The Grand Canyon—one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world—is no small side trip from Los Angeles at 420 miles away. Still, many city visitors try to fit it in. And it's a doable bucket list excursion, as several transportation companies host trips from LA, allowing you to accomplish the journey in one day. Hop a plane, train, or bus from Los Angeles to Flagstaff, Arizona (the Grand Canyon's closest city) where you can book a shuttle, land tour, air tour, or hiking tour of the Grand Canyon. From Flagstaff, you can visit the easily-accessible South Rim—the most commonly visited area of the Canyon. But if the North Rim is on your agenda, rent a car to explore it on your own or book an overnight stay.
Hop a Plane from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon
American Airlines is the only airline that flies into Flagstaff Pullman Airport, the closest commercial airport to the Grand Canyon. All flights route through Phoenix, with travel times ranging from three to eight hours or longer, depending on layover time. Book an early morning flight from LA to Phoenix, and then onto Flagstaff, where you can catch a shuttle to or take a tour of the Grand Canyon. Most tour operations schedule their outings in time for you to catch a flight back to Los Angeles the same evening. Or, go it on your own by renting a car and then spending the night in Flagstaff or in any number of Canyon rim hotels.
Disclaimer: Consider the time it takes to drive and park at a Los Angeles airport, the need to check in an hour before your flight, the transfer time, and the travel from Flagstaff to the Canyon, before ruling out the eight-hour, one-way drive.
Take the Train from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon
Amtrak runs a night train service from Union Station to Flagstaff. It leaves LA around 6 p.m. and gets into Flagstaff around 5:30 a.m. the next morning. You can book an economical coach seat. Or, pay a higher rate for a Superliner Roomette that accommodates two passengers with fold-down beds and meals included. The return train departs Flagstaff at about 10 p.m.—giving you the whole day to explore—and gets back to LA shortly after 8 a.m. the next day.
Ride the Bus from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon
Greyhound offers bus service to Flagstaff, with buses departing at various times. Some routes require a transfer in Phoenix and some are direct. The bus ride can take up to 13 hours and late-night routes are available. Plus, there's free WIFI on all Greyhound buses. So, if you're in town for business, yet want to sneak out for fun, you can use the day of travel to catch up on work.
Drive from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon's South Rim
If you have your own car or if you rent one in LA, driving is still the most economical way to see the Grand Canyon. (Plus, you can explore it on your own time schedule, too.) Driving directly to the South Rim takes about 8 hours, barring traffic. Start out traveling east on Interstate 10 if you're coming from downtown LA, on Interstate 210 if you're coming from the Valley, or on State Route 91 if you're coming from southern beach towns or Orange County. Then, take Interstate 15 North toward Las Vegas. In Barstow, take Interstate 40 East to Flagstaff. Arizona State Route 64 (just before you get to Flagstaff) takes you to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Drive from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon's North Rim
Most first-time visitors explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, as Grand Canyon Village provides various lodging, camping, and eating options. Also, it's closer to LA. However, if you've already toured the South Rim or you want to escape the crowds, the North Rim (still, with some amenities) is your better bet.
To get there, depart LA in the same way you would for the South Rim, then stay on Interstate 15 until you get to Washington, Utah (about an hour and a half north of Las Vegas). Exit on Route 9 East (State Street) and take it to Utah State Route 59 South, which will become Arizona State Route 389 South when you hit the border. In Fredonia, turn right onto Arizona State Route 89A South. Then, at the Kaibob Plateau Visitor Center, turn right on Route 67 South (Grand Canyon Highway). Here, you'll find the Jacob Lake Inn and Restaurant and the last gas station before you hit the North Rim.
Note: The North Rim is not accessible in the winter when Route 67 is closed for the season.
Book a Three-Day Grand Canyon Tour
A three-day Grand Canyon and Las Vegas tour takes you to Las Vegas via a luxury coach from Los Angeles. There, you are free to spend the remainder the first day entertaining yourself, or you can book an optional night tour or catch dinner and a show. On the second day, you travel four hours to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where you can enjoy the sites from multiple viewpoints or take a walking tour of the park. On your way back to Vegas, the tour bus makes a quick stop at the Hoover Dam. That night, once again, enjoy the Vegas attractions. On day three, you hop on the coach for your journey back to LA, with a stop at the Tanger Outlet Center in Barstow, California.
Take a Two-Day Grand Canyon Tour
The two-day Grand Canyon tour from Vegas has a pretty aggressive (but fun) schedule. But first, you need to get there from LA. On day one, you visit the Hoover Dam, the Route 66 Museum, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon before making your way back to a Vegas hotel. Day two takes you by the iconic Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River, Antelope Canyon, the most popular slot canyon in the southwest, and Lake Powell, where you can enjoy a boat cruise or airplane tour. You spend the night in Vegas, again, before booking yourself a way back to LA.