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?

(United Kingdom)

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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.

10 responses to “Visiting the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam”

  1. len. said:

    We're going to Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and then drive to south rim of Grand Canyon, doing the Grand Circle by POV. That includes the Might Five. Any suggestions, tips? Ten-day travel should be good? Thank you

  2. Lauren said:

    The bus toue is best cost-wise and easier, Yes, it takes up a whole day but if you get the right company, the tour is great, they stop at a couple of different points and end up on the Native American side of the canyon where they serve you lunch and peddle hand crafted items which are nice. Word of caution though...the Native American side has no railings to keep you from falling off a cliff so you have to be smarter about how close you venture to the edges. But it is totally non-commercialized (except for the craft tents) and well worth going to.

  3. Steve the Texan said:

    Try these two, Sarah. They're both excellent choices:
    * Helicopter tour
    * Bus tour to the South Rim

  4. sarah beattie said:

    Have looked at all the tours and there are so many I am confused. Which in your opinion is the Best Tour to do. Helicopter and Bus tour so i can have a look at just two rather then the 50 that are on offer. Thanks

  5. Steve the Texan said:

    Mel, if you know there is a specific thing you definitely want to do on your trip -- tour the Grand Canyon, in your case -- I almost always think it's a good idea to purchase tickets in advance. That way there's no danger of somehow missing out on the tour and you can plan the rest of your day around the hours blocked out.

  6. Mel said:

    My sister and I are going to Vegas for a week in mid march. We have already decided on a helicopter tour to the grand canyon but I just wondered if you think it would best to book online in advance or wait until we arrive? Thanks

  7. Steve the Texan said:

    Exactly how much time you'd need to set aside for your Grand Canyon trip depends largely on how you want to spend at the canyon itself. A decent rule of thumb, though, is to plan on it being a full-day affair: leaving in the morning and not returning until sometime in the evening. Figure you'll spend three or four hours each way in driving then take your planning from there.

    If you're a person who enjoys lake activities, Lake Mead can be a really nice outing. But I wouldn't plan on trying to cram it into the same day as a Grand Canyone trip.

  8. Jimmy said:

    We are heading to Vegas for a kickball tournament in October. Our plan is to rent a vehicle and drive to the Dam on Friday. How much time should we plan on spending (from the time we leave until the time we get back to vegas) at the Dam, and is it worth it to hunt out some activities on Lake Mead?

  9. Steve the Texan said:


    If there is a specific tour you know you want to take or a specific show you want to see, I think it's a good idea to buy tickets ahead of time. That way you know you have a spot and can plan around the time.

    Our article "Show tickets: Buy in advance or wait?" has more detail.

    Links to special deals or upgrades can be found on our Bargains page and Show Calendar.

  10. martina said:

    hi its our 1 st trip to vegas is it advisable to book helicopter trip to canyon before we leave ireland or purchase when we arrive any recomendations on where best to book same question about going to shows many thanks were travelling at end august 2011

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