Road trip from Las Vegas to The Grand Canyon must be on your bucket list.
I fell in love with Arizona.
Not only did that state took my breath away, but it also kept it.
Have you heard of the quote ‘Whenever you go – always go with your heart?’ It’s one of my favourite quotes and I feel like I left a piece of my heart in Arizona. Arizona quickly became my number one destination and I know, that one day – I will be back.
From all of our road-flight-trip through California, Nevada and Arizona – I can say without a shadow of a doubt that driving from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam, having a lunch along the Historic Route 66 and viewing the sunset from the edge of the Grand Canyon – was unquestionably my best road trip ever and is still my number one travel memory.
Today I want to share with you all the details you need to know before planning your road trip.
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Good to know
- A road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim takes roughly five hours
- Be prepared for lots of driving and a very long day – We set off at 5am and returned just after midnight
- Stop at Hoover Dam for sunrise, Seligman for the lunch and drive on Route66 after Kingsman instead of Highway 40 – the Historic Route 66 is worth that extra half an hour (on the way back from the Grand Canyon take the Highway 40 – it will be dark so you won’t be bothered about the scenic views)
- It gets very cold after the dusk
Driving to the Grand Canyon
We rented an SUV (If I need a car while travelling – I always use https://www.autoeurope.co.uk/) and set off at 5am from our hotel in Las Vegas, half sleepy-half excited for the next adventure!
American roads are made for simple, easy driving. Wide, straight and all are well marked by numbers which make is so much more helpful for navigating. I’m also sharing our map below – showing the exact route we took.
From Las Vegas to South Rim Trail, including our stops along the route such as Hoover Dam, Seligman, Route 66 – we did over 650 miles total. Fuel in America is super cheap, I wish it was that cheap in Europe! Road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and back cost us about $80 total, which was split between three of us.
An hour and something after we set off, we stopped at the Hoover Dam just in time; when the sun was slowly rising up from behind the mountains and embracing the calm waters of the Dam.
Hoover Dam is one of the must-see things you have to do when visiting Las Vegas and is not to be missed. It was built during the Great Depression between 1931 and 1936 on the Colorado River and is still in the use to this day, though the water levels have severely dropped. It also separates two great states – Nevada and Arizona.
Apart from the few workers buzzing around, we were lucky as we were the first visitors to arrive so we could avoid the rather high parking charge in the Parking Visitor Centre and parked on the Arizona side up the hill (roughly 3-minute walk) for free and enjoyed the view to ourselves.
I am not scared of heights, but looking down towards the bottom of the dam actually made me feel a little dizzy. The Dam is built very, very steep.
Fact: Did you know this powerhouse produces more than four billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year?
I felt so little, but it felt amazing. Enclosed by black hills on almost every side; calm water looking like a mirror painted with dark yellow and navy-blue oil paints. Hoover Dam embraced us like its dear friends and left us feeling blessed to be part of this monumental project.
We couldn’t stay there any longer as we had a long day ahead, so we jumped back into our KIA, all three of us fully awake and recharged (strength of the powerhouse, ha?) and drove back following Route 93.
Driving Route 66
Arizona truly impressed me. The sky felt bluer and the road never ended. One minute we were passing by an immense mountain which seemed to just appear, standing like a king, tall and proud; and the next minute there was just flat barren land as far as the eye could see! The road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was spectacular. That journey touched my heart and the kid in me was looking from the window with an open mouth.
In Kingsman we took the turn and swapped Highway 93 for the more famous Route 66, even it was half an hour longer to get to South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Historic Route 66 is something you don’t want to miss, especially when Route 66 officially doesn’t exist anymore. Why? Simply because Mother Road (another name for Route 66) is being bypassed by the new and stupidly dull Interstate Highway System. The official length of Route 66 is 2448 miles (3940km) and connects California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. (Something I will definitely be doing in the USA is making the full road trip from East to West).
Driving on Historic 66 was definitely a lifetime experience, and it did all it could to welcome us. The sun was beaming with not a cloud in sight, the never-ending road was stretching over the horizon much the same as the never-ending train passing alongside us. Now I know why in all movies the criminals are so desperate to escape by crossing the track when the train is coming! American trains are mileeeeeeeeees long!
I do recommend to stop for lunch in Seligman as we did – there is a proper old-school shop/café place, the kind of you see in American movies, this one is called Route 66 RoadRunner and offers you a great choice of food and drinks. It is also a gift shop so whilst waiting for your food to arrive, you can shop around and get some great souvenirs.
The cost of food is really affordable, more so than anywhere else I’ve seen in the US plus it is all made fresh so tastes that much better! Be prepared for friendly staff who won’t hesitate to introduce themselves and share some American humour!
If you like history or old vehicles, across the street is a museum/shop, free of charge for entrance, full of old cars and motorcycles called Route 66 Motorpium. Though we’re not really into it we did take a look around, it’s not like we are coming back next week, so I fully recommend making the most of it. I promise you will take with you some nice, old-school memories and learn more about the rich history of Route 66 to share with your family and friends.
All of this and a few unexpected roadworks and speed restrictions we arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park about 1 pm.
The Phenomenal Grand Canyon
‘The Grand Canyon is more beautiful, breath-taking and phenomenal than I ever imagined of!’
The Grand Canyon and Arizona weren’t always on my bucket list, but because we wanted to see as much as possible in our two-week trip to America, I squeezed them in. And oh boy, I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did because this road trip was far the best part of my travel memories ever!
What to bring:
- Once you park your car, you will be out for a few good hours, soaking up the views, taking pictures and enjoying the breathtaking scenery. I recommend taking a backpack with a reusable water bottle as there are water stations for you to refill it. Maybe some snacks too, a good camera for sure and a windproof jacket, it gets very cold in the evening!
Grand Canyon is actually separated into a few Rims and National Parks. You can go to see either the West, North, Or Hualapai Reservation which when arriving from the East is much closer than the Southern Rim. South Rim is considered to be one of the most beautiful parts and well-known from all those gorgeous posters and adverts you see on Social Channels and TV screens.
I don’t see a reason why you should pay to walk on a glass bridge and see the bottom of the Grand Canyon when you can hike through the bottom of Grand Canyon for free (though it is a big hike, so be prepared) and enjoy the views for as long as the sun is beaming. It takes some planning, but everyone nowadays has GPS in their phone or you can purchase it when you are hiring a car for a small charge, which is what we did.
After you pay for entrance it is a bit of a drive to the parking spaces, because of all the wild protected animals (including the mountain lion) the speed limit is set at 25mph. There are workers and signposts everywhere to help direct you towards parking and all the other attractions and zones within the park.
Fact: Regular free shuttle services all over the routes make it easy to get around the Grand Canyon and View Points.
I don’t even know how to describe the Grand Canyon. It was just all so unreal, how could something like this be created, the scale, the time it took? We, humans, like to be in a charge until Mother Nature comes along and reminds us just how great and powerful she really is and how small we really are. She created this, and without even trying.
How old is the Earth? A few billion years and still ageing? And how long does the average human live? 80 years? I hope you get my point now. There is nothing we can do to change this. This is a privilege for every single one of us to admire; breathe in Arizona’s air, feel that freedom, see something that humans cannot defeat nor fully discover. You can get lost there and no one will ever find you…
The whole experience of the Grand Canyon left a mark on me, it planted a seed that I wish to return one day, not only to Arizona but Grand Canyon itself and raft down the Colorado river cutting the Grand Canyon in half…
Fact: Grand Canyon is about 280 miles long, 18 miles wide and about a mile deep.
Where to eat in Grand Canyon – Yavapai Lodge Restaurant
Yavapai Lodge Restaurant is the place to go to eat after spending an entire day driving and walking around the Grand Canyon. The prices are fair, we paid $15 each for a buffet deal consisted mainly of pasta, pizzas and salads with one drink of choice.
Yavapai Lodge Restaurant is located inside of the Market Plaza where you can also buy souvenirs and other merch items.
Check out this Virtual Tour of the South Rim Grand Canyon:
Road trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon – is it really worth it?
When the sky put on her black coat laced with glittery stars we knew it was time to head back to Las Vegas, taking Highway 93 instead of Route 66. Which wasn’t scenic at all, it was stupidly long and boring. There was no gas station, no restroom stops, nothing around to look for. It was a just straight black road edged with tiny lights competing with the millions of stars above our heads which would take several lifetimes to count.
Keeping ourselves awake by singing badly (mainly me) and eating way too many sweets we finally arrived back at our hotel in Las Vegas around 1 am, beyond exhaustion but still so excited, full of all the great memories we had just created in that timescale. Hand on heart, I can say it was easily the best 20 hours of my life – fulfilled to the max and relishing every one of the seventy-two-thousand seconds it took.
If the drive is too long, you can also book a hotel or B&B near the Grand Canyon, just check the map below and pick what suits you the most:
I hope you really enjoyed this article and it inspired you to plan your unforgettable Road Trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon soon; get your Printable Travel Planner for free!
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