Your Route 66 Visitor’s Guide to Grand Canyon National Park

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Exploring America is all about hitting the road for an adventure, especially when you're on Route 66.

You're driving through changing scenes, from cool little towns to big open spaces, and every mile on this famous road brings something new to see.

While you're out there, you might want to swing by the Grand Canyon National Park. It's not far from Route 66; seriously, this place is mind-blowing.

Carved out by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is a huge, awe-inspiring pit with some of the most jaw-dropping views you'll ever see.

Checking out the Grand Canyon is like diving into a live nature documentary. The views are epic whether you're at the packed South Rim or the chill North Rim.

It's a prime spot for filling your Instagram with shots that'll make everyone jealous. So, plan a stop, grab your camera, and prepare to take in one of the coolest natural wonders.

Your Route 66 Grand Canyon Detour Scenario

The most direct path from Route 66 to the Grand Canyon is through Williams, Arizona. It's a smooth, 60-mile journey to the canyon's South Rim, the most accessible and visited part of the park.

The drive from Williams takes about an hour, leading you directly to the Grand Canyon Village, the hub of the South Rim. From here, a world of natural wonder awaits you.

Alternatively, if you're venturing from Flagstaff, a larger city on Route 66, you'll be heading about 80 miles to reach the same destination. The path includes a segment on U.S. Highway 180 northwest to Valle, then north on U.S. 64.

The drive from Williams to the Grand Canyon Village takes about an hour and a half. From Flagstaff, set aside just over two hours for the journey.

Now, let's talk about the North Rim. Even though it's directly across from the South Rim, the North Rim is a much longer drive due to the canyon's vastness.

It's a unique facet of the park worth the extra mile for its serene, less crowded viewpoints. Prepare for a drive of about 4 to 5 hours if you're venturing from Flagstaff or Williams.

This part of the park is open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October due to heavy snowfall in the winter months.

Travel Tip: Grab the official Grand Canyon National Park brochure for up-to-date information and maps before setting off.

We Recommend You Focus On The South Rim!

The Grand Canyon is packed with amazing stuff to see and do, and both the South and North Rim give you different vibes and things to try out.

Now, if you're cruising along Route 66 and want an easy stop, the South Rim is your best bet. It's where you'll find cool historical spots, awesome views, and hiking paths for anyone, whether you're up for a big adventure or just a quick stroll.

So, we're going to focus on the spots you can hit up right from this entrance.

1. Join A Park Ranger For An Insightful Tour

You can deepen your understanding of the Grand Canyon by joining a park ranger for a tour. They share intriguing facts and tales that bring the canyon's geology and history to life.

2. Stroll Along The South Rim Path (Rim Trail)

Hiking path along the massiv cliffs seen from Bright Angel hiking trail at South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

The South Rim Path, also known as the Rim Trail, is perfect for a leisurely walk with breathtaking views. It stretches over 13 miles, providing a picturesque route without a steep incline.

3. Explore Views From The South Rim Lookouts

A view of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with the Colorado River below from the Desert View Watchtower, in Arizona, USA.

Every lookout point along the South Rim offers a unique perspective of the canyon. Make sure to stop by these spots that offer unforgettable panoramic views:

  • Mather Point: Easily accessible and a popular spot for both sunrise and sunset, Mather Point gives you a vast view of the canyon. It's a short walk from the Visitor Center, making it one of the first major viewpoints visitors reach​.
  • Yavapai Observation Station: This spot provides geological displays and photographs along with its stunning views.
  • Yaki Point: Known for its unobstructed views of the east side of the Grand Canyon, Yaki Point is accessible by shuttle bus, making it convenient for visitors.

4. Journey Through The Ages On The Trail Of Time

Trail of Time along the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village.

The Trail of Time is an outdoor geology exhibit stretching between Grand Canyon Village and Yavapai Geology Museum. Walk this path to see visual timelines of the canyon's ancient past.

5. Visit The Yavapai Geology Museum

Yavapai Geology Museum at the South Rim

At the Yavapai Geology Museum, you can get a clearer picture of the canyon's geological wonders. The museum's panoramic windows and exhibits complement the educational experience.

6. Experience The Grand Canyon On The Big Screen At The Imax

The Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Imax Theatre. Located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

For an immersive audio-visual experience, watch the movie The Grand Canyon at the nearby IMAX theater. See the history and majesty of the canyon on a massive screen.

7. Venture Down Into The Canyon Via The Bright Angel Trail

Bright Angel Trail at the gorge of the Grand Canyon, eroded rocky landscape, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA

Considered the park's premier hiking trail, the Bright Angel Trail invites you to step below the rim. It's a challenging trek with rest stops and water stations along the way.

8. Embark On A Mule Journey Into The Canyon Depths Via The Bright Angel Trail

For a different mode of canyon exploration, take a guided mule trip down the Bright Angel Trail. Experienced guides lead the way on this unique and traditional canyon excursion.

9. Cycle The Hermit Road Route

The Hermits Rest route

Rent a bicycle and enjoy the Hermit Road route, offering less traffic and stunning canyon views. This paved road offers a serene biking experience along the rim.

10. Hike Below The Rim On The South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab trial at the Grand Canyon

If you're feeling adventurous, the South Kaibab Trail will take you on a steep descent into the canyon. It's a challenging trail with several lookout points, including the famous Ooh Aah Point.

If you're looking for more stunning vistas to add to your bucket list, read this article for top recommendations on breathtaking places.

Planning Your Visit

When planning your visit to the Grand Canyon National Park near Route 66, it's crucial to consider where you'll stay, how you'll get around, and the best times to visit based on weather patterns.

Accommodations and Lodging

You can immerse yourself in the park's splendor with comfortable accommodations on the edge. Let's take a closer look at what each lodge has to offer!

1. Yavapai Lodge

Grand Canyon South Rim Yavapai Lodge sign in the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, United States.

Yavapai Lodge is an ideal retreat if you're seeking convenience and comfort. Nestled within the park, it's a stone's throw away from the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canyon.

The lodge provides a cozy and warm atmosphere after long days of exploring, with amenities that ensure your stay is relaxing and enjoyable.

2. Kachina Lodge

Kachina Lodge is directly on the Rim Trail for those who love having the best views. This means you can wake up to awe-inspiring panoramas every morning.

Its central location in Grand Canyon Village also makes it an excellent choice for proximity to other park attractions.

3. Thunderbird Lodge

Also situated conveniently along the Rim Trail, Thunderbird Lodge offers family-friendly accommodations perfect for travelers with their little ones in tow.

Here, you're within easy walking distance of jaw-dropping viewpoints and can return to a comfortable setting at day's end.

4. Maswik Lodge

Just a short walk from the canyon's edge lies Maswik Lodge, surrounded by the Ponderosa pine forest.

With both South Rim and the park's shuttle bus stops nearby, the lodge perfectly blends natural surroundings and accessibility, allowing you to explore at your leisure.

For an expanded selection of accommodations, our comprehensive guide has you covered.

Traveling and Transportation

Exploring new places is always an adventure, and getting there is a part of the fun! Here's how you can seamlessly navigate the breathtaking expanses of Grand Canyon National Park.

By Car

As we've shared, Grand Canyon National Park is a prime destination via Route 66, with a short divergence leading you straight into nature's masterpiece.

It's a mere 60-mile drive north on Highway 64 from Williams, AZ. Or, if you're coming from Flagstaff, an 80-mile drive on the same highway will get you there.

Park your car at the Grand Canyon Village for easy access to the various lookouts and amenities.

By Air

Fly into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, the closest commercial airport to the Grand Canyon, just south of downtown Flagstaff.

You can rent a car from there or arrange a tour company to whisk you off to the park. For those seeking a grand entrance, helicopter tours from Las Vegas offer a stunning aerial view of the Canyon and the surrounding landscape.

By Rail

Experience the romance of the rails with the Grand Canyon Railway.

Departing from Williams, the journey treats you to historic trains, entertaining musicians, and the stunning Arizona countryside before arriving just steps from the South Rim.


Once you're at the park, leave your car behind and hop on the free shuttle service.

It's the best way to explore; shuttles run frequently and stop at all the major sights and trailheads, allowing you to take in the Canyon's grandeur without worrying about parking.

If you're staying outside the park in Tusayan, catch the shuttle from there by purchasing a park entrance pass.

Best Times to Visit and Weather Considerations

Starting your adventure at the right time can make all the difference. You're in for a treat when you time your visit to Grand Canyon National Park just right.

Spring emerges with mild temperatures, boasting a comfortable range of 32°F to 60°F. These months provide an ideal backdrop for many outdoor activities, such as rafting, made even more special with the return of migratory birds.

Summer turns up the heat, especially from June to August, when you may experience temperatures hitting highs of 100-110°F. If you're keen on avoiding the sweltering heat, planning a visit from March to May can spare you from the hotter days.

Explore the best that the Grand Canyon offers by considering a visit in October. During this 'Goldilocks month,' expect a perfect blend of pleasant weather, fewer tourists, and stunning visuals as the canyon dons its autumn hues.

Beautiful fall aspen scene of Cape Royal road winding through a glowing yellow forest on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Remember to check the latest weather updates as you pack your bags and plan accordingly. Dress in layers to adapt to the temperature swings and stay hydrated.

Use resources like the National Park Service's weather information to ensure you are thoroughly prepared. These will give you insight into the canyon's unique climate and help you craft the perfect itinerary.

Visit the Grand Canyon on Your Route 66 Trip

Wrapping up, a side trip to the Grand Canyon National Park from Route 66 is a must for anyone wanting to experience one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the United States.

The Grand Canyon provides a range of activities, from easy walks along the Rim Trail to more adventurous hikes into the canyon itself. It's an ideal addition to your Route 66 itinerary, offering breathtaking views and a glimpse into the area's geological history.

Whether you're coming from Williams or Flagstaff, the journey to the Grand Canyon is straightforward and well worth the detour. Make sure to plan your visit to this iconic landmark for a memorable part of your Route 66 adventure.

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