Here are several options for visiting the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. And you really should visit the Grand Canyon at least once. We visited as part of our US tour in May/June 2019.
Your main options are:
- Drive your hire car from Vegas and back again it’s a four-hour drive to the Canyon, so not an easy day return trip.
- Drive your hire car from Vegas, stay over and continue on somewhere else – or back to Vegas.
- Take one of the flight/helicopter tours from Vegas.
- Google ‘train to Grand Canyon’ find a train and then realise it doesn’t depart from Vegas.
Why Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is a perfect place to start or end a Western Road trip – plenty of airlines fly there, airport really close to the centre, hotels inexpensive and it’s the closest major city to the Grand Canyon.
A day trip is a lot of driving, made longer because you’ll want to stop at the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead on the way. You’ll likely only spend an hour at the Grand Canyon South Rim before realising that you have a solid four hours drive ahead of you.
Drive and Stay Over
I first drove from Vegas and stayed in a Grand Canyon lodge back in 1982 – I remember it being really comfortable and quiet there and not expensive. It looks like that has all changed, the lodges are all expensive, booked well in advance and the reviews aren’t good. And what would you do when you checked out – go back to Vegas? So I’d only recommend staying over if your next stop is Monument Valley or Phoenix/Scottsdale.
Flight and Helicopter Tour
I’ve also taken the flight and helicopter tour twice, once with, ahem, name drop, Sir Richard Branson. The problem with that tour was that you don’t get that classic South Rim Canyon view and it’s difficult to gauge the height and scale when at the base of the canyon.
Here’s a video of the helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon floor (taken 20 years ago so quality reflects that time).
And here’s Richard showing off with the helicopter door open.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a train that went straight from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon? Something fast but also scenic. Sadly there isn’t.
There is a train that goes from Williams, Arizona – a three-and-a-half hour drive from Vegas. So if you were able to get that far by car, you’d probably just drive the last part. Worse still, it leaves at 09.30 in the morning. So this option is only feasible if you stay at the Grand Canyon Hotel in Williams and also love classic train rides.
It looks sort of cheesey but also could be fun.
I’m impressed that they managed to secure https://www.thetrain.com/ as their domain name – I mean how slow were all the other train companies when domain registration started?
I’m not sure how it works with the hotel as you’d need breakfast and check out before you leave for the 09.30 train – well unless you stay two nights.
If you’re driving, the Grand Canyon National Park has an entrance fee ($35 per private vehicle). If you are planning on visiting more than US National Park within a year, it’s always worth purchasing an ‘America the Beautiful annual pass’.
The pass costs US$80 plus shipping from this site: https://store.usgs.gov/pass
Shipping to Europe was US$20. It may be that you could purchase one of these at the first point of entry – but I wanted the pass in my hand. it’s an actual piece of plastic, like a credit card and also comes with a thing you can use to display the pass in the vehicle windshield.
The pass provides free entry for the vehicle and passengers to a huge range of US National Parks. Things like parking fees, aren’t included, but the pass still saves plenty, even for the three parks we visited (Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Muir Woods).
So what to choose?
I wouldn’t recommend trying to drive the return trip from Las Vegas in a day. We did it in a GMC Yukon, probably the most comfortable ride you could get, and it was still exhausting.
If you have plenty of time, I’d maybe try the Grand Canyon Hotel and railway. Although I’ve never tried that.
If I were to go again, I’d look for a helicopter or aircraft that lands as close as possible to the South Rim and offers transport to the viewpoint. Don’t bother with a ‘base of canyon’ event unless it also includes a South Rim view.
One thing is for sure, your pictures will never look as good as the real view. But here are mine (taken with an iPhone).