can turn around at either One and A Half Mile Resthouse or at Three Mile Resthouse. Or really anywhere along the trail you want to turn around. But remember it takes twice as long to hike up as it did to hike down.
Grand Canyon National Park provides color-coded pamphlets that let you know the safety levels as you descend into the canyon. For instance, on the Bright Angel Trail you can get to One and a Half Mile Resthouse before you leave the green “Have Fun” section. There is also a yellow “Be Careful” section, and red “Seek Advice.”
Other day hikes along the South Rim
There are several other trails on the South Rim that allow you to day hike below the rim and back up, like the South Kaibab Trail. Click here for a list of day hikes.
Exploring the Village
If you don’t want to hike all day on the second day, you can explore the Village for shopping and eating.
The Village is an area with several hotels, cabins, restaurants, museums, and shops.
You can also explore the Village as you hike along the Rim Trail.
48 hours in the Grand Canyon overview
Day 1: Visit the visitors centers and see what the park has to offer. Hike the Rim Trail. Explore the South Rim by car.
Day 2: Hike down into the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail. Explore the Village for shopping, dining, and visiting museums.