Tours of the Grand Canyon, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the Hoover Dam are an indispensible part of a trip to the American Southwest. Of course, there are so many options to choose from, whether you’re deciding on how you want to explore – On horseback? Via helicopter? In a raft? – or what you want to see – the South Rim? Grand Canyon West? Lake Mead? – there are a lot of moving pieces that go into a Grand Canyon vacation.
The best way to begin planning your ideal Grand Canyon vacation is by figuring out where you’re based during your stay in the region. Are you also exploring Las Vegas, and have a hotel there? Or are you staying elsewhere in Arizona? Are you coming from the west or the east? As you make your decisions, you should be aware that there are four primary areas that Grand Canyon area tours depart from: Las Vegas, Grand Canyon West, Tusayan, and Lees Ferry. Here is an overview of their basic attributes and what’s available at each location.
This is one of the more popular departure places for tours and other excursions because many people like to explore the city in addition to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, et al. More bus and aerial tours depart from this location than from any other destination, but that often means the tours are longer and therefore more expensive (taking into account the time it take just to get out to the Grand Canyon). These tours, however, are possibly also the most convenient because almost all companies offer hotel pickup, making transit a breeze for visitors unfamiliar with the area.
This small town, located near the southernmost entrance to the park, is the departure point for a wide variety of tours. It’s home to the South Rim Airport Terminal, making it a popular destination for aerial flight in the region. Its proximity to Grand Canyon Village also makes it an excellent introduction to the Grand Canyon National Park, with easy access to bus and jeep tours, the National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitors Center, and the indispensible IMAX movie. Available tours include helicopter and fixed-wing airplane tours, rafting excursions, guided hikes, and Jeep tours.
Grand Canyon West is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian Tribe, so many of the tour activities are run through their Grand Canyon Resort Corporation. Available tours include whitewater rafting trips, horseback rides, helicopter tours, and a shuttle bus. Outside companies also operate tours within Grand Canyon West, including helicopter and plane tours. Tours that start else ware and pass through Grand Canyon West generally include admission fees to Grand Canyon West itself, and offer the opportunity to enjoy the many tourist attractions available within. A trip here is a destination unto itself.
Flagstaff, Arizona has a little bit of something for everyone. Perfectly located to serve as your base of operations while visiting the remarkable Northern Arizona area, Flagstaff occupies a prime spot approximately 45 minutes east of Williams, 45 minutes north of Sedona, and 90 minutes south of Grand Canyon National Park. Flagstaff is home to a significant number of hotels, restaurants, and shops, as well as Northern Arizona University. Nearby you will find local attractions like Lowell Observatory, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Coconino National Forest, and more. On account of its location in the middle of a great number of famous landmarks and popular attractions, Flagstaff is also the departure point for many different air, bus, and coach-van tours that explore Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and beyond.
Widely known as the “Gateway to Grand Canyon National Park,” the rustic small town Williams, Arizona, is located approximately one hour due south of Grand Canyon Village and the heart of the world-famous South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Situated right alongside scenic Route 66, Williams is home to a variety of alluring shops, restaurants, and assorted businesses. Williams is also home to the Grand Canyon Railway Depot—from which the iconic Grand Canyon Railway runs to and from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon—as well as other popular local attractions as the Route 66 Zipline and Bearizona Wildlife Park. Several different guided tours depart from Williams, providing visitors with the means for comfortably and enjoyably touring the area’s spectacular natural beauty and acclaimed landmarks.
The charming town of Sedona, Arizona, is located a little over two hours from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, right near the heart of beautiful Coconino National Forest. Sedona is renowned for its stunning red-rock landscapes, quirky shops and restaurants, and mystical power vortexes that draw spirituality seekers from all over the world. A wide selection of guided tours depart from Sedona, offering scenic excursions to a number of regional landmarks by air, jeep, and coach-van. Area highlights include Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, and many more attractions—both in greater Sedona, as well as nearby Flagstaff, Williams, and of course, Grand Canyon National Park.
This tiny town provides convenient access to both sides of the Colorado River, and is an immensely popular destination and point of departure for rafting trips along the river. A wide selection of companies offer rafting trips through the region, from two-week long adventures to daylong outings. There are also a variety of price points for interested visitors, making a trip here a good option for experienced and new rafters alike. From intense whitewater rafting to serene kayaking, there’s something to interest all travelers who want to experience the grandeur and excitement of the Colorado River.