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Driving To The Grand Canyon in AZ: Driving Distance & Local Tips

Visiting the Grand Canyon is one of those picture-worthy life events that everyone should experience. If you’re going to scratch the Grand Canyon off your bucket list, you might as well explore the jewels that are on the way too. Below you’ll find some fun stops when Driving To The Grand Canyon in AZ. Of course, we’ve had some things to say about where to stay when visiting the Grand Canyon as well.

Photo credit: https://pixnio.com

Photo credit: https://pixnio.com

What Are the Routes To The Grand Canyon And How Long Are They?

When Driving To The Grand Canyon in AZ, you have two good choices of starting points.  Flagstaff, and Williams.  Both starting points will get you to the south park entrance, and in fact, both routes meet in the middle at Highway 64 where it meets AZ Route 180. Alternatively, there is a longer route that takes you along the rim if you leave from Flagstaff.

From Flagstaff

The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon is fairly short and typically takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. This, however, depends on the traffic. To avoid doubling the drive time, try to schedule your trip outside of peak hours. Grand Canyon peak times are between 10 am and 3 pm, so as with most traveling, the earlier the better. Planning to arrive early also gives you more time to explore areas of the Grand Canyon in addition to discovering some of the things you can do along the way.

Two common travel routes include taking Highway 180 to 64 (the shorter route) or 89 to 64 (about 20 minutes longer). Be ready for some varied scenery, as while both ends of the trip are in scenic locations, much of the drive is through some very empty flat land with little to see on it.  Either way, you will experience breath-taking views at the beginning and end of the drive.

The highway 180 route begins with a clear view of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s tallest peak. Then you’ll find yourself surrounded by a forest of ponderosa pines as you drive through Coconino’s National Forest, which also contains volcanic peaks and tundras. This gives way to the dreaded flats, but persevere through the junction at 64 – stop in the gift shop and gas station here at Valle, and then make the final push to the beautiful country right at the canyon.

The view from highway 89 consists of mostly flat lands with no flora. However, the bare landscape makes for a mountainous views during the first part, and then there are some great views along the Southern rim of the canyon as you approach the park.

So whether you decide to take the short way or long way there, you won’t regret the view. If you plan to arrive before 10 am, you’ll have the most pleasant experience: a smooth clutter-free drive and a majestic panorama.

From Williams

The drive from the Route 66 town of Williams, AZ is shorter.  Williams is known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” for a reason.  From Williams it’s just 45 minutes to the canyon.  In fact, if you were wanting to visit Williams, it doesn’t really add any travel time if you are coming from Flagstaff to begin with. Visiting Williams is one of our 6 Reasons to Visit Northern AZ this summer.

From the East end of Williams, take highway 64 North.  That’s it!  You can’t miss it.  As with the drive from Flagstaff, both ends are scenic, with some pretty barren stuff in the middle.

Valle Bear

The stop in Valle includes some life-sized wildlife sculptures Photo Credit: Classy Cabins AZ

Valle Gas Station

The stop in Valle has a very cool display of antique cars in a period gas station. Photo Credit: Classy Cabins AZ

Again, stopping at Valle for gas, a snack or to visit the gift shop is a good way to break it up.

  What Are Some Things To Do Along The Drive From Flagstaff AZ To The Grand Canyon?

Photo credit: https://www.goodfreephotos.com

Photo credit: https://www.goodfreephotos.com

Even with the awesome geographical views on the way to the Grand Canyon, there are still a few attractions you would want to stop and enjoy.

Some other things to see Driving To The Grand Canyon in AZ

Chapel of The Holy Dove

Twenty-five minutes from Flagstaff on highway 180 sits a small chapel built by Dr. Watson Lacy. He owned a ranch and decided to erect the chapel on it; It’s made from volcanic rock and petrified wood and was completed in 1962. The chapel has become a traditional stop for travelers to post prayers and random notes.

Cameron Trading Post

On highway 89 just a small distance from where 89 and 64 intersect is the city of Cameron, Arizona. Here you can experience a part of U.S history. At this location in the early 1900s , Native American tribes like the Navajo and Hopi traded dry goods for wool, blankets and livestock. Today, visitors can buy Native American crafts and souvenirs. Cameron Trading Post also has an ice cream fountain, an art gallery, a convenience store and a nice lawn with shade from cottonwood trees.

Kaibab National Forest

On the 180 route just 23 minutes from the Grand Canyon, you won’t want to pass by the Kaibab National Forest, home to graceful landscapes and wildlife. If you decide to hike one of its many trails (which is highly recommended) your eyes will be met with a symphony of beauty. You’ll find various forests of ponderosa pines and yellow aspens along with colorful wildflower patches. Enjoy the sound of bubbling springs and lakes. You might even find an excellent view of the Grand Canyon from a few of the trails. Also, you just may spot a black bear or white tail deer.

The forest has trails that vary in difficulty, some of which are suitable for the whole family.

Elden Pueblo Archeological Site

This site was home of the Sinagua Indians between 1070 and 1275. Located in Coconino National Park, the site provides historical findings of the Native American tribe and allows the public to explore them. View excavations and remnants of a trading post where they traded with other tribes from as far away as California and Mexico.

What Are the Best Restaurants On The Way?

Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

El Tovar Lodge Dining Room

There’s always a place to stop and grab lunch on the road to the Grand Canyon, but El Tovar might bring you more interest for the dollars you spend. Located in the historic town of El Tovar, it has American cuisine made from local, organic, sustainable sources. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner that accommodates carnivores and vegetarians.

Some menu highlights include the vegetarian Mushroom Gruyere Burger made with Gruyere and Bleu cheeses, the Navajo Taco (vegetarian option), and the Tri-colored Cheese Tortellini.

Yavapai Tavern

This restaurant offers late lunch and dinner in a calm atmosphere with casual dining, a bar, and delicious Americana. Enjoy your typical American favorites like pizza, soup and sandwiches. If you’re brave, try an elk burger and beer.

Now you’re sure to avoid road trip boredom with these great places to visit before you reach the capstone of your trip.