Audrey, Ysabel, and I went on an impromptu trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles upon hearing that the tickets for the Backstreet Boys concert were affordable. We were sitting in the car while driving back from San Diego to Los Angeles when Tina said, “The Backstreet Boys are in Las Vegas.” I immediately looked it up and realised that going was definitely possible – so we booked a bus from Los Angeles, headed to Las Vegas.
2 years ago, I was in Las Vegas and had wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, but my only free day then was a very HOT summer day in August, so it was impossible for me to go.
I mean, unless I had a nice cold pool I could bring along with me, I was going to burn. Given that we were heading to Las Vegas again now, we decided that the Grand Canyon should definitely be a part of our plans.
We were originally planning to just take our rented car all the way to Vegas and have Audrey drive us to the Grand Canyon. But, upon researching, we realised that we wanted to visit the South Rim portion of the Grand Canyon – the one with the most fantastic views, and commonly seen in tourist pictures and postcards – which would be 4-5 hours away from Las Vegas (assuming we didn’t get lost). It also has the most facilities and is the most accessible, so it is the area of the Grand Canyon which receives most tourist traffic throughout the year. Since Audrey was our only driver, and we have just done a road trip to Joshua Tree Park, Salvation Mountain and San Diego, we decided it was best to give her a break. We have to go find a tour to take us there instead of doing the lengthy Las Vegas to Grand Canyon trip ourselves.
Most of the tours from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon are expensive. The costs can range from $70 to $200 and sometimes even more – and some of them don’t even include the entrance fee. At this point, we were already a bit short on our budget so I did my best to find something more reasonably priced. In the end, a found a bus tour hosted by GC Tours.
To be honest, I wasn’t so keen on booking it because Tripadvisor reviews about the company weren’t so good. But at this point, we wanted something cheap and affordable – and we really wanted to see the Grand Canyon. So, we took a risk and ended up booking our Grand Canyon Day Trip.
There were three different companies I was choosing from, in the same price bracket, and all offered ways routes from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon – but what made us choose the GC Tours was the fact that the website said this:
“No additional fees on the day of the tour, No Fuel Surcharges, No sales or upsell presentations before the tour, No wasted time at unnecessary stops & we actually pick you up at your hotel!”
I guess that sealed the deal for us. Also, it was good because the Grand Canyon Day Trip was cancellable for up to 24 hours before the booking, with a full refund. Why was this important? Because we were going on a really cold month and it would be sucky if we went on a super rainy day, so we wanted the option to cancel in case we needed to. They also stated that they have no cancellation fees, no fuel surcharge, and all that – so all in all, it was a pretty reasonable exchange.
How to Book a South Rim Grand Canyon Day Trip
You may book online at their website to reserve. You only pay a certain portion of the Grand Canyon Day Trip for the reservation fee – a downpayment – and then you can pay the rest when the driver picks you up. While booking your tour, you also choose your meal options which are provided during your trip so that no time is wasted making stops for food – there are choices, so you can pick depending on your personal preferences. They also give bottled water throughout the entire trip so you don’t need to worry about packing any extra, which really saves a load off of your baggage.
The Itinerary from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
6:00-7:00 AM – Hotel Pick Up
We were picked up exactly on time by a super luxury van with a good driver. We were the furthest hotel so we were picked up first, before the others who would be joining us on the Grand Canyon Day Trip. Since we were fetched so early, we quickly picked a seat and just slept – we had a late night the night before, so dozing off was pretty easy for us. From the comfy van, we were then dropped off at a parking lot with buses (the bus isn’t super luxurious, but it was fine). I’m not used to really BIG group tours – and this was quite literally a busload.
Before departing the pickup bus, you are given bus numbers depending on whether you booked the South Rim or West Rim – you go to your assigned bus number, check in and then they hand you your water and breakfast.
I was too sleepy to care, so I just slept and then ate later on.
Breakfast was fruit, chips, and cookies.
7:15AM Depart Las Vegas
8:00AM Hoover Dam Photo Stop
On our drive to the Hoover Dam, the driver and tour guide kept giving us facts and little trivias about the area. It’s one of the most incredible engineering wonders, built in only 5 years during the Great Depression in order to keep flooding from occuring in the area and affecting the communities living in the homes nearby. Aside from its primary function as a water stopper, it also serves as a water source for the dessert as well as hydroelectricity. In person, you can really see how massive the dam is. We were given 15 minutes to take pictures, and then we boarded the bus.
9:30AM Comfort Stop in Kingman Arizona
Just a short stop to take a bathroom break or stretch your arms.
10:45AM Route 66 Photo Stop in Seligman AZ (lunch is given to you here)
This was a really cool area. Route 66 used to be the primary route for people who were travelling west, which paved the way for lots of flourishing businesses and shops since lots of vehicles would pass by the roads. Unfortunately, the route was rendered pretty much obsolete with the construction of the Interstate Highway System – something which caused a lot of controversy primarily with the business owners long the route who would be losing their livelihoods. It was a cute little town filled with cars, vintage things and all that – they refused to get cut out of the map so they had a parade of vehicles to help reign tourists in. It’s a cute little town definitely worthy of a photo stop. If I had more time, I would have stayed longer to explore but we were given ample time to use the restroom as well as stop and take a look around.
Our tour guide kept reminding us to bundle up, due to the cold weather. She said that items at this stop are cheaper than the one in the park – it was going to be a really cold day when we got there. At this point, Audrey and I decided to buy bonnets just cause we were already really cold – but of course, the option is yours.
Of course, it still wasn’t cheap. We bought our bonnets for 20 USD – some sweaters were expensive but we decided we didn’t need one. Our guide was right, though – it was more expensive at the park so if you need to layer up, do so at the Route 66 stop. (In case you made the mistake of checking the weather for Las Vegas instead of the Grand Canyon – this is your chance to bundle up)
1:00PM Arrive at Grand Canyon
We were given 3 hours to explore the Grand Canyon.
Bright Angel Lodge is a hotel complex resting right at the edge of the South Rim of the canyon, one of the prominent landmarks in the area and very recognizable given its vintage, old-style wooden cabins. The lodge has a gift shop as well as an in-house cafe where you can enjoy some hot tea or coffee.
We were dropped at Bright Angel Lodge and from there we walked around. We first stopped in the Lookout studio where I got a map – I asked for the difference between the Bright Angel trail and the South Rim because I noticed the marks on the trail. I was told that the Bright Angel trail would take days – we could walk down a certain point and then walk back up, while the South Rim is 7 KM with buses and shuttles along the way so you could take them whenever you got tired.
The Free Shuttle can be used to go anywhere in the National Park and are color coded so that it’s easy to know where you’re headed. Here are all of the shuttle buses with their respective colors:
- Village Route – Blue Shuttle
- Kaibab Route – Orange Shuttle
- Hermit Route – Red Shuttle
- Tusayan Route – Purple Shuttle
Given our time constraints, we chose the South Rim – but we took our time just walking the canyon.
This was the map we based off on during our walk. There are many different view point aside from the lookout at Bright Angel Lodge, here’s a list:
- Mather Point
- Pipe Creek Vista
- South Kaibab Trailhead
- Yaki Point
- Yavapai Point
- Bright Angel Lodge
- Bright Angel Trailhead
- El Tovar Hotel
- Hopi House
- Kolb Studio
- Lookout Studio
- Thunderbird Lodge
- Verkamp’s Visitor Center
- Hermit’s Rest
- Trailview Overlook
- Maricopa Point
- Powell Point
- Hopi Point
- Mohave Point
- The Abyss
- Monument Creek Vista
- Pima Point
- Hermit Trailhead
- Grandview Point
- Moran Point
- Lipan Point
- Desert View
At some point we wanted to reach the Powell Point for a good sunset spot, since it features fantastic views, aside from the interesting fact that is it built on a granite memorial to commemorate John Wesley Powell. We couldn’t make it to Hermit’s unfortunately, since it was already sundown and we had to make to back to the Bright Angel Lodge. Even still, we had the most amazing sunset.
Wish we could have had more time. We took the shuttle back to the lodge and then met up with the rest of the group.
Things to see inside and around Bright Angel Lodge
A small museum which features relevant artefacts pertaining to the history of the lodge, lodge owners, as well as the Grand Canyon itself. The highlight of the room is the fireplace which is layered to resemble how the geologic features of the canyon look like.
Harvey House Cafe
A family-style cafe which serves diner-style meals in a comfy and tight-knit setting
A restaurant which serves up some delicious Arizona classics, ranging from favorites such as steak and barbecue to gourmet burgers and fajitas
Open during the summer and more heated months, the Soda Fountain sells premium ice cream flavors alongside some hand-held foods such as hotdogs, sandwiches, and fresh fruit to cool you down during the hot seasons.
4:00 PM Depart Grand Canyon
7:30PM Comfort Stop in Kingman Arizona (You can purchase food here)
On our way back, we stopped in the same shop the tour bus shopped at earlier. For those who are hungry, you can purchase a little something from Subway or anything from the grocery. At this point I was already full so i didn’t bother buying anything. Oh, by the way – we were afraid to go hungry so Aubrey, Sab, and I brought salami and some cheese (that’s just us). But don’t worry, there’s enough places and time for stops to buy some food in case you want to – there’s even lots of stalls and shops at the Grand Canyon itself.
9:30 PM Arrive in Las Vegas for Hotel Drop offs
Your arrival time depends on how far your hotel is. At the end of the way we were thankful we took the tour. Audrey got her rest as well, and we had sufficient time in each of the stops. It was a really really cold day so we ended up looking like shawarmas and tightly wrapped burritos – but we were still happy to have seen the Grand Canyon.
Tips during your day trip to Grand Canyon
- DON’T CHECK THE WEATHER FOR LAS VEGAS CHECK FOR GRAND CANYON BECAUSE IT’S ACTUALLY IN ARIZONA. It can be warm in Las Vegas but quite cold in the Grand Canyon, so be sure to check the weather for the canyon itself so you can dress appropriately.
- Be on time, as other people who are part of the tour will be affected by delays.
- It is group based so expect to be around lots of other people
- Pick up and drop off times vary depending on how far your hotel is, so don’t book any activities after the tour ends as delays can occur even though the estimated drop off time is 9:00 PM.
If you only have a limited time in Vegas and can’t stay in a hotel at the Grand Canyon overnight, then this is a good tour to see. It takes you from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon in an efficient and safe manner, and you don’t really lose our on too many South Rim views. I definitely loved the South Rim – maybe next time I can see another portion of the canyon as well.