by JD Hancock
The Las Vegas Grand Canyon South Rim bus is regarded as the economical way to get to the national park. You don’t sacrifice comfort, either, especially when you travel on one of the new luxury buses that run this route. Before you climb aboard and settle into your plush seat, here are seven things you need to think about before you hit the road:
1. The South Rim is 270 miles away from Vegas and takes 5.5 hours to reach by bus. Tours include up to three hours at the rim. Travelers return to their Strip hotel around 9 p.m. Conservatively, budget 15 hours for this trip.
2. Review your itinerary and see if it includes a stop at the second-tallest bridge in the U.S. The new Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in October 2010 and it’s a sight to behold. Even better is walking across it. The thrill comes from being suspended 900 feet above the Colorado River. And the view of Hoover Dam is incredible.
3. Make sure your tour includes lunch. This is a long trip. Breakfast will get you as far as Kingman, AZ (make sure to load up on snacks here). The typical box lunch is OK for lunch. I recommend satisfying your hunger at the restaurant in the Bright Angel Lodge, where the servings are huge and delicious.
4. Dress appropriately. During summer, bring a hat, sunscreen, lots of water, and loose clothing like long-sleeved shirts and pants. A windbreaker comes in handy, too. South Rim winters are cold, even when the sun is out. I recommend you dress in layers for comfort and warmth. Bring a hat and/or beanie, scarf, gloves, and a medium weight jacket. Wear sturdy shoes and get a pair of YakTrakz walker crampons to beat the ice.
5. Get a copy of “The Guide.” This is a fantastic publication put out by the Park Service. It’s updated every quarter and contains all the information you need about the Park’s history, facilities, museums, restaurants, gift shops, and the free shuttle bus system. Think of it as the park’s “bible.”
6. Go to only the best lookouts. The very best ones are Mather Point, Yaki Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and Hermit’s Rest. Do sunrise at Mather and Sunset at Hopi Point. Directly behind the Bright Angel Lodge is the Rim Trail. It’s flat, makes for a great stroll, and the views of Indian Gardens and Phantom Ranch are phenomenal.
7. Remember: What goes down must come up. South Rim trails are world-class. But they are steep. I would recommend taking a leisurely 30-minute stroll down and then turning back. Over the summer, bring lots of water and a salty snack like trail mix during the summer. Take lots of breaks going up. There’s no rush. Stand to the side to let mule trains pass.
South Rim bus tours from Las Vegas are a hit with Las Vegas travelers. And for good reason. It’s cheap, includes lunch and all park entrance fees, and its done on a state-of-the-art luxury bus. It’s also a sightseeing paradise. On the way, you’ll see such western icons as Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Kaibab Plateau, and the Colorado River. If you are looking for an affordable, fun way to do the South Rim, this bus trip is absolutely the way to go.
Inexpensive South Rim bus trips? Travel writer Keith Kravitz reviews the best Grand Canyon bus tours here.