The Grand Canyon is about 130 miles from the heart of Las Vegas (275 to the popular South Rim) and is a doable day trip no matter how you decide to get there—though we’d recommend searching out one of the Grand Canyon’s lodging options for those driving. There are plenty of transportation choices for reaching it—from driving yourself, to taking a bus, a small plane, or even helicopter right from the Strip.
Traveling to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, has become an American rite of passage. Teddy Roosevelt called it a “great wonder of nature,” declaring the Grand Canyon a national park in 1908 and exhorting people to “keep it for your children and your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
And there’s no better base camp for the ultimate trip than Las Vegas. In fact, more than 6 million people journey there each year to see its awe-inspiring canyons, the 277 miles of the Colorado River that cut through it, and to see its 500 species of animals (including the rare California Condor).
There are two public areas of the national park: the North and South Rims. Most visitors favor the South Rim, since it’s the most accessible section of the park, with lots of places to pull over and ogle the vertiginous heights (7,000 feet above sea level). Of course, you can get to both rims: The Grand Canyon North Rim is actually 1,000 feet higher than the southern section, but not as easy to access, and the drive is 220 miles. If you decide to travel between the rims by foot, you can take the Kaibab Trails and traverse the canyon in 21 miles.
|How to Get From Las Vegas to The Grand Canyon|
|Car||4.5 hours one way||279 miles||Budget travelers, those who want to explore on the way|
|Bus||11 hours||From $99||Those who want to make a few stops or don't want to drive|
|Helicopter||4.5 hours round-trip||From $400||Those looking for the most scenic route and a splurge|
|Plane||9.5 hours round-trip||From $375||The time-conscious|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon?
Depending on how many stops you intend to take, whether or not you decide to stay overnight in one of the hotels or historic inns at the Grand Canyon, and of course how many people you bring, driving is the cheapest way to get to the Grand Canyon. Bank on spending (conservatively) what you would for a 560-mile car journey, not including the stops you might want to make along the way. This will get you from the center of the Strip to the South Rim.
How Long Does it Take to Drive?
To reach the South Rim from the Strip, you’ll take Highway 93 south from Las Vegas to I-40 east to Highway 64, skirting the Hualapai Reservation. This drive takes about four and a half hours, and although you can get there and back in a day, consider making it an overnight journey. Take your time on the way and you can visit the new bypass bridge at Hoover Dam (which actually looks down on the dam). You can park and take a tour of the dam, too. You’ll take in fabulous views of the Southern Nevada and Northern Arizona desert landscapes.
When you arrive at the South Rim, visit the South Rim Village’s Historic District, built during the first half of the 20th Century during the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad. From here, you can take the Bright Angel Trail to the bottom of the canyon and back—a strenuous hike that’s among the canyon’s safest and most traveled, but not necessarily for everyone. Not a hiker? Spend your time in the South Rim Visitor Center, where you’ll find exhibits and programs, and "Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder," a 20-minute movie that will take you on rim to river journey (without the physical exertion).
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon?
There’s nothing quite like leaving the neon of the Strip and being transported right into the Grand Canyon in only 90 minutes. Traveling by helicopter is by far the most dramatic (and the fastest) way to arrive. Both Papillon Helicopters and Maverick Helicopters run tours of the Grand Canyon right from the Strip (or from Henderson), and depending on the tour you choose, you’ll zip over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the Mojave Desert, and either land from the West Rim, descending 3,500 feet into the base of the Grand Canyon, or at the South Rim. Those who dare will want to book a West Rim flight, which lands at the Hualapai Tribe’s Grand Canyon Skywalk, the glass-bottom observation deck suspended 4,000 feet above the canyon and the Colorado River.
During the flights, you’ll wear headphones, and most companies either narrate your flight live or play a pre-recorded tour so you won’t miss a thing. Make sure to choose one of the flights that takes a little night tour over the Las Vegas Strip before landing.
How Long Is the Flight?
If you choose to fly commercial to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, your options are limited. Flagstaff Pulliam airport is the closest commercial airport and doesn’t service Las Vegas nonstop. Rather, you’ll fly from Vegas to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, taking a connecting flight to Flagstaff, and then drive 90 minutes to the South Rim. A better idea is to take one of the private charter flights directly to the Grand Canyon on “flightseeing” airplanes, which will take you over the most beautiful sights of the Mojave and Hoover Dam on your way to the Grand Canyon.
Both Papillon and Maverick offer these trips. Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon South Rim, you’ll take a motorcoach transfer to stops like Bright Angel Lodge and Mather Point—major lookout points along the canyon rim. You can even add a helicopter or Hummer tour. The entire flight is about two hours, and count on about nine hours for a day’s trip.
Is There a Bus That Goes From Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon?
There are both West Rim and South Rim bus tours of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. The South Rim tour generally includes stops at the visitors’ center and the Mather Point and Bright Angel Lodge lookout points and the fabulous views from Yavapai Point, as well as a trip to Hoover Dam’s bypass bridge. Most of these trips include a hotel pickup, hikes, stops in Williams or Seligman on Arizona’s Route 66, and drop-off at your hotel. A South Rim day is a bit longer than a West Rim day and can top 15 hours in length.
A number of tours travel to Grand Canyon West, which is not Grand Canyon National Park. It’s a shorter day, and definitely spectacular—just make sure you know what you’re getting. The Grand Canyon West tours stop at the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and there are hop on, hop off stops at Guano Point, Hualapai Ranch, and a return to Las Vegas. These tours are usually a few hours shorter than the South Rim trips.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to the Grand Canyon?
For those who love to dodge high season, the Grand Canyon is open 365 days a year, though you’ll want to be aware that its weather can be a bit extreme. March through May and September through November are usually great times to visit to avoid the 100-degree-plus temps (and crowds) of a South Rim summer. And keep in mind that it does snow in the park—142 inches on average on the North Rim—but usually melts to rain on the way to the canyon floor.
What Is There to Do in the Grand Canyon?
There are many ways to experience the Grand Canyon. The easiest, of course, is to sit back and simply enjoy the endless red and purple vistas from the visitors’ center; the South Rim bookstores, gift shops, and museums; and take a few easy walks. One good choice is the Trail of Time, an easy, 2.8-mile walk between the Yavapai Museum of Geology and Verkamps Visitor Center. It’s designed to be a geologic timeline, and each meter you walk represents 1 million years of geologic history. You’ll see all the layers of rock labeled, and explanations of how the canyon and its rocks were formed.
Those who want a bit of light adventure might choose to walk part of the mostly level Rim Trail, which starts from any point in the village or along the historic Hermit Road—a scenic route along the west end of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, which follows the rim for 7 miles. You can day hike around the canyon, both on the South and North rims. The National Park warns visitors not to attempt hikes from the rim to the river and back in one day, though, especially during the summer months.
Once you’re at the South Rim, you can rent bikes and take guided bicycle tours (Bright Angel Bicycles is close to the visitor center). Or for a bit of a more traditional ride, book a mule trip, like the Canyon Vistas Ride, which is a three-hour trip that travels along the canyon rim. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can take an overnight mule trip and stay in the bottom of the canyon at the historic Phantom Ranch.
Spring and summer visitors might want to arrange a multi-day visit that includes a raft trip on the Colorado River. You can arrange smooth water trips from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry or take a three- to 21-day whitewater trip through the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute, a non-profit institute begun in 1932 by naturalist Edwin McKee, takes small groups on hikes ad funds interpretive talks, research, and scientific papers. The official not-for-profit partner of the National Park, it continues to fund trail maintenance and historic programs, as well as protection for wildlife and their natural habitat. Look them up before you arrive: you can book educational tours with them that include backpacking, camping, hiking, and whitewater rafting, and explore topics include geology, archaeology, and more.