I’ve always heard one thing about the Grand Canyon: you see it and that’s it. In other words, there’s not much else to do there. And I agree, with a small addition. A visit to the Grand Canyon is one of two things: “see the Grand Canyon” on a 2-hour visit to the rim OR spend a week or more hiking within the canyon. We didn’t have a week to spend at the Grand Canyon, so one day was perfect.
We covered a lot of ground on this trip. Literally. We drove 4 hours from Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then 4 hours from the GC to Phoenix. Visiting the Grand Canyon is definitely a crucial travel experience, but be prepared to spend a good portion of your day sitting in a bus or car. I’ve posted the general outline of our itinerary below to give you a better idea of how to plan your weekend.
Arrive in Las Vegas at night
Night in hotel
See Las Vegas strip in daytime
Travel to Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Stop at Hoover Dam
Arrive at Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Hike along South Rim
Travel to Phoenix
Fly out of Phoenix (red-eye flight)
PLACES TO GO
Going to the casino in Las Vegas is clearly one of the most popular activities for a night in “Sin City.” The best way to do this is to stay at a casino/hotel combo resort. We stayed at South Point which was on the main strip, but south of your typical Mandalay Bay and Wynn Resorts. It had every amenity that those bigger joints had – movie theater, bowling alley, casino – but at a much cheaper price!
The Grand Canyon
Our main goal for the trip was to see the Grand Canyon. Per usual, pictures don’t do it justice — the Grand Canyon was more grandiose than I had imagined, and had I a week to spare, I would have enjoyed backpacking in it.
There are 4 different “rims” you can see at the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon West is closer to Las Vegas and has a skywalk to look out over the canyon. This is not your typical view that you see in pictures, so be prepared that it may look a little different — it’s actually part of an Indian reservation, not part of the “Grand Canyon National Park.” But if you are flying in and out of Las Vegas, you may choose the North Rim to save you some time.
We chose to visit the South Rim. Although it’s farther from air transportation, the South Rim is the most popular rim and gives spectacular, picturesque views of the Grand Canyon. You can fly into Flagstaff (about 1.5 hours away) to visit the South Rim, but being a small airport, you will likely have to make a connection in a bigger airport, and sometimes connections can be a hassle for short weekend trips.
The North Rim has views similar views to the South Rim but with less tourists. However, it will take you 2 extra hours (one-way) to get there, and for a weekend trip, that’s a big chunk of time.
Grand Canyon East is also a lesser known rim of the GC. The best part about the Grand Canyon East side is that you can clearly see the Colorado River in several spots!
The iconic Hoover Dam is just a short distance from Las Vegas, and there are a few buses that go there. We just stopped and said,”There’s the Hoover Dam!” on the way to the Grand Canyon, but if it interests you more than a quick glance, the Hoover Dam easily accessible and just a couple of miles off the highway.
A panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. Look how far it extends!
(iPhone 6 camera)
We used a rental car for our visit to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. When you only have 24 hours to visit one of the Natural Wonders of the World, time is of the essence! It’s far easier to control when you travel, when you eat, and when you sleep, than to depend on a tour company or bus schedule.
If you are in Las Vegas or Flagstaff, there are many tours that go to the Grand Canyon West or the South Rim, respectively. It depends on how you plan out your weekend, but in our case it was easier to drive. Also, I don’t particularly enjoy being packed in a bus with so many other tourists that the amount of oxygen in the air is completely depleted before we arrive.
WHERE TO EAT
In N’ Out
As an easterner, I love any chance I get to eat In N’ Out. The chain restaurant from California has its most eastern location in Texas, which is still 25 hours from my home, so it is a vital part of my trips out west.
If you’re not familiar with In N’ Out, it’s basically fast-food hamburger joint, like Five Guys or Smashburger but 10,000 times better.
What is your favorite rim at the Grand Canyon? What other activities do you recommend for a short visit to Las Vegas? Comment below!
The Wayfaring Woman