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The marvelously worn winding staircase of Mary Colter's 70ft stone tower, built in 1932, leads to one of the highest spots on the rim. From here, slats in the tower wall offer unparalleled views of not only the canyon and a long swath of the Colorado River, but also the San Francisco Peaks, the Navajo Reservation and the Painted Desert. Hopi artist Fred Kabotie's murals depicting Hopi origin stories grace the interior walls of the 1st floor.
On the way up look for an unmarked door on the left; you can wander outside onto a rooftop patio here – a nice spot to relax with a sandwich. Outside the watchtower, a bronze plaque marks the spot as a National Historic Landmark. Just below the rim is the site of the 1956 TWA plane crash that killed 128 people and marked the beginning of modern regulations in air safety.
To find a quiet view away from the crowds, take the furthest left paved path from the parking lot to the tower and wander off among the desert scrub.
There's a small market and snack bar next door, as well as toilets and a year-round gas station.