Driving from Vegas to Grand Canyon

I’m going to Vegas in a few days and while I’m there, the boyfriend and I are planning to drive to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. This is probably going to be the longest drive I’ve ever done (I’m used to driving in circles around an island) and doing some research online I’m getting a bit overwhelmed.

Anyone have any tips out there? Any good restaurants or points of interest to stop by on the way there?

We’re planning on leaving the hotel at 5am so I guess we’ll be back in Vegas by 5pm.

I did it a couple of years ago, but I stayed at a motel at Flagstaff for the night. The advantage was that I got at the Grand Canyon early next morning, before a lot of tourists were around. However, at this time of year, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Flagstaff has several restaurants of okay quality, as far as I could tell. You could have lunch there. But it is a slight detour. IIRC there is at least one diner on the road that leads directly to the South Rim, again of okay quality.

The Hoover dam is an interesting sight on the way over; it’s not very far from Vegas. However, I heard that security over there is insane (and time-consuming) since 9/11. So you might want to skip it if you want to reach GC (you can see the dam from the distance from the road).

Arizona cops are always on the look-out for people who drive too fast, so don’t.

You might want to go first to the visitor centre at the South Rim, which has information and post cards. However, IIRC you can’t see very much of the GC from there. So if you want to see more, I’d recommend to make at least a short drive around the GC, either in eastern or western direction. At the road there are lots of stops where you can park the car and see the GC.

Hope you enjoy the trip.

500 am to 5pm? I guess its possible, if there is no traffic and no delays esp going thru Flagstaff, but you wont spend much time actually at the rim after parking, after stopping for lunch and potty breaks, and you certainly wont have any time to be able to go down the canyon at all.

By the time you pay for the car, the gas, the hotel(if it takes longer than you expect?), etc, (not to mention losing 2 days and a nite away from Las Vegas?) you would be paying almost as much as it costs to take a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. There is really not much to see on the way by driving, except a lot of desert, and the same desert on the way back.

The telescope in Flagstaff is interesting to see, the telescope that discovered Pluto. When I was there, it still revolved by using old car tires.

The helicopter ride is fun, quick, there is more to see from the air, Hoover Dam, Lake Powell(?), boats, deserts and forests around Flagstaff, wild animals as you fly over them, the indians where you land give a lunch at the bottom of the canyon, and your back in Vegas by early afternoon.

The Canyon is a big hole all right(7 miles wide and 200 miles long seems much too big to be made from that little tiny Colorado river at the bottom, if you can see it) , but I found Meteor Crater, just a little farther to the east in Winslow(?), much more interesting.

It takes half a day just to drive to Hoover Dam right outside of Vegas, and see that.

Driving to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and back in 12 hours is pushing it. You will spend all morning driving to it, get out and look at it for a few minutes, and then spend the rest of the day driving all the way back.

I recommend driving to Hoover Dam on one morning, and then taking a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon on another morning.

I go with most of what Susanann says.

It’s a really, really long drive at the best of times, and if you hit any delays, probs of snafus then your whole day is going to be screwed.

The Vegas strip is crawling with companies offering touristy tours to the Grand Canyon (and everywhere else besides) and I seriously think you should consider just signing up for one of these. Last year I signed up with ‘King Airelines’ (that’s how they spell it) for the ‘Indian Country Grand Canyon Tour by airplane, helicopter and river boat’, and it was one of the greatest, most enjoyable trips I’ve ever been on (no commercial interest here, genuine endorsement).

Pleasant air-conditioned bus/coach from hotel to Henderson air base. Light aircraft from Henderson to Canyon. Helicopter trip from rim to Canyon floor. Riverboat trip a few hundred yards up the Canyon, then they switch the engine off so you can appreciate the stillness and the beauty of it all. Back to helipad, back to rim, bus ride along the Canyon, pointing out places of interest (e.g. Eagle Point, the most amazing natural formation I’ve ever seen), then an Indian settlement and a lunch -which was actually really good food - then back in the coach to the light aricraft, and back to Vegas and coach back to your hotel door. Was collected at 8.45am, back at hotel by 4pm. Hence plenty of time to rest, shower and get out for a show.

It may sound a bit rushed, but it wasn’t - I came away with a scores and scores of great photos of the Canyon, and memories that will stay with me forever.

One thing you should know is that the quoted prices on the leaflets and ads for these tours are just fiction - nobody pays them. Everyone offers discounts, and you can shop around and play the tour companies off against one another until you get the deal you want. So if a tour is quoted for, say, 250 bucks, you can pretty well be sure you won’t pay more than about 175.

There’s a girl called Jen who runs a small tourist booth, ‘Nevada Tour Centre’, opposite the Boardwalk Hotel which is smack dab in the middle of the Strip. She offers good, honest, impartial advice, openly admits that she gets a commission on every sale but will try to get you the best deal for what you want, and she’s reliable too. She’s on 743-9325.

Repeat: I definitely have no connection or financial interest, this is an honest endorsement from a satisfied customer.

We made the drive a couple of years ago, with 3 kids, and I don’t remember it being anywhere near as tough as you folks suggest.

We left Vegas sometime relatively early in the morning. Had breakfast on the road in Boulder City - great cheap food at a little diner with the motto “Best food by a dam site!” Then we took the hardhat tour of the dam (highly recommended). Tour maybe started at 10 or so, and lasted an hour or 2.

Drove east a couple more hours to Williams, where we at at Cruisers. Really funky little burger joint - my kids still reminisce about their fries.

From there it is only an hour or so straight north to the canyon. We got in right around dusk.

Not sure why anyone would go from Vegas to The South Rim via Flagstaff. It certainly takes you out of your way.

Coming back, we did quite a bit of hiking, including a guided fossil hike, before leaving the canyon around noon. Shot past Vegas and stayed near Red Rock Canyon. Got in well before dark. Not a bad drive at all IMO.

BTW, my family far preferred Red Rock to the strip.

I agree completely…it’s only like 270 miles or so…five hours max! I’ve done it many times when my wife and I lived in AZ. I find it to be a lovely trip. Very scenic, especially if you like wide open spaces.

Also, I like Sedona much better…that may be because I was engaged there :slight_smile:

Uhhhhh - because they want to come back,

So its 540 miles, and 10 hours driving.

They have 12 hours total if they are leaving at 5am and returning at 5pm.

Not much time actually spent at the canyon view itself after driving in/around the park to different spots at low speed limits, finding the shuttle bus, waiting for the shuttle bus, going potty, visiting the souvieneer shop, waiting in line for food, eating lunch, getting gas. etc.

…and better hope on the way back that they dont close the road over Hoover Dam again- terrorist alert(?), its a long way around to get back to Vegas if you have to use another road besides the road on top of Hoover Dam.

(Personally, I prefer the north rim, not many people there at all, and we parked our motorhome on a dirt road right on the rim on forest land just outside the national park border - with the bears and mountain lions)

The Grand Canyon is a thing to see, and 1 hour viewing time does not do it justice, although I knew someone who drove there, looked 10 minutes, and said “We’ve seen it, lets go”.

Sorry, folks. I didn’t notice that she was thinking of doing it as a one-day round trip.

IMO, that would be stupid.

Our whole family really loved the canyon, tho.

But you were right about bypassing/not going to Flagstaff, not only is it out of the way, but sometimes traffic can be slow/crowded in that town.

My family and I drove GC to LV last July. Roughly five hours. Security at the dam wasn’t all that bad. They pulled everyone over about five miles away and searched your cars. Since we were in an RV it took about five minutes. The cars were mostly done in less than two.

About the Canyon. I saw 1000’s of pictures and videos of it before I went there. Not a one did any justice to it. It is an amazing thing.

If at all possible stay overnight either at the park or in Williams. But if you can’t it would be well worth the drive even for ten minutes.

IMO, Flagstaff, AZ is the most boring city on the face of the earth. Even on a Saturday night, with a college full of eager young folks around, the only excitement I was able to muster up was at an all-night bookstore.

Bring your own entertainment if you plan to overnight in Flagstff, I say.

Which is easy to do if you stay on the rim. You really have to go into the canyon to understand just how big the thing really is.

One day isn’t enough time, but I could see going to the South Rim on an overnight trip. My wife and I drove from Vegas to the South Rim overnight, grabbed a few hours sleep, hiked a few miles down in the morning, left in the afternoon and made Albequerque before stopping. I loved it, but I think she would have liked a calmer pace.

BTW, the North Rim is closed until mid-May, according to the Parks Department.

I did this against my better judgement about 5 years ago in a souped up Mustang. It’s a damn long day trip and I was doing 100+ for most of the trip. There’s really not much to see but don’t worry it’ll probably be dark on the return trip so you only have to see it once.

If you wanna do the rental car thing, then I would highly recommend the North Rim (I think it’s the North Rim, anyhoo, the observation site closest to Vegas). It is 2-3 hours one-way driving instead of the 5+ you’re going to do for the South Rim.

Flag may be a great college town if you’re a student and love the outdoors, but otherwise it’s a small, dull Arizona town (with all due respect to those of you from Arizona).

If you really want to see cool stuff, skip the Grand Canyon, especially if you are in Vegas. Your time, and gas money would probably be better spent on a helicoptor trip. The south rim of the canyon, in my opinion(I’m in the right forum, right?) isn’t all that wonderful, yes its huge, yes its cool, WOW!!, we(traveling companions at the time) still spent 4 hours there. Between Vegas and the GC there is a town called Winslow Arizona, and as the song suggests, “such a plain sight to see”. There are so many more intense and cool places in this country to see, Yellowstone(my favorite). Arches, Mesa Verde, anything in the Black hills, and I’m sure many more that I haven’t been to yet, that are IMHO so much cooler.

If your in Vegas, have fun, go see Hoover dam(if you must, it is cool). South rim of the GC in the same day, your crazy.

IIRC, we did it as Vegas to Zion National Park, stayed around there (which is breathtaking), then drove to the North Rim and back to Vegas. There was a day of ATV’ing in the desert there too, which is confusing my memory some.

I love the meteor crater in Winslow. I don’t know why but seeing this huge round hole that was made in about 2 seconds just gives me a big kick.

Vegas to the South Rim as a day trip? Not worth it. You’ll spend ALL DAY on the road…by the time you get to the Canyon, it’ll be time to head back. Zion is much closer, 2.5 to 3 hours one way, and is truly spectacular. Lots of shops and places to eat in nearby Springdale. If you enjoy the outdoors, do yourself a favor and drive out to Zion and spend the night there.

Among the other choices, Red Rock Canyon has been mentioned…good scenery and hiking there. Valley Of Fire State Park is about 1 hr away, the drive along Lake Mead is nice. Snow Canyon State Park, just outside of St. George, Utah is another good spot for that kind of scenery, plus you get to drive thru the Virgin River Gorge, which is quite impressive.