The Ultimate Grand Canyon Trip Planner, According to Locals

[Updated February 2024] Welcome to Grand Canyon Trip Planner! This is your guide on how to visit the Grand Canyon National Park and surrounding attractions. 

In this Grand Canyon Trip Planner, hikers, backpackers, photographers, discerning Moms and other outdoorsy types provide tips for making your trip to Grand Canyon National Park the best it can be.

Table of Contents

Pinterest graphic with text: that reads: Grand CAnyon Trip Planner in green n a white circle. Overlays photo of the Grand Canyon that shows green pine trees, gold and purple layers of rock - cartoons of car, plane, map, compass and backpack decorate the graphic

The Grand Canyon is a place that simply takes your breath away, and with this guide, you’ll be able to experience all that it has to offer. From hiking the famous Bright Angel Trail to taking a scenic drive along Desert View Drive, you’ll find plenty of ways to explore this incredible natural wonder.

You’ll also find information on the best Grand Canyon viewpoints, the best day hiking in the Grand Canyon, and how to make the most of your time at this natural wonder. And with tips and recommendations from local experts like us, you’ll be able to plan your trip with confidence.

So don’t hesitate—come along with us, and let’s discover the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon!

How to get to Grand Canyon National Park

Hello fellow travelers!

Are you planning a trip to this astonishing national park and wondering how to get to Grand Canyon? Look no further because we’ve got all the information you need to make your journey a smooth and enjoyable one.

The Grand Canyon is located in the state of Arizona, about a 4.5-hour drive from Phoenix and a 5-hour drive from Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon Trip Planner: Flying to visit the Grand Canyon

If you’re flying in, the closest airport is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, from which you can rent a car or take a shuttle to the South Rim of the park.

Get detailed information about the closest airport to Grand Canyon and other airports near Grand Canyon National Park.

Driving from the Flagstaff airport to the South Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park will take only one hour and twenty-six minutes.

However, the South Entrance is only one of four different gateways to Grand Canyon National Park. [See the map above.]

The Grand Canyon is ginormous, so pick your passion

It’s important to know that the Grand Canyon is ginormous—the state of Rhode Island could fit inside it! So don’t count on seeing the whole enchilada on your first visit.

First step of Grand Canyon Trip Planner

One of the first steps for your Grand Canyon Trip Planner is to decide upfront which area of this immense geological wonder you want to visit:

  • Grand Canyon South Rim
  • North Rim Grand Canyon
  • Grand Canyon East Entrance
  • West Rim Grand Canyon

Read on for quick descriptions of each one of these amazingly different areas…

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collage of 4 photos side by side depicting from left to right: North- hiking boots and poles on ledge looking over grand Canyon. South: day hiker stands on edge of canyon. East: tower of native rock on edge of canyon. Wset: couple stands on Skybridge over canyon
The four gateways to the Grand Canyon each have their own personalities | Photo credits: Bill Ferris, Stacey Wittig and Arizona Office of Tourism

The South Rim, the most popular and accessible area, can be reached by car, shuttle or train from Williams, Arizona.

The North Rim, less crowded and offers more solitude, is open from May to October and can only be reached by car or tour.

The East Entrance is accessed by car from the Navajo Reservation.

Most helicopter and VIP tours from Las Vegas go to the West Rim, part of the Hualapai Nation and not inside the national park boundaries. Helicopters are one of the most exciting ways how to get to Grand Canyon from Las Vegas.

Bus and shuttle services to Grand Canyon

Bus and shuttle services operate between the park and Phoenix and Las Vegas, but the connections are not always convenient.

We recommend flying into Flagstaff and renting a car to get you to the Grand Canyon South or North Rims or East Entrance.

A fun and hassle-free way how to get to Grand Canyon is to hire a private guide or reserve one of the incredible tour services. Some tours pick you up from your Las Vegas hotel or Phoenix or Scottsdale resort. Check your options below:

> Tours from Scottsdale

How to get to Grand Canyon from Scottsdale

A quick and easy way to get to the Grand Canyon and back from Scottsdale, Arizona, is one of these tours we found for you on Viator:

> Tours from Las Vegas

How to get to Grand Canyon from Las Vegas

Take one of these convenient tours to the Grand Canyon and back from Las Vegas, Nevada, if you don’t want the hassle of arranging transportation. We found the highly-rated tours on Viator:

Take the Train to the Grand Canyon South Rim

black old fashioned locomotive with white steam billowing from stack pulls passenger train through Ponderosa pines and Arizona scenery on its way from Williams AZ to Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Railway No. 4960 is one of two old-fashioned steam locomotives that pull trains from Williams AZ to Grand Canyon | Xanterra photo

A vintage train runs from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon South Rim 65 miles away. Take a trip back in time on the Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway

Leave the car behind and travel in roomy comfort to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. No need to fight traffic or find parking space. Live entertainment, including strolling musicians, cowboys and a train robbery shootout, are all part of the fun. The kids are entertained, and you’ll relax to the sound of the singing rails as the Arizona landscape goes by.

The historic Grand Canyon Railway, with musicians and a Wild West shootout reenactment, is a fun and entertaining way how to get to Grand Canyon.

More About Grand Canyon Railway on Grand Canyon Trip Planner Here:

Be sure to click here for more detailed information and photos about riding the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams AZ to Grand Canyon Village.

Amtrak from Los Angeles or Chicago

Amtrak stops in Flagstaff on the Southwest Chief route that links Los Angeles with Chicago. The Flagstaff Amtrak Station, which shares the historic train station with the Flagstaff Visitor Center, is Amtrak’s closest stop to the Grand Canyon.

Unfortunately, Amtrak does not stop in Williams, AZ, so you must arrange transportation to Williams to connect to the Grand Canyon Railway

Once you’ve arrived at the Grand Canyon

tourists board Grand Canyon shuttle bus
Grand Canyon shuttle bus at the South Rim | NPS photo

Once you’ve arrived at the Grand Canyon, you’ll have various options for exploring the park. Free shuttle buses glide you around the South Rim.

Grand Canyon Trip Planner’s Inside Tips for Park Shuttle

Once you arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you’ll find a myriad of shuttle options. Times change seasonally, so check out our tips for Grand Canyon Shuttle Service and high travel times.

No matter how you choose to get there, the Grand Canyon is a truly unforgettable destination that is not to be missed.

Grand Canyon Trip Planner Next Step

So pack your bags, book your tickets, lace up your hiking boots and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

Happy travels, The Grand Canyon Trip Planner Team

P.S. Now that you know how to get to Grand Canyon, drop over to Best Places to Stay at Grand Canyon

Q&A: Grand Canyon Trip Planner

How many days should you spend at the Grand Canyon?

You should spend two to 12 days at the Grand Canyon, depending on your interests and activity levels.

Backpackers and white water rafters spend seven to 12 days or more immersing themselves in the wonder of nature found in the depths of the huge canyon. Remember we said earlier you could fit the state of Rhode Island in the Grand Canyon?

Families could choose one of the four entrances and explore one area for two to five days. 

What is the best month to go to the Grand Canyon?

The best month to go to the Grand Canyon to avoid the heat on the South Rim or West Rim is May or September. If you plan to hike down into the canyon, then March, April, October or November is the best month to go to the Grand Canyon.

We locals visit the Grand Canyon every month of the year, so it’s hard to pick the best month to go to the Grand Canyon. Of course, we like to avoid the busiest times of the year, which include Spring Break, spanning from early March through mid-April and holiday weekends. Here are tips for visiting during peak travel times.

What is the best way to see the Grand Canyon?

The best way to see the Grand Canyon is to get below the rim. Even if you walk only one or two blocks down one of the trails, you’ll get a totally different perspective than that from standing on the rim.

Get below the rim on mule rides Grand Canyon, rafting Grand Canyon or hiking.

Where should I stay for first-time seeing Grand Canyon?

You should stay near one of the four entrances for the first time seeing the Grand Canyon. South Rim, North Rim, East Entrance and West Rim are the entrances.

To help you decide where to stay, drop over to Best Places To Stay Near Grand Canyon by Area. You’ll get our local insider scoop!

We’re a collaboration of Grand Canyon experts who live and play in Northern Arizona, and we want to help you discover safe and fun Grand Canyon experiences. That’s why we’ve designed the Grand Canyon Trip Planner just for you.

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was NOT provided with accommodations, meals or other compensation for the purpose of this guide. The Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. 

Further, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for reading.

Enjoy this article? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Please share this article with the red- and blue-colored social media buttons.

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3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Grand Canyon Trip Planner, According to Locals”

  1. Hi, Stacey! I wanted to drop by and say thank you for your fantastic article on planning a Grand Canyon trip. Your guide is so detailed and informative, and it’s clear that you put a lot of effort into making it as helpful as possible for your readers.

    I love how you took a local’s perspective in planning a Grand Canyon trip. Your insider tips and recommendations on things to see and do in the area are invaluable, and it’s clear that you have a deep knowledge and appreciation for the Grand Canyon and its surroundings.

    Your guide does an excellent job of breaking down the planning process into easy-to-follow steps, from choosing your dates and transportation to selecting your accommodations and activities. I appreciate how you included a variety of options for different types of travelers, from families with kids to adventure-seekers.

    One aspect of your article that I found particularly helpful was the section on packing and preparation. Your suggestions on what to bring and how to prepare for the weather and terrain of the Grand Canyon are spot-on, and I’m sure that they will be very useful for anyone planning a trip to the area.

    Overall, your Grand Canyon trip planner is an excellent resource for anyone looking to explore this beautiful part of the world. Your attention to detail and insider knowledge make it clear that you are an expert in Grand Canyon travel, and I’m sure that your guide will be very helpful for anyone planning a trip to the area. Keep up the great work, Stacey!

    Reply

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