Desert View Watchtower is located at Desert View Point, which is the first stop along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon when you enter Grand Canyon National Park from the east. Rising some seventy feet high over the cliffs at Desert View Point, Desert View Watchtower is the tallest building on the South Rim. A striking, circular stone structure, the Watchtower was built in 1932. Designed by the architect Mary Colter to intentionally resemble an ancient Pueblo ruin, this South Rim landmark offers some of the best sightlines available throughout Grand Canyon National Park.
Desert View Watchtower History and Background
Desert View Watchtower is the work of the architect Mary Colter. In the early 1930s Colter was hired by the Fred Harvey Company—a company that owned and operated many different tourist attractions throughout the western reaches of the United States—to design a viewing-station structure appropriate for such a prime location along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon as Desert View Point. Colter’s response was to create the plans for the Watchtower. Completed in 1932, the Desert View Watchtower takes its inspiration from Pueblo and Hopi cultures, and is intended to imitate and honor Colter’s understanding of the architectural techniques and cultural practices of indigenous Southwestern people.
The inside of the Watchtower has a number of windows and outlooks built into the structure at varying places/levels, so as to provide visitors with a great many different vantagepoints from which to look out over the region. As you climb through the Watchtower you will want to note the elaborate artwork that covers the interior walls. These striking murals are the work of the artist Fred Kabotie, and were created especially for the space.
What’s at Desert View Watchtower
Many visitors to the South Rim will receive their first views of Grand Canyon National Park from the heights of Desert View Watchtower. The vantage point from here is quite unique, not just because the Watchtower is the tallest point along the South Rim, but because the location of the Watchtower provides visitors with sight lines to the east that they just can’t get elsewhere in the park. In that direction, you will be able to take in the full expanse of the beautiful Painted Desert. Looking back toward the west, the entirety of the Park unfolds before you in all its panoramic glory.
A number of hiking trails are accessible from near Desert View Watchtower. One particular local favorite is a long trail that takes hikers into the Painted Desert, past Comanche Point, and ends near the Little Colorado River. Those visitors seeking to explore such wonderful hikes will do well to keep in mind that many trails throughout Grand Canyon National Park are very steep. It is always a good idea to carry appropriate supplies while hiking along the South Rim.
As for amenities, visitors to Desert Point Watchtower will find everything they possibly need right nearby at Desert View Point. At Desert View Point you will find a restaurant, a marketplace, a gas station, a ranger station, a picnic area, a campground, and even a gift shop. All these amenities are serviced by ample parking facilities. Additional amenities are available at Grand Canyon Village, which is just a twenty-minute drive from Desert View to the west. There you will even find hotel accommodations, if camping outside isn’t your thing.
Tips for Visiting Desert View Watchtower
- If you plan to climb up the Desert View Watchtower (and you should!), keep an eye out for the paintings on the interior walls by artist Frank Kabotie.
- Because the Desert View Watchtower is located at the extreme eastern end of the South Rim, the majority of the views from it into the canyon itself look westward. As a result, the best time to visit Desert View Watchtower for photographic purposes is the morning, when the sun will light up everything in front of you.
- The view from the top of the Watchtower is quite remarkable. Make sure to look for such landmarks as the San Francisco Peaks, the Vermilion Cliffs, and the Painted Desert. Your best views of these attractions will be available from here.