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  • Writer's pictureCraig Zerbe

Grand Canyon - East Rim/Desert View - Vol.3

Updated: Feb 2, 2019

East Rim/Desert View Drive

You may want to read my introdution to the area first: Photographing the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)

This is the largest of the three viewpoint "groups" on the south rim and covers about 20 miles. Desrent View , at the far eastern end has the East Park Entrance, restrooms, food, gift shops, gas, and a campground.

Getting Around

This area is accesibile only via you own transportation. It's about 20 miles from the Grand Canyon Village on the western end to Desret View in the east. Give yourself about 30 minutes if you are driving from one end to the other. With the exception of Shoshone Point, each of the Points have a small parking lot that lets you park just a few step away from the viewpoint. Parking is somewhat limited, but is genearally only an issue in the summer during the middle of the day. Even at these busiest times, I waited less than 10 minutes for a spot to park.

Unlike the other two groups (Hermit's Rest and Grand Canyon Village) there is not a continuous trail along the rim in this area.

Photo Locations (from west to east)

My Ratings

* Worth the visit

** Among the Best

*** Not to be missed

* Shoshone Point does not have its own parking area, The road to this viewpoint is only open for special events. There is a small dirt parking area off the highway. The pull off is located about 1.25 miles east of the Kaibab Trailhead/Yaki Point turnoff. Park there and follow the dirt trail/road for about 1 mile to get to the Shoshone viewpoint. There are picnic tables, a covered shelter and a restroom. I don't remember a specific "designated" viewpoint here. Just explore around they area, as there many great vantage points. This is a great location for sunrises, but starting your pre dawn morning with a 1 miles hike, in the dark, isn't everybodys cup of tea. On the plus side, the trail is very wide and easy to follow (service vehicles use it). Because of its relative remoteness, at least you are more likely to get some unique shots.

* Duck on a Rock Viewpoint is right on Desert View Drive and has a small, paved, pull off parking area. It's about 1.5 miles east of the Shoshone Point parking area. I got a good picture here in the early moring with the sidelighting bringing out the scaloped terrain.

Grand Canyon, Duck on a Rock Viewpoint
Grand Canyon, Duck on a Rock Viewpoint, mid morning

* Grandview Point is also the trailhead for the Granview Trail that descends into the canyon. In 1895 , this was the site of one of the first hotels built at the rim. The main viewpoint has a few obstructions. I found better opportunities exploring around some. Just at the begnining of the parking lot, go to your right and their is a ridgeline you can follow about 100 feet to an unobstructed view. I also took some good images by hiking the Grandview Trail down into the canyon a little ways. About 0.25 of a mile down the trail I ran into a National Park Sevice Ranger, sitting under a tree. He was there to make sure no one was procedding down into the canyon without enough water. Remember to take your walking poles with you, it can be steep with loose rock on the trail. The late afternoon and early evening creates some excellent side lighting opportunies. Sunrise can also be good from here.

Grandview Point and Trail   - Grand Canyon
A little way down Grandview Trail, late morning

** Moran Point, has expansive views and like Grandview Point, a great view of the oft photographed Wotan's Throne and Vishnu Temple. The ridgeline here also creates some opportnities for incluging some large foreground elements. It is worth exploring the area on either side of the main viewing location. Late afternoon, Sunset or during interesting weather conditions are the best times to shoot here.

*** Lipan Point. This overlook, along with Navajo and Desert View Points, have similar vistas, with each having its own "signature". Lipan is excellent for both sunrise and sunset views. After sunrise you can gets some great shots of the colorful rock layers that rise up beyond the banks of the Colorado River. You can see the Desert View Watchtower from here as well. At sunrise there will be likely be a small handful of tourists. At sunset there will be a lot more, but you should not have any trubles finding yourself a great spot to shoot from.

** Navajo Point Is very nice for Sunrise. There are good views of the river and the towering series of massive canyon walls to the east. Late afternoon and even sunset can be good here too. If you move around some, you will also find some tall rock formations near by that you may want to include for foreground interest.

Grand Canyon National Park - Navaho Point Monsoon
Navajo Point - Monsoon clouds in the late afternoon

** Desert View Point This location can be good at sunrise. The soft morning sun as it lights up the canyon and the watchtower is very compelling. Sunrise is very popular here, with the angles particulary good in summer. Because of the larger parcking area, food and shoping, this area has a lot more tourists during the day and at sunset that the other Desert View Drive locations. It can be difficult to get shots of the Watchtower without someone in your shot.

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower looking East
Desert View Watchtower looking East


Check out our other Grand Cayon National Park (South Rim) Guides

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