It’s a fact of life up here: Grand Canyon is remote. It takes a little effort to get here, but those who make it to the South Rim typically find the reward to be well worth the travel time. This page catalogues the easiest and most popular ways of getting to Grand Canyon National Park.
Most visitors to Grand Canyon fly into one of two airports, Phoenix or Las Vegas. With good traffic flow, Phoenix Sky Harbor is about a three-and-a-half hour drive from the South Rim of Grand Canyon. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is about a four-hour drive from the South Rim.
Phoenix Sky Harbor
According to a study published in 2005, Phoenix Sky Harbor is the most popular destination airport for South Rim visitors. No surprise, given the shorter drive compared to Las Vegas. But canyon visitors coming from Phoenix Sky Harbor can also look forward to some beautiful views of the saguaro-blanketed Sonoran desert once they drive beyond the Phoenix metro area.
Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport
Visitors who fly into Las Vegas have a longer drive to look forward to, but they’ll also have an opportunity stop and view the Hoover Dam on their drive to the South Rim. If you’re interested in visiting the dam, be advised that U.S. 93, the main north-south route between Las Vegas and northern Arizona, no longer runs along the dam’s crest. Since its opening in 2010, the Hoover Dam Bypass has done exactly what its name suggests. U.S. 93 now crosses the Colorado River over a bridge that provides less than impressive views — if you want to see Hoover Dam, budget time for a dedicated stop.
The “major” city closest to Grand Canyon’s South Rim is Flagstaff, about an hour and a half away. With metro-area population of less than 135,000 people, “major” is an entirely relative term. Because of its location near Grand Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks, and other destinations like Sedona and the Mogollon Rim, Flagstaff is a is home to many outdoor enthusiasts. And although Flagstaff even boasts a nearby ski resort, one thing it lacks is a major commercial airport.
Flight options in and out of Flagstaff-Pulliam Airport are limited, and will probably involve a layover in Phoenix. Only one major airline operates regularly scheduled flights in and out of Flagstaff. A quick search for flights a month from this writing shows that flying from Seattle to Flagstaff instead of Phoenix can cost about $150 more per seat. However, unless you’re fortunate enough to afford a privately charted flight into the small airport near the park’s entrance, Flagstaff-Pulliam Airport is likely the most convenient destination for many South Rim visitors.
Ground transport from major airports
Rental cars are, by far, the most popular ground transportation option for visitors who fly into Arizona. However, shuttle services from nearby cities are available. The Park Service operates free buses within the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park, which makes it practical to see much of the South Rim without a private vehicle.
Shuttle service from Phoenix and Flagstaff
Arizona Shuttle operates regularly scheduled trips from Phoenix and Flagstaff. Phoenix trips conveniently depart from the airport every two hours, but will involve a stopover in Flagstaff. From Flagstaff, Arizona Shuttle departs for Grand Canyon three times per day during the busy season. The Phoenix-to-Flagstaff fare is $45, and the Flagstaff-to-Grand Canyon fare is $29 plus a $6 park entrance fee.
A cheap-but-don’t-rely-on-it option is Grand Canyon Hostel‘s one-way shuttle from Flagstaff to the South Rim. The fare which includes the park entrance fee, is only $25. The shuttle only departs when there is sufficient demand for South Rim tours, and visitors would be ill-advised to rely on this as their sole source of transport. There is no return shuttle option with this provider.
If you’re traveling in a group and would like an individualized pick-up time, Grand Canyon Shuttle Service operates in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, and Grand Canyon.
Shuttle service from Las Vegas
Again, rental cars are the most popular ground transportation option for visitors who fly into Las Vegas. Many of the companies that offer bus service from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon do so as part of a package tour deal — these package tour deals may cost more than a simple point-to-point shuttle from within Arizona.