Desert View Drive Overlooks ~ Grand Canyon National Park

Desert View Drive Overlooks ~ Grand Canyon National Park

After passing through the gates at The Grand Canyon National Park, there are 2 directions that visitors can go by car.  A left hand turn will lead to the Rim Trail parking areas, the visitors center and Grand Canyon Village.  These areas are crowded and it can take a while to find a parking spot, especially before noon. The second option is to hang a right and follow Desert View Drive.  Desert View Drive tends to be less crowded, especially in the early hours of the day, because this is an exit route from The Grand Canyon National Park that runs east to U.S. Highway 89 in Cameron.

Desert View Drive runs 22 miles from the Grand Canyon Visitors Center to the Desert View Watchtower.  This road hugs the canyon rim till just after passing the Desert View Watchtower and the park exit gate. Desert View Drive becomes becomes State Road 64 as it rolls through some hilly forested high desert country in the Kaibab National Forest. The landscape changes again soon afterward when going through the majestic Little Colorado Gorge near Cameron in the Navajo Nation. As one can imagine, driving the entire length of Desert View Drive is quite a nice tour in itself!

Desert View Drive is most famous for the Grand Canyon scenic overlooks and there are plenty of them along this road inside the park. The views at each overlook of the Grand Canyon are so magnificent, that one almost feels obligated to experience every scenic overlook spot along the way! No matter whether smokey haze fills the canyon or there are crystal clear cobalt blue skies, the views of the Grand Canyon along Desert View Drive are nothing less than spectacular!

There are a few cosy picnic areas under shade trees that can be found on Desert View Drive. Many of the picnic areas are located next to nature walk trails, scenic overlooks and the back country hiking trailheads. Most of the picnic areas also offer waste disposal bins and facilities, which is a nice convenience. One of the most popular hiking trailheads on Desert View Drive leads to Grandview.  The Grandview Trail is fairly easy to manage during the cool winter months.  Hikers are rewarded with 360º panoramic views of The Grand Canyon at the end of this trail and many famous artists have painted pictures from this vantage point.

Just like at the scenic overlooks along the Rim Trail near Mather Point in Grand Canyon Village, visitors should use caution when approaching the canyon rim along Desert View Drive.  Looking down over the wall at some of the scenic overlooks will result in a view of a sheer drop off that goes thousands of feet straight down, so it is best to keep pets on a leash and children close by.  

At one such cliffside parking area, I watched a visitor open their car door and a big German Shepherd escaped from the car without a leash.  The big dog broke into a full run and bolted straight toward the short stone wall on the canyon rim.  Next thing you know, the dog jumped on top of the 4 foot high wall at full speed, as if it was expecting to see green grass on the other side.  The panic stricken dog then back peddled like crazy trying not to go over the edge after looking at the sheer drop-off below, which was about 1500 feet straight down.  Even though the dog’s life was in peril, I could not help but to laugh, because the big dog was back-peddling so hard on top of the wall to brake its own momentum, that the friction from its paws was enough to set the wall on fire!  The big dog was in a total state of panic and so was the dog’s owner that was trying to chase him down.  The dog owner was actually doing a full bore sprint for the wall too, while trying to save her dog and my stomach turned a little because all I could think about was that both the dog and its owner were surely both going to end up hurtling over the wall together all the way down to the bottom of the canyon! As it turned out, everything ended up getting under control somehow and I almost had to watch something in real life that usually only happens in cartoons. 

As mentioned in the previous article about The Grand Canyon National Park, it does pay to use common sense when visiting this scenic destination.  The Grand Canyon is beautiful and dangerous at the same time.  There is no super hero flying in the sky that will save a person or dog that falls over the canyon wall, so by all means, use common sense when near the canyon rim!

The scenic overlooks along Desert View Drive are a great place to escape from the Grand Canyon Village crowds and the views of the Grand Canyon are just as picturesque as anywhere else in this National Park. Viewing the majestic landscape of the Grand Canyon will provide memories for years to come, so be sure to pack a good camera so the memories can be shared back home!


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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