From Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim: How to Get There
Thinking about leaving the Las Vegas Strip and hitting the road on a driving adventure through the Mojave Desert? Or perhaps going by helicopter?
Does your bucket list include the South Rim of the Grand Canyon — perhaps by mule? Here’s a comprehensive guide for how and what to do, including:
- the best driving app
- things to see along the way
- tips for preparing for your trip
- and essential advice for staying safe in the desert
We’ll feature recommended landmarks, lodging, historic towns, and iconic pit stops along the way, so you don’t miss any popular sites and views. We’ll even give you estimated travel times and distances.
We’re breaking the route up into three sections -
- Las Vegas to Hoover Dam
- Hoover Dam to Williams, Arizona
- Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon South Rim
In total, the drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim takes about 4.5 - 5 hours, but with all these stops, you’ll want to prepare for at least 1-2 days.
- Distance: About 30 miles
- Travel Time: About 40 minutes
Start at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard for a selfie!
Then take Rt. 215 East to Rt. 11 South towards Boulder City and Hoover Dam (which is also the way to the Grand Canyon), exiting at 15B for Business Route 93 East.
Optional Stops Along the Way:
1. Charming Boulder City
Known as “The town that built Hoover Dam.” Stroll the historic downtown shops, stopping at:
- the Boulder Dam Hotel for its free museum (which rivals the one at Hoover Dam itself)
- the Southwest Diner for a meal
- and the Dam Roast House (and bookstore!) for coffee.
2. Boulder City’s Hemenway Park
This is a magical, fairytale-esque park where bighorn sheep come down to graze in the late afternoon and the incredible views of Lake Mead and the surrounding mountains will captivate you.
3. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
-in the heart of the Mojave Desert to see both the lake and the gorgeous red rock mountains.
4. Hoover Dam
This remarkable triumph of engineering sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona and led to the creation of Lake Mead from the Colorado River to provide water and power to the region.
Take a walking tour to explore the inner workings of this marvel, or simply walk around the rim of the dam along the observation deck without ever having to purchase a ticket (there’s even free parking on the Arizona side if you drive across the dam).
Walk halfway across the dam to plant one foot in Nevada and the other foot in Arizona, so that you can say you were in two states (and two time zones!) at once. Plan to spend about two hours here.
Download our Hoover Dam & Lake Mead audio driving tour for your trip from Vegas to the Hoover Dam. We’ll guide you to this historic spot with stops and music along the way. Pick the stops you want and skip the ones you don’t!
- Distance: Approximately 230 miles
- Travel Time: About 4 - 5 hours
From Hoover Dam/Boulder City, take I-11 South, a scenic yet efficient route that will connect you to I-40 East in Arizona
I-40 East: Merge onto I-40 East, which will take you deeper into Arizona and closer to the Grand Canyon. Enjoy those picturesque desert vistas!
Optional Stops Along the Way:
1. Historic Route 66
Image from Flickr by Cindy Shebley
As you approach Williams, consider taking a detour on the famous Route 66. This old highway is dotted with quirky roadside attractions, vintage diners, and nostalgic landmarks.
2. Williams, Arizona, is known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.”
Image from Flickr by Scott Blackwell
This small town offers a taste of the Old West with its historic Route 66 charm and a variety of restaurants and shops. It’s a great place to relax before your final push to the Grand Canyon.
3. Elk and Bison Prairie
Image from Flickr by Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
Located near Williams, this is a great area for wildlife viewing within the Kaibab National Forest. It’ll give you a unique opportunity to see these magnificent animals up close.
- Distance: Approximately 60 miles
- Travel Time: About 1 hour
From Williams, take State Route 64 North towards the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. This scenic drive will take you directly to the heart of Grand Canyon National Park. Or, just turn on the Shaka Guide Grand Canyon South Rim Tour!
This tour features a starting point in Williams, Arizona, and will guide you through the park visiting 29 stops with stories and music along the way.
Grand Canyon - South Rim
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular rim to visit (even though the Western Rim is closer).
It offers a wide range of viewpoints, trails, and visitor facilities. Be sure and explore the vistas from places like Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and the Grand Canyon Village.
I’d recommend that you plan to spend at least one full day exploring the South Rim.
If you have the time, venture to the less-visited East Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The Desert View Watchtower and the Lipan Point overlook provide unique perspectives of the canyon’s vastness. The East Rim is accessible via SR-64.
Explore the other rims of the Grand Canyon
If you have lots of extra time on your hands, you can also drive all the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
If you have less time on your hands and don’t want to drive all the way to the popular South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you can drive to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon from Hoover Dam.
This is not a state park, and there’s less to see and do here, but if it’s the only place you have the time to drive to, it’s worth going.
It’s owned and operated by the Hualapai Native Americans. And it features the famous glass-bottomed Skywalk overlook — if you’re brave enough to step out upon it!
Tips for driving through the Mojave Desert
- Stay hydrated. The desert can be extremely dry and hot, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Pack plenty of ice in a cooler in your car’s trunk and bring more water than you need for the journey—stock extra non-perishable snacks in case of emergency.
- Check your vehicle. Ensure it’s in good working order before heading on a desert road trip. Are your tires properly inflated? Are all essential systems in good condition?
- Plan for extreme temperatures. Be prepared for fluctuations in temperature in the desert. Dress in layers and carry sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
- Gas up. Fill your tank before you leave Vegas. Gas stations may be sparse in remote areas of the desert. It’s always wise to top off your tank whenever you come across a gas station.
- Roadside Assistance. It’s wise to have a roadside assistance plan, a phone with good signal coverage, and a car charger. You’ll be driving through areas with limited cell service.
- Emergency kit. Carry an emergency kit with essentials like a first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, and blankets.
- Respect nature. When visiting wilderness areas, always follow Leave No Trace principles. Stay on designated paths, pack out all trash, and respect the delicate desert ecosystem.
- Weather awareness. Keep an eye on weather forecasts. Flash floods can be a real danger in the desert.
Use a self-driving app from Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim
Rather than having to navigate by yourself in the middle of the desert where wifi is spotty to non-existent, a self-driving app tour will navigate for you.
With a good driving app (like Shaka Guide), you’ll get detailed directions, road trip music, and entertainment in the form of stories and information.
You'll hear topics ranging from the local geology and history to the science behind the natural elements you’re seeing out your window.
Also, look into the indigenous groups who have called this land home for thousands of years.
Although I may be biased, Shaka Guide offers the best self-driving app (just check out the reviews!) for tours from:
If you’ve never used a driving app tour like Shaka Guide, all you have to do is get the free app, purchase the tour, download it before you go (while you still have strong wifi), and then: Off you go!
You’ll have access to Know Before You Go info, itineraries, helpful advice, online maps, and anything else you’ll need to prep you for an amazing road trip!
And with a self-driving road trip app, you aren’t at the mercy of someone else’s schedule and itinerary.
Plus, you won’t find yourself surrounded by a crowd of strangers all vying for the best seat on a bus, or to be close enough to the tour guide to hear what’s being said.
However, in the interest of covering the other optional ways for you to get from Vegas to the Grand Canyon, here are additional ideas:
Guided Tours from Vegas to the Grand Canyon
Organized types of group tours include
Bus tours. These tours offer various itineraries, including trips to the South Rim and West Rim.
- Airplane tours. Small groups board planes in Vegas for aerial views of the Grand Canyon. Some tours include landing at the Grand Canyon Airport for ground exploration.
- ATV/Jeep tours. If you’re up for a more rugged and up-close experience of the Grand Canyon’s surroundings, you might opt to try this adventurous type of exploration!
Pros of taking a guided tour
- Convenience. Guided tours provide transportation, eliminating the need for having to rent a car and drive yourself.
- Knowledgeable, experienced guides.
- Safety in a sometimes challenging environment, so that you’re not alone.
- Socialization. Group tours are a way to meet and speak with other travelers.
Cons of taking a guided tour
- Limited flexibility. Tours often have set itineraries, limiting your personal exploration options.
- Fixed schedule. Tours operate on a tight, disciplined schedule, which may not suit your personal preferences.
- Crowds. Popular tours can be crowded, which will alter your experience.
Helicopter tours from Vegas to the Grand Canyon
A helicopter tour offers a thrilling and panoramic journey above the Grand Canyon.
You’ll experience captivating views, informative commentary from the pilot, and an opportunity to take once-in-a-lifetime photos.
When selecting a helicopter tour, consider factors like tour duration, departure location, and whether they offer additional experiences like boat rides or guided hikes.
- Grand Canyon West Rim Tours. These tours typically offer aerial views of the West Rim, including the Skywalk and Hualapai Ranch.
- Grand Canyon South Rim Tours. These tours provide breathtaking views of the deepest and widest part of the Grand Canyon
- Grand Canyon East Rim Tours. These tours are less common but equally spectacular, exploring this often-overlooked area.
Pros of taking a helicopter tour
- Speed and scenic views. Helicopter tours offer rapid transport and unparalleled aerial vistas.
- Personalized experience. You’re in a small group, providing you with a more intimate experience.
- Efficient exploration. Helicopters reach remote areas quickly, maximizing your time at the Grand Canyon.
Cons of taking a helicopter tour
- Higher cost. Helicopter tours can be quite expensive.
- Weight restrictions. Passengers may face weight limitations.
- Weather-dependent. Helicopter tours are subject to weather-related cancellations.
The Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon South Rim
This is subject to personal preference because each season offers a unique perspective and experience.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is an excellent time to visit. The weather is mild, wildflowers bloom, and crowds are relatively smaller than in summer.
It’s also a fantastic time for hiking. *If you combine this road trip with stops in the Mojave Desert at Lake Mead, this is a great season.
Summer (June to August)
Summer is the busiest season. The weather is warm, making it ideal for outdoor activities.
Be prepared for larger crowds and book accommodations well in advance.
*If you’re combining this road trip with stops in the Mojave Desert at Lake Mead, summer is a dangerous season because desert temperatures can reach well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fall (September to November)
Fall offers pleasant temperatures, beautiful foliage, and fewer crowds compared to summer.
It’s a fantastic time for hiking. (Early autumn may still be too hot to visit Lake Mead and the Mojave Desert.)
Winter (December to February)
Winter can be a peaceful and stunning time to visit if you’re prepared for cold weather. The South Rim remains open, but the North Rim is typically closed due to heavy snowfall. This is usually a good time, weather-wise, to also visit Lake Mead and the Mojave desert.
Grand Canyon Entrance Fee
Entrance fees are subject to change. But generally speaking, the fee is $35 for a 7-day pass at the North and South Rims, which are part of the National Park System.
You can also obtain or use an annual national park pass. *Check the official Grand Canyon National Park website for updates.
Lodging near the Grand Canyon
El Tovar Hotel/ Shutterstock Image
There are a range of options, including the historic El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge.
The nearby town of Tusayan also offers lodging options, such as the Red Feather Lodge (which comes highly recommended).
The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim is the primary accommodation option. This remote location provides a more secluded experience.
Due to the short North Rim season, reservations are highly recommended.
While this rim is less developed, the Hualapai Tribe offers accommodations in the Grand Canyon West area, including the Hualapai Ranch.
Recommended sites and activities at the Grand Canyon South Rim
Image from Flickr by Grand Canyon National Park
Conditions can vary depending on the time of year you visit, so always check the official Grand Canyon National Park website for updates on trails, weather, and road closures.
- Scenic viewpoints. Don’t miss popular viewpoints like Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and Hopi Point on the South Rim, and the North Rim’s Bright Angel Point for awe-inspiring vistas.
- Hiking trails. The South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail are excellent options for day hikes.
- River rafting. You can take a thrilling whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River if you want to see the Grand Canyon from the water!
- Aim for seeing either a sunrise or sunset from the Grand Canyon. They are spectacular.
- Stargazing. The Grand Canyon is a designated Dark Sky Park, making it an excellent spot for stargazing. Attend ranger-led astronomy programs to learn more about the night sky.
- Geology talks. Join ranger-led programs to gain a deeper understanding of the Grand Canyon’s geology and natural history.
- Take lots of pictures! Capture endlessly stunning landscapes for your own memories (and perhaps for your social media pages)!
- Mule Rides. You can take a mule ride into the canyon for a memorable experience!
- Cultural and historic sites. Visit the Tusayan Ruins and Museum on the South Rim to learn about the native cultures that have inhabited the area.
Grand Canyon South Rim Itinerary
As you’ve probably gathered from this overview, leaving the vibrant Las Vegas nightlife scene to strike out on a trip to the Grand Canyon, including everything you’ll see along the way, provides a striking contrast to the neon and noise of the city.
The journey offers plentiful options, each with its own advantages. The Grand Canyon’s breathtaking vistas, activities, and geological and cultural significance make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking awe-inspiring experiences in the American Southwest.
Now get out there and have fun!
We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at email@example.com.
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