I get lots of folks asking me via email and live chat about the best and fastest way to the South Rim from Las Vegas. For the last 5 years I've advised taking the airplane and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Sure there are other ways like self-driving and the bus but that's too much drive time (5.5 hours) in my opinion. And that's one way, which is ridiculous for a day trip. The plane, by contrast, takes just 60 minutes.
Now that's what I call traveling!
This flight takes off from a number of airports in the Las Vegas metro area including Henderson, NV, and Boulder City, NV. Expect to pay more if fly from Henderson and much less if depart from Boulder. For the record, the majority of visitors opt for Boulder.
And I can't blame them because the costs savings are so significant, especially if your party is comprised of two or more people. Indeed, Henderson is about a 15-minute ride from The Strip whereas Boulder is up to 30 minutes or so. It really boils down to whether or not price matters to you.
I'm going to focus on the Boulder City departure. If you have questions about Henderson, email or come into Live Chat and I'll assist you further. The BC flight leaves daily with around four scheduled departures per day. I recommend taking the mid-morning flight but if it's sold out catch the early bird or the one right after lunch.
It's All About the Plane
Lots of you ask me about the plane so let's tackle that here and now. These aircraft can seat up to 19 adult passengers and come with all the amenities. The ones that matter to you is the size of the cabin, which has been configured to provide you with maximum comfort. The seats are lounge-style and there's plenty of "elbow room." Finally, windows have been purposely oversized to provide you with the best views in the house.
The route goes east from Las Vegas with the flight going over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and a huge section of the Mojave Desert. For the most part, you'll fly just south of the Colorado River/Grand Canyon until you reach the Kaibab Plateau, home to the largest stand of Ponderosa Pin on the planet.
The descent starts here and you'll land at Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan, AZ. Deplaned, you have two options: go straightway to a luxury bus and begin the ground tour of the National Park or transfer to a helicopter whereupon you'll do a rim-to-rim helicopter tour. Obviously, the later option is more expensive but I think the helicopter over the Dragoon Corridor is worth every cent.
Inside the Park you'll head for the Visitor's Center and Park. I suggest heading over to Mather Point, which is the most famous lookout at the South Rim. Be prepared for lots of other travelers, and if you feel there are too many simply go to the left or right of Mather until you find a spot that suits your fancy. Most tours include up to 2.5 hours in the Park so you can pretty much pick and choose your spots (I like Yaki Point and Yavapai Point and recommend you see them.).
The in-Park tour wraps at Grand Canyon Village, which is an historic area comprised of many famous hotels like El Tovar and Bright Angel Lodge. I suggest you do Bright Angel, especially the gift shop, which has some phenomenal items you'll want to take back to friends and family. I also suggest winding down your tour on the Rim Trail, which is just outside Bright Angel. Key points of interest include Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio (a must!).
The bus that got you to the Park will be in front of Bright Angel to take you back to the airport. Once back on the aircraft, you'll buckle up and make the flight back to Las Vegas. If you've booked the last flight out of Vegas it's highly likely you'll fly back as the sunsets (depends on time of year).
Note: If you this talk about Rim's is unclear, read this article wherein I define it quickly for you.
It's weird that so few people are aware of the Las Vegas-South Rim direct flight and yet it's there and ready to whisk you to the official National Park in under one hour. That's quite impressive when you compare it against a bus tour or rental car (both take 5.5 hours). That said I have noticed an up tick in the number of people booking this flight so it appears the secrets out. As such, make sure to book it in advance so your seats are locked in.
Upgrade this tour to include a rim-to-rim helicopter ride!