Desert View Watchtower ~ Grand Canyon National Park

Desert View Watchtower ~ Grand Canyon National Park

During the morning hours till mid afternoon, the highest percentage of tourists tend to congregate near the Grand Canyon Visitors Center and Grand Canyon Village.  The parking lots in this area are always full and it can seemingly take forever to gain access to the panoramic views along the Rim Trail.  An alternative to playing the waiting game is to head elsewhere in this National Park, where the crowds of tourists have not made their way to as of yet. Desert View Drive offers 25 miles of picturesque scenic overlooks to choose from and during the peak tourism hours, this section of the National Park is rarely crowded. Best of all, the Desert View Watchtower is located at the end of the line next to the Grand Canyon National Park East Gate, so exiting the park is easy too.  

The Desert View Watchtower acts as a visitors center and native cultural center in this end of the Grand Canyon.  The Desert View Watchtower was designed as a concession structure in the 1930s that offered premium views of the Grand Canyon.  The architectural design mimics the ancient stone towers that the Pueblo People built long before Europeans made their way to the west. The design definitely fits in with the Grand Canyon preservation theme and the Desert View watchtower certainly is an easy to recognize landmark. 

Murals and Native American artifacts adorn the interior of this tower, so taking a tour through this building is an educational experience.  Plenty of good information about the Pueblo People and the Grand Canyon environment can be found in this historic site. The Park Rangers hold organized educational events at this place that describe various historic periods of the Grand Canyon and the local native tribes often host cultural events that can provide insight into the spirituality of this region. Native artisans and western landscape painters also are featured in the Desert View Watchtower events, so visitors can meet some of the famous local artists.

The grounds surrounding the Desert View Watchtower have been redesigned many times through the years in an effort to provide amenities for visitors and campers.  A General Store and a Trading Post are located in this area, so visitors can stock up on supplies and shop for unique Navajo, Zuni and Hopi works of art and jewelry to take home.  Many unique Southwestern food items can also be found on the store shelves in the General Store.  A full line of Prickly Pear Cactus products is stocked at the gift shop and these items are difficult to find anywhere else. 

A casual snack bar restaurant is open at the Desert View Watchtower Trading Post too.  After a long day of hiking and taking in the scenery, grabbing a bite to eat sure does help to cure the tired aching feet. The institutional food service cuisine that is served in the National Park restaurants is okay in a pinch for those who have intestinal fortitude, but experienced Grand Canyon visitors know that buying fresh food ahead of time for a picnic near the rim is the better choice from a health standpoint. Believe me, I worked in the Grand Canyon restaurants for a long time and the high volume food service cuisine is not exactly something to write home about!  A Grand Canyon visitor looking for a good dining venture will do far better by going to the Cameron Trading Post, which is located a few miles further down the road from the east entrance gate to get a truly well prepared meal in a more pleasurable setting.

The panoramic views of where the Grand Canyon meets the Little Colorado Gorge territory is what the Desert View Watchtower is famous for! This is one of the most intriguing landscapes on earth and this area has great native cultural significance. The Confluence of the Colorado River and Little Colorado River is nearby, but this area is strictly off limits to visitors because it is a native sacred place. The Confluence cannot be seen from the watchtower, but the Colorado River can be viewed clear as day from this vantage point. Views of the vast plain on the high ground next to the canyon rim are also easy to see. In this vast grassy desert plain, the deep ravines of the Little Colorado Gorge can be viewed too.

What few folks expect is to see is large wild animals while visiting the Grand Canyon, because they mistakenly picture this National Park as being a tame safe place.  When one least expects it, Mother Nature has a way of throwing in an occasional surprise, just to remind visitors about just how wild this region really is.  While exiting through the East Grand Canyon Gates, a few young Bull Elk decided to mosey along on the road.  Needless to say, every car came to a complete stop and the cameras were all hanging out the windows.  Capturing a good image of a wild Bull Elk after a great day in the Grand Canyon National Park is like putting icing on the cake!

Autumn, winter and spring are the best seasons for sightseeing in the Desert Southwest, but the snow can get deep on the Grand Canyon South Rim, because this area is over 7,000 feet above sea level.  Desert View Drive often closes during the winter season, so touring this area during spring and summer is the better choice. Camping is an option and the primitive BLM campgrounds in the neighboring Kaibab National Forest next to the Little Colorado gorge on the other side of the east entrance gate are an option that most Grand Canyon visitors overlook.

When touring the Grand Canyon National Park, the Desert View Watchtower simply is a must to experience! This historic old tower overlooks some of the most majestic terrain in the Grand Canyon and this is also a great place to view a spectacular sunset. Great food and hospitality awaits just down the road in the Navajo Nation, so the Desert View Watchtower is a good place to call it the end of a long day. The peaceful setting of the old watchtower will inspire pleasant memories that last a lifetime!


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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