Updated: Jun 23
Moran Point offers an unbelievable view of most of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, and the viewpoint is only a minute's walk from the parking lot. This point may even have the best view in all of Grand Canyon National Park. It is a 30-minute drive from the Grand Canyon Village, and you’ll travel through Kaibab National Forest (and even see a bunch of other viewpoints on the way).
In this blog, we will explore everything there is to know about Moran Point, including its geological significance, directions, mesmerizing view, what to pack, and some bonus viewpoints on the South Rim.
How Was the Grand Canyon Formed?
As is widely known, the Colorado River flows through the center of the canyon. Over the course of 6 million years, this river eroded the rocks into what it is today; a canyon one mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long. But there is much more to it. There are 6 main stages involved in the formation of the Grand Canyon. The first is called upheaval, where the sedimentary rock of the Colorado Plateau was lifted up due to tectonic forces (the same ones that created the Rocky Mountains). This is what formed Point Joe Vista Point and the Monterey Bay. There are more than 20 layers of rocks visible, and you can see them easily on your road trip! I highly recommend going to House Rock Valley Overlook to get a similar view to the one at the national park.
The next stage is the Colorado River and other rivers eroding the rock layers over millions of years. Marble Canyon was formed this way, too. The meandering allowed the canyon to be very wide. A fun fact is that the river, which starts from Lake Powell, is eroding the rock at a rate of 1 foot every 200 years. You can get the perfect view from Wahweap Overlook and Wahweap Window.
The third stage is that the sedimentary rock showed how deep the river cut into history. The bottom of the Grand Canyon is 1.8 billion years old! Some rocks are softer and will break quickly, while others are hard and can take millions of years to erode.
The fourth stage is geological forces. When rocks move due to things like earthquakes, the path of the rivers can change. This creates varying widths of the Grand Canyon and creates a very unique view for tourists.
The fifth stage is weathering. Things like ice, rain, and wind will break rocks apart and can cause landslides. This is how Angels Window was formed on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; the soft layer of rock was eroded leaving an arch of hard rock. You can read all about Angels Window in our blog here.
The sixth and last stage of how the Grand Canyon formed is changes in the climate. Fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, the deposition of sediment, and many other factors helped shape the canyon we know today. Changes in climate can destroy rocks that survive weathering.
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How to Get to Moran Point
There are two ways you can get to Moran Point, Grand Canyon. We’ll talk about the most common way first, which is next to Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023. To get here, take Arizona State Route 64 from Williams or U.S. Route 180 from Flagstaff. Both of these highways lead to Grand Canyon Junction. From here, drive north. In 22 miles, you will reach the small town of Tusayan with plenty of hotels, gas stations, and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (I highly recommend having a full tank of gas for your road trip). There are also hotels and gas stations in Grand Canyon Junction. 1.5 miles north of Tusayan, you’ll reach the South Entrance Station. Driving 4 more miles and keeping right, turn right onto Desert View Drive. If you are wondering if you’re on the correct road, you should see the Grand Canyon at Pipe Creek Vista. You’ll also pass Yaki Point, Shoshone Point, Duck on A Rock Viewpoint, Grandview Point, and Grandview Lookout Tower if you want any more places to look at. Drive 15 more miles and 25 minutes and turn left when you see a long straight road like the picture below. There is a “Moran Point” sign 1,000 feet before the turn.
The other way to get to Moran Point, Coconino County is through the East Entrance Station. Turn onto Arizona State Route 64 from U.S. Route 89. The drive will be 30 miles and 30 minutes. Once past the East Entrance Station, drive for 12 minutes and 7 miles on Desert View Drive. Turn right when you see a long straight road like the picture above. There is also a “Moran Point” sign 300 feet before the turn. In this direction, you will pass Desert View Watchtower, Navajo Point, Lipan Point, Pinal Point, and Zuni Point. Some of these require hikes while others are just a short walk from the parking lot.
In the parking lot, there are 30 spots and some room for RVs. There are also a couple of handicap spots available. There should always be spots available within a few minutes of your arrival. There are also shuttles that can take you here if needed; they will be stationed out of Grand Canyon National Park Lodges and be operated by Xanterra.
The History of Moran Point
The viewpoint is named after Thomas Moran, who painted the landscape of many western states. Similar to Theodore Roosevelt (the “conservation president”) and John Muir, Thomas played an important role in conserving hundreds of thousands of acres of land and the designation of the Grand Canyon in 1919. He also made a famous painting of Yellowstone called “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.” Members of the Spanish expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado were the first Europeans to see this majestic geography.
You can walk all along the parking lot and see the Grand Canyon. You’ll notice a sign about the Spanish discovery, which we talked about in the section above. Plenty of trash and recycling bins exist, so please leave no trace. There are also no bathrooms, but the nearest ones are at Grandview Point and the Tusayan Ruins and Museum.
Head along the walkway at the head of the parking lot. Here, you will be out on the “point” of Moran Point. You can see much of the Grand Canyon. You will be able to see Coronado Butte, Sinking Ship, Zuni Point, Grandview Point, and Shoshone Point all on the southern side of the national park. On the northern side, you can see Vishnu Temple, Freya Castle, Wotan’s Throne, Angels Window, and Cape Royal Point. Your elevation will be 7,160 feet, 5,000 feet higher than the Colorado River!
Many people will walk onto the dirt to get a better view (there are usually 5 or more people). Only do this if you are not scared of heights and have good shoes. And never stand on the very edge of a cliff just in case. You may have heard of Grand Canyon vandalism on the news where there was a video of people doing graffiti. Luckily, the graffiti washed off after it rained, so there was no permanent damage.
When I visited, I was able to see the Milky Way; better yet, there were no other people there. Stargazing can be done in any place, though. There may be a little light pollution south or toward the west at Grand Canyon Village. If you’re ever in Idaho and want to stargaze, check out this blog about Goldbug Hot Springs.
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Bonus Hikes and Locations
If you’re not satisfied with just Moran Point, drive 10 minutes east to Desert View Watchtower. You can take the stairs to the top and get a view 70 feet from the ground; this allows you to see everything that the Grand Canyon has to offer. I watched the sunset here, and you can see just how amazing it is.
If you’re more up for a hike, head west for 15 minutes to Shoshone Point. It is a 2.1-mile hike with only 150 feet of elevation gain. It offers another fantastic view of the Grand Canyon, and you can safely walk out on some rocks (on both the left and right sides at the end of the trail) and see more of the canyon. Shoshone Point has a great hike through a forest, and hiking it in the snow was amazing. The South Rim has so much more to do than the North Rim, so you will always be close to a great spot. And if you’re ever in Montana, make sure to hike Morrell Falls, which we wrote in-depth about.
When Is Moran Point Open?
Moran Point, along with everything else on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, is open year-round. If you are driving when there is snow, be cautious and drive slower. When I was there, there was a blizzard that was not in the forecast; things can go south quickly.
Packing List for Visiting Moran Point
Sturdy footwear. You'll need traction because you'll be walking on rocks. If you wish to walk closer to the edge, I advise wearing hiking boots. If the rocks are moist, they may also be slick. You may also be walking in the snow, so bring waterproof shoes.
Sunscreen. Put on some sunscreen because you may be outside for long enough to burn up. However, the trees will provide some shade. If you pause to soak in the scenery, you may only spend 20 or 30 minutes here.
Food. Bring more food than you need because you won’t know how long you are gone (and we could be talking all day). A satisfying meal and snacks should be included.
Water. Summers can be hot, and being dehydrated is not enjoyable. Bring more water than you think you will need for the entire day just in case. The temperature at Moran Point and the Grand Canyon can reach 100 degrees in the summer.
Warm clothes. Because you are above 7,000 feet in elevation, it can get cold. This includes snow pretty late in the season. Bring warm clothes so you can stay warm throughout the day. Hypothermia and frostbite aren’t fun.
Chapstick. It's going to be hot, dry, and windy. Your lips won't get damaged by the weather if you use chapstick.
Flashlight. Because you’re at the Grand Canyon (that place with a bunch of cliffs), bring a flashlight just in case you’re still out and about at night. To avoid spraining your ankle, you must pay attention to where you are walking.
Camera. Don't forget to bring a camera, and if you have a nice one, I'd suggest using it. You'll want to take photos of the magnificent scenery and your traveling companions. You should also take a selfie to remember that you were at this national park.
Moran Point is an easy place to drive to that gives a tremendous view of the Grand Canyon. Whichever way you drive here, you will have nice scenery of the canyon and of the forest (and maybe some elk). It is very accessible to everyone. There are over a dozen nearby locations that offer gorgeous views, so make sure not to spend all day here. Enjoy your time at Grand Canyon National Park, and don’t rush! It is truly an unforgettable experience.