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hiker watching sunset in Grand Canyon Nation Park
Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock

The Best Places to Experience Sunset and Sunrise at Grand Canyon National Park

SmarterTravel

The Grand Canyon is best observed over the course of a day; it’s the perfect way to enjoy the subtle ways the changing light illuminates the layered red rocks of the canyon. But the best times of day to enjoy the beauty are the sunrise and sunset. Here are tips for making the most of sunrise and sunset at Grand Canyon National Park.

The Best Place for Photos at Sunrise and Sunset

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There’s no true “best” place to station yourself if you want to capture the perfect sunrise or sunset picture of the Grand Canyon. The canyon’s North and South Rims stretch for hundreds of miles and leave plenty of opportunities for picture-perfect views. The National Park Service recommends finding viewpoints that offer views both to the east and the west. Hopi Point is a popular sunset spot, though it can get clogged with people and tour buses in summer. Mohave, Pima, and Lipan Points are also notably good places to watch the sunrise or sunset, while Mather and Yaki Points are recommended for sunrise.

Note that weather matters when it comes to sunrises and sunsets; the National Park Service advises that “air quality, clouds, time of the day, and season will all contribute to your view” of the canyon. Calm, clear nights and days generally contribute to a more spectacular sunrise and sunset.

What You Should Expect to See at Sunrise

To truly appreciate the sunrise, you’re going to have to get to your viewing point before the sun peeks above the horizon. Aim to arrive at least a half hour before the day’s sunrise time (check here for sunrise and sunset times). It’s an incredible sight (and well worth the early wake-up) to see the sun flood over the top of the canyon and gradually travel down into the canyon. Pre-dawn temperatures are often cold (even in summer), so be sure to dress warmly.

What You Should Expect to See at Sunset

Seeing the sun set over the Grand Canyon is also a moving experience. Watch the shadows creep up the canyon walls and see the deep orange glow of the setting sun against these walls. Marvel as the formations take on different colors and shapes with the angles of the sun. Again, as with sunrise, be sure to arrive about 30 minutes prior to sunset so you can see it all unfold.

If you’re after the perfect pic, get your gear in order before you go, and learn how to use it. For tips, check out Travel Photography Tips from a Pro.

Warning: The perfect photo is never worth your safety. Stay away from the canyon’s edges. Every year, people fall into the canyon while taking photos; many are injured, some fatally.

Heading to the Grand Canyon? Don’t forget to pack your hiking gear:

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