We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park at about 4:00 in the afternoon, which gave us just enough time to check out the South Rim Visitor Center and Mather Point, get the lay of the land, and check into our hotel, Yavapai Lodge. We then ate dinner and went to bed early so we’d be rested for our two full days at Grand Canyon.
You can conquer the entire Grand Canyon South Rim in one day. You do not need two full days in the park. But, we planned two days because:
- We visited the park in March so the days are shorter and it gets dark earlier.
- We don’t like feeling rushed and we like to have time to see everything. I would always rather have extra time to relax than miss something or feel rushed through it.
- It was spring break and very crowded, so we knew we’d want extra time to navigate the crowds.
On our first day, we spent the morning exploring the Desert View Historic District and the famous Desert View Watchtower, and working our way along all of the scenic overlooks and stops along the 25 mile Desert View Drive. Then we spent the afternoon exploring Grand Canyon Village, and our first stop was Verkamp’s Visitor Center.
Verkamp’s Visitor Center
Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Museum is Grand Canyon National Park’s newest Visitor Center in one of its oldest buildings. For more than a century, it was a curio shop and family home and today it is a park museum and gift shop.
A short walk east of the El Tovar Hotel and Hopi House, Verkamp’s Visitor Center has museum-quality exhibits about the history of Grand Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon Community — documenting what it was like to live and work on the edge of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. A walking history timeline on the floor leads visitors through the exhibits on a tour of the important moments in local, national and international history.
Verkamp Family History
John Verkamp first arrived at Grand Canyon’s South Rim in 1898. He set up a tent and sold souvenirs and American Indian arts and crafts, but few people made the long stagecoach trip to the rim and business was slow. At the end of the summer, he closed up shop, sold his inventory to the Bright Angel Hotel, and returned to Flagstaff.
With the completion of the railroad spur in 1901, development of the South Rim boomed and in 1905, Verkamp returned to construct the current building. He opened his business on January 31, 1906 and recorded in his ledger, “$4.98 A good day.” 1906. Then in 1936, John, his wife, and their four children moved into the apartment above the store. John managed the store until his death in 1944 and his children and grandchildren continued to operate the store for many years after.
The Verkamps built their business on service to their guests, service to their employees, and service to their community. They respected and purchased goods from some of the same local Native American artisans for 25-50 years and all employees received training to explain the history and meaning of the items they sold.
For decades the Verkamp family was involved in the South Rim community and were instrumental in developing and supporting the Grand Canyon School. The family also operated the Verkamp’s Store as a concession permitted by the National Park Service. When their contract last came up for renewal, the Verkamps chose not to compete for a new one. The National Park Service then purchased the building and opened it in November 2008 as a visitor center and Grand Canyon Association bookstore.
Know Before You Go
- Verkamp’s Visitor Center, built in 1906, is located at 100 South Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023 in Coconino County in Grand Canyon National Park.
- The Grand Canyon South Rim, including Grand Canyon Village and Desert View, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Verkamp’s is open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.
- Stop in to view museum-quality exhibits about the history of Grand Canyon Village and shop for canyon-related books and gift items.
- Walk east to Hopi House, El Tovar Hotel, Lookout Studio, Kholb Studio, the Bright Angel Trail, Hermit Road, and Hermit’s Rest, or west along the Canyon Rim Trail to Yavapai Geology Museum, Mather Point, Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and Desert View Drive.
- 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.