Are you looking to visit the Grand Canyon but are short on time? Is it possible to see this famous natural wonder in just one day?

Well, I have good news for you: it is possible! You can see the highlights of the Grand Canyon in one day. While you won’t get to explore much below the rim or go beyond the highlights, you can quickly get a feel for all the Grand Canyon offers.

Whether adding the Grand Canyon to your national park road trip or making a day trip from nearby Las Vegas, this guide has you covered!

I’m sharing everything you need to know to see the best of the Grand Canyon in one day, including which rim to visit, how to get there, sample itineraries, and important planning tips.

Keep reading for all the details to plan an incredible day trip to Grand Canyon National Park!

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Grand Canyon National Park At-A-Glance

Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:

  • Best Time to Visit: Spring or Fall are the best times to visit, thanks to the mild weather, perfect for hiking. Avoid crowds by visiting in April to mid-May or mid-September to October, on either end of peak season.
  • Where to Stay: If you want to stay in the park, choose from the luxury El Tovar Hotel, historic Bright Angel Lodge, or the newly renovated Maswik Lodge. If you want to stay outside the park, I highly recommend The Grand Hotel or Best Western Squire Resort in Tusayan.
  • How to Get There: The closest airports are Las Vegas (4 hours away) or Phoenix (3.5 hours away). Use Expedia to browse flights and find the best price.
  • How to Get Around: Grand Canyon National Park offers free shuttles year-round at the South Rim, which saves time trying to find parking. However, you’ll still need your own car to get to the park. Use Expedia to browse deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy!
  • Best Self-Guided Tour: My favorite way to learn more about the park is with GuideAlong, a narrated self-guided tour perfect for road trips and scenic drives. The Grand Canyon South Rim Guide provides incredible commentary and detail about the history and geology of this natural wonder.
  • Don’t Forget: Be sure to get an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites (including the Grand Canyon!).

Which rim of the Grand Canyon should you visit if you only have one day?

Choosing the right rim is crucial when planning a one-day trip to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon, stretching over 220 miles along the Colorado River, is divided into three main regions, each offering unique experiences.

  • South Rim: This is the most visited section and is renowned for its stunning viewpoints like Mather Point and iconic trails such as Bright Angel Trail. It’s well-equipped with lodges, campgrounds, and restaurants. The National Park Service operates a free shuttle service connecting most top attractions. This area is accessible year-round.
  • North Rim: Located about a four-hour drive from the South Rim, this area is more secluded and less visited. It’s open only in the summer months and requires a significant detour to reach, making it less feasible for a one-day trip.
  • Grand Canyon West: This region is managed by the Hualapai Tribe. Located approximately two hours from Las Vegas, it’s an ideal destination for those on a tight schedule or looking for a day trip from Las Vegas. The highlight here is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This glass bridge allows visitors to walk suspended above the canyon floor.
Map of the rims of the Grand Canyon

The West Rim is the most practical choice for those planning a day trip from Las Vegas. It is the only feasible option without spending a night at the canyon. Visitors can le

ave Las Vegas in the morning, explore the Skywalk, then return before dusk. In addition, several guided tours of the Grand Canyon leave from Las Vegas.

If you have a full day to spend at the Grand Canyon and stay a night near the park, visit the South Rim. The South Rim is the most popular part of the Grand Canyon and is a must-see destination. 

This itinerary focuses on the South Rim, the area most people visit when planning a trip to the Grand Canyon.

Read More: 19 Best National Parks Near Las Vegas

View from Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
South Rim
View of the Grand Canyon Skywalk viewing platform at the West Rim
West Rim

How to Get to and Around the South Rim

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is in northwestern Arizona, hours away from any major city. To reach the Grand Canyon, fly into one of the airports within a few hours’ drive, rent a car, and make the road trip to the Grand Canyon.

The closest airports to the Grand Canyon South Rim are:

  • Flagstaff Pulliam Regional Airport (FLG): 1.5 hours away
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 3.5 hours away
  • Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS): 4.5 hours away

For a day trip to the Grand Canyon, you should plan to spend a night out of one of these “home base” cities near the park to make the most of your time:

  • Grand Canyon Village: Inside the park
  • Tusayan: 15 minutes away
  • Grand Canyon Junction / Valle: 35 minutes away
  • Williams: 1 hour away
  • Flagstaff: 1.5 hours away
  • Sedona: 2 hours away

For specific recommendations on places to stay in these towns, check out the section on ‘Where to Stay’ later in this post.

Parking at the Grand Canyon South Rim

During peak season, the Grand Canyon receives more than 15,000 visitors daily. Due to the volume of daily visitors, parking is a significant challenge at the South Rim. Finding a spot in Grand Canyon Village in the middle of the day is nearly impossible.

Instead, I recommend arriving early to avoid lines at the entrance station and secure a parking spot in the large lot surrounding the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

The visitor center is the hub for the Grand Canyon shuttle, so it’s easy to park and leave your vehicle for the day, using the shuttle to get around.

You can read more about parking at the Grand Canyon South Rim here.

How to Use the Grand Canyon South Rim Shuttle System

Grand Canyon National Park has one of the best shuttle systems, available completely free for all visitors. After parking at the visitor center, you can use the shuttle to reach everything on this one-day itinerary. No need to move your car until it’s time to leave the park!

Sign for the Grand Canyon National Park shuttle

Several interconnected shuttle routes connect all the best attractions at the South Rim:

  • Village (Blue) Route: Loop through Grand Canyon Village that connects the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Hermits Rest Route transfer stops
  • Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route: Loop that connects the visitor center and the South Kaibab Trailhead, with several stops at viewpoints
  • Hermit Road (Red) Route: An out-and-back route that connects Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest, with stops at nine viewpoints (from March to November only)
  • Tusayan (Purple) Route: Connects the town of Tusayan to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, avoiding long lines at the South Entrance Station (Memorial Day to Labor Day only)

During peak season, the Blue, Orange, and Red shuttle routes operate from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, with a shuttle arriving every 10-30 minutes, depending on the time of day.

Throughout this one-day itinerary, I’ll provide details on the shuttle route and stops to use to navigate the park.

Are you planning a national park trip but don’t know where to start? Get my free 28-page national park ebook where I break down everything you need to know to visit all 63 USA national parks.

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Suggested One Day Grand Canyon Itinerary

If you only have one day to explore the Grand Canyon, you’ll want to stick to the South Rim’s most popular attractions. The must-see destinations include the South Kaibab Trail, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Grand Canyon Village, the Rim Trail, and Hermit’s Rest Road.

There are a few reasons why I love this itinerary:

  • You knock the more challenging hike out first thing in the morning. Hiking in the morning is particularly important in the summer when afternoon temperatures make it dangerous to hike below the rim. I also enjoy hiking first thing to beat the crowds on the trail and complete the hike when I have the most energy (the return trip back to the rim is challenging!).
  • You aren’t spending as much time riding shuttles throughout the park. This itinerary minimizes travel time from place to place, having you visit points from east to west without missing a thing!
  • This itinerary includes the South Kaibab Trail instead of the Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point is perfect for a short trip into the canyon. It’s slightly steeper, but since you’re only going a mile into the canyon, you’ll get better views on the South Kaibab Trail versus the Bright Angel Trail. While it might not have the same name recognition, I think the South Kaibab Trail is spectacular.

Early Morning: South Kaibab Trail

Estimated Time: 2-3 hours

Start your day in the Grand Canyon by driving to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Here, you’ll find several large parking lots that provide excellent access to the free Grand Canyon shuttle you’ll use throughout the day. Parking in Lot 2 offers the best access to the shuttle hub.

Map of Grand Canyon Village in Grand Canyon National Park
Map of Grand Canyon Village & Visitor Center

Aim to arrive at the visitor center parking lot by 7 AM to allow enough time for the full itinerary. After parking, grab the belongings you’ll need for the day – you won’t be returning until the end of the day!

The Grand Canyon Visitor Center shuttle hub connects the Kaibab Rim Orange Route and the Grand Canyon Village Blue Route. Board the Orange Route shuttle heading for the South Kaibab Trailhead, the first shuttle stop after departing.

Route of Grand Canyon Orange Route shuttle

The South Kaibab Trail is known for its dramatic canyon views and descends nearly 5,000 feet to the canyon floor. However, you won’t have time for the entire hike with only one day at the Grand Canyon. Instead, you’ll hike a shorter segment to Ooh Aah Point.

South Kaibab Trail switchbacks in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
South Kaibab Trail Switchbacks
Ooh Aah Point along South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Ooh Aah Point
South Kaibab Trail view of Skeleton Point in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
View from Ooh Aah Point

From the South Kaibab Trailhead, it’s 1.8 miles roundtrip and 600 feet of elevation to Ooh Aah Point. Despite being a relatively short hike, the elevation change makes this hike moderate. Plan for the hike to take roughly one to two hours.

After your hike, board the shuttle back to the visitor center. On your way, hop off the shuttle to explore the two scenic viewpoints: Yaki Point and Pipe Creek Vista.

Yaki Point
Pipe Creek Vista in the Grand Canyon
Pipe Creek Vista

Mid Morning: Grand Canyon Visitor Center

Estimated Time: 1 hour

After your hike, return via shuttle to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Stopping by the visitor center is essential. The visitor center is an excellent place to explore exhibits on the park’s geology and history and speak with park rangers.

Grand Canyon Visitor Center at the South Rim
Grand Canyon Visitor Center

Across the courtyard, you’ll find the Grand Canyon Conservancy Park Store. This gift shop is the best place to stamp your national park passport and shop for souvenirs.

Next door is the Bright Angel Cafe and Bike Shop. Surprisingly, this small cafe has some of the best food in the park. If you’re looking for a late breakfast, grab a coffee and one of their delicious pastries. The cafe also sells pre-made sandwiches and lunch options that you can pack for later in the day.

Late Morning: South Rim Trail & the Trail of Time

Estimated Time: 1.5-2 hours

The South Rim Trail is one of the best ways to explore the Grand Canyon. This paved path covers 13 miles between the South Kaibab Trailhead and Hermit’s Rest. The shuttle has frequent stops along the Rim Trail, making it easy to explore in short segments.

With just one day in the park, you can walk along the most scenic sections of the trail. After you’re done at the visitor center, make the short 0.3-mile walk to Mather Point, your first destination along the South Rim Trail.

Mather Point is one of the most iconic viewpoints in the park. A viewing area sits atop a rocky cliff that juts over the canyon floor. This famed viewpoint provides excellent views of Bright Angel Canyon, Isis Temple, and the North Rim.

Read More: Best Grand Canyon South Rim Viewpoints

Mather Point in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Mather Point

After Mather Point, walk another 0.7 miles west along the Rim Trail to reach Yavapai Point. You can also board the shuttle at Mather Point and be dropped off directly at Yavapai Point instead.

Yavapai Point provides excellent views of the canyon floor. But the best part of this spot is the Yavapai Geology Museum. This museum has fascinating displays on the geological formation of the Grand Canyon. The large, glass-paneled windows overlook the canyon from the observation station.

Yavapai Point at Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Yavapai Point
Yavapai Geology Museum

The Yavapai Geology Museum also serves as the starting point for the Trail of Time. This 1.4-mile stretch of the Rim Trail between the museum and Verkamp’s Visitor Center features informational displays and rock samples that align to each canyon layer, laid out in chronological order.

Sign on the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon South Rim
Rock sample along the Trail of Time in Grand Canyon National Park

Walking along the Trail of Time, you’re walking through billions of years of history. The Trail of Time is truly a unique way to appreciate how old the Grand Canyon is.

When starting from the Yavapai Geology Museum, you’re walking backward through time, starting with today and ending with the oldest rock layers in the canyon.

Early Afternoon: Grand Canyon Village

Estimated Time: 2 hours

Use your time in the early afternoon to explore Grand Canyon Village, the most visited part of the park. Depending on your interests, there are several options, and you can take an hour or two to explore at your own pace.

These are my favorite attractions in Grand Canyon Village:

  • Hopi House: Grand Canyon architect Mary Colter designed this museum and shop. The Hopi House features jewelry and crafts highlighting the skills of the Hopi community.
  • Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar Hotel: These are the oldest lodges in the park. Bright Angel Lodge was designed by Mary Colter in 1935 and is a Registered National Historic Landmark. The El Tovar Hotel is the oldest lodge in the park, originally opened in 1905, and offers a luxury stay only steps from the canyon rim.
  • Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio: Another building at the South Rim designed by Mary Colter, the Lookout Studio was built to blend in with its surroundings. You’re rewarded with beautiful canyon views of the Bright Angel Trail and the Colorado River from the back patio.
Exterior of the Hopi House at the Grand Canyon
Hopi House
Mary Colter Lookout Studio in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Mary Colter Lookout Studio
Bright Angel Lodge at Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Lodge
El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National Park
El Tovar Hotel

If you didn’t pack a lunch, there are also several options for lunch in Grand Canyon Village. However, many of the restaurants here are overpriced for average-quality food. These are the options along the rim:

  • Harvey House Cafe at the Bright Angel Lodge has a diverse menu of entrees, sandwiches, and salads.
  • Fred Harvey Tavern at the Bright Angel Lodge has a smaller bar food menu.
  • El Tovar Lounge at the El Tovar Hotel is a casual lounge serving food and drinks.
  • El Tovar Dining Room at the El Tovar Hotel is one of the park’s fine dining options (reservation required; reservations are available 30 days out).
  • Arizona Steakhouse in the Bright Angel Lodge is another fine dining option featuring several steak and sandwich dishes (reservation required; reservations are available 30 days out).

Late Afternoon & Sunset: Hermit Road Viewpoints

Estimated Time: 3-4 hours

After spending some time in Grand Canyon Village, it’s time for your last activity of the day: Hermit Road and its plentiful viewpoints.

Walk past the Bright Angel Trailhead to the Hermit Road Route Transfer shuttle stop. During the busy season, the only way to access Hermit Road is via the park shuttle. The Red Route shuttle stops at the nine viewpoints along Hermit Road.

  • Trailview Overlook: Offers a unique perspective of the Bright Angel Trail as it weaves into the canyon.
  • Maricopa Point: Provides expansive views of the canyon, Colorado River, and historical mining sites.
  • Powell Point: Celebrates Major John Wesley Powell’s exploration and offers panoramic views, including the Vishnu Schist rock layer.
  • Hopi Point: It is a popular sunset spot known for its vast and dramatic 270-degree views.
  • Mohave Point: Also known for its expansive views, it is an excellent alternative to Hopi Point for sunset with fewer crowds.
  • Monument Creek Vista: Features vistas of vast expanses of the canyon and the Tonto Platform.
  • Pima Point: Known for its views of the Colorado River and the sounds of its rapids.
  • Hermit’s Rest: The endpoint of the road, providing both canyon views and historic architecture. Hermit’s Rest features a snack shop, a great place to grab a quick snack before returning to your vehicle or watching the sunset.
Trailview Overlook in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Trailview Overlook
Powell Point
Mohave Point
Hermit’s Rest
Hopi Point

Hopi Point is one of the best spots in the park for sunset. If you plan to visit for sunset, I recommend skipping Hopi Point on your outward journey. Instead, stop at Hopi Point after visiting Hermit’s Rest. 

The Red Route shuttle stops at select viewpoints on the return journey. To access Hopi Point for sunset, get off at the stop for Powell Point and make a short walk to Hopi Point.

The shuttles continue to run for an hour after sunset. To give yourself enough time to return to your car at the visitor center and avoid crowds, I recommend heading back to Powell Point to catch the shuttle a few minutes before the official sunset time. The best light is the hour before sunset, anyway!

After returning to the Hermit Road shuttle transfer station, walk across the street to catch the Village Blue Route shuttle, which will return you to the visitor center transportation hub.

Modifying This One Day Itinerary

  • If you want to hike Bright Angel Trail instead of South Kaibab: Hike the Bright Angel Trail first thing, then take the shuttle out Hermit’s Rest Road, explore Grand Canyon Village, and finish with the Trail of Time back to the visitor center.
Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Bright Angel Trail
  • If you don’t want to hike into the canyon: Start your day by driving Desert View Drive out to Desert View Watchtower, stopping at each viewpoint in between, instead of hiking the South Kaibab Trail. The shuttle doesn’t run along Desert View Drive, so you’ll drive your vehicle and park at the visitor center afterward.
Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Desert View Watchtower
  • If you’re looking for a kid-friendly activity: Pick up a Junior Ranger activity book at the Grand Canyon Conservancy Main Store (next to the visitor center), then attend the noon ranger program at the visitor center.
  • If you want to do more hiking: Instead of continuing to Hermit’s Rest Road in the late afternoon, spend a few hours hiking the Bright Angel Trail. I only recommend doing this in the Spring or Fall when temperatures aren’t as hot in the afternoon.
  • If you want to enjoy an afternoon beer or relax a little: Stop by the El Tovar Hotel Beer Garden after walking the Trail of Time. Depending on how long you stay here, skip some of the Hermit’s Rest Road viewpoints and head directly to Powell Point, then Hopi Point for sunset.
  • If the weather is bad: Spend time exploring the historic lodges, Hopi House, Yavapai Geology Museum, and the National Geographic Visitor Center, which plays a fascinating IMax movie about the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Day Trip from Las Vegas

If you only have time for a day trip from Las Vegas, visit the West Rim instead of the South Rim. You have two options:

  1. Drive yourself to the West Rim for a day trip. Here, you can explore the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Plan to leave Las Vegas in the early morning to beat the crowds at the Skywalk.
  2. Take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon. While there are many incredible options, I recommend a helicopter tour over the canyon or a bus tour to the West Rim, including a stop at Hoover Dam.

If You Have More Than One Day in the Grand Canyon

Read More: 22 Best Things to Do at the Grand Canyon

Tips for Your Day in the Grand Canyon

  • Purchase the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. The Grand Canyon charges a $35 entry fee. If you plan to visit more than one national park in the next 12 months, purchasing the annual national park pass is an excellent option. Plus, the South Entrance Station (the most popular route into the park) has a dedicated lane for pass holders that can help you breeze past the traffic! If you’re 62 or older, you can purchase the senior pass instead. It’s the same price, but it’s valid for a lifetime.
  • The best time to visit is in Spring or Fall. The weather is warm during the days without being too hot. I recommend visiting April to mid-May or mid-September to October to avoid crowds.
  • Start your day early to avoid crowds. By 10 AM in the summer, parking lots fill, lines form at the entrance station, and the Rim Trail gets crowded. Avoid crowds by getting an early start, just after sunrise. Using the free shuttle also reduces the headache of finding parking near popular attractions.
  • Dress in several layers. Temperatures in the Grand Canyon, particularly in Spring or Fall, change dramatically throughout the day. Start the day in a warm jacket, but be prepared to shed layers as the day heats up, especially if you’re hiking.
  • Pack plenty of water. The Grand Canyon is a desert destination, so it’s crucial to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, mainly when doing lots of walking and hiking. I recommend carrying at least 1-2 liters of water as you explore throughout the day. If you plan to hike down into the canyon, pack one liter of water for each hour you plan to hike. Water is unavailable along most trails.
  • Avoid hiking in the hottest part of the day. The inside of the canyon is typically 20 degrees hotter than the temperature at the rim. Grand Canyon hikes are also more strenuous because of the elevation change. Plan to start your hikes early to complete your return trip before midday and avoid extreme heat.
  • Pack your lunch to save money. Food in the Grand Canyon is overrated and expensive – you’re paying for the convenience! If you are on a budget, one of the best ways to save is to stock up on groceries outside the park and pack sandwiches and snacks. Bright Angel Cafe also offers packable to-go food inside the park (and their food is good!).
  • Check trail conditions and road status regularly. Conditions in the Grand Canyon can change quickly. In the summer, heat advisories are frequent, making it dangerous to hike into the canyon at mid-day. Stay up-to-date by checking the Grand Canyon NPS site frequently or stopping at the visitor center to talk to a park ranger.

Where to Stay In and Near the South Rim

Grand Canyon National Park has six lodges and three campgrounds at the South Rim. Staying inside the park is by far the most convenient option. However, options inside the park tend to be booked at least six months in advance, and the lodges are pricey.

However, staying outside the park in nearby towns like Tusayan, Grand Canyon Junction, or Williams offers more budget-friendly and last-minute options.

This interactive map can help you search all the available hotels and rental properties near the Grand Canyon South Rim! Simply scroll and click the map below to see what is available.

These are your options inside the park:

El Tovar Hotel on the Rim
The Grand Hotel in Tusayan near Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
The Grand Hotel (Source:

If you want to stay outside the park, opt for one of these hotels or glamping spots. Here are my favorite places to stay in the home base towns near the South Rim.

Are you looking for a deep dive on the best lodges and hotels near the Grand Canyon? Check out this blog post on the best places to stay near the South Rim!

Frequently Asked Questions About a Grand Canyon Day Trip

How much time do you need to spend at the Grand Canyon?

Ideally, you need two to three days at the Grand Canyon to fully experience the South Rim. Two or more days gives you enough time to see the highlights, including the Rim Trail, do a few hikes, and visit all the scenic viewpoints. However, if you’re short on time, it is possible to see the highlights in just one day.

Is one day enough for the Grand Canyon?

One day at the Grand Canyon is enough to experience the highlights if you focus on the South Rim viewpoints, like Mather Point and Yavapai Point, and take the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest. However, you won’t have much time to hike below the rim.

What can you do if you only have one day at the Grand Canyon?

If you only have one day at the Grand Canyon, start early to enjoy a hike on the South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trail, walk the South Rim Trail and Grand Canyon Village, and end your day touring Hermit Road and seeing the sunset at Hopi Point.

Can you do a day trip to Grand Canyon?

A day trip to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is possible if you visit the West Rim instead of the more popular South Rim. Visiting the Grand Canyon Skywalk lets you glimpse the canyon only a few hours from Las Vegas.

Is it better to go to the Grand Canyon for one or two days?

While one day at the Grand Canyon allows you to see the highlights quickly, spending two days at the Grand Canyon will enable you to explore at a more leisurely pace and explore more of the South Rim’s popular hiking trails and viewpoints.

Final Thoughts on Visiting the Grand Canyon in One Day

While spending a bit more time in the Grand Canyon is ideal, that’s not possible for everyone. If you only have one day in the Grand Canyon, it’s possible to see some of the most famous viewpoints and squeeze in a short hike!

Here’s my recommended itinerary for a one day at the Grand Canyon South Rim:

  • Early Morning: Hike the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point
  • Mid Morning: Stop by the Grand Canyon Visitor Center
  • Late Morning: Explore the South Rim Trail, Yavapai Geology Museum, and the Trail of Time
  • Early Afternoon: Explore Grand Canyon Village
  • Late Afternoon: Take the shuttle to each of the viewpoints on Hermit Road
  • Sunset: Catch the last light at Hopi Point on Hermit Road

If you have more time to spend in the Grand Canyon and are looking for more inspiration, check out these blog posts, too!

Are you planning a national park trip but don’t know where to start? Get my free 28-page national park ebook where I break down everything you need to know to visit all 63 USA national parks.

Download your free ebook here.

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