The South Rim and the West Rim are the two most popular Grand Canyon tourism destinations. You’re in for some truly spectacular sights and exciting attractions no matter which area you visit, but for many adventurers, the choice between the South Rim and West Rim is a tough one.
Here’s a preview of the main differences between the South Rim and the West Rim:
- 5 hours from Las Vegas
- 5 million visitors per year
- Nearly 2 dozen viewpoints
- Can hike into the Canyon
Grand Canyon West
- 3 hours from Las Vegas
- 2 million visitors per year
- Fewer viewpoints but more time to explore
- Walk beyond the Canyon edge on the glass Skywalk
Ultimately, which area you visit will come down to your travel preferences and how much time you have to explore. Need help making your decision? Take a closer look at the South Rim and the West Rim.
Should You Visit the Grand Canyon South Rim?
The South Rim is managed by the National Park Service. It welcomes a whopping 5 million visitors every year, and it’s about five or six hours away from Las Vegas by car.
Who Should Visit the South Rim?
- First time visitors
- Families with small children
- If you have more time in Vegas
Because it’s home to many of the most memorable viewpoints, the South Rim is the ideal destination for first-time Grand Canyon visitors. If you have small children, you may prefer to visit the South Rim for its many amenities and activities. However, because it’s farther from Las Vegas, the South Rim is not always an ideal destination for travellers who don’t have much time to explore the Grand Canyon.
What Can You Do at the South Rim?
The South Rim is more developed than any other Grand Canyon destination, with numerous hotels, restaurants, and cultural experiences.
Explore the Grand Canyon Village and visit locations like the Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio, take in a Ranger demonstration, or hike along the Rim and enjoy spectacular views along the way. You can even bike along the Rim or take a mule ride down into the Canyon.
Multiple hiking trails also originate at the South Rim, including the popular Bright Angel Trail. Bright Angel Trail is perfect for beginners and dayhikers. The entire trail is seven miles long though, so don’t plan on hiking the whole thing in a single day.
South Rim Viewpoints
The South Rim is home to nearly two dozen viewpoints, many of which are easily accessible from the Rim trails. Some of the most iconic viewpoints include:
The South Rim’s most popular viewpoint is easily accessible from the Grand Canyon Village. You can see nearly a quarter of the Grand Canyon from Mather Point.
GRAND CANYON TIP: Impress your friends with your Grand Canyon knowledge—it’s pronounced “Maaahther Point”, not “Maaayther Point”.
Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park
Located at the end of Desert View Drive just inside the eastern entrance to the National Park. Climb to the top of the Desert View Watchtower—it’s only 85 steps—to take in 360° views of the Grand Canyon.
Image Source: Vladsinger
Popular South Rim Tours
See Bright Angel and Mather point on our most popular guided tour of the South Rim.
Fly directly to the South Rim in a twin-engine airplane and enjoy three hours of ground time at the South Rim.
Fly over the widest and deepest part of the Grand Canyon on a 30-minute helicopter ride.
Should You Visit the Grand Canyon West Rim?
The West Rim, officially known as “Grand Canyon West”, is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indians. With only two million visitors a year, Grand Canyon West is quieter than the South Rim. It’s not as highly developed as the South Rim, but it offers attractions you can’t find anywhere else, such as the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
It’s also closer to Las Vegas – Grand Canyon West is a much shorter three hour drive away from the Strip.
Who Should Visit the West Rim?
- Groups interested in the Skywalk or Zip Line
- If you have less time in Las Vegas
If you have less time to visit the Grand Canyon, consider visiting the West Rim. It’s much closer to Las Vegas, which means you’ll have more time to explore the Rim and experience the landscape.
You should also opt to visit the West Rim if you’re interested in the Grand Canyon Skywalk or Zip Line. There are no comparable attractions at the South Rim.
What Can You Do at the West Rim?
Experience Hualapai culture at the Hualapai Ranch, learn how to rope and quick draw, or even take in some cowboy entertainment.
If you’re seeking a little more excitement, check out the new Zip Line or take a stroll on the glass-bottomed Grand Canyon Skywalk. Get ready for some awe-inspiring views 4,000 feet down to the Canyon floor as you walk 70 feet straight out from the edge of Eagle Point. Learn more about the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
West Rim Viewpoints
While there aren’t as many viewpoints at Grand Canyon West as there are at the South Rim, they are just as spectacular. Here are some of the most popular:
Ride to the South Rim in the comfort of one of our luxury sightseeing motorcoaches, or arrive in style in an executive A-Star Jet helicopter complete with forward-facing windows and 180 degree visibility!
Image Source: Julius Reque
See remnants of a tram line that once stretched 8,800 feet into a guano mine, dine at the Guano Point Cafe, and get 360° views of the Grand Canyon from Highpoint Hike. Be careful—there are no railings along Highpoint Hike.
Popular West Rim Tours
Enjoy 3.5 to 4 full hours to explore the West Rim and visit the Grand Canyon West Rim Hualapai Indian Lands.
Descend 4,000 feet to the Canyon floor where you’ll be served lunch and have approximately 30 minutes to explore.
Travel to and from your helicopter in a limousine before landing at a private ramada on the Canyon floor.
If you’re debating between visiting the popular South Rim and the nearby Grand Canyon West region, here are the main differences you should consider:
- DISTANCE: The West Rim is about 3 hours from Las Vegas. The South Rim is about 5 hours from Las Vegas.
- CROWDS: With only 2 million visitors per year, the West Rim has noticeably smaller crowds that the South Rim
- VIEWPOINTS: The South Rim is home to nearly 2 dozen viewpoints. The West Rim offers fewer vistas, but more time to explore.
- ACTIVITIES: If you want to hike or bike, head to the South Rim. If you want to check out the Skywalk or Zip Line, visit the West Rim.
Have you decided? Take a look at our South Rim and Grand Canyon West tours:
The South Rim is ideal for first-time visitors, families with smaller children, and those with more time in Las Vegas.