If you're in Las Vegas with some time to spare, the Grand Canyon is a worthwhile respite from the slot machines and card tables of the neon-lit Strip. Located less than 300 miles from the North Rim, South Rim, and Grand Canyon East, and less than 150 miles from Grand Canyon West, Sin City offers many an excursion by helicopter and bus. A side trip will take you about 4.5 hours one way if you'd prefer to drive yourself.
The Grand Canyon is one of the many national parks you can visit from Las Vegas. You can get there by plane, train, bus, car, or helicopter. Renting a vehicle from Las Vegas will give you the freedom to explore fun roadside attractions along the way and is much less complicated than taking a plane. Bus tours and train transport are both much slower, but relatively straightforward. Keep in mind that the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon are about a 300-mile drive apart. The North Rim is extremely remote compared to the heavily trafficked and tourist-centric South Rim, so many choose the latter.
|How to Get From Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park|
|Car/Motorcycle||2 hours to Grand Canyon West
4.5 hours to North Rim and South Rim
5 hours to Grand Canyon East
|From $30 per day for rental car, plus $25 each way for gas||Traveling at your own pace|
|Bus||10 to 12 hours||$59 to $85; tours starting at $75||Maintaining a budget|
|Train||10 to 12 hours||$250||A unique experience|
|Flight||4 to 10 hours||$350 to $700||Quick trips|
The Grand Canyon does have an airport in Tusayan, Arizona, but the closest hub for commercial air travel is in Flagstaff, nearly 2 hours away. A flight from either the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas or the Boulder City Municipal Airport to Flagstaff Pulliam will take about an hour and a half and cost anywhere between $50 and $250 depending on the day and season. Arriving by commercial flight is not ideal when you factor in transportation from the airport to the park, so those who prefer to fly usually opt for a "flightseeing" tour instead.
The one offered by Pappillion, in particular, starts at $372 and offers bird's-eye views of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the Colorado River in addition to the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival, a motorcoach transfers passengers from the airport to the Bright Angel Lodge and Mather Point on the South Rim. The tour takes about 9.5 hours from hotel to hotel, including a lunch break, time for hiking, and more. Similar tours are offered via helicopter by Maverick.
Travel the old-fashioned way on the Grand Canyon Railway, a 64-mile heritage railroad that runs between Williams, Arizona, and the South Rim. First, getting to the station requires guests to take an Amtrak bus from the Gray Line Tour Center in Las Vegas to Kingman, where they then transfer onto a two-hour train to Williams. The final leg—from Williams to the South Rim—is only an hour long, but it runs through a stretch of untouched forest on the outskirts of the canyon.
The train usually departs once a day from Williams (at 9:30 a.m. from July through October and 8:30 a.m. from November to January) and departs from the Grand Canyon at 2:30 or 3:30 p.m. every afternoon. Altogether, the trip from Las Vegas to the South Rim can take between 10 and 12 hours and cost a total of $250 for the bus ticket and two train tickets, but it is an unforgettable experience.
Traveling by bus to the Grand Canyon will also take you about 10 to 12 hours. FlixBus runs regular routes from downtown Las Vegas to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (5 hours, 30 minutes), then to Flagstaff Station (2 hours, 30 minutes). Buses depart from the city at 11 a.m. daily and tickets cost $15 to $22 for the first leg and $9 to $13 for the second. When you get to Flagstaff Station, you can catch the Arizona Shuttle to Maswik Lodge on the South Rim (2 hours) for $35 to $50.
Because the last departure is at 3:45 p.m., you may have to stay overnight in Flagstaff, inevitably driving up the cost and prolonging the journey. Because of the inconvenient transfers, most people will opt for a group bus tour instead of taking public buses.
A typical tour includes stops at the National Geographic Visitors Center in Tusayan and two spectacular lookouts, Mather Point and Bright Angel Lodge. There is usually time for short hikes and self-exploring on these excursions. Popular tours include full-day outings by Canyon Tours and Grand Canyon Destinations, starting at $75.
The easiest and perhaps most versatile way to travel from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is by car. There are about 10 rental car companies on offer at the McCarran International Airport's Rent-A-Car Center, but you can also rent from various places on the Strip. You may be able to secure a rental car through your hotel, too.
The North Rim is located 264 miles from downtown Las Vegas. The easiest way to get there is to take I-15 North to Utah 59 South, then follow Arizona 389 East to 89A and Arizona 67 South. The last stretch will lead you through the stunning Kaibab National Forest.
The South Rim is a more popular destination and arguably a more entertaining route. It's about 280 miles from Las Vegas and you can get there by following U.S. 93 South to I-40 East, then Arizona 64 North, which leads into Grand Canyon National Park by way of Tusayan, the closest town. Popular stops along the way include the Hoover Dam and the small towns of Seligman and Williams, Arizona. Views of the desert landscape are fabulous along this route, making it popular among avid motorcyclists.
Grand Canyon West, where the famous SkyWalk is, is only 130 miles from Las Vegas and best for a day trip. Grand Canyon East is the farthest from Las Vegas, about 336 miles away. It can be accessed from Arizona 64 West, a short trip on U.S. 89 North from Flagstaff.
If you decide to drive, you should allocate at least two days to the journey—especially if you're going further than Grand Canyon West. Carry plenty of water in the summer and make sure to bring warm clothing in the winter as the desert can be frigid. For a standard rental car, expect to pay about $30 per day.
What to See in the Grand Canyon
There are countless things to see and do at the Grand Canyon. On the South Rim—the canyon's top tourist destination—you can take in the spectacular views from Mather Point, Yavapai Point, Hopi Point, and Bright Angel Lodge, all accessible by a free shuttle provided by the National Park Service. You can walk along the canyon's edge on the Rim Trail or descend into it on the popular Bright Angel Trail. Then, dine at one of the lodges and shop for souvenirs.
On the North Rim, the view from Bright Angel Point should not be missed. Though it does have a visitor center and lodge, this is a more remote part of the park, offering less tourist attractions and more backcountry adventures. Popular hikes include the paved Bright Angel Point Trail, Cape Royal Trail, and Cape Final Trail.
The main attraction at Grand Canyon West is the Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass platform that extends 70 feet from the canyon's edge. Here, you can also zip line, take a helicopter or boat tour, or go white-water rafting. Grand Canyon East is home to the Little Colorado River Tribal Park, the 5,000-foot-tall Tower Butte, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Lake Powell.
What are Other Good Day Trips From Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is surrounded by a vast desert boasting extraordinary natural sights in every direction. The Valley of Fire State Park is a popular side trip only 45 minutes from the city. It contains countless sandstone formations with that wave-like pattern characteristic of the region, all spread over 46,000 acres. A 2-hour, 15-minute drive from the Strip, Death Valley National Park in California offers sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Just don't go during the peak of summer as it can get up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hoover Dam, a concrete dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, is a quick jaunt (about 40 minutes) from Sin City. Red Rock Canyon—packed with sandstone peaks, as its name suggests—is only 20 minutes away. For something spooky, take the Extraterrestrial Highway to Alamo, home of Area 51 and the Little A’le’inn (2 hours, 20 minutes).
When is the Best Time to Visit Las Vegas?
The best time to visit Las Vegas is during spring and fall, from March to May (with the exception of spring break) and September to November. Folks flock to the pools and air-conditioned casinos of Las Vegas during the summer months, but the shoulder seasons are cooler, less crowded, cheaper, and provide an all-around less chaotic experience. Plus, if you're keen to get out into the desert for a day or two, you'll want to avoid the hottest months, as three-digit temps are the summer standard.