Best Time to View Sunsets at the Grand Canyon

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Canyon colors: The best ways to check out a Grand Canyon sunset

Best Time to View Sunsets at the Grand Canyon

Sunsets over the Grand Canyon offer some of the best opportunities to capture its colors with your camera. There's no bad place to watch a sunset at this natural marvel. As the sun descends slowly to the horizon, the canyon walls glow with deep mauve, lavender and violet colors, while cotton-candy clouds and sherbet skies produce a show worth watching even if you don't have a direct view of the sun.

Timing the sunset

Sunset makes for the perfect finale to your day at the canyon, and you won't have to stay up past your bedtime to catch it. In winter, look for sunset at about 5:17 p.m. Spring and autumn sunsets grace the skies around the 6:30 p.m. range. In summer, serve up sunset for dessert after having dinner at one of the canyon restaurants.

Arrive at the vista where you plan to watch the event up to 90 minutes ahead of time to watch "Golden Hour" fade into apricot hues before the actual sunset. Don't rush off after the sun dips beneath the horizon. The sky can light up with an after-show of deep red, vibrant orange or dazzling pink.

Arizona doesn't switch to Daylight Saving Time. While Arizonans might boast that the state is on its own time zone, it's technically on Mountain Standard Time all year. However, when states in Mountain Standard Time "spring forward," Arizona's clocks read the same time as states in the Pacific Time Zone, such as California.

Where to watch

Grand Canyon National Park is brimming with spots to watch nature's dazzling end-of-day display, so don't worry about elbow-to-elbow crowds, even during the busy summer months. Park your vehicle at one of the expansive parking areas at the park's shuttle stops and ride the free shuttle bus to any of the 13 canyon vistas along the rim. Although shuttle stops hum with tourist activity, walking a half-mile or more down the trail gets you out of the crowds to spots where you can sit on a rock or bench and watch the sunset with few passersby. Shuttles stop running one hour after sunset, so make sure you're within walking distance of your hotel or car if you plan to stargaze.

  • The Rim Trail runs 13 miles from the South Kaibab Trailhead at its eastern end to Hermit's Rest in the west. Take the shuttle to an eastern viewpoint in the late afternoon and meander west to marvel at ever-changing vistas and lighting in the canyon. When you're done, head to the closest shuttle stop to return to your starting place. 
  • From March through November, head west on the Hermit's Rest shuttle to view the sunset from less-crowded viewpoints like Mohave or Pima points.
  • Drive your car beyond the reach of the shuttle. Shoshone point lies 1.3 miles beyond the Pipe Creek Vista. Park in a dirt lot on the north side of the road and hike one mile through ponderosa forest along a dirt trail to reach the viewpoint. Few people go there, so you might even see deer or elk along the way.

Warning

Afternoon thunderstorms are common from July through early September. Avoid standing on a rocky outcropping or seeking shelter beneath a lone tree. When lightning strikes are less than 30 seconds apart, head to the nearest shuttle bus or building to weather-watch from a safe vantage point.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.