I’m always shocked to hear how many Vegas locals have not been to the Grand Canyon. Even if you’re visiting for multiple days, a Las Vegas to Grand Canyon road trip is an easy add on that’s well worth the journey (especially if it’s your first time!).
The Grand Canyon is a bucket list item, and each year, the National Park has more than 5 million visitors from all over the world.
Its location in Arizona isn’t that close to any major cities, but one of the most popular launching points is where we currently call home, Las Vegas. When most people think of Las Vegas, they think casinos and the strip, but one of the main reasons we love it here is the easy access to the outdoors.
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Last Updated: September 7, 2020
The Ultimate Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip + Best Tour Options
The Grand Canyon is massive, and once you arrive in Las Vegas, you’ll see tons of tour options to Grand Canyon National Park. You’ll also see trips to West Grand Canyon, which is actually not part of the National Park. To help you sort through all the options, we’ve put together this guide to help you decide what’s best for you.
How Far is it from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park?
Because of the sheer size of the canyon, it can take anywhere from 2 hours to over 5 hours. There are 3 main areas you’ll hear about: Grand Canyon West, the South Rim, and the North Rim.
- Grand Canyon West is the closest to Las Vegas at 130 miles away (~2 hrs). This area is part of the Hualapai Indian Reservation and not part of the National Park. It’s best known for the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
- Grand Canyon National Park South Rim is 280 miles away (~4.5 hrs) and the most popular section of the park. It’s open year-round and where you’ll find the most amenities, services, and people.
- Grand Canyon North Rim is 265 miles away (~5 hrs) but takes longer to get to because of the roads. It’s also only open from May to October. It is much less frequented by visitors.
We’ll go into more detail about each area further down in the post.
Essential Tips - What You Need to Know BeFore
- Fees: There is a $30 per vehicle fee to enter Grand Canyon National Park, which is good for 7 days. If you plan on visiting other National Parks within one year of your visit, we highly recommend the annual America the Beautiful National Park Pass for $80 (we get one every year). It gets you into national parks, monuments, BLM lands, and more.
- Best Time to Visit: Spring and Autumn will give you the most access to the park while avoiding crowds and the summer heat. April and October are the most ideal months. The high season typically runs from June to August. Winter will have the fewest crowds but the North Rim will be closed off along with some of the other amenities.
- Renting a Car: A few new things to consider when renting a car. Look to see if they have touchless check-in. Also, pack some wet wipes so you can wipe down high contact areas.
- Time Zones: Nevada is on PST and Arizona is on MST. But to make things more confusing, Navajo lands in Arizona observe daylight savings but the rest of Arizona does not. During daylight savings (Mar to Nov), most of Arizona is the same time in Las Vegas and Arizona.
- Visiting in the Winter: The South Rim is open year-round, although not all facilities will be open in the winter. For the most part, you should be able to drive from Las Vegas unless there is a big winter storm that makes the roads dangerous. Typically even when there is snow, the roads are cleared quickly. Keep an eye on the weather before heading out and be flexible.
- West Rim: Keep in mind that the West Rim is within the Hualapai Indian Reserve and not part of the National Park system.
Should I self-drive, take helicopter, plane, or bus??
The ideal mode of transportation depends on how much time you have and what you want to see. Over the years, we’ve done every option except for the plane tour. To help you decide, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each.
- Driving Yourself gives you the most flexibility but is also the most work (4+ hours drive one way to visit the actual National Park). If you prefer to go at your own pace or you’re a photographer and want to catch sunrise and sunset at specific spots, drive yourself so you can set your own schedule.
- Helicopter tours from Las Vegas are best if you are limited on time. You get aerial views and views from inside the canyon, but the downside is that no helicopter tours from Las Vegas go to the National Park. Instead, you’ll be visiting Grand Canyon West which is generally regarded as inferior to the National Park.
- Plane tours take you to multiple spots in Grand Canyon and typically include time on the ground. It is much quicker than driving and you get aerial views but you less time to explore yourself. Plus you’ll most likely miss sunrise/sunset unless you opt-out of the tour and book just the flight and do the rest on your own schedule.
- Bus tours are great if you don’t want to drive and ranges from small (15 seat) to large (50 seat) buses. Most tours give you a chance to see other popular destinations nearby, like Antelope Canyon or Hoover Dam. The downside is you won’t have control over the timing and things are paced for large groups, which can get annoying. We did a small bus tour that overnighted in a hotel, which allowed us to catch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.
Which Part of the Grand Canyon to Go to?
With the Grand Canyon covering a large area, it’s important to decide which part of the Grand Canyon you want to visit to help you plan your trip.
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West Rim / Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West is located on the Hualapai tribe land and is privately run.
Most people say the highlight of Grand Canyon West is the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge that lets you walk 4000 feet above the canyon floor. It’s also the closest to Las Vegas making it an easy day trip.
For us, our favorite spot was Guano Point. The views on the skywalk weren’t that impressive compared to the surrounding areas, plus we weren’t allowed to take our own photos on it. We checked out their photos, which were garbage and not worth paying for (hopefully, they hired a new photographer by now). The experience felt like a waste, but we went so that Jacob’s grandma could experience it.
The West Rim also costs more than the National Park. General Admission tickets are $39 and it costs an additional $20 to add the Skywalk.
Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
The South Rim is the most popular part of the National Park and where the majority of the 5 million+ visitors go each year. From Las Vegas, it takes 4.5 hours to drive there (so a minimum of 9 hours round trip) making it a commitment for sure.
The South Rim will give you the best easy-access viewpoints in the park and is open year-round. It is also the most developed, which gives you access to all the amenities you need.
On the flip side, it is the most crowded, especially during peak season from June to August, and the most touristy section in the National Park.
Note: You may also read about the East Rim. This section of the park is located within the South Rim. There are fewer services here and you get similar views like those from the Grand Canyon Village.
Shuttle Service: If you are visiting the South Rim, there is a shuttle service between the rim and Grand Canyon Village. It’s helpful during the busy season since parking is limited. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Village Route (Blue): Connects hostels, campsite, and other facilities in the Grand Canyon Village with the Visitor Center.
- Kaibab Rim Route (Orange): Quickest route to the Visitor Center and popular views of the canyon.
- Hermit Road Route (Red): Takes you to beautiful panoramic views on the western border of the Grand Canyon Village. Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles from Mar to Nov.
Grand Canyon National Park North Rim
The North Rim is only open between May 15 and October 15. From Las Vegas, it is closer in mileage but still takes 30 extra minutes to drive to because of the roads you’ll be on. It’s also 200+ miles away (4 hours) from the South Rim.
This area is great if you’re looking to get away from crowds since it is by far the least traveled of the three areas.
Unfortunately, the viewpoints are more limited and aren’t as nice as the South Rim. Plus, there are very few amenities up here.
Drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
As we mentioned before, driving yourself is our preference because you get to control your itinerary and make changes along the way.
Driving to the West Rim (5001 Diamond Bar Rd, Peach Springs, AZ 86434, map) is the shortest trip at roughly 2 hours each way. Once you arrive, there is a free parking lot where they will have shuttle buses to take you to different points. To access anything else you will have to purchase a ticket.
The drive to the South Rim (S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023, map) takes roughly 4.5 hours each way. You are driving on major highways or roads the whole way making it an easy drive. When you arrive, you pass through a pay station, where you can either use your Annual National Parks Pass ($80) or purchase a vehicle pass ($30). Once you pay, you can park in the village and take a shuttle, or park directly at specific viewpoints. Keep in mind that during the busy season, parking is hard to find at viewpoints.
The North Rim (AZ-67, North Rim, AZ 86023, map) is the longest drive at roughly 5 hours. It’s slightly closer distance-wise, but towards the end of your drive, you’ll be driving through smaller, windy roads in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Similar to the South Rim, you’ll pass a pay station then you can park in any of the designated spots.
All your Tour Options
If you’ve decided to go with a tour, here are a few things you want to consider when choosing the right tour for you and your group:
- Where you want to go?
- How long you want to spend there?
- Other activities you want to do?
- What size of a group do you want to go with?
- Do you want to catch sunrise or sunset?
- Do you want aerial views?
- Will they pick you up from your hotel or do you have to meet them somewhere?
- What else is included, i.e. admission, meals, etc?
- Do you want to stop at other notable locations?
- Airplanes vs helicopters: planes fly higher and to more remote places, but helicopters can fly you closer to the walls of the canyon.
If you’re visiting Las Vegas for the first time, there’s probably a lot you want to see in town, but you also want to take advantage of being here to see the Grand Canyon. Day Tours are probably the best option for you. Here are some Day Tours to check out:
- South Rim Bus Tour ($89.99 / 14 hrs) – lunch and stop at the Nat Geo Visitor Center (optional upgrade to IMAX, Jeep tour, or helicopter flight)
- Airplane Tour ($329.99 / 7 hrs) – explore the park’s viewpoints and hikes (optional heli tour)
- Helicopter to South Rim ($498 / 12 hrs) – includes snacks and lunch.
- Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam & Route 66 ($169 / 14 hrs) – includes breakfast, lunch, and stops at Hoover Dam & Route 66.
- Grand Canyon National Park, Route 66 & Caverns Tour ($195 / 14 hrs) – See Route 66, the park, and Grand Canyon Caverns, the largest dry caverns in the US. Includes morning snacks and lunch.
Grand Canyon West Rim
- West Rim Bus Tour ($99.99 / 12 hrs) – includes Skywalk and lunch (optional to add helicopter or pontoon boat)
- West Rim Helicopter Tour ($399.99 / 3.5 hrs) – lands below the rim and includes snacks and champagne
- Helicopter Tour with Express Skywalk Entrance ($549.99 / 3.5 hrs) – skywalk pass and souvenir photo
- West Rim Hummer Tour ($299.99 / 8 hrs) – includes light off-roading and lunch (optional Skywalk or helicopter add ons)
- Sunset Helicopter Tour ($507.99 / 3.5 hrs) – lands below the rim and includes champagne and snacks
- Drive, Fly & Float Tour ($485 / 10.5 hrs) – travel in a 4×4 Tour Trekker, hop on a helicopter flight from the rim into the canyon, walk the Skywalk, and take a 20-minutes float down the Colorado River
Pro Tip: Don’t believe everything your tour guide says. We’ve caught tour guides sharing false facts in the past. It typically isn’t done maliciously, but simply something they heard another guide or traveler share. We always try to do our own research.
Overnight tours are great if you want to explore deeper in Grand Canyon or have more time to see the other iconic spots in the SouthWest. When Jacob’s dad visited last fall, he wanted to visit Antelope Canyon, so we did the first tour listed below. It was nice not having to worry about the details and focus on spending time with family. Plus, we got to revisit some of the spots we’ve been to while seeing new ones.
- Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon Sunrise Tour ($399 / 2 days) – See Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Hoover Dam, sunrise at the Grand Canyon, and Route 66. Includes 1-night hotel, breakfast, and snacks.
- 3-Day National Parks Camping Tour ($495 / 3 days) – Check out Zion, Bryce, Monument Valley, and Grand Canyon. Includes 3 lunches, 2 breakfasts, and camping accommodations (option to add camping equipment or lodging).
- National Park Tour ($560 / 3 days) – See the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. Includes 2-night hotel accommodation, 2 breakfast, and a cruise on Lake Powell.
- Luxury Shuttle to Grand Canyon ($62 each way / 5 hrs) – If you prefer to plan your trip yourself without driving, ride a shuttle down and spend as much time as you want in the area.
Grand Canyon Railway
Although this isn’t something you can do directly from Vegas, train lovers should check out the Grand Canyon Railway. It runs from Williams, Arizona into the heart of the park. It has been running since 1901, and you see a range of landscapes. You can choose which car or tours on their site.
Williams is roughly a 3 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas or you can fly into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, the closest major airport near Williams AZ, which is a 40-minute drive.
Pro Tip: Williams is a great spot to check out Route 66 as well!
Thing to Do at the Grand Canyon
- Grand Canyon Skywalk Glass Bridge (West Rim) – Test your fear of heights here. Remember that you aren’t allowed to take your own photos.
- Ride a Mule (South Rim) – You can a mule down tot he Colorado River and spend a night at Phantom Ranch. You can also take a short ride along the rim.
- Viewpoints – Here are some of the best viewpoints in each area.
- South Rim – Mather Point, Yaki Point, & Hopi Point
- East Rim – Desert View
- West Rim – Eagle Point & Guano Point
- North Rim – Bright Angel Point & Cape Royal
- Rafting – Whether you’re looking for a leisurely float or 2-week rafting trip, there’s a wide range available between the West and South rim.
- Hiking – Here are some of the best trails in the park.
- Bright Angel Trail (South Rim, 16 mi RT, ▵4366 ft, strenuous) – One of the most popular trails that takes you to the canyon. If you’re only doing a day hike, turn back at Indian Garden to make it 10 miles RT.
- South Kaibab Trail (South Rim, 12.4 mi RT, ▵4888 ft, strenuous) – Better views than Bright Angel Trail but also more complicated.
- Rim Trail (South Rim, 10.4 mi, easy) – Runs along the rim and great for the family. Just do as much as you want and turn around.
- North Kaibab Trail (North Rim, 15 mi one-way, ▵6398 ft, strenuous) – This is a tough hike that takes you into the canyon.
- Grandview Trail (East Rim, 12.5 mi RT, ▵3280 ft, strenuous) – Another long hike that is less popular than the ones on the South Rim.
- Museums in Grand Canyon (South Rim) – Check out the Grand Canyon: Tusayan Ruins and Museum & the Yavapai Geology Museum.
Best Places to Stay
- If you are staying in Vegas:
- If you are staying in Grand Canyon South Rim:
What's Nearby / Detours Worth Taking
- Hoover Dam (81 Hoover Dam Access Rd, Boulder City, NV 89005, map)
- Seligman / Route 66 (22265 W Historic Rte 66, Seligman, AZ 86337, map)
- Williams / Route 66 (200 W Railroad Ave, Williams, AZ 86046, map)
- Antelope Canyon (Indian Rte 222, Page, AZ 86040, map)
- Monument Valley (U.S. 163 Scenic, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536, map)
- Bryce Canyon National Park (UT-63, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764, map)
- Zion National Park (1101 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Hurricane, UT 84737, map)
Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Do you think the drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon is worth it for you? Have you checked out any of these tour options and what did you think?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.