Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tours from Las Vegas
The quickest and most affordable way to experience the Grand Canyon is to take a West Rim bus tour. These road trips depart every morning from Las Vegas and come with everything you need so there's nothing else to bring but your enthusiasm for adventure and sightseeing.
Nearly all bus tours come with free hotel pick up and drop off. This is a fabulous perk because cab fares are on the rise. Further, self-driving to the starting point can get rather tricky if you've never motored through the city before. Lunch is also included as are all National Park fees and taxes. On average, you get up to 3 hours to explore the West Rim.
The route to the West Rim includes driving along Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the U.S., and a 15-minute photo stop at Hoover Dam, the structure responsible for managing the flow of the impossibly beautiful Colorado River. The remainder of the drive through Black Canyon (where Hoover is located) is through road cuts amid an outlandishly rugged and pitched gorge.
Quick word to self-drivers: I don't recommend it. The dirt road is pretty rough on vehicles. Tour buses have been outfitted to deal with it; in fact, you'll hardly know you've left the "civilized" part of the road. If you go it alone, definitely rent an SUV. The rental car company will explain that you can't take it off road so what you do is your business. What I can tell you is that by the end of the day you'll pay an extraordinary amount in gas, car insurance, parking, Park fees and more. Bottom line: It's way cheaper to take a bus tour.
Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West, also known as the West Rim, is 120 miles west of Las Vegas. Tour buses make the trip in about 2.5 hours. The Park is located on the million-acre Hualapai Indian Reservation. Presently, the main attraction is the Grand Canyon Skywalk complex. That's due to change as the Tribe contemplates adding more restaurants, shopping, luxury lounges, a hotel and even a tram to the bottom.
Until then, the main points of interest include the Indian Cultural Center, Eagle Point and Guano Point where miners excavated bat guano for fertilizer (an activity that led to the location being dubbed the "bat cave.") The Tribe runs a great shuttle service that services the two Points. There's also a rim-side trail you can walk but use caution as there are no guardrails.
Two other noteworthy places include the Indian Cultural Center and Hualapai Ranch. The Center is basically an outdoor interpretive museum featuring a re-constructed Hualapai village. I urge you to go inside the dwellings and imagine yourself braving the simplistic desolation that surrounds you. The Ranch recreates a 19th Century western town. Cowboys roam the streets and mock gunfights break out hourly (kids love the action!).
The West Rim's claim to fame is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This U-shaped structure is made out of imported glass and lets you walk 70 feet past the edge. By the time you get out to its apex, you're standing a whopping 3,500 feet over the bottom! The Skywalk is not included in basic bus packages. If you decide you want to experience it, you can purchase tickets from your driver. Otherwise, go to Eagle Point, where you can take incredible photos of the bridge.
Total tour time: 12.5 hours.
The climate at the West Rim is a lot like Las Vegas' but more extreme. Summers are hot and temperatures regularly break 100 degrees. I strongly recommend bringing a hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, sun block and a pair of running shoes. Staying hydrated is a big deal in the desert so keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Winters are generally mild but the weather can change fast. These shifts are generally marked by wind. My recommendation here is to bring a windbreaker and dress in layers.
Buses used on these trips are state-of-the-art. Most are equipped with oversized viewing windows, recliner style seats with lots of personal space, plasma TVs, incredible A/C and spotless on-board lavatories. These rigs use a quiet-ride suspension system - for the most part, you wont' feel the road, including the dirt stretch I mentioned earlier. There are no pre-recorded narrations for foreign guests.
Bus tours are incredibly popular and sell out. Don't wait until you get into Las Vegas to book these tours. I always recommend booking them at least a week in advance, especially from March to November. Re-confirm your trip once you arrive in town and get settled into your hotel room. Pack and print your confirmation letter. It will contain all details include the trip itinerary, local contact phone numbers, shuttle pick up point and your confirmation number. Lastly, make sure that everyone over the age of 18 brings photo identification.
The best bus deals are on the Internet. I regularly get Web pricing that's nearly 35% cheaper than retail. But remember: In order to get that incredible online deal, you must purchase it on the website in order to qualify for it. I can't tell you how many times good folks like you and me find the perfect online deal only to botch it by calling customer service to book it. Do that and you'll be sold a more expensive tour or given the runaround about the price. Get the price you deserve. Book it online.