Visiting the Grand Canyon From Phoenix

Visitors at the Grand Canyon
Visitors at the Grand Canyon.

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When you visit the Phoenix area, you're only 229 miles from the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The park that protects it, Grand Canyon National Park, is divided into two sections: the North Rim, which closes during the winter, and the South Rim. From Phoenix, the park's main entrance at the South Rim is the closest and easiest to visit.

Driving yourself to the South Rim makes the most sense, but you can also get there by train, plane, bus, and shuttle.

How to Get from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon
  Time Cost Best For
Car 4 hours from $35 Budget travelers short on time
Train 6 hours from $67 Families and history buffs
Plane 5 hours, 30 minutes from $130 Adventurers who want an aerial view 
Bus 7 hours, 30 minutes from $60 Visitors who plan to overnight in the park
Shuttle 12 hours for a full-day tour from $150 Fans of guided tours

What is the Cheapest Way to Get from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon?

Driving is the cheapest way to get to the Grand Canyon since you can get there and back on less than two tanks of gas. A four-hour drive without any stops, it is also the fastest way to get there. From Phoenix, find the shortest route to I-17 North, take 1-17 North to 1-40, and head west on I-40 to Highway 64. Then take Highway 64 north directly to the South Rim.

How Long is the Flight?

There is no direct flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, but you can fly to Flagstaff or Page. The trip will last approximately one hour; then, hop on a shuttle from Flagstaff (two hours) or Page (1 hour, 15 minutes) to the Grand Canyon.

How Long is the Train Ride?

You'll have to drive almost three hours from Phoenix to Williams, where the historic Grand Canyon Railway is located. From the depot, it takes 2 hours, 15 minutes to get to the Grand Canyon. Along the way, musicians and costumed actors—including masked train robbers—entertain passengers.

Tip: Plan to overnight at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams or Maswik Lodge in the park to ensure you'll have plenty of time at the rim. Packages are available through Grand Canyon Railway.

Is There a Bus that Goes from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon?

There is no direct bus service from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, but Greyhound offers roundtrip service from the Phoenix and Glendale bus stations to Flagstaff for as little as $18. The earliest bus leaves at 11 a.m. and arrives in Flagstaff at approximately 2 p.m. From there, a shuttle run by Groome Transportation leaves approximately every four hours and heads to Maswik Lodge in the park.

Tip: Book a room at one of the lodges on the rim of the Grand Canyon to see the sunrise the next morning.

Is There a Shuttle that Goes from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon?

Several shuttle services offer transportation to the Grand Canyon. Using a company like Airport Shuttle, private transit from the airport to the Grand Canyon starts at $750, excluding charges for wait time, extra bags, and other add-ons. Or, you can book a shuttle through a tour company such as Detours American West; they will pick you up at your home or hotel as early as 6 a.m., drive you to the Grand Canyon, give you time to explore, and have you back in Phoenix by 8 p.m. The cost ranges from $150 to $180 per person.

Visiting the Grand Canyon
TripSavvy / Chelsea Damraksa

What is There to Do Inside Grand Canyon National Park? 

Viewing the canyon from the rim is the most popular activity in the park, especially for those short on time. Most people get their first look at the natural wonder at Mather Point, then continue to the Grand Canyon Village to shop at Hopi House, watch the Grand Canyon Railway arrive at its depot, dine at El Tovar, and explore Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio. Nearby, the Bright Angel Trailhead descends below the rim and is popular with visitors who want to hike a short distance into the canyon before turning around and heading back up. Those not up for the physical challenge can learn about the canyon at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Verkamp's Visitor Center, and Yavapai Point and Geology Museum.

Many activities in the park require reservations. Mule rides along the rim or to the bottom of the Grand Canyon may be booked solid for as much as a year in advance. While not as bad, helicopter and plane rides over the canyon usually also require you to plan ahead. You'll need to make reservations for accommodations and meals at El Tovar, too, especially during the summer.

Tip: The Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass walkway over the rim, is not located in the national park. It is roughly four hours away on the Hualapai Reservation. Likewise, most river rafting trips begin near Page, Arizona, approximately two and a half hours away.

Can I Hike to the Bottom and Back in One Day?

The National Park Service strongly discourages visitors from hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in one day. Instead, plan to spend a night at the bottom of the canyon (reserve a spot up to a year in advance) and hike back out the next day.

How Do I Get Around the Park?

Due to congestion, visitors leave their vehicles at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and ride shuttles throughout the park. There are several shuttle routes. The Kaibab Trail Route runs year-round and is the shortest with the fewest stops and fewest points to see the canyon. Similarly, the Village Route also runs year-round, providing transportation between the Visitor Centers, hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, and shops. The Hermits Rest Route (March to November) is the only way to see points west of the Village. Finally, the Tusayan Route (March to mid-September) provides shuttle service from a nearby community, which helps visitors avoid the South Rim crowds.

The buses run every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the season. Make note of the evening schedules if you will be there at night. Check the signage on the shuttle to determine which one it is before you board; the color of the bus is unrelated to the route.

Alternatively, you can park at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and walk the Rim Trail to Grand Canyon Village and back. Or, you can bring your bicycle and ride through the park; if you don't have one, you can rent one from Bright Angel Bicycles.