The Desert View Watchtower stands 70 feet tall at the eastern end of the South Rim and is the highest vantage point in Grand Canyon National Park.
On a clear day you can see over 100 miles in a spectacular panoramic view. You can easily see the North Rim – 10 miles away, yet looks like it’s ‘right there’. And you can gaze out to the east to see the painted desert or to the west and see the true architect of the Grand Canyon – the mighty Colorado River, as it winds around its big bends.
The building stands on a promontory sitting on the edge of the Canyon. It’s circular design extends up 5 stories high and is as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. Modeled after a Southwestern Pueblo Indian Watchtower, it’s interior has an open center and a nice stairway that spirals along the perimeter along walls adorned with murals.
At the top of the tower is an observation room with the observation deck, and the pay-off for your climb. You’ll notice that the artwork is absent from this area, as your attention is naturally focused on the Mother Nature’s art that now surrounds you with her view.
Constructed in 1932, it was designed by the Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who is famous for her designs that accentuate the natural beauty around them. The Watchtower was designed as a replica of a prehistoric Indian tower. There are hand painted murals on the interior walls which are the work of Hopi artist, Fred Kabotie.
Similar to the authentic-looking design of the Hopi House, the Desert View Watchtower included many details that add to its Native American charm: the uncut and weathered indigenous rocks, the tower’s cracks (intentionally designed), the kiva room (former rest area with rustic fireplace – now tower’s gift shop), the painted murals, the slot-sized windows, the way it seems to blend into the south rim itself – all of these features add up to make it one of the Grand Canyon’s must-see destinations.
If you come in the Grand Canyon east park entrance, the Desert View Watchtower will be the first stop along the south rim that you come to, well before you reach the Village area. The climb up the spiral stairs is enjoyable and even our 4 year-old could manage easily on his own. The view at the top was well worth the climb. Reading the distances of how far points and peaks were from the Watchtower (after the fact) astounded us.
The Desert View Watchtower is one of the Grand Canyon’s top attractions. It’s location on the easternmost end of the south rim, make it a bit off the ‘beaten path’, in fact, it’s over 25 miles from the Canyon Village area. So it would be smart to plan accordingly and try to get there when you’ll be closest to the east entrance, visiting the Desert View Ranger Station, or visiting Mather, Yavapai, Kaibab or other eastern-end points. It’s well worth the excursion and has an unbeatable view that you won’t forget!