If the more demanding long drives on road trips are not for you or you simply don’t have enough time to plan a fulfilling itinerary from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, then you’re probably considering going on one of the many organized tours in order to visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas and return to the city on the same day. Among them, the lion’s share is taken by the helicopter tours, to which we have dedicated more than one article on this website, but today I would like to focus on another type of tour: the bus tours.
There are many tourists who take the bus tours and, while on one hand they allow you to cover a distance in many cases would be prohibitive if you travel on your own, on the other hand they are often tiring, because of the long hours spent on the bus. In reality, as we will see, not all these tours have this problem. So let’s figure out which bus tours take you from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, which agencies provide them and which tour you should book (at least from my point of view).
Which is the Best Rim for a Grand Canyon Bus Tour?
First of all, let’s start with a brief introduction. As you know, there are at least 3 areas of the Grand Canyon, which are the South Rim, the most popular, the North Rim, which is quieter and not as crowded by tourists, and the West Rim, run by the Hualapai Tribe and known worldwide for the Skywalk. Which of these areas have bus tours? Only the South Rim and West Rim.
There are major differences between these two areas. Let’s take a close look at the Grand Canyon tours available:
Grand Canyon South Rim Bus Tours from Las Vegas
The South Rim (the southern edge of the Grand Canyon) is at least 4.5 hours from Las Vegas. This means that by traveling to and from the canyon you’ll have to spend most of your time on the bus, which will only be partially mitigated by the pleasantness of some scenic views, a few stops along the way (for example, the Hoover Dam) and the entertainment provided by the tour agency (for example, TV and WiFi). Usually, this type of tour lasts around 14-15 hours, but you can still count on the convenience of the transportation to and from the hotel in Las Vegas.
The South Rim area has its pros and cons. You will be able to see the impressive views of the immense canyon, which is probably the most popular attraction in all of Arizona, and consequently, you will likely be in the company of many other tourists.
Pros and Cons Summary
Best South Rim Tours from Las Vegas
- South Rim tour with snacks and lunch (same tour with a professional guide at this page), organized by Grand Canyon Destinations, a family business that tours from Las Vegas to the South Rim, West Rim, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Zion Park and Bryce Canyon.
- Guided tour of the South Rim, managed by SW Excursion & Educational Tours, a company founded in 2000 that offers tours to the same destinations as Grand Canyon Destinations.
- South Rim bus tours, operated by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, a leading helicopter tour company founded in 1965. In addition to air tours (helicopter and airplane) it also provides tours with land vehicles, such as buses, hummers and jeeps.
- Bus tours to the South Rim, operated by Gray Line of Las Vegas, a company famous throughout the United States for its scenic bus tours in major American cities.
Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tours from Las Vegas
Grand Canyon West may not be as well known as the South Rim and it may not have the same variety and number of overlooks, but it can boast the Skywalk, the viewing platform suspended over the canyon, which is the main reason people go to the West Rim.
In addition, the western edge of the canyon has another significant advantage, which is the shorther distance from Las Vegas. The Grand Canyon can be reached in about half the time it takes to reach the South Rim, which should not be underestimated when considering a 1-day tour. Here you probably won’t find the same large crowds found in the South Rim, even if to tell the truth the tourists come here in large numbers, so from this point of view the difference is not so relevant.
As for the cost, instead, expect to spend a bit more for the West Rim tours. The reason is largely due to the price of the Grand Canyon West ticket, managed by the Hualapai Tribe, who charge a higher rate than the National Park Service, which manages the South Rim entrance prices.
Pros and Cons Summary
Best Grand Canyon West Rim Tours from Las Vegas
- Bus tours from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon operated by Grand Canyon Destinations
- Optional Grand Canyon + Skywalk hummer tour, organized by Big Horn Tours, specializing in small group tours to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. It was founded in 2005.
So Which Rim Should You Choose?
Looking at the list of tours provided above, you can see that before you select the tour, you will have to choose which Rim to visit. It is true that the South Rim definitely offers a more classic experience of the Grand Canyon and the possibility to enjoy more beautiful views (but this may actually depend on your taste). However, traveling to and from the Grand Canyon in a single day is quite burdensome, especially for those who cannot stand the long trips.
This problem is solved by opting for the West Rim tours, with a travel time that is much more manageable. You may not see the boundless views of the South Rim, but you can somehow “make up for it” with the Skywalk and 2 other viewpoints, which are Guano Point and Eagle Point (where the Skywalk itself is actually located).
The only real drawback, which I have already mentioned, could be the price. The cost of these tours, combined with the Skywalk (I strongly advise against booking tours without the entrance to the platform), is on average $50-$60 higher than the South Rim tours. However, the investment should be considered seriously, since it will save you at least 4 hours of bus time. In brief, this is the main reason why I suggest to opt for the West Rim rather than the South Rim.
Both tours available to visit the West Rim, namely, the most expensive hummer tour and the cheapest bus tour, boast excellent reviews and, if it’s within your budget, there’s nothing to stop you from combining one of these tours with a scenic helicopter tour, which will give you a more complete and unforgettable experience of the Grand Canyon (if you are interested in an overview of this type of tour you can also read our guide Grand Canyon by helicopter: how to choose between the available flights? ).
If, on the other hand, so many hours of bus travel are not such a big problem for you, then you can certainly re-evaluate the South Rim option, and, among the many tours available on this side of the Grand Canyon (listed above), you can easily choose the one that convinces you the most based on the tourists’ reviews and whether or not you find the tour to be thorough.