Desert View (Navajo Point)
South RIM GRAND CANYON, AZ
The Grand Canyon is rightfully called one of the seven wonders of the world as it is one of the most remarkable natural wonders found anywhere. However, from a photography standpoint, it can be difficult to find one single location that captures the grandeur of the canyon.
For me, Desert View is my favorite location on the south rim of the canyon as it provides a spectacular view of the canyon in all her glory! From here, you can see the colors, the contrast, deep abstract gorges, endless layers of erosion, natural monuments and a great view of the reason it is here – the Colorado River.
The reason this location is called Desert View is - it is at the eastern most point of the Grand Canyon and it includes an amazing view of the desert, buttes and mountains to the east of the canyon.
There are several great locations to photograph the Desert View, but my favorite is Navajo Point – which is an easy half mile drive west of the Desert View visitors center. Also, Navajo Point doesn’t get as many visitors and has a great view of the Colorado river and the colorful west facing walls of the canyon.
Trail Difficulty (1 out of 5)
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 1 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The location of this shot is an easy 25 yd walk from the Navajo Point parking lot.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
7,454 Ft. Elevation
Decimal degree (DD) format: 36.037986, -111.836836
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click on image to enlarge
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to the Navajo Point parking lot.
The closest communities to this location are Cameron, AZ and the Grand Canyon Village.
From Cameron, AZ – drive south on US89 for 1.4 miles until you come to a traffic circle (look for signs for South Rim Grand Canyon). At the circle, drive west on AZ-64/Desert View Dr. for 30 miles until you reach the East entrance to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After passing through the entrance, drive for .9 miles and take the turnoff for Navajo Point.
From Grand Canyon Village – take AZ64/Desert View Dr. for 21 miles and take the turnoff for Navajo Point. The location of this shot is on the ledge on the east side of the parking lot. If you reach the turnoff for the Desert View visitor center or the East entrance to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you have gone too far. Just turn around and go back a ½ mile or so.
The shot above was taken just to the right of the Navajo Point parking lot along the edge.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
For me, this is mainly a sunset to dusk shot as the view is mainly north by northeast and the sun illuminates the west facing walls on the right.
DON’T STOP shooting after the sun goes down! Some of the VERY BEST light happens just after the sun ducks under the horizon as the canyon reveals her spectacular pastel colors for about 10-15 minutes. This time is great for colors, contrast and depth of this amazing location.
Desert View can also be a great location for dawn to sunrise shots and can be superb during volatile weather conditions.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
This location can be photographed any time of the year.
During the summer months, the sun sets in the northwest which illuminates the west facing side walls and produces long shadows through the canyon. In winter months, the sun sets more to the southwest and illuminates more of the inner canyon. The shot above was taken in July.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
This is an absolutely beautiful spot to take a great landscape image and can be shot as a wide angle, panoramic or compression. The shot above was taken with a 60mm lens.
Navajo Point is just inside the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. As of the writing of the summary (Nov 2018) the entry fee was $35 per vehicle. Once in the park there are no other permits required.
Direction of the Shot
The shot is north by northeast at @ about 10-40°.
Special Nuances of Shot
To me, what makes this location special is you get one of the best views of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Under the right light conditions the sculpture and colors of the canyon walls can be seen as good as any location in the park.
As for shooting this location, it is fairly straightforward. As mentioned, it is an easy 25yd walk along the ledge just east of the Navajo Point parking lot. This shot is all about the right light to produce a magical image. In the absence of volatile weather conditions, this location is best shot just before sunset as the east walls of the canyon are illuminated in the soft light of the end of the day.
Remember - even after the sun sets, you can get a great shot with the pastel colors of the canyon.
Special Equipment Needed
No need for any special photography equipment (other than a tripod) unless you plan on doing a panoramic shot.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon (especially in the summer months), then you know how overwhelming it can be with tourists. Another GREAT feature of this location is the crowds are usually much smaller in comparison to the Canyon Village area.
Even when the Navajo Point is filled with drive by tourists, the shot to the right of the parking lot (where this image was taken) is usually free from others.
As with other high desert locations, Navajo Point has fairly large swings in temperature from mid-day to evening. In the summer, the days can be very hot, and the evening can be mild to cool. The elevation at Navajo Point is almost 7,500 ft which makes the temperature mild compared to other parts of the desert.
I have Verizon and the cell service is hit or miss at Navajo Point.
Navajo Point is 30 miles from Cameron, AZ and 22 miles from the Grand Canyon Village with no hotels around. However, there is a VERY nice campsite only a mile away - right by the Desert View parking lot. The Desert View campground has 50 campsites (with no RV hookups), is first-come, first-serve and usually fills up by early afternoon each day. The only other campgrounds in the park are Trailer Village and Mather campground in the Canyon Village area. These campsites are 25 miles away and fill up early each day. Both take reservations on the NPS website.
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Desert View campground – next to Desert view parking lot (1 mile away)
Trailer Village and Mather campground – in Canyon village (25 miles away)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Currently, there are six hotel/lodges in the Grand Canyon park. All are in or near the Canyon village. The hotels are owned/managed by Xanterra Parks and Resorts and Delaware North Companies.
As mentioned, the closest towns are Cameron, AZ (30 miles away) and the Grand Canyon Village (25 miles away). At the Desert View visitor center (1 mile away), there is a deli and general store.
In the Canyon Village, there are an abundance of food choices. Most are located in the hotels and lodges. I tend to eat at the El Tovar Dining Room or at the Lounge in the El Tavar Hotel.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
El Tovar Dining Room
El Tovar Hotel
El Tovar Lounge
El Tovar Hotel
The only laundry mat I know of in the park is at the Mather campground.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest major airports to the Grand Canyon are Phoenix Sky Harbor and McCarran airport in Las Vegas. Both are major airports and service all of the major airlines. There are regional airports in Flagstaff and Prescott, AZ.
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.