Five million years in the making, Teddy Roosevelt called it “The One Great Sight Everyone Should See”. It’s the Grand Canyon, and when you see it, ‘grand’ becomes an understatement. Forged by the Colorado River, the mile-deep network of cliffs and crevices is a national treasure attracting visitors from all over the world. If you want to see it firsthand, you’re gonna have to drive. Grand Canyon National Park is located 275 miles from Las Vegas and 215 miles from Phoenix. As far as road trips come, it’s one of the best. Here’s our take on how to road trip to the Grand Canyon.
When to Go
While the Grand Canyon is stunning year-round, you’ll want to plan your road trip in the spring, summer, or fall for the best temperatures. Summer crowds can be incredibly large, so any lodging, campgrounds, or backcountry permits need to be planned well in advance. On the south rim, where the average elevation is 7,000 feet, summer temperatures range from the low 50s to the high 80s. But down at river level, 5,000 feet below the rim, expect sizzling days topping 100 degrees. The north rim, 1,000 feet higher than the south, is slightly cooler. Heads up–spring and fall can bring powerful, unpredictable storms that roll in quickly. If you’re planning on hiking down into the canyon, be prepared and have a plan.
North Rim vs South Rim
Each has its own pros and cons. If you’re planning on doing your own Grand Canyon driving tour, be prepared to rack up the miles. The drive around is long! The South Rim is the most breathtaking and more famous for its panoramic views. The one con is that it’s very touristy and doesn’t feel quite as secluded as the North Rim. The North Rim doesn’t have as many astonishing viewpoints, but it is less trafficked and more forested than the dramatic South Rim. That being said, it’s the Grand Canyon! You’re going to get transcendent views and make memories no matter where you go. Do a bit of research and see what area best aligns with your vibe.
What to Do
That’s up to you! For the active and adventurous, there’s hiking, river rafting, mule rides, and helicopter rides. Hiking down into the Grand Canyon is not for the faint of heart. Steep drops are the norm and what may be a reasonably timed hike down can turn into a grueling climb back up. For the more easy-going, there are plenty of sightseeing tours by foot, carriage, or at your own pace. You can also just pull over, set up a chair, and take in the views. Grand Canyon Village provides all the comforts of home, with a surprisingly comprehensive grocery story that has just about everything you need for a nice picnic.
The most straightforward way to get there is flying into Phoenix Sky-Harbor, renting a car, and driving. It still takes a bit, but trust us–The Grand Canyon is worth the hype. It’s truly a sight you’ll never forget and the experiences will last a lifetime.