Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect one day in the Grand Canyon! I feel a little guilty here because I know I lured you in here with the promise of one day in the Grand Canyon. But we will not literally spend One Day in the Grand Canyon.
Who wants to spend 24 hours at the bottom of some hole anyway? Unless you are hiding there to avoid a band of cunning outlaws attempting to steal the gold watch the railroad gave you when you retired.
Instead, of literally spending a whole day inside a giant trench, we will spend our one day in the Grand Canyon exploring the red rocks of Sedona, visiting the Route 66 town of Williams, and of course, seeing the very best the gorgeous Grand Canyon has to offer.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
Where to Stay?
Of course, you might want to actually stay in or near the Grand Canyon, in which case I suggest checking out hotels in Flagstaff or even closer to the Canyon itself here.
However, I am going to recommend my favorite hotel in Phoenix because that’s where I stayed. When I choose a hotel, I’m looking for a few things: affordability, cleanliness, a convenient location, and cool amenities in that order.
The Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Downtown delivers on all those counts. It has a great location, it has a great restaurant, and it’s in a historic building where Psycho was filmed. (The non-murdery parts of Psycho.)
One day in the Grand Canyon
What to Pack?
- An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your one day in the Grand Canyon.
- The best guidebook to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.
- Obviously you need to see the funniest movie ever set in the Grand Canyon state, Raising Arizona by the Coen Brothers.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
- Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by a wild canyon donkey during your time in the Grand Canyon.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
Morning: Sedona Area
Like you and probably every other traveler in the world, a trip to the Grand Canyon had been on my bucket list for a long time. However, I had one pretty serious impediment standing in my way of visiting the Grand Canyon as a day trip from my hotel in Phoenix. As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I do not know how to drive even at all.
Fortunately I was able to book a One Day in the Grand Canyon tour through Arizona Detours. This way I could see as much of the Arizona countryside as possible whilst not breaking any road safety laws.
I absolutely loved this tour and thought it was a great value. You can go ahead and book it easily for yourself by clicking here.
You need to wake up very early in the morning to make this tour. The pickup time is around 6 or 7 in the AM. But to reward us for being such early risers, the driver took us to get a glimpse of the famous Arizona Biltmore Resort. (It looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright building, but he wasn’t actually the architect, just a major influence on the hotel.
But after this detour to the A-Bilt, it’s on to our first major stop: the ruby red rocks of Sedona! Allow me to redden your appetite with…
Three Fun Facts: Sedona
1) What’s the Most Photogenic Rock?
In this blogger’s ‘umble opinion, that would be the Bell Rock. Do you really want to know how the Bell Rock got its name? Do you need me to hold your hand that much, Internet Stranger? That’s a good way to spread germs. I’m not about to bore your socks off with a bunch of “geological facts” about bells. But definitely a well placed shot of this baby will blow up your Instagram. #bellheraboutit
It also makes a good backdrop for a photo for your Christmas card if you remember to wear green.
2) Why Are These Red Rocks?
GAD! Why must you pester me for geological facts? Next time call the Arizona Geologist Hotline at 1 (800) RED-ROCK. Alls I know is that the red rocks around Sedona are made from a special type of sandstone. You can’t find this exact color anywhere else. Also the sandstone has a special power to attract elderly hippies.
If you want me to get more specific about the location, the red rocks can only be found in the Northern part of the Sonoran Desert. I personally think the Sonoran deserves to be as famous as other Major Deserts like the Sahara and the Gobi. After all, it’s also the only place you can find the Saguaro cactus. The Saguaro is so popular in Arizona that it is actually a crime to shoot them. This is pretty impressive because I think shooting a person in Arizona isn’t even a misdemeanor.
3) Is There Anything to Do in Sedona Itself?
Yes! Especially if you like ladies with long patterned skirts and flowing grey hair. Of course, I make a point of buying earrings wherever I go, so I decided to use the very limited time we had in Sedona proper to pick up some Special Earrings made from Healing Crystals.
The fair maiden at the Crystal Vortex showed me some chrysocolla earrings. Chrysocolla is a gemstone native to Arizona. Apparently it’s supposed to help one feel calm and relaxed. I’m a native New Yorker, so I think it will take more than a green rock to help me chill out. But it’s a start.
PS. You don’t need to actually buy crystals in Sedona, but you do need to talk to a hippie about crystals. Leaving Sedona without having a Crystal Chat is a crime in the State of Arizona. When it comes to ranking the serious of Arizona crimes it goes: 1) shooting a saguaro, 2) leaving Sedona without talking about crystals, 3) straight up murder.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
Afternoon: The Actual Grand Canyon
All right fools! This is what you came for! A chance to see arguably the greatest natural wonder in these United States. (Or as a friend of mine calls it, God’s Easter Egg.) We won’t be able to do some of the more involved Grand Canyon activities on this trip, like take a helicopter ride or hike down to the bottom of the canyon with a donkey on your shoulders. But even so, we’ll definitely be able to see…
Approximately Top 5: South Rim of the Grand Canyon
1) Views From Grand Canyon Village
Grand Canyon Village isn’t 100 percent a real place. I mean, it exists and people live there, but basically the entire raison d’etre of the village is to take care of the tourists that descend upon the GC like swarms of so many wildebeests each year. But the Village actually is home to rangers, hotel workers, and their families. They even have their own school district.
But we’re not here to meet the locals. We’re here to eat our sandwich (provided by the tour company) and enjoy the sublime scenery. Pro Tip! Bring a jacket. Even if the weather is hot in Phoenix, which it will be, it can get very cool by the Canyon. I was there in April, and I definitely needed my jacket.
One more pro tip! Do not fall over the side, and do not push anyone else over the side.
2) Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Don’t skip the Visitor’s Center because you’re so distracted by the views! It’s home to many fun artifacts. One example is the pen that President Woodrow Wilson used to make the Grand Canyon a National Park. There’s also a gift shop. I can never resist a themed gift shop, so I bought a stuffed bat and named him Bat Masterson.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to hear a Ranger Talk outside the Visitor’s Center. I cradled my new stuffed bat in my arms as I listened to the tale of John Hance. Some people say that Hance was the first European-American to see the Grand Canyon. He soon realized it would be a gold mine if he could get tourists there.
Once the tourists arrived, Hance would make bank by telling them stories about how he dug the canyon himself, how the frogs of the canyon ate boiled eggs, or how his horse Darby could jump the Grand Canyon. Guess which one of those stories was true? That’s right! They’re all total nonsense. Unlike my fun facts, which are always very, very real.
3) Yavapai Point
The next viewing point is two attractions in one. Of course you get to take as many photographs of this new area as the Cloud will allow. But you also get admission to the Yavapai Museum of Geology.
At this point I became discouraged. I can pretty much find any subject interesting, but I make an exception for rocks. They’re lovely to look at, lovely to view, but I don’t enjoy learning rock facts. But apparently the universe was trying to help me overcome this mental block, so I’d attempt to play along.
So apparently there are three main layers of rocks in the Grand Canyon. The lowest is the easy to remember Basement Layer. The top layer is the Paleozoic. (That means Old Zoic in Greek.)
But the middle layer is the Supergroup Layer. What an amazing name for a rock layer! I think they should play Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young all the time at the Grand Canyon, in honor of the Supergroup Layer.
4) Mather Point
Mather Point is usually the most jampacked with people of all the viewing points. Also some of the walkways in this area can be rather narrow. Please walk carefully here. I know I make a lot of jokes on this blog, but there’s nothing funny about falling into the Grand Canyon. Unless the ghost of John Hance and his horse Darby jumped up and rescued you, but I don’t think that’s very likely.
Remember to Selfie Safely, kids!
24 Hour Treasure
Don’t miss this beauty at Mather Point. It looks like a giant watermelon slice that a Rock Eater has been taking bites out of.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
Late Afternoon: Williams, Arizona
The last stop on the One Day in the Grand Canyon tour is the quaint town of Williams, Arizona. It was named after Bill Williams, who was a fur trapper and fluent in many Native American languages. He also overcame the horrible adversity of possessing cruel parents who named him William Williams.
The historic Route 66 used to run directly through the town, and you can still see some of the tiny brick buildings, neon signs, and gas stations that would have decorated the Mother Road back in the middle of the 20th century.
Now of course, Williams is mostly home to tchotchke stores and ridiculous puns. Some stores, like Get Your Gifts on 66, even manage to combine both.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
Evening: Dinner at Nook Kitchen
By the time your driver drops you off at your hotel, you’ll probably be too exhausted to cook. So why not grab a rideshare and let the charming Italian restaurant Nook Kitchen do the cooking for you? This place had one of the coziest meals and friendliest staffs that I encountered in my entire one day in the Grand Canyon, and indeed my entire time in Phoenix, Arizona.
Doesn’t this look delicious? Wouldn’t you like to dive into it right now? And what is more welcome after a hearty day of hiking the Grand Canyon and chatting ’bout crystals with Sedona hippies than a warm plate of chicken Marsala? Bonus! This dish has some booze in it because Marsala is a sweet wine.
And whatever you do, don’t fall asleep without ordering the house specialty: Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, if it is on the menu. The blueberry compote adds that perfect zing to this rich and dreamy dish. Also bonus points for printing the name of the restaurant on the graham cracker. That’s one way to prove the cookies aren’t store-bought.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
How to Get There
By Car: This is the easiest way to get to your one day in the Grand Canyon, if you are coming from another state in the Southwest. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.
However, I suggest taking a group tour from Phoenix to your one day in the Grand Canyon, if you are going to be driving anyway. It’s more relaxing and you’ll save time because your guide will know exactly where to take you!
When I went to the Grand Canyon, I used the company Detours of Arizona, and I strongly recommend their tour, which you can find here.
By Plane: There are actually several airports that are within driving distance of the Grand Canyon, though there is no actual airport inside the Grand Canyon. If you’re looking for a small airport, you can fly into Flagstaff.
The closest big city is the Phoenix airport, which is about 3 and a half hours away. But some people prefer to fly into Las Vegas and go to the Grand Canyon that way. Totally up to you!
Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)
By Train or Bus: So, this is a bit more complicated, but Flixbus has a bus that will take you from Phoenix to Flagstaff once a day. From there, you can take an Amtrak or a Greyhound to the Grand Canyon. But this seems insanely complicated and I wouldn’t recommend doing it!
That’s a Perfect One Day in the Grand Canyon
What would you do with One Day in the Grand Canyon? Should I be ashamed that I bought a stuffed bat to play with myself instead of leaving it for a child? Do you find rock facts fascinating or deadly dull? And can you get the death penalty for shooting a saguaro cactus? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend one day in Arizona. If you have more time in Phoenix, try this itinerary or this itinerary.