Desert View Drive is a 25 mile stretch of Arizona Highway 64 that runs “east-west” along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Essentially, it connects Grand Canyon Village (west) to the eastern most viewpoint of Desert View. The Grand Canyon attracts over 5 million visitors annually and the overwhelming majority of tourists crowd into the Village Area. If you want to enjoy equally astounding views of the Grand Canyon without the big crowds, the eastern-end of Desert View Drive offers a more tranquil environment.
Visitors have a choice of entering the South Rim from the east-side (Desert View) on Highway 64 via Highway 89 or from the west-side at the Grand Canyon South Rim Entrance. See the directional map.
Desert View Lookout Point is the eastern-most viewpoint on the south rim. While Desert View offers camping, picnic facilities, gas and food services, and a ranger station, it is perhaps the best spot from which to look back west, and to experience exceptional beauty of the northeast side of the canyon. The historic Desert View Watchtower, another Mary Jane Colter design opened in 1933, pulled together elements of man and nature in an effort to provide the widest view of the canyon’s splendor. Utilizing carefully selected materials, this gift shop/rest area pays tribute to the native peoples of the Grand Canyon, including Anasazi architectural features, and interior artwork devoted to Hopi religious traditions tribe, as well as replicas of ancient pictographs and petroglyphs created by artists Fred Kabotie and Fred Greer.
From the Watch Tower’s top level observation tower, highest point on the south rim, looking northwest, you will see the majesty of the Jupiter, Venus and Apollo Temples. Just ahead of the tower, the basalt and sandstone lava formation known as Cardenas Butte, some 700 million years old, continues to withstand the tests of time. A short distance away rests Tanner Canyon, legendary in its capacity as the nefarious route for horse thieves traveling between Arizona and Utah. To the east, the jagged, rusty cliffs of Palisades of the Desert, and the exquisite shades of the Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon that mark the beginning of the Grand Canyon delivers captivating views.
Just west of Desert View is Lipan Point which harbors some of the most breathtaking views in the canyon, Lipan Point offers a full menu for the eyes. Facing west and looking down, take in Seventyfive Mile Creek as it winds its way back towards the Colorado River, perhaps catching the sparkle of Shinumo Quartzite if the sun should hit it just right. You’ll also witness the prehistoric Vishnu Schist, a layer of blackened mica, and all that remains of an eroded mountain. As you look forward, you are face to face with the striking presence of Apollo and Solomon Temples, and the Rama Shrine. Turning directly north, Temple Butte and Chuar Butte stand watch over the site of a 1956 air collision which killed 128 passengers on two planes.
Below your feet, and out of sight range, in the face of the southern cliffs, the Anasazi Ruins, off limits to hikers and campers, are a well protected vision of an ancient past. Affording a near 360 degree vista, Lipan Point presents the perfect spot from which to view the setting Arizona sun.
Moran Point is just east of Lipan Point. A short spur road leads to one of the canyon’s most popular outlooks, Moran Point. From this vista, you can see layers of vivid red Hakatai shale of the Red Canyon walls to the lighter shades of Bright Angel Shale of Mineral Canyon. To the northwest, the Sinking Ship stands proud against the sky. Due north, Cape Royal, on the north rim’s Walhalla Plateau, stands at an elevation of 7865 feet. While only 8 visible miles from this viewpoint, it takes a 215 mile drive to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Moran Point is named for landscape painter Thomas Moran, who traveled with Major Powell’s 1871 expedition through the canyon. Moran Point’s excellent scenery combined with the artist’s skillful renderings were used to persuade congress to enable preservation of these wondrous surroundings by increasing the public’s knowledge of the Grand Canyon and other incredible locations in the United States. Hance Canyon lays to the west, dedicated to the first Euro-American settler to make the Grand Canyon his place of residence. Although much of the eastern view is blocked by the ridges surrounding Zuni Point, this vista allows one to take in the variations of the westward river, as well as distant beauty of the north rim peaks.
Across the road from Papago and Lipan Points, the Tusayan Ruins and Museum await your exploration. In 1930, the first excavation of this Ancestral Puebloan community was conducted by Harold S. Gladwin and staff from the Gila Pueblo in Globe, Arizona. While a fair amount of the dwelling ruins were unearthed, a portion was left untouched, and remains so today. This site is unique in that no reconstruction has been attempted. Only stabilization efforts, made possible through the Vanishing Treasures program, have been performed in order to preserve the structure as it stands, and to prevent further loss through deterioration. Dating from tree rings and artifacts indicate that this pueblo was constructed around 1185 A.D., and, as with many other ruins in the state of Arizona, it was found to have been abandoned some 20 years after its construction. A museum was erected at the site as a means of preserving unearthed artifacts, and interpreting findings in order to better understand those who lived in this community long ago.
Silver Spur Tours offers an all day luxury tour that leaves from Sedona and Flagstaff. It loops from the South Grand Canyon Entrance through the Desert View Scenic Drive to the Desert View Overlook at the eastern-most end of the South Rim. Included are stops at the Grand Canyon Village, major viewpoints and gourmet picnic at the Tusayan Indian Ruins. Guests ride in the comfort of customized, Mercedes built Sprinters with a maximum of only seven guests.