Grand canyon south rim (grand canyon national park) – 2018 all you need to know before you go (with photos) – tripadvisor youtube gas pedal

Rather hard to answer your question because you give no information on what kind of experience and fitness you have as a hiker, or even if hiking is all you want to do (vs. other activities available in the park). Since you did mention hiking, though, here are a few thoughts:

I have hiked to the river and back in July, but wouldn’t recommend it since I have no idea your fitness or heat tolerance, and you aren’t staying at the rim so have to factor in driving time as well (and lines at the gate), whereas I had all day. Having done that, though, gives me some insight into conditions, and it is important to realize that temperatures at the rim are generally quite comfortable in the summer; it is in the inner canyon that it gets very hot. Also, that thunderstorms, generally in the afternoon, are a real possibility.

To me, the most impressive thing about the canyon is simply standing on the edge and looking in. Everything else is awesome gravy, but that is the main course. Pictures can’t do it justice! There are a number of viewpoints along the rim from which you can do this, getting different perspectives. My favorite is probably Mather Point, but no need to limit yourself to one!

I disagree with the gentleman above who is suggesting you hike the S. Kaibab trail. It isn’t a BAD option, but I think you would probably do better to do the Bright Angel Trail if you choose to hike down into the canyon a ways. My reasons: (1) The S. Kaibab has no water available so you have to carry it all in, enough for the roundtrip + contingencies; (2) it has minimal sheltering possibilities in a thunderstorm; (3) the views are excellent from the S. Kaibab, but they are similar to what you see from the rim. By contrast, in the summer Bright Angel Trail (1) has multiple rest stops/huts where you can get shelter from sun and storms, as well as refill water bottles; (2) if you hike down far enough, especially to Indian Garden, you get a very different view than you do from the rim or S. Kaibab. You experience a side-canyon with water flowing in it, with corresponding greenery, an oasis in the desert.

Then, decide on how you want to spend the day. You can have a wonderful day staying on the rim. Or you can hike down into the canyon. In my opinion, unless you are very fit, you won’t be able to do both meaningfully, since if you hike only a short way into the canyon, it is almost not worth it, but if you hike to, for instance, Indian Garden, this is now a 4-6 hour hike. If you have time/energy, extend that to Plateau Point for river views and great 360 degree views of the canyon from mid-way up. That will consume much of your day. (It may also interfere with your desire to eat lunch at the rim; you probably will want to pack a lunch).

Leave your car at the visitor center parking lot. You can’t drive to many places anyway, and other parking is hard to find. Arrive as early as you can to get parking near the center. If you decide to hike into the canyon, you can take a shuttle from the visitor center to the trail head and proceed with your hike.

If you decide you’d rather stay on top, I suggest you walk from the visitor center all the way to the lodge area, stopping at the geology museum along the way. Then, immediately past that, walk the geology timeline built into that section of the trail and study the rock displays on it so you can appreciate the different layers that make up the Grand Canyon. Once you reach the lodge area, you can continue to walk along the rim quite a distance on the Rim Trail if you want (or you can shuttle directly there if you wish to skip the geology museum). From the Rim Trail, there are frequent opportunities to bail and take the shuttle if you wish or find a need to. Water and restrooms are readily available compared to on inner canyon hikes. And you can shuttle back to the lodge when ready for lunch. You may be interested in other non-hiking opportunities such as the Kolb photography exhibit, etc. You can also look for California condors from the rim if you are a birder. The lodge area also has restaurants, snackbars, souvenir shops, etc.

If you are fit enough to hike down and back a significant distance, then I suggest you do the visitor center, Mather Point, orient yourself to the rocks via the rim trail/geology museum, continue along the rim to the Bright Angel Trailhead, and then hike down and back as far as time/energy allows (taking about 1 liter of water each should be enough to get you between supply points, but extra would be wise; food also). Then you can do more along the Rim Trail if you feel like it (probably not!), or check out the shops/exhibits/restaurants. Or, to take advantage of cooler temperatures in the morning, park at the visitor center, skip the video (watch later if time), grab trail information from rangers, view Mather Point, then shuttle to the Bright Angel trailhead and get started. Walk back along the Rim Trail via geology museum etc. on your return to the visitor center, or if you are out of energy, skip it and take the shuttle.

Plan on crowds of people and long waits at shuttle buses (not so bad at the visitor center, but worse at points along trails). But don’t worry, you’ll have a great time! The canyon is so big even a huge crowd of people can’t detract from its awesomeness.

But as to your question about ease of getting back to the village for lunch, realize that it is "easy" but may be slow. i.e., shuttles run everywhere, but lines can be long. Given the short time available, I’d probably pack a lunch if it were me, but if you think you’ll stay on the rim and walk primarily along the Rim Trail, then it is easy enough for you to plan your lunch into it so that you walk there and don’t wait for a shuttle.