Deciding between a tour to West Rim or the South Rim of the Grand Canyon while visiting Las Vegas? That’s a tough one. Both attractions are worth the trip. However, if you approach the planning process based on budget and logistics you can easily figure out which rim is for you.
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Driving from Las Vegas to the West Rim takes 2.5 hours and from Vegas to the South Rim takes 5.5 hours. Budget a whole day for either trip. The South Rim bus, which leaves early, will have you back at the hotel at 9 p.m., whilst the West Rim bus returns by 6 p.m.
How Far Is It?
The West Rim is 128 miles from Vegas; The South Rim is 279 miles. Both are full-blown road trips. Fortunately, today’s motor coach has all the amenities, including plush seats and a clean bathroom. There are also a number of stops where you can stretch your legs (including Hoover Dam).
Things to do
Here’s where the rims differ. The West Rim has more man-made attractions; the South, more natural ones. The South Rim is also more developed and features more dining, hiking, and shopping opportunities. Here are specifics:
This part of the Park is filled with famous view points, including Mather Point, Yaki Point, Yavapai Observation Station, Hermit’s Rest and more.
Plenty of casual dining here. My favorite is the restaurant in the Bright Angel Lodge, which serves up huge portions of affordably priced home-cooked food. Go to Maswick Lodge for cafeteria-style dining. There is a small snack bar behind the Lodge Restaurant. High-end dining (and cocktails) can be had at El Tovar. Near Mather Campground is a supermarket with deli, fried foods, and pizza.
There are mementos for everyone. For Native American crafts, shop Hopi House (can be high-priced). The gift shop at Bright Angel Lodge, Verkamp’s, and Lookout Studio are good for souvenirs. Visit Kolb Studio for fine western art.
Grand Canyon West
The Glass Walkway
The Glass Bridge has grown to become Las Vegas’ hottest “off-Strip” attraction. Since opening to the public in 2007, more than one million people have experienced the Bridge. The structure itself is a marvel: It’s made entirely of glass and lets you walk 70 feet past the edge of the rim whereupon you will be suspended 4,000 feet over the Colorado River.
Includes an authentic western town with live gunfights. Horse riding and river rafting starts here. Helicopters are available to take travelers to the bottom of the rim. Over-night accommodations are available for longer stays.
Eagle Point is the most important lookout for the West Rim. Stunning views are to be had. Be aware that at present there are no guard-rails. There’s also an Indian Village where that includes tee pees, native homes, and an outdoor amphitheater where the Hualapai share their culture through dance and singing performances.
The West Rim continues to be evolving. Currently, there’s the gift shop run by the Hualapai Indian Tribe. Inside, the facility is nicely supplied with souvenirs and snacks. Bus tours include a delicious BBQ lunch prepared by the Hualapai.
The South Rim, elevation 7,000 feet, is 1,500 feet higher than the West Rim, so anticipate cooler temperatures. Other than that, both areas are susceptible to extreme weather. Here are annual temps by rim:
Elevation is 4,700 feet.
Jan. – March Average high temperature: 70 degrees. Average low: 43 degrees.
April – June: Average high temperature: 96 degrees. Average low: 65 degrees.
July – Sept.: Average high temperature: 105 degrees. Average low: 76 degrees.
Oct. – Dec.: Average high temperature: 76 degrees. Avg. low: 46 degrees.
Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)
Elevation is 7,000 feet
Jan. – March Avg. high temp.: 45 degrees. Average low: 21 degrees.
April – June: Avg. high temp.: 69 degrees. Avg. low: 39 degrees.
July – Sept.: Average high temperature: 82 degrees. Average low: 52 degrees.
Oct. – Dec.: Avg. high temp.: 52 degrees. Average low: 27 degrees.
What to Wear & What to Bring
Dress in layers during winter and wear loose, light clothing during summer. Count on winter snow at the South Rim and wear pants, shoes and a jacket (it’s not uncommon to see people in shorts!). Throughout the summer, always bring a water bottle and lots of sunscreen.
Tours to the West Rim start under $100. South Rim at $79. Tour prices are all-inclusive and come with all entrance fees, lunch, and guide. Book online for the absolute best price. Glass Walkway tickets are extra and cost $29.95 for adults, $22.95 for children ages 3-11, and $26.95 for seniors and military personnel.
Which rim is for you? The South Rim or the West Rim? Hmmm…. Both places feature incredible beauty and attractions. Truth of the matter is it depends on your budget and how much time you have. Concentrate on these two criteria and you’ll know which Grand Canyon tour is right for you.