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This past summer, my family and I experienced a most epic southwest road trip to the Grand Canyon driving through Nevada and Arizona. There are so many ways to do this trip and I’ve planned my family’s adventure, and four similar trips for clients. I am excited to share our Grand Canyon road trip itinerary and trip report to give you options if you are interested in planning something like this with your family.
Planning a Road Trip to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon can be accessed by flying to Las Vegas or Phoenix – it’s about equidistant from both. I’ve planned this Grand Canyon road trip for four clients and three had each done one-way adventures, flying into one city and out of the other, and the other did round-trip from Phoenix.
My family started and ended our trip in Las Vegas since the flight prices and schedules for that worked best for us. Each day was an adventure and this was truly a great trip. It was a lot of planning and moving parts, but our trip was enjoyed by all and I love planning trips like these!
Here is our road trip to the Grand Canyon day to day itinerary and how it went:
Day 1 – Flying to Las Vegas, our starting point for our Grand Canyon Road Trip and a visit to the Hoover Dam
We flew from New York to Las Vegas on a Saturday morning. With the time change, we really seized the day taking off at 8AM, and landing at 10:30AM.
Upon landing, we picked up our luggage and picked up a rental car at the Las Vegas airport.
Our first stop was lunch at Sinful Subs, a local Las Vegas sub shop that I had seen on social media and did not disappoint! If you are in the West Las Vegas area, be sure to check them out!
Our second stop was Wal-Mart.
Good times, I know!
We wanted to stock up on waters, wine, snacks, and breakfast items. We also needed to purchase water shoes for our kayaking trip the following day.
Once we were fed, and stocked up – we headed out to the Hoover Dam.
The Hoover Dam is about a thirty minute drive from Las Vegas. We traveled in August 2021, so they still were not giving tours or allowing guests in the visitors center. But you can park for $10 and self-tour.
When you walk across the dam, on one side is Nevada. Half-way across the dam, you enter Arizona. Which is a fun geography phenomenon, but in the winter months, you are also crossing into a different (one hour later) time zone when you venture into Arizona.
Arizona does not observe daylight savings time so in the summer, it’s on Pacific Time (like Nevada) and in the winter, its in the Mountain time zone.
After walking around for about an hour (it was very hot on the day of our visit), we headed to our hotel for the night, and the first of the trip – the Hoover Dam Lodge and Casino in Boulder City, Nevada.
This hotel is only about five minutes from the dam, and was the perfect spot for our first night. I was so tired after waking up early on the east coast, flying out, and touring the dam, so I knew I didn’t want to make the drive (3+ hours) to the Grand Canyon that day. I also wanted to explore more of the Lake Mead area in the morning.
The Hoover Dam Lodge was honestly nicer than I thought it would be. The rooms were huge! Our room had two king beds, a sofa, desk, TV and a nice bathroom. Everything we needed to rest for the night.
We also enjoyed the outdoor pool and on-site café. If you are looking to gamble, there is a small, machine-only casino, on site.
Day 2 – Kayaking the Colorado River and a bit of a blow out
With the time change, we were up early, had breakfast in the room, and checked out of the Hoover Dam Lodge.
I had booked a three hour, private, kayaking trip through Kayak Las Vegas that left from Willow Beach, Arizona in the Lake Mead National Park. We met our guide around 8:45 and spent the morning having a lovely paddle ride up the Colorado River.
This was the perfect tour for us – easy and scenic. Educational, but the trip also afforded us some exercise.
Our guide had water and snacks for us, and all of the equipment needed was provided. Well except water shoes, we had to buy those the day before at Wal-Mart! Or you could wear Teva’s or old sneakers. Just no flip flops.
Desert Adventures also offers full day tours that pick up from Las Vegas, and gives you a longer time on the water, and provides lunch. If you want a harder paddle to Emerald Cave, maybe this kayaking trip is for you.
At Willow Beach you could also rent equipment or pontoons to paddle or boat yourself. For more motorized water sports, you can visit Lake Mead proper. I had learned that the Dam is what separates the Colorado River from the Lake.
I wish we would have spent more time at Lake Mead, but maybe next time. I know there you can rent jet skis, and this SUP YOGA class looks pretty cool too!
Our tour ended around 12:30, and our plan was to head down to the Grand Canyon for our next stop for the night. We had lunch in Kingman at In-n-Out (a fun stop for us east coast folk) but when rolling down the highway, we blew a tire!
This was not fun, but thankfully we were close to a highway exit. We pulled off in Seligman, and ended up spending the night there!
Long story short, we were fortunate to get a tire, and to get stuck for the night in a town along Historic Route 66. We tried to make the best of it, having a nice dinner at Westside Lilo’s Cafe and spending the night at the Deluxe Inn Motel.
Our original plan was to arrive at our Grand Canyon hotel, the Grand at the Grand Canyon late in the day and self-tour the park, so we did sadly lose that extra time near the Grand Canyon.
Day 3 – Back on the Road and Finally to the Grand Canyon
Monday morning arrived and so did our tire – our Grand Canyon guide offered to drive one up from Flagstaff for us and by 11AM we were on the road. This was truly the nicest act of kindness!
Finally on our way to the Grand Canyon, we stopped in Williams, Arizona for lunch at a cute little diner right on Route 66. The towns of Williams and Seligman are fun to visit, stop for a meal or some pics, but don’t plan to get stranded with a flat!
After lunch, we did FINALLY make it to the Grand at the Grand Canyon and we were immediately disappointed we did not get to spend two nights here – this hotel is the perfect place to stay when visiting the South Entrance of the Grand Canyon!
A beautiful hotel, just two miles south of the south rim entrance, we loved the rustic theming and well-appointed rooms.
But no time to wallow in that, we had our private, guided hike scheduled for 3PM and we had a canyon to see! Our guide, Jon, from Only Grand Canyon Day Hikes, picked us up at our hotel and had all the food, water and equipment we needed to hike the Kaibab Trail.
If you are visiting the Canyon, I HIGHLY recommend a hike with Jon. There is no better way to see the canyon then from going INSIDE it!
Yes, you can hike yourself, but that is definitely not recommended unless you really are an experienced hiker.
Hiking in is so much better than seeing it from the rim.
The hike was hard, challenging, but one of the best things we’ve done as a family. We were exhausted after our hike and went back to the hotel and passed out.
Day 4 – More time at the Grand Canyon and a Night of Glamping
We woke up at the Grand, enjoyed coffee on the balcony and swam at the hotel’s indoor pool before packing up and checking out.
The hike was everything, but we did want to explore the Grand Canyon a little bit more. We had a lunch reservation scheduled for 12:45 at the dining room at the el Tovar Hotel, which is one of the National Park Lodges.
We were able to park at the hotel and enjoyed a delicious lunch with a great view of the Canyon. The el Tovar dining room overlooks the Canyon, so this is definitely a must do when visiting the Grand Canyon.
After lunch, we walked around that area of the rim, called the Village. There is an ice cream shop, gift shop and more phenomenal views.
We did ride around to the visitor center – which is currently offering all of its resources and info outdoors.
After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we headed back to Tusayan to the Grand Canyon Information Center. This is where the Pink Jeep tours meet and where you can buy tickets for the Grand Canyon IMAX movie.
The IMAX movie is shown every hour on the half-hour and is about 35 minutes long. Hubby and I enjoyed it, the kids thought it was too educational – but yes, we did learn a bunch about the history of the Grand Canyon!
After the movie, it was time to head to our home for the night, Clear Sky Resorts.
This is a glamping resort about 20 minutes south of Tusayan.
We were so excited to stay in the dome, and the experience exceeded our expectations. This was a SUPER FUN thing to do – we wish we had arrived earlier than 5PM (check in time is at 4PM) to fully enjoy all the on-site amenities. So definitely plan to arrive earlier!
I did a full review of the Clear Sky Resorts at the Grand Canyon, so check that out.
Day 5- Heading to Las Vegas
On day 5, well-adjusted to Pacific Time, we woke up with the sun. We purposely left the shades open in our dome to wake up at sunrise. We also needed to return our rental car by 11:30AM and it was about a 3.5 hour drive from Clear Sky Resorts to Las Vegas.
The ride between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas is really beautiful. The Grand Canyon is at a much higher elevation than Las Vegas, so its cooler and greener. As you descend, it gets hotter and more desert like.
We did make it back to the rental car office on time, ditched the car, and took an Uber to our hotel, where we would finally be able to unpack and sleep for more than one night!
In Las Vegas, we stayed at the Venetian/Palazzo resort – our favorite in Las Vegas! A great choice for all, but especially families because the standard room is a big suite. They also have great pool areas and the Canal shoppes have some fun eateries and stores for kids.
Days 6 & 7 – Enjoying Las Vegas with Kids
Over our three nights in Las Vegas, we did a ton of fun stuff.
We spent quite some time at the Palazzo pool, which is a great way to beat the heat.
We did also explore the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian (which is so funny because in September of 2019, we did visit the real Venice).
On the first day we visited the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, the HyperX e-sports arena at Luxor, and the Big Apple Arcade at New York, New York. On day two, we visited the Mirage, walked the LINQ promenade, and rode the High Roller.
There are definitely lots of fun things to do in Vegas with kids, and even just walking around and checking out all the themed hotels is fun (and mostly free!).
Day 8 – Time to Head Home
On our final morning, we packed up and headed back to the Las Vegas airport. Heading back to the east coast, you lose three hours of your day, but it was time to go home and get ready for school to start later in the week. And to start planning our next trip!
Grand Canyon Road Trip Variation #1: Phoenix to Las Vegas
For one of my clients, I planned a slight variation of our itinerary, where they started in Phoenix and ended in Las Vegas.
This family flew to Phoenix in the evening, picked up a rental car at the Phoenix airport, and stayed at an airport hotel the first night.
Day two was spent exploring Sedona on the way up to the Grand at the Grand Canyon. They spent two nights at the Grand Canyon doing a bike tour and self-touring before heading to Las Vegas for two nights. They kept their rental car the whole time, so could explore the greater Las Vegas area, including jet skiing on Lake Mead!
Grand Canyon Road Trip Variation #2: Las Vegas to Phoenix
Last spring, I put together a trip for a family starting in Las Vegas and finishing in Phoenix. They spent the first three nights at the Venetian, with one whole day out on the Colorado River with Kayak Las Vegas. They then grabbed a rental car and headed to the Grand at the Grand Canyon for two nights. After that, they drove down to Phoenix for two nights at a luxury desert resort, the JW Marriott.
These are all great ways to do a Grand Canyon Road Trip. One-way affords you the ability to not have to double back to where you have already been, but round trip might be more convenient and/or less expensive.
Southwest Road Trip to the Grand Canyon Tips:
Here are some tips to make your road trip to the Grand Canyon the best, no matter where you start –
- The Grand Canyon is at a higher elevation than Las Vegas or Phoenix, so you will need to pack for two different climates. Be sure to check your weather apps to pack appropriately.
- Bring a car phone charger – you will need that for the GPS
- Keep your car stocked with lots of water – maybe bring a small cooler if you can!
- On the roads out west, services are few and far between – towns are on average about every 20 miles so be sure to not get stuck without gas/bathroom/food.
- Be sure to travel with a spare tire – even a donut. Our fatal flaw and I will never, EVER, rent a car again without a spare!
- If you have a fourth grade student, you can get a FREE every kid in the park pass. Or you can purchase an annual National Park pass.
- Use a travel professional to help plan your trip. Yes, we can assist with a trip like this. I can put together a package with flights, hotels, rental cars and make sure you are booked for all the best tours and excursions! Plus I don’t charge a fee for my planning services – I get paid by the vendors we book through. Just click the banner below to get started!
I am so glad we decided to road trip the southwest and cross off my bucket list item of exploring the Grand Canyon! Las Vegas with kids was super fun, and my whole family loved this vacation. I cannot wait to help more families plan this epic southwest adventure!
Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Did you road trip from Phoenix? Las Vegas? Los Angeles? Or somewhere else? Leave me a comment and tell me all about it!