Four miles from the national park boundary, Desert View offers the first glimpse of the Grand Canyon for visitors arriving from the east, and presents a spectacle rather different to most overlooks as one third of the panorama is of the flat plains of the Painted Desert, on the east side of the Colorado as it bends round to the north. The park road cannot follow the rim any further east as the ground falls away steeply towards Cedar Canyon, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, so the many other viewpoints are all found to the west. The land to the east is still accessible by trail, however.
The facilities at Desert View include a gas station, bookstore, shop, restaurant, campground, ranger station, acres of parking and the historic watchtower, built in 1932 right on the cliff edge and visible for many miles across this part of the canyon. One trail starts nearby - a long backcountry route that crosses the Painted Desert, passes close to Comanche Point and reaches Cape Solitude after 12 miles, directly above the Little Colorado River confluence.
QTVR: Panorama of the Grand Canyon from Desert View - preview, full size.
Views at Desert View encompass many miles of the canyon, countless peaks and tributary ravines from Shoshone Point in the west as far north as Temple & Chuar Buttes (location of an aircraft crash in 1956), then above and beyond to the distant Vermilion & Echo Cliffs that enclose the start of the Grand Canyon at Lees Ferry. Several miles of the river can be seen, around the Tanner Creek rapids, which can be reached by the Tanner Trail starting from Lipan Point. The best time for photography at Desert View is in early morning, when the sun first illuminates the cliffs opposite, on the north rim below Cape Royal.
West: Navajo Point
East: Comanche Point