Visiting the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam
We would like to visit the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. How long does it take to drive to the Canyon with the glass balcony? Also, is it feasible to see the Hoover Dam on the way back ? Is it a fairly straightforward drive?
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Driving from Las Vegas to Hoover is easy. It's only 35 miles or so outside of town, although traffic can get backed up around the dam, as well as being notoriously congested in Vegas itself. If you decide to make a visit, it's usually a good idea to arrive early in the day before the tours get too crowded. In the summer tours run from 9:15am until 5:15pm, ending an hour earlier in the winter. And if you choose to make the drive all the way to the Grand Canyon you'll pass Hoover Dam, so it's usually a place that's best to visit on the outbound trip.
But about that drive to the Grand Canyon... it can certainly be done in one day, but it makes for a very long day -- figure on about 3 hours each way for the West Rim and closer to 5 for the South Rim -- and the drive isn't particularly pleasant. The roads for the last bit aren't of a very high quality and parking and shuttle fees at the Canyon itself start to add up. I almost never recommend a self-driving day trip there; in fact, I generally advise pretty strongly against it. The best way of getting to the Grand Canyon, if a person doesn't mind splurging a bit, is to go on one of the helicopter tours. That shortens the travel time and will go down into the Canyon itself. The next best option is a bus coach tour. These are noticeably less costly than a helicopter tour, but they will take up pretty much a full day -- anywhere from about 10 to 14 hours, depending upon how long is spent at the Canyon. Many bus tours do include a stop at Hoover Dam on the way.
The West Rim is closer to Vegas and it is where the famed Skywalk -- the glass balcony you mentioned -- is located so most tours go here, but many nature purists prefer the less commercialized South Rim.
The Skywalk is as impressive as it sounds, but some visitors are disappointed to learn they aren't allowed to bring cameras onto the platform with them. Photos are are available for purchase, but they're not cheap.
Discounts and special deals on tours to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon can be found on the FTLV Bargains page.