Article Overview: Desert View Watchtower
Desert View Watchtower is one of the most iconic sites at the Grand Canyon offering some of the best views in the park. Visiting this incredible site ranks high among the most popular things to do at the Grand Canyon.
In this quick article I’ll cover everything you need to know about the Desert View Watchtower including best time to visit, where it is, a quick history, and what you can’t miss.
Ready to go? Let’s get started!
Things to Know Before Visiting Desert View Watchtower
$30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.
James Kaiser is the proverbial bees knees in this department. I love all of his National Park guides and his Grand Canyon Guide is no exception.
I like this map best for Grand Canyon National Park.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our dear friend, earth 🙂
Know the Four Regions of the Grand Canyon
Most folks think of the Grand Canyon in terms of North Rim / South Rim. There’s also an area referred to as Grand Canyon East and Grand Canyon West.
- South Rim: The most popular and most heavily visited section of Grand Canyon National Park is the South Rim area located just beyond the South Rim Entrance Station which includes Mather Point & Grand Canyon Village
- East Rim: The east section refers to the area near the east entrance to Grand Canyon National Park which includes the Desert View Watchtower.
- North Rim: Located across the canyon from the south rim, the north rim of the Grand Canyon has become increasingly popular in recent years as visitation continues to surge. Despite being roughly 10 miles as the crow flies across the canyon, the drive to the north rim from the south rim takes about 4 hours.
- West Rim: Accessed via the South Entrance followed by Hermit Road or West Rim Drive and includes many of the best overlooks in the park.
- Grand Canyon West: Grand Canyon West is the most recently developed section of the Grand Canyon and managed by the Hualapai Tribe rather than the National Park Service. The famous Grand Canyon Skywalk is located here.
Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is in the Spring and Fall. I recommend the months of April and September when crowds will be down and temperatures will be pleasant.
Hours of Operation
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open 24 hours a day all 365 days of the year. The North Rim however is closed to all vehicles between December 1st and May 14th with no services offered. From October 15 to December 1 on the North Rim services are limited.
Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon
Desert View Watchtower
A Brief History of Desert View Watchtower
Designed by one of the southwest’s most influential architects, Mary Colter West, Desert View Watchtower was constructed in 1932 and remains in place today.
Her buildings at Grand Canyon include: Desert View Watchtower, Lookout Studio, Hermits Rest, Phantom Ranch, Bright Angel Lodge, Hopi House, and two employee dormitories – Colter Hall and Victor Hall.
Desert View Watchtower is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark
Interested in other amazing things to do at the Grand Canyon? Check out: 20 Epic Things to Do at the Grand Canyon (Helpful Guide + Photos)
About the Desert View Watchtower
The design is intended to reflect elements of the native tribes and blend with the natural environment of the Grand Canyon. Inside the tower you’ll see beautiful, recently restored murals featuring tribal artwork and pictographs.
At one point the Desert View Watchtower was turned into a gift shop but has since been restored to its original purpose as a scenic rest station for visitors.
The tower is 5 stories tall with different experiences on each level.
The Kiva Room
The bottom floor of the Desert View Watchtower is one of the coolest, being designed to resemble a traditional Native American kiva. During different times of year you can find cultural demonstrators here giving presentations.
This is the room that was used as a gift shop for years but has now been restored to its original intent as a great open space.
Looking out the windows of the Desert View Watchtower’s kiva room is pretty amazing as the views looking out into the canyon are stunning.
Getting to Desert View Watchtower
Desert View Watchtower is located on the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. In fact, the watchtower is situated on the northeastern most point on Desert View Drive.
Getting to Desert View Watchtower requires taking your own car or a private tour bus (or bike) as the park does not yet offer shuttle service to this point.
From Grand Canyon Village, Desert View Watchtower is a 40 minute drive (25 miles).
Sunset from Desert View Watchtower
Maybe this one is a bit sentimental for me but I think there’s no better way to cap a day at the Grand Canyon than soaking in an epic sunset from Desert View. I recall doing this with my brother and dad many years back and thinking that it was the absolute perfect evening.
From Desert View you can see all the way down to the Colorado River in the distance. During sunset the canyon lights up with vivid hues of red and purple that seem to last forever.
For the best views I recommend going just past the Desert View Watchtower where you’ll see benches and a railing. Be sure to show up about 30 minutes before sunset to soak in the whole show and get the best spot.
From the Desert View Watchtower, keep walking toward the canyon rim until you find an open spot where you can see the river down below.
Map of Desert View Watchtower
Where to Stay Near Desert View Watchtower
Depending on which parts of the Grand Canyon you’re trying to see will determine the best place place to stay in the park. There are hotels, lodges, and campgrounds located on the North Rim and South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
South Rim Campgrounds & Lodging Options
There are two campgrounds at the South Rim run by the National Park Service:
South Rim Lodging Options
At the South Rim of the Grand Canyon there are two options if you’re looking for hotels. The first, more expensive option is staying at one of the premiere lodges that are located inside the national park at Grand Canyon Village. For those Grand Canyon hotels see the Xanterra page.
The more affordable option is getting a hotel in Tusayan (5-10 minute drive). I’ve compiled a full listing of the best Tusayan hotels.
Helpful Related Articles
Grand Canyon Viewpoints: 20 Best Views of the Grand Canyon (National Park)
Grand Canyon South Rim Things to Do: 15 Amazing Things to Do at the Grand Canyon South Rim
Things to Do at the Grand Canyon: 20 Best Things to Do at Grand Canyon National Park
Closest Cities to the Grand Canyon: 10 Closest Cities Near the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Facts: 15 Fascinating Grand Canyon National Park Facts
Grand Canyon in Winter: Visiting the Grand Canyon in December (Winter Guide)
Desert View Watchtower: Explore the Historic Desert View Watchtower
Arizona National Parks: 24 Epic Arizona National Parks to Visit (Photos + Guide)
Things to Do Saguaro NP: 15 Best Things to Do Saguaro National Park
Things to Do Zion NP: 18 Epic Things to Do at Zion National Park
Best Hikes Saguaro NP: 10 Best Saguaro National Park Hikes
National Parks Near Tucson: 10 Best National Parks Near Tucson
National Parks Near Phoenix: 10 Best National Parks Near Phoenix
Living in Phoenix: Pros & Cons of Living in Phoenix