After visiting Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Hopi House, and the El Tovar Hotel, we continued our walk west along the Grand Canyon South Rim Trail to Lookout Studio and could see the building perched beautifully on the edge of the canyon rim far before we reached it.
While Lookout Studio is small, it’s split into three different levels:
- A main level housing a shop and enclosed viewing area
- A lower viewing platform
- A small enclosed observation tower
When we visited The Lookout, we didn’t spend much time on the main level because it’s just another Grand Canyon souvenir shop, and seriously, there is one in almost every building! We did however spend quite a bit of time on the upper balcony taking in the view from the telescopes and on the lower observation area. From here, you can see the El Tovar, the Bright Angel Trail, and Kolb Studio.
About Lookout Studio
Built on a precipice west of the El Tovar Hotel in 1914 for the Santa Fe Railway, Lookout Studio was designed by Mary Colter as a place visitors could view and photograph the Grand Canyon from its edge. The comfortable rustic studio of stone and log timbers, also known as The Lookout, looks as if it grows right out of the South Canyon Rim.
Originally established as a photography studio to compete with Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio today operates as a souvenir shop and observation station for visitors, with viewing telescopes on its outdoor terrace. It is one of six buildings at the Grand Canyon that were designed by architect Mary Colter, along with Bright Angel Lodge, Hermit’s Rest, Hopi House, Phantom Ranch, and Desert View Watchtower.
Mary Colter And Lookout Studio
When designing Lookout Studio, architect Mary Colter was inspired by the unruly edge of the Grand Canyon and the natural rock outcroppings and let them guide her design. Modeled after stone dwellings of the Southwest Pueblo American Indians, Lookout Studio is built right into the canyon rim and blends into its natural surroundings.
The small building is made of rough-cut, locally-sourced Kaibab limestone, the building’s roof line mirrors the lines of Grand Canyon’s rim with an uneven parapet that incorporates the chimney and a small observation room, and low stone walls lead up to the building, protecting visitors from drop offs into the canyon.
Inside Lookout Studio you’ll find exposed structural logwork, a small stone fireplace, a scored concrete floor, and exposed stone walls. A small stairway leads up into an enclosed observation tower with a jigsawn-patterned railing and down from the main level to an outdoor observation platform. Because of all of the viewing windows around the walls of the structure, the interior is considerably lighter than most of Mary Colter’s other buildings.
Kolb Studio Vs. Lookout Studio
The building of Lookout Studio was contentious to say the least.
The Kolb brothers’ Grand Canyon photography studio included a small souvenir and gift shop selling original photographs and postcard views of the Grand Canyon. However, the greedy Fred Harvey Company didn’t the like idea of the Kolb Brothers stealing any potential business. Fred Harvey had Lookout Studio built on the popular South Rim Trail between the El Tovar Hotel and Kolb Studio to lure tourists away from the competition and sell them paintings, postcards, and photographs before they visited Kolb Studio. The competition between these two companies went on for years.
Know Before You Go
- Lookout Studio, built in 1914, is located on the edge of the Grand Canyon South Rim in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023 in Coconino County in Grand Canyon National Park.
- Lookout Studio is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
- Stop in to browse the multi-level gift shop and scenic lookout and use the telescopes to observe the natural beauty the canyon.
- Lookout Studio was designated a National Historic Landmark as part of the Mary Jane Colter Buildings collective nomination in 1987. The nomination includes the Desert View Watchtower, Hopi House, Lookout Studio, and Hermit’s Rest.
- Hopi House and the Lookout Studio are also major contributing structures in the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District.
- Lookout Studio was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
- Walk west to reach Kolb Studio, the Bright Angel Trail, Hermit Road, and Hermit’s Rest, or east along the Canyon Rim Trail to the El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House, Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Yavapai Geology Museum, Mather Point, Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and Desert View Drive.
- The Grand Canyon South Rim, including Grand Canyon Village and Desert View, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- A free shuttle bus system operates on the South Rim connecting the visitor centers, parking lots, lodges and hotels, historic buildings, museums, and campgrounds with canyon overlooks. The Blue Shuttle serves Grand Canyon Village.