How to Plan a Grand Canyon Road Trip
They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, a lot of people combine two iconic all-American road trips into one epic adventure full of memories and jam-packed itineraries—a weekend in Vegas and a trip to the Grand Canyon all in one go.
If you book your rental car right and have the time, this road trip itinerary promises fun, food, and photo-ops that you can remember for a lifetime. Now, how you have fun in Las Vegas is your business, and you should see the shows you want, play the casinos you want, or relax at the spas you want. Your Sin City experience is what you make of it.
When you’re ready to head out, the Grand Canyon and its spectacular Southwest desert views await. The Grand Canyon has four regions for tourists and even boasts a census-designated town dedicated to helping tourists visiting the Grand Canyon, called Grand Canyon Village. Each rim region is reachable by car. You can choose one or two or see them all. This part is up to you and your schedule. We’ll touch on each region, but let’s look at the distances from Vegas for each to help you decide.
Grand Canyon Tourist Regions
If you have at least five days, you can reach every tourist region of the Grand Canyon, but if you’re more pressed for time, you may want to choose the closest region or the one or two that appeals to you the most. Here are the distances you can expect to travel from Las Vegas to each part of the canyon rim:
- North Rim: Located in Coconino County, Arizona is about 270 miles from Las Vegas. It’s roughly a 5-hour trip, and you’ll see three states on this trip. Start in Nevada. Travel through part of Utah. You’ll finish up in Arizona, and you’ll pass through the Kaibab National Forest along the way. The North Rim is typically its own destination, and it is known as the “other side” of the Grand Canyon.
- South Rim: The South Rim is a great place to go after the city lights. It is 290 miles from Las Vegas, and it is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive. The South Rim route is a little more direct, so even though it is a bit farther, it’s a slightly shorter drive than the North Rim. It’s a great destination for a hike. If you’re looking for interstate adventure, the Grand Canyon Railway takes passengers to the South Rim, departing from Williams, Arizona, and arriving at the Grand Canyon Depot.
- East Rim: The East Rim is 275 miles away from Las Vegas, and it is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive. It follows a route similar to the South Rim region.
- West Rim: The West Rim is the closest part of the Grand Canyon you can reach from Las Vegas. It is just 130 miles, and the trip will take you about two and a half hours. If you only have one day to spare to see the Grand Canyon before you have to be back at the airport to head home, the West Rim is probably your safest bet for gorgeous viewpoints. You can make a round trip to the West Rim and back to Vegas in about the same amount of time it takes to drive one leg of the trip to the other regions.
It’s possible to see all four regions on a trip from Las Vegas, but it depends on how much time you have. Now, let’s look at all the popular destinations around the Grand Canyon so you can choose the ones that are suited to your trip and your interests.
Places To See
On your Grand Canyon Road Trip, plan to make stops along the way to see all that this iconic road trip has to offer. There are places to see before you even leave Las Vegas on this road trip. If you want to head to the North Rim, you can choose a few places along the way, but if you want to hit the other three rims, here are the highlights of all that you can see.
1. The Springs Preserve
The Springs Preserve offers 180 acres of attractions like botanical gardens, museums, a butterfly habitat, and more. There’s a playground, hiking trails, bike trails, and other ways to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh air. Additionally, if you’re into the satisfying beauty of sustainability, the Springs Preserve is home to DesertSol, a sustainable living model.
2. Boulder City
About 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas, regardless of your Grand Canyon plans, you’ll want to stop in Boulder City. Why? Because Boulder City is home to the Hoover Dam. It’s an American tradition to stop at the Hoover Dam on a road trip to appreciate the engineering feat of conquering the Colorado River. There are also monuments, parks, trails, museums, art, Boulder Bowl, kayaking opportunities, skydiving, and even an alien gift shop that serves beer, wine, and snacks.
3. Grand Canyon West
Located on the Hualapai Native American Reservation, Grand Canyon West is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe. You can take the “High Point Hike” at Guano Point and capture some amazing photographs of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. There are additional trails for hiking at the Hualapai Ranch and a trail that will take you to the Canyon’s edge and the canyon’s bottom. If hiking isn’t your passion, there are shuttles available to take you around.
4. Route 66: Kingman to Seligman, AZ
This road trip offers you an opportunity to travel on one of the original U.S. Highways. The iconic Route 66 is America’s Main Street, and it is almost 100 years old. In Kingman, you can see the Arizona Route 66 Museum. There are plenty of restaurants, diners, and cafes in Kingman. There’s a stop in Hackberry, Arizona, at the Hackberry General Store, where you can stock up on road trip supplies and souvenirs along the way to Seligman.
In Peach Springs, Arizona, there are the largest dry caverns in the United States along your route. These are known as the Grand Canyon Caverns, and they are 210 feet below ground level. You can go on cavern tours, and you can even book a ghost tour or stay in a Route 66 themed room.
After the 87 mile trek to Seligman, Arizona, you can take a step back in time to the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66,” with lots of places to shop for souvenirs, restaurants, and small motels. Car lovers will also appreciate all the classic cars you can see along this route.
5. South Rim National Park
The South Rim offers some of the best views of the Grand Canyon. There are opportunities to go biking, hiking, or walking along various trails to see all three sections of the South Rim to give you the full experience. It’s the best place to capture plenty of memorable photos of the views, and you can opt to take a mule ride into the Grand Canyon or a helicopter ride over it. The South Rim is also the best place to watch the sunrise or sunset over the Grand Canyon.
6. Grand Canyon East
This is the area where you can visit popular destinations like the Little Colorado River Gorge, Marble Canyon, Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Rainbow Bridge, and the Glen Canyon Dam. A lot of this region is Navajo Land. The East Rim is not as crowded with tourists as the more popular South Rim area, and it still offers plenty of trails and views.
7. Flagstaff, Jerome, and Sedona
Along your road trip, there are some great places to visit for more opportunities to explore, relax, or experience more. In Flagstaff, Arizona, you can find loads of places to shop, art galleries, tours, more of Grand Canyon National Park, and more.
You can also stop off in the “Wickedest Town in the West.” It’s more commonly known as Jerome, Arizona. So, you can add a ghost town tour into your trip or just stop off at the Wicked City Brew to choose from a selection of Arizona and Colorado craft breweries beers before you bed down for the night.
Whatever you choose, a trip to Arizona isn’t really complete without a stop in Sedona. There are trails to secluded spots, and the area really promotes sustainability. It’s a refreshing experience to be surrounded by natural beauty and people who care about preserving it. Sedona is also home to some award-winning wines, and the beauty and distinct personality, and culture of the area is the recipe for restoration after a busy road trip and the city lights of Las Vegas.
As you prepare to head back to Las Vegas to round out your road trip, a stop in Phoenix will get you ready to go. There are so many choices for things to do in Phoenix. You can get back into the nightlife scene, spend a little more time outdoors, go shopping, catch a sporting event, golf, or experience an off-road segway tour. You can even enjoy a trip to the spa before you head back to wrap up your road trip.
Other Destinations for Fans of the Grand Canyon
If you’re someone with a craving for outdoor adventure, picturesque desert landscapes, and Wild West history, then consider visiting some of these other Southwestern destinations. Some of them aren’t too far from the Grand Canyon itself, so you could potentially turn your modest trip into a multi-state odyssey.
- Monument Valley, Arizona
- Lake Mead, Nevada and Arizona
- Zion National Park, Utah
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Arches National Park, Utah
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
- Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
There’s so much more to a Grand Canyon road trip than just seeing the Grand Canyon. So much of what we know and love about the classic American road trip comes from traveling the route from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and back. All you need is a car, a little time, and a sense of adventure to create the most memorable road trip of your life.