Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Kelly
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Because millions of people travel to see the Grand Canyon every year, it’s very accessible and easy to navigate. You don’t even need to have a car to see it!
With the right itinerary, it’s definitely possible to visit the Grand Canyon without a car. By flying into Flagstaff and booking a hotel within the Grand Canyon Village, you’ll be able to see much of what the South Rim has to offer. The free shuttle system within the park can take you to the most popular viewpoints. There are also many guided day trips from nearby cities. In this post, we’ll share our full guide to visiting the Grand Canyon without a car!
Reasons to Visit the Grand Canyon Without a Car
There are a lot of reasons that you might consider visiting the Grand Canyon without a car.
You might wish to go green. The national parks are a very special places, and it’s important that we protect them for generations to come. Limiting emissions is a great way to care for the environment.
You might be one of the 7% of households in the United States with limited access to a car. You don’t need to have a personal vehicle to visit the Grand Canyon by any means!
Additionally, driving in unfamiliar areas can be stressful. Maybe you don’t want to have to worry about rental contracts or navigation issues.
Finally, you might just want to save money. Renting a car is an additional expense and you can potentially save money by considering alternative routes.
Whatever the reason, seeing the Grand Canyon without a car is totally do-able! See our tips below to plan your trip!
How to See the Grand Canyon Without a Car
Now for the important part. How to see the Grand Canyon without a car.
1. Book Flights to Flagstaff
The closest airport to the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG). The airport is located about 85 miles away from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. You might be able to find cheaper airfare flying into Las Vegas or Phoenix, but you would most certainly need to book a tour or a rental car to get to the Grand Canyon. The advantage of flying into Flagstaff is that there are shuttle companies that take visitors directly to the Grand Canyon.
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2. Book a Hotel in Grand Canyon Village
If you don’t have a car, you’ll want to stay directly in Grand Canyon Village. Don’t make the mistake of booking a hotel in the nearby town of Tusayan if you don’t have your own transportation. The hotels that are located within Grand Canyon Village are already within the park. Each day, you’ll be able to walk to the nearest park shuttle bus to see the sights you want to see. The shuttles within Grand Canyon National Park are completely free, so it’s a great way to see the major sights!
The hotels in Grand Canyon Village are El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Maswik Lodge, and Yavapai Lodge. The nicest and most expensive of these hotels is El Tovar Hotel, which is located right on the rim of the canyon and has that classic rustic lodge feel. The most affordable option is Yavapai Lodge, which is a little bit of a walk from the rim of the canyon.
If you’re deciding which hotel to stay at, check out our comprehensive post on choosing a hotel for a trip to the Grand Canyon. You might be surprised to learn that not all of the hotels have air conditioning or reliable WiFi, so be sure to read our post before booking!
3. Book Your Transportation to Grand Canyon Village
If you fly into Flagstaff, you’ll be able to book a shuttle from the airport to take you to the Grand Canyon. One such company is Groome Transportation, and their shuttle info is linked here.
With the company listed above, you can either take the shuttle to Maswik Lodge (located in Grand Canyon Village) or Williams (a town outside Grand Canyon National Park). If you booked your hotel stay for the Maswik Lodge, then this is a convenient direct route. But even if you are staying at another hotel in the Grand Canyon Village, you can easily take the park’s shuttle service or even walk to your hotel.
You might want to consider taking the shuttle to Williams if you are interested in taking the train to the Grand Canyon. That way you can arrive to the Grand Canyon the scenic way! You’ll wind through the Colorado Plateau and get to see everything from prairies to Ponderosa Pine forests. Fares range from affordable coach options all the way to luxury options. The train ride is a little over two hours. They have a YouTube video that gives you a great overview. You can book the train here.
4. Enjoy the Free Shuttle Within Grand Canyon National Park
Once you are within Grand Canyon Village, you have a couple of options to get around. The area is very walkable, and many of the sights are along the canyon Rim Trail, so you couldn’t ask for a better commute between hotels, restaurants, and overlooks.
You might find the park’s shuttle system especially. It’s free to ride the shuttle and you don’t have to make any advanced reservations. There may be a line during peak times, though, so keep that in mind.
The blue route connects many of the lodges and campground. The blue route is 50-minutes roundtrip if you ride it the whole way through.
The orange route will take you to the Kaibab rim, which is an excellent starting place for many hikes and overlooks. The orange route also stops at the Yavapai Geology Museum, which is near the entrance to the Trail of Time.
The red route will take you to Hermits Rest. The red route shuttle loop has 9 scenic stops. It was one of the best parts of our trip and we highly recommend completing this route. You can read about our full experience using the shuttle along the Rim Trail.
When planning your trip, be sure to look up the most recent shuttle information from the National Park Service.
5. And Enjoy Your Trip!
By completing the steps above, you can visit the Grand Canyon without needing your own personal vehicle. To summarize: Fly into Flagstaff, book transportation to Grand Canyon Village, make sure you have a hotel reservation within Grand Canyon Village, and then take the free shuttle within Grand Canyon National Park to the most popular viewing areas.
If you’re staying in Las Vegas, you can book a day trip to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. All transportation is taken care of, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride!
Guided Tours of the Grand Canyon
One of the best ways to see the Grand Canyon without a car is with a guided tour. Your guide will be knowledgeable about the local geology and history. You’ll also get the opportunity to see and do some pretty unique things to personalize your trip. Some guided tours you might be especially interested in include:
- Day Trip from Las Vegas: Book a trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. You’ll also see Hoover Dam!
- 45-Minute Helicopter Flight Over the Grand Canyon: With this tour, you’ll be able to see the Grand Canyon from above! You’ll get an aerial view of the canyon and get to see far more of it than you would hiking.
- Grand Canyon Hummer Tour: Ride in an open-air Hummer as your guide takes you to some incredible lookout points.
- Off-Road Sunset Safari Tour: From a comfortable safari vehicle you will be taken to some spectacular viewpoints.
What to See at the Grand Canyon Without a Car
You might be asking, “Is it really worth it to visit the Grand Canyon without a car? Will I be able to see much?” And the answer to that question is YES. Here’s a quick summary of things you can see at the Grand Canyon without a car. As long as you’ve made your way to Grand Canyon Village, you can use the park’s shuttle system to access the following points of interest. (Some walking is required.)
- The Rim Trail. Visit the 9 scenic overlooks along the Grand Canyon rim. These include Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, The Abyss, Monument Creek Vista, Pima Point, and Hermits Rest. If you only did the Rim Trail, you would still have a very satisfying visit!
- Bright Angel Lodge History Room. Visit this historic lodge designed by famed architect Mary Colter. The History Room contains artifacts from early pioneers, and the rocks in the fireplace are meant to mirror the rock layers of the Grand Canyon itself. This lodge is registered as a National Historic Landmark.
- Mather Point. This is undoubtedly the most popular overlook of the Grand Canyon. Visitors flock here when they enter the park to get their first glimpse of the majestic canyon.
- Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Currently closed due to covid, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center is the place to go to learn more about the canyon and its history. Park rangers currently staff an information desk outside. It’s a convenient place to ask questions and plan the details of your trip. It’s also a good place to ask about current conditions inside the park.
- Verkamp Visitor Center. The Verkamp family helped to generate tourism to the Grand Canyon in the early 1900s. Currently, this visitor center is dedicated to sharing the history of the Grand Canyon community members that helped to develop the tourism industry.
- Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio. The famed architect build this structure right into the Grand Canyon rim to give you an up-close-and-personal view of the canyon. The building was modeled after traditional Ancestral Puebloan structures, and it blends right into the rock face of the canyon.
- El Tovar Hotel. Even if you are not staying at this hotel, it’s a great place for dining and to get that national park lodge “feel”. It’s the flagship hotel of the Grand Canyon, and it is very rustic.
- Yavapai Geology Museum. This museum has large picture windows of the canyon and is a great place to view the Grand Canyon if there is inclement weather and you do not want to be outside. You’ll learn more about the geology of the Grand Canyon here.
- Trail of Time. Located near the Yavapai Geology Museum, you can complete the Trail of Time along the canyon rim. Each meter along the trail represents a million years in geological history and is marked with a bronze timeline embedded in the path. It was one of our favorite things at the Grand Canyon.
- Hopi House. This building was constructed to resemble a Hopi Pueblo. It was built in 1905 and is the place to go to learn more about the history of the local indigenous peoples.
- Yaki Point. This point is closed to private vehicles and is only accessible by foot or by the shuttle. From this point, you will see many buttes and mesas.
- Go hiking. There are many trailheads that are accessible from Grand Canyon Village. (Some popular ones are the South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail.) Ask a park ranger for a full list based on your preferred duration and difficulty level.
What Will You Miss at the Grand Canyon Miss Without a Car?
If you don’t have a car, it would be very difficult to access the Desert View Drive. The drive takes approximately 4 hours to complete and it follows the canyon rim to the east. The following points of interest are located along the drive: Grandview Point, Moran Point, Tusayan Ruin and Museum, Lipan Point, Navajo Point, and Desert View Point and Watchtower.
What to Bring With Your for Your Trip?
You’ll want to bring a pair of binoculars to see all of the details across the canyon and on the canyon floor. You’ll also want to bring an insulated water bottle to keep your water cool for as long as possible. Sun protection is important, so bring your favorite sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. To take some epic photos of the canyon behind you, be sure to bring a selfie stick. Finally, bring a first-aid kit to carry in your day pack. If you only have one day at the Grand Canyon, you don’t want to slow it down because of a blister! Also bring a guide book!
Summary: How to Visit the Grand Canyon Without a Car
We hope this post inspired you to visit the Grand Canyon without a car. There’s a lot you can see by staying in the Grand Canyon Village and using the park’s shuttle service. When we visited the Grand Canyon, we really relied upon the park’s free shuttle. We were able to see tons of view points!
Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.