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How to Get to the Grand Canyon: Nearest Airports to the Grand Canyon and Other Fun Ways to Get There

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Map of the Grand Canyon

Choosing a Grand Canyon adventure for your vacation is a no-brainer; as the second most visited National Park in 2022, it’s on many a bucket list and certainly worth the hype. But a quick look at the map can easily stump travel planners as they see the remote location of the canyon and wonder how best to get there. Let’s explore the options available including the nearest airports to the Grand Canyon as well as alternative transportation to help you enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Which part of the Grand Canyon is right for me?

Let’s get specific: which part of the Grand Canyon should you visit? We have all seen pictures and advertisements enticing us to see this world wonder, but the sheer size of the canyon can be daunting, and whether you’re planning your first visit or your fifth, it’s important to identify your particular areas of interest.

South Rim

Beautiful view of the Grand Canyon

Most easily accessible and definitely the most popular, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is likely what you’ve been seeing on much of your travel planning material. Open year-round, it’s a great place to start for first-time visitors and families because of its accessibility and its wide range of resources, amenities and activities. You can get your first look at the canyon on the Rim Trail, participate in a Park Ranger program, or check out a visitor center, gallery or museum. The historic El Tovar Hotel on the rim is worth seeing even if you’re not staying the night, and helpful park staff support and complements guided tours and other canyon experiences. You can see the canyon from dozens of viewpoints and charter helicopter, jeep, airplane and rafting tours from nearby Tusayan. Camp, hike, bike, explore—just don’t forget to get your National Park Passport stamped before you leave.

North Rim

Beautiful View of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Open only from mid-May to mid-October due to heavy snowfall, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits at an elevation of 8,000 feet and runs a good 10 degrees cooler than the South Rim. Visitors to the North Rim enjoy a quieter, wilder experience perfect for those with a deep love of the outdoors and communion with nature. Because of the elevation, vegetation such as maple, oak, birch and aspen trees abound and offer a fantastic fall foliage display toward the end of September. Campers, sightseers, photographers and hikers tend to love this side of the canyon as it’s less developed. The Grand Canyon lodge does offer accommodations within the park, but lodging and other amenities in surrounding areas are much more scarce than at the South Rim.

West Rim

Skywalk at West Rim of the Grand Canyon

The West Rim has become a popular destination thanks to the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk, a u-shaped glass bridge that allows guests to walk out over the canyon with an unobstructed clear floor beneath them. Nearby Guano Point takes you back to the historic efforts of miners who treacherously attempted collecting guano (rich in nitrogen, thus a great fertilizer) from caves discovered in the canyon. Located on the Hualapai reservation, Eagle Point offers a look at the canyon through the lens of its rich Native American Heritage with a glimpse of traditional architecture, dance, music and handcrafted jewelry and weaving. Seeking an adrenaline rush? Check out a zip line adventure that takes you soaring above a side canyon or plan a white water rafting trip on the Colorado River. You’ll also have access to cabins and RV parking. While not part of Grand Canyon National Park itself, Grand Canyon West has plenty of fantastic views and activities for a well-rounded experience of the canyon.

East Rim

Desert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon East

The East Rim of the canyon is a great one to combine with your South Rim experience. Desert View Drive is a 23-mile road that parallels the South Rim and connects the Grand Canyon Village with the East Entrance. You can stop and take a hike or check out various lookout points along your way. But you won’t want to miss the main attraction near the end: the Desert View Watchtower. Designed by architect Mary Colter, it provides stunning and unique views, especially at sunset. You won’t find lodging at the East Rim, but there is a seasonal campground, trading post, general store and gas station. Head north about 9 miles and you’ll find Horseshoe Bend, a meander of the Colorado River near Page, AZ. This landmark is sometimes referred to as the “East Rim of the Grand Canyon” and is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Horseshoe Bend is known for its stunning views and photo ops of the Colorado River, which at the Grand Canyon is usually only visible from a great distance unless you travel into the canyon itself. Horseshoe Bend is also near Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell, two other popular Northern Arizona destinations. Visiting this “East Rim” is a spectacular introduction to the network of surrounding canyons and sights.

How do I get there?

Once you’ve chosen your Grand Canyon destination(s), it’s time to figure out the logistics of getting there. Let’s tackle the options and see what combination might be the perfect balance of convenience and fun for your personalized Grand Canyon experience.

By Plane: Nearest Airports to the Grand Canyon

Harry Reid International Airport

It’s likely your trip will include at least one flight. The nearest airports to the Grand Canyon are Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS), and the St. George Regional Airport in St. George, UT (SGU). Depending on your Grand Canyon destination, what’s closest might not necessarily be the most advantageous, so let’s take a look at these options and what adventures and preferences they might best accommodate.

Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG): Flagstaff, AZ

This commuter airport in the mountainous college town of Flagstaff is the closest to the Grand Canyon with just a 90-minute drive to the South Rim and about a 4-hour drive to the West or North. If you enjoy smaller airports that are easy to navigate, this could be the perfect option for you. Car rentals, taxis, private car services and shuttles are all available ground transportation upon your arrival. You’ll likely want to spend some time in Flagstaff before you head to the canyon as it offers a historic downtown, great food, and plenty of recreational activities in an idyllic mountain setting. While it may save you some drive time, the downside to this otherwise great option is that you’ll likely have connecting flights and pay more in airfare as all flights to FLG are routed through Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth, or Denver.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): Phoenix, AZ

If you don’t mind a little extra driving to save some money with a direct flight, consider the Phoenix airport. As Arizona’s largest airport, PHX offers everything you could need in the way of affordable flights, ground transportation rentals, food, shopping, etc. The drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from this option is about 4 hours with two scenic routes to choose from. You’ll start in the beautiful Sonoran Desert with its towering saguaro cacti and head north on I-17. Continuing on the interstate will take you through the Verde River Valley and up through ponderosa pine forests to Flagstaff and on to the Grand Canyon. Interesting attractions along the way (or not far from the path) include Arcosanti, an experimental arcology community; Jerome, a haunted historic copper-mining town and artistic hub; and the famous red rocks of Sedona. An alternative route will take you from I-17 to US-89 N from which you can visit historic Whiskey Row in Prescott or get your kicks on Route 66 in Williams, AZ before heading to the South Rim. Driving to the West or North Rims from PHX will take you about 4.5 and 6 hours respectively.

Harry Reid International Airport (LAS): Las Vegas, NV

Formerly known as McCarren International airport, this is a great option for any trip to the Grand Canyon. From Vegas it’s about a 4-hour drive to the South Rim. Alternatively it is a 5 hour drive to the North Rim, and only a 2-hour drive to Grand Canyon West. It’s a hub for Allegiant, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit Airlines, so affordable fares are usually available, and there are plenty of options for ground transportation upon your arrival. Plus, what could be more fun than adding a stop in Vegas to your itinerary! Even if Vegas isn’t part of your plan, this airport lands travelers at a great jumping off point for visits to Bryce Canyon, Zion, Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend.

St. George Regional Airport (SGU): St. George, UT

Another small airport option ideal for access to the North and East Rims of the Grand Canyon is the St. George Regional Airport. Like Flagstaff, it makes for a low-stress travel experience without the hustle and bustle of an International Airport, and ground transportation rentals are available. But, also like Flagstaff, flights are limited, often more expensive, and routed through Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth or Denver. The advantage of this airport lies in its proximity to other desirable attractions that may be on your itinerary such as Bryce Canyon, Zion, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Monument Valley, and it puts you closer to them than flying into Vegas.

By Train: Amtrak and the Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway

Rail buffs or even those just looking to enjoy a more relaxed travel experience should consider hopping a train to see the majestic Grand Canyon. Amtrak offers several train tours that will safely and scenically get you to your destination without the hassle of navigating entrance to the park and parking options on your own. The Grand Canyon Getaway is a 4-day excursion that takes you from historic Williams, AZ to the canyon and back on the Grand Canyon Railway. Coming from elsewhere and want more fun on the train? They offer a Rails to the Grand Canyon 5-day trip that leaves from Los Angeles. And for true train enthusiasts, check out their Grand Canyon Discovery 10-day trip leaving from Chicago, IL. All options connect you to the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the South Rim, a fun-filled, authentic journey that begins with a Wild West show before departure and includes cowboy entertainment and a train robbery along the ride. Informed and passionate staff can educate you on your journey to help you plan and experience the canyon your way.

By Automobile: Road Trip!

Route 66 Highway

Driving is likely to be necessary in your Grand Canyon journey at some point, and we’ve already discussed some great additional attractions to consider as you do so. But why not make a road trip of the whole experience? The convenience of being on your own schedule and the freedom of the open road will no doubt prove the best travel option for those with flexible itineraries (and the desire to control their vacation playlist).

Rim to Rim

No need to limit your Grand Canyon visit to one rim—try driving from one to another! About a 5-hour drive can take you from the South Rim to the North while hitting the East on your way. Beginning at the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, take SR 64 along the Desert View Drive we mentioned above. Just past mile marker 246 there’s a dirt lot that leads to an unmarked trailhead for Shoshone Point. Consider stretching your legs on this 2-mile hike that leads to a stunning, quiet view of the canyon. Other points along the drive offer great stops for scenic canyon overlooks, and don’t forget the watchtower. Exiting the park at the East Rim you’ll drive through the Painted Desert and the Navajo Nation. Make a pit stop at the Cameron Trading Post for Navajo Tacos and native artwork and jewelry. US-89 N and US-89A N will take you to Jacob Lake. And another hour on AZ-67 S will take you to the North Rim.

Route 66: The Mother Road

Originally spanning 8 states, Historic Route 66 epitomizes the American road trip experience. The National Register of Historic Places lists over 250 buildings, bridges, and other sites along Route 66—places that remind us of a time when automobiles still carried with them a sort of magic and roads were more than just a means to an end. Every stop along the way meant excitement, relief or hope for those who traveled it, and to attempt even a partial recreation of this nostalgic journey today would no doubt delight and surprise road trippers of any age.

What does this have to do with the Grand Canyon? As we’ve established, entrance to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon can only be achieved by going through Flagstaff or Williams, AZ, both of which fall along the original Historic Route 66. Wherever you start your journey along the Mother Road, Flagstaff and Williams are must-see stops and countless others would no doubt welcome your business as they work to keep this nostalgic route alive.

Enjoy the Journey

Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile (or some combination of the three), you’ll no doubt arrive at the Grand Canyon in comfort and style with the realization that half the fun is in the getting there. If you need a place to stay, we unabashedly suggest Backland Glamping Resort—we’re right on the way! Conveniently located in Williams, AZ, whatever transportation you choose will lead you straight to us and our unique luxury camping experience. Let us be your home base for all your Grand Canyon adventures. A good night’s rest in one of our eco tent suites under the stars will perfectly prepare your heart and mind for an unforgettable pilgrimage to any and all facets of the grandest of canyons.


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