Last spring, I was preparing to hike the Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon. During my internet searching, I ran across a Grand Canyon sight I’d never known about before: the Grandview Lookout Tower. Could possibly be, I wondered, a real, live fire tower that we could climb up and see into the Grand Canyon? The answer is a definite “Yes” although the view doesn’t show a great amount of the canyon. It’s still an exhilarating view (and climb!) that isn’t too far from the major attractions of Grand Canyon National Park, which makes it worth the side trip. It is located on a dirt road, but in good weather, I’d think a low clearance car would have no trouble reaching the parking area – and then it’s a 100 ft. (30.5 m) walk to the Grandview Lookout Tower, itself!
How we came to visit was a bit of an accident. As I said above, I’d run across the tower’s existence on the internet, but I couldn’t get a good idea of what the view was like, so I didn’t want to take the group too far out of our way to see something I hadn’t the faintest idea if it would be worth it. But then, our very first day in the park, we were looking for a camping spot and started down a dirt road who’s number seemed vaguely familiar. I whipped out the information I’d printed for our visit, and told the driver to “just keep driving and we’ll get to something really cool.” Thankfully, he was cool with that, and within 2 miles (2 km) we spotted the Grandview Lookout Tower beyond a large gateway (apparently this is also a crossing place of the Arizona Trail).
We parked the van across the road in what had to be the parking area and headed over to the tower. Since only 2 people are allowed up the tower at once, two of my group went up and the rest of us hung around the bottom, watching their progress and reading the sign kiosk about the Grandview Lookout Tower and the Arizona Trail. Nearby is the tiny ranger’s cabin; I believe a ranger still lives here so respect his/her privacy.
At last it was my turn, and, strapping my camera bag more securely, I started to mount the metal grate stairway. Almost from the first, I knew better than to look down. The grating is sturdy, but not sturdy enough to keep those afraid of heights from being rather terrified. The entire structure is strong, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like it when it’s just thin metal between you and thin air. Thankful for the handrail, I carefully continued upward, around and around the almost “spiral” stairway.
At last I reached the top and let myself look down. Eighty feet (24 m) may not sound that spectacular, but it’s a long way down! Then I looked out toward the Grand Canyon. Trees mostly block the canyon view, but one small section is visible at the eastern end of the canyon. The day I visited, it was doubly beautiful because all around me was cloudy, but the canyon was still in sunshine – spectacular! If you have binoculars, this would be a great time to use them. As I stared at the view, a sight-seeing helicopter swung by – interrupting the quiet, but also a cool sight. Enjoy the panoramic video below that I took from the platform at the top (which doesn’t have the helicopter in it, lol).
Descending is a fun, if nerve-wracking, adventure. There’s no hope but to look down, since you really do need to keep an eye on your feet. The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes on the metal (not the ground) and to take your time. Oh, and if you’re terrified of heights, you probably shouldn’t have come up in the first place…but I understand if you did it, because even if I was scared I probably would have tried it anyway, too 🙂
I wouldn’t call the Grandview Lookout Tower a long-term destination, but for a 10-30 minute stop, it’s worth it. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I know some of my group members did, too!
Round Trip Trail Length: Less than 0.25 miles (0.4 km)
Net Elevation Gain/Loss: The trail is negligible; it’s 80 ft. (24.3 km) of stairs to the top of the lookout.
Facilities: A very primitive restroom
Fees: None of you come from the south, $25 fee (valid 7 days) if coming from the north through Grand Canyon National Park. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Grand Canyon Annual Passes also accepted.
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Key GPS Coordinates for the Grandview Lookout Tower
Parking Area: 35.95734N / 111.95556W
Beginning of Trail: 35.95738N / 111.95489W (7,417 ft.; 2,260 m)
Tower Base: 35.95758N / 111.95469W (7,497 ft.; 2,285 m)
Getting to the Grandview Lookout Tower
From Grand Canyon Village or the western entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, drive to the East Rim Drive; turn onto this road toward Desert View. Drive 10.7 miles (17.2 km) (past milepost 253), then turn right onto an unmarked dirt road. If you’re coming from the east entrance, this is on the left, 10.7 miles (17.2 km) beyond Desert View (this is after milepost 254). The road has a picnic table, garbage bin, and “no camping” sign at the beginning. From either direction, drive 1.3 miles (2 km) down the road, keeping left at the signboard kiosk as you enter the National Forest. The road is well-maintained, although it is dirt and has some washboard issues. The lookout tower will appear suddenly on your left beyond an archway marking the Arizona Trail. Parking is across the road from the tower.
From the south, you can enter through the national forest. South of the town of Tusayan, take FR 302 East. (This road should be located near the Best Western). Stay on FR 302 for 10 miles (16 km); then take a slight left onto Coconino Rim Road / Forest Road 310 for a little over 5 miles (8 km). Take another left and you will soon see the fire tower on the right. (Note: the Forest Service says to take FR 302 for 15 miles (24 km); then take a left onto FR 310 and the tower will soon appear. So, do whichever seems to work better in real time!)
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