The sun setting over the Grand Canyon National Park

Make the Most Out of One Day at the Grand Canyon

Sabrina Taylor


Trying to make the most out of your trip to the American Southwest? The Grand Canyon is a must! Just a short journey from Las Vegas, this massive feat of nature hosts over 6 million visitors annually, made up of families and explorers from around the world. There is no limit to the exploring that can be done at this national monument and the many regions within it, including the Grand Canyon National Park, also known as the South Rim, or the Grand Canyon West Rim. Many visitors opt to spend several days exploring the canyon and retiring to the historic hotels at night. However, even if you have an extra day in your Las Vegas vacation, then you have time for a Grand Canyon helicopter tour, airplane tour, and more. If you have just a day available to spend at the canyon, use this guide to learn how your time will be best spent.

Reach the Canyon Quicker

A panoramic Grand Canyon landscape

The Grand Canyon West is the region nearest to Las Vegas at just under a 3-hour drive. This region is actually accessible via helicopter, which cuts the travel time to about 45 minutes. The flight also includes incredible sights of Hoover Dam and the desert scenery along the way. An early morning Grand Canyon helicopter tour from Las Vegas will have you at the West Rim in no time, with a whole day ahead of you. You can even land down at the bottom of the canyon! Browse Grand Canyon helicopter tours that depart Las Vegas.

The Grand Canyon South Rim is about 280 miles from Las Vegas - a little over a 4-hour drive. Skip the scenic route and opt for an airplane tour from Las Vegas instead. You'll save 3 hours each way that you can spend exploring and sightseeing instead! Check out these Las Vegas airplane tours to the South Rim.

Understand the Size of the Park

A Grand Canyon landscape illuminated by sunlight

The Grand Canyon West features several incredible scenic areas including Eagle Point, where the Skywalk Bridge is located, as well as Guano Point, a Wild West town, and a Native American Cultural Center. Fortunately for visitors with a time limit, this area offers free shuttle service to each of these locations for faster transport. The West Rim is also the only area where Grand Canyon helicopter tours are permitted to land at the very bottom, the most exciting way to experience the massive stone walls and the Colorado River below.

On the other hand, the Grand Canyon National Park stretches 1,900 square miles, quite a distance for tourists on foot! Within this massive space, visitors will find dazzling canyon lookout points as well as the Grand Canyon Village, offering rustic dining options, dozens of gift and art shops, several hotels, and many historic buildings available to explore.

Many Grand Canyon tours offer shuttle transport to these destinations and lookout points throughout the park. If you're visiting the South Rim independently, researching places of interest and planning your day will help manage the time you have at the canyon. Most of these buildings and lookout points are within reasonable walking distance of one another, but knowing where you're heading will help cut down travel time or time wasted getting lost.

Plan for the Weather

The Grand Canyon National Park covered in snow

Although located in the desert, the Grand Canyon experiences a variety of weather patterns - including snow. The weather can also vary greatly from that in Las Vegas, as well. Be sure to check the forecast before leaving for your Grand Canyon tour, especially in the winter months. You don't want to be trapped indoors trying to escape the cold for your entire day! Be sure to check the weather before your tour so you can dress accordingly - or dress in layers to prepare for the fickle temperature changes.

Like any trip, planning in advance is the key to ensuring a smooth day of activity and no wasted time. Many tourists enjoy going with the flow and seeing what they stumble upon in their adventure; however, if you want to see as much of the South or West Rim as possible, a Grand Canyon helicopter tour or airplane tour is the way to go.