Two of the biggest questions people have about day trips to the Grand Canyon from Vegas are:
- Do we visit the South or West Rim?
- Do we go by helicopter or drive?
There’s no right or wrong answer and it all depends on what you want out of the experience. I hope this post helps you decide on what is best for you.
South or West rim?
You could of course visit the quieter North Rim, closed over winter, or famous horseshoe bend at the East rim, but both of these are too far to consider as a day trip from Vegas.
The west Rim features the well known Glass Skywalk. Not one for people afraid of heights, as the glass walkway lets you step out over the edge of the Canyon with nothing but glass between you and the bottom. The West Rim is on Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands and is not part of the National Park, so different entrance fees apply. This is also the closest point to Las Vegas, around 124 miles.
The South Rim is often considered the “true Grand Canyon” and is the part you often see featured in photographs, but lies around 275 miles away from the city. The South has plenty of viewpoints, each with a different view or angle, and some that allow you to peer all the way down to the very bottom and see the Colorado River. It is also the most visited part of the Canyon, and has plenty visitor’s facilities.
After some research, we decided we would like to visit the South Rim lured in by the promise of awe-inspiring views of the deepest and widest part of the Grand Canyon.
Onto question two.
Helicopter or drive?
A lot of people choose to visit this wonder on a helicopter ride, meaning you can see the canyon from above and from the ground. There’s also choices of adding in a flight over Vegas too. For us, we found the tours on the expensive side, and a lot of them landed on the West Rim.
After a bit of research, we came across Grand Adventures who offered day trips from Sin City to the South Rim. Even better, it was a sunset tour, meaning you stayed to watch the sun go down over this natural wonder. It was a pretty long tour, 15 hours in total, but included a stop at the Hoover Dam and Seligman on Route 66.
And so we found ourselves waiting outside the Palms, as most of the city were just heading to bed.
“The name’s Cruise, like Tom or the trip, but not like Penelope” our guide said as we climbed aboard the minibus. We were the first pickup, but after a quick drive down the strip to collect some more people, and a brief stop at McDonald’s for some breakfast (included in the tour price) we were on our way.
The first stop was at the Hoover Dam. The Dam was built in the 1930s to control flooding on the Colorado River, as well as provide drinking water and electricity. It also created the second largest lake in the USA, Lake Mead. You can also do a a variety of cruises around the lake.
We stayed here for a short while, taking photos of the Dam and gawping at how big the lake is before we set off towards Seligman.
This small town on Route 66 inspired the creator of Disney Pixar’s Cars. You can see the similarities between Lightning McQueen’s Radiator Springs and Seligman.
The town was founded in 1895 and became an important railway stop along the Santa Fe Railroad. Then in the late 1920s, the town embraced Route 66 and railroad and tourist traffic became Seligman’s main source of income. In the 1970’s, the Interstate bypassed the town, and a decade later the railroad stopped.
The town could have faded into the past, but it’s great. It is still thriving and giving travellers a glimpse into the glory days of Route 66. The main street is lined with nostalgic gift shops and cafes, as well as vintage cars and motorbikes, and adorned with Route 66 signs, and cardboard legends, such as Elvis.
The Grand Canyon
Our tour arrived into the South Rim just after 1.30pm, and after a delicious picnic lunch, we started out guided tour. We walked the two miles from El Tovar Hotel to Yavapai Point, while listening to Cruise explain about the geology and history of the Grand Canyon.
But it wasn’t all following the paths, Cruise took us off-piste too take some incredible photos of us and show us some even more spectacular views. The great thing about taking a tour was that Cruise knew the best lookouts that were quiet, and most of the time we had the routes to ourselves.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and is over a mile deep. It was carved by the Colorado River eroding away the land over millions of years. There is much debate with how old the Canyon actually is, with the oldest estimate being 70 million years old.
After two and a half hours exploring the various view points, the sun was starting to dip below the horizon. We found a spot to sit and watch the sun turn the Canyon into deeper fiery hues, changing from orange to purple.
The Grand Canyon truly is one of the most breathtaking places we’ve visited and it’s size and depth of colour just can’t be represented in photographs, no matter how many you take. Seeing the sun set over this natural wonder was the cherry on top of the delicious cake that was our day trip.
And hats off to Cruise for being as entertaining and interesting at 7am as he was at 10pm.