Las Vegas To Grand Canyon Road Trip
This post was most recently updated on August 25th, 2020
A lot of people fly to Vegas and end up sitting in the casinos all day. Why not break up your time with a Las Vegas to Grand Canyon road trip? Take some time to get out of the hectic city and witness one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
We decided to rent a car and make a 3 day Grand Canyon trip out of it. There’s also bus tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon if you don’t want to drive. Some are one day trips leaving early in the morning. Which is great if you don’t have a lot of time. And others offer overnight stays. Canyon Tours has one of the best prices for the south rim tour.
How Far From Las Vegas To The Grand Canyon?
There are 3 different areas in the Grand Canyon that you can visit. The west rim, south rim, or the north rim. The west rim is the closest to Las Vegas if you don’t have a lot of time. It’s 128 miles away and only about a 2 hour drive. This is the area that has the Skywalk for viewing the canyon.
The west rim was opened to the public in 2007 and is run by the Hualapai Indian tribe. This rim isn’t part of the Grand Canyon National Park though.
The north rim is a 5 hour drive and is only open from May 15th until October 15th. This area has the highest elevation at 8800 feet. And on a clear day you can see all the way to the south rim. In the summer, this would be the quieter rim to visit.
The most popular rim is the south rim. The distance from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon south rim is 286 miles and will take around 5 hours.
Directions From Las Vegas To The Grand Canyon
Driving from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is an easy scenic drive on a smooth, two lane highway. This map will take you to the west rim of the canyon.
3 Day Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip
After picking up our rental car at 10 am, we headed to the Hoover Dam. The distance from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam is 37 miles. You take the I-515 S to the I-11 S and in around 40 minutes you’ll come to the Hoover Dam just past Boulder City.
The Hoover Dam is located on the Nevada and Arizona border along the Colorado River. Parking is $10 at the Dam.
But if you park at one of the lots at the top of the hill and walk down, it’s free. The visitor centre costs $10. And there is also a Hoover Dam power plant tour for $15.
For lunch we made a stop at the In and Out burger joint in Kingman. I asked for a veggie burger, and that’s what I got. All veggies! So I’m not sure if they forgot to put a veggie patty on it, or that’s the way it’s supposed to be. They were way to busy to ask. Very interesting though!
We made it to Williams, our first nights stop by 4:30 pm. It’s a cute little town on Route 66 . If you’re looking for Route 66 souvenirs, then this is the perfect place.
Some of the restaurants and shops date back to the early 1900’s.
There’s a good choice of hotels for such a small town and they’re all reasonably priced. We stayed at the Red Roof Inn on the edge of town. And had a great wood fired pizza at the Station 66 Italian Bistro.
Just outside of Williams there’s a deer farm you can visit, or the Bearizona Wildlife Park. At Bearizona you can drive your car through the park and get up close to the wildlife. It’s open from 9-4 and the cost is $25. We opted to skip it because we didn’t think our rental car agency would appreciate the wildlife hanging off the car and scratching it up.
Williams is also home to the historic Grand Canyon Railway dating back to 1901. A train departs daily travelling the 65 miles up to the Grand Canyon National Park. Coach class tickets for adults cost $82 round trip and the ride takes 2 hours 15 minutes one way.
Las Vegas To Grand Canyon South Rim
We left Williams at 8:30 am and headed the hour north to the Grand Canyon Park south entrance. If your coming in the warmer months you’ll want to get there early. Or be prepared for long line ups to get in.
At the elevation of the park, you just never know what kind of weather you’re going to encounter. We were there in March and the snow was coming down like crazy all morning. On our drive in, we were lucky enough to see this group of elk roaming along in the forest.
It cost $35 per car to get into the National Park. And your park pass is good for 7 days. The south rim is where they have the visitor centre. And that’s where you can watch the 30 minute IMAX movie on the park. You’ll learn a lot of interesting facts about the park, how it came to exist. Plus what’s changed and what hasn’t in the million’s of years it’s been around. Or grab some food and drinks at the snack shop before heading out.
Things To Do In Grand Canyon South Rim
Hiking is probably the most popular activity in the park. And you have your choice of about any length of hike you want to take. You can hire a guide or go on your own.
Mule rides are available from Phantom Ranch Mule Rides, but you’ll need to book months in advance. You have the option of a 2 hour ride, or overnight trips.
At the visitor centre there are free hop on hop off shuttle buses that take you around to the different lookout points. Or rent a bike from Bright Angel Bicycles.
It was a little foggy after the snow stopped. But once the sun came out we got a spectacular view of the canyon.
Whitewater rafting is another great activity in the Grand Canyon. You have the choice of a one day, or multi day rafting trip along the Colorado River. There’s even a smooth water rafting trip with no rapids in a pontoon raft.
Where To Stay In Grand Canyon
For lodging, there are 7 hotels in Grand Canyon National Park. Most offer a rustic lodge kind of experience and are expensive unless you go in the off season. If you plan on visiting the park for a number of days though, staying here would be a lot more convenient.
If all the Canyon lodges are booked up, it’s only a 15 minute drive south to the town of Tusayan. We stayed at the Red Feather Lodge right in the centre of town. There’s a restaurant beside the motel called the Plaza Bonita. They have the best Mexican food! We ate there for dinner and breakfast and both were amazing. Tusayan has a pretty good selection of hotels and restaurants since it’s so close to the park. And you’ll pay about half as staying right in the National Park.
For our third day, we left Tusayan at 9am and headed back into the National Park. The quickest way to get around to the north rim from here is through the Park. Since the passes are good for 7 days, we didn’t have to pay again.
Desert View Watchtower
It was a bright, sunny day this time, so we got to see some great views of the canyon. Just off #64 highway heading east is the Desert View Watchtower.
Built in 1932, this watchtower has some of the most expansive views of the canyon. You can see the Colorado River in the distance, and the north rim which is over 10 miles away. And on a really clear day you can see up to 100 miles.
Here is also where they have a memorial plaque dedicated to the horrific crash of two planes over the canyon in 1956. All 128 passengers perished in the crash. It was the worst U.S. plane crash in history at the time.
Cliff Dwellers Stone House
After leaving the canyon and heading north on #89 highway, we saw signs saying the north rim was closed. At the time we didn’t know that the north rim only opens for the summer. But we had already planned on driving all the way around the canyon, so we kept going. And we were glad we did.
On highway #89A you come to the Cliff Dwellers Stone Houses. A traveller named Blanche Russell who was passing through here in the 1920’s had her car break down. She ended up being stuck there for the night. But in the morning saw how breathtaking the scenery was and decided she wanted to stay.
Blanche and her husband Bill ended up purchasing the property and created these stone structures out of the existing boulders and oddly shaped rocks. She came up with the idea of serving food to the visitors passing by in order to make a living.
By the 1930’s their little settlement came to include a proper restaurant and a trading post. Blanche and Bill continued on with their business for another 10 years until they sold it to a rancher.
It’s easy to see how they fell in love with Marble Canyon. But the isolation would be too much for most people.
As we continued west on the highway, we came to the Navajo Bridge. This bridge is actually two bridges beside each other. The original bridge became a pedestrian walkway when the newer, wider bridge was built. This historic bridge opened in 1929 as the highest arch bridge in the world.
On one side of the bridge is a visitor centre and bookstore. And on the other side they have Native American crafts for sale.
Looking out over the bridge you could spot a California Condor flying around. Or down below in the Colorado River you can occasionally see the rafters go by.
Farther along the highway you come to the Paria Canyon and Vermilion cliffs. 3 to 5 day backpacking adventures are available in the canyon. Or day hikes with a permit.
These rugged and colourful cliffs range from 3000 to 6500 feet above sea level. A 3 mile hike in is an area called the wave. Only 20 people a day are allowed to hike into the wave, and you need a permit to go.
The wave is a brilliant gold and red swirling pattern along very remote cliffs that have claimed some lives over the years. If you’re in great shape, and can make the hike trudging through sand in extreme heat, the view at the end would be worth it.
After leaving the Vermilion Cliffs, we passed by highway #67 that takes you down to the north rim if it’s open. Then it’s a peaceful drive through thick evergreen forests, to small desert towns, and finally our last stop for the night Mesquite Nevada just across the Arizona line.
Mesquite is home to several casinos. We stayed at the Virgin River Hotel and Casino just off the highway. The rooms are super cheap, and besides a casino, the hotel has bowling, a large buffet, an arcade, bingo and golf.
From Mesquite Nevada, it was an hour drive back to our car rental in Las Vegas the next morning. Our Vegas to Grand Canyon drive was amazing. It was a lot of fun renting a convertible, getting out in the fresh air, and knocking another one off of the bucket list! If you get the chance to go, do it!
Read more here on what surprised us about Las Vegas.