should you drive to grand canyon from las vegas or take guided tour

Should I Drive to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas or Take a Guided Tour?

Las Vegas is one of the closest major cities to the Grand Canyon, so the question for Vegas visitors isn’t “should I visit the Grand Canyon?”, it’s “should I drive myself to the Canyon, or take a guided tour?”.

Whether you drive yourself to the Canyon or take a guided tour is ultimately up to you, your travel needs, and what kind of Grand Canyon experience you want to have. Driving yourself and taking a guided tour both offer a number of advantages and disadvantages, so we’ve outlined both for you to make planning your Grand Canyon experience a little smoother.

Taking A Guided Tour

Taking a guided tour may offer less flexibility than driving yourself, but many Grand Canyon visitors prefer the convenience and relaxation of simply sitting back and enjoying the ride to the Canyon. Your tour guide can also explain the history and geology of the Grand Canyon and show you all the best viewpoints – something you’ll miss out on if you choose to drive yourself.

Advantages of Guided Tours

  • You don’t have to worry about driving. Just sit back and relax as you make your way through the Southwest. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the hassle of renting a car, parking at the Canyon, or driving through inclement weather.
  • You can see the Grand Canyon by helicopter, airplane, bus, boat, or even by ATV or whitewater raft. Get as adventurous on your Grand Canyon visit as you want!

grand canyon boating

Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park

  • You’ll learn things. Guided tours are led by friendly and knowledgeable tour guides who are chock full of great trivia and history about the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.
  • You get more bang for your buck. On a guided tour, you’ll see more than just Grand Canyon. You can also see places like the Hoover Dam, Kingman, AZ, and other local attractions en route to the Canyon.
  • You can’t get lost. When you drive yourself, you run the risk of taking a wrong turn, but when you take a guided tour, you don’t have to worry about navigating your route.

Disadvantages of Guided Tours

  • You’re not on your own schedule. One of the drawbacks of taking a guided tour is following the preset tour schedule.
  • You aren’t in control. On a guided tour, you’ll see the viewpoints and attractions the tour guide wants to show you. Your tour guide will take you to the best viewpoints, but driving yourself will always offer more flexibility.

mather point

Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park

  • It might cost a little bit more, but only a little. And when you consider the convenience of not having to drive for 3-5 hours each direction, not having to pay for gas, and enjoying the extra stops along the way, the benefits often outweigh the ultimate cost. Plus, when you book a tour, you pay for your entire adventure in one lump sum – no need to estimate (and possible break!) your budget.

Driving Yourself

The Grand Canyon is an immensely popular road trip destination, and it’s easy to understand why. Road trippers can enjoy the rugged scenery of the Southwest as they travel to the Canyon, and they have the ability to structure their time en route to and at the Canyon however they please.

Advantages to Driving Yourself

  • You can totally customize your Grand Canyon experience. See the viewpoints you want to see when you want to see them without worrying about keeping to a schedule. And if you arrive at the Grand Canyon and decide you need more time, you have the freedom to adjust your schedule.
  • You have the flexibility to stay overnight at the Grand Canyon, which is often recommended for travellers driving themselves from Las Vegas because of the length of the drive and the number of things to see and do at the Canyon.
  • You’ll have more time to explore the Canyon, especially if you stay overnight.
  • You can schedule your visit around the sunrise or sunset, the two most beautiful times of day to see the Canyon. Just be sure to remember that during certain times of year, there’s a time zone difference between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

grand canyon sunset

Image Source: Kaldera

Disadvantages to Driving Yourself

  • Parking can be difficult. With 5 million visitors each year, finding a parking spot can be a challenge. Here are some of our parking tips if you do decide to drive yourself.
  • The drive is long. The drive to the South Rim is five hours in each direction, so unless you have the time to stay overnight, you’re in for a long day and a lot of driving. You’ll also have to plan your route so you don’t have to worry about getting lost.

route 89a

Image Source: Dene’ Miles

  • You have to plan far in advance. Accommodation at the Grand Canyon books up to a year in advance, so don’t plan on staying over night if you’re planning a last minute trip. If you’ve left things a little late, a guided tour may be your best bet.
  • You need to consider road quality. The roads to the South Rim are all paved and of excellent quality, but if you want to visit the West Rim (which is about 150 miles closer to Las Vegas), be prepared for a bumpy ride.
  • You’ll have to pay access fees. Entry to the Grand Canyon National Park (including the South and North Rims) costs $30 for a single vehicle, whereas entry to the West Rim tourist area costs starts around $40 per person.

grand canyon national park entrance

Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park

Off You Go!

There is no right way to visit the Grand Canyon. Whether you drive yourself or take a tour, you’re still going to experience the magic of one of most popular attractions in the United States.

If you’re interested in taking a guided tour, check out our South Rim, West Rim, and North Rim tours.