How to Get From Denver to the Grand Canyon

By Meg Jernigan

From the Mile High City to the South Rim

How to Get From Denver to the Grand Canyon

The trip from Denver to the Grand Canyon can be an epic drive through the mountains, a scenic train ride or, if you feel the need for speed, a jaunt down an interstate highway. You’re rewarded with views of high plains, soaring peaks and the desert Southwest. It’s about 860 miles from Denver to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and, depending on the route you choose, from 650 to 800 driving miles to the North Rim. No matter how you get there, though, you may forget the journey altogether once you’re surrounded by the splendor of the mighty canyon.

Denver to the Grand Canyon by car

If you prefer highway driving, take Interstate 25 south to Interstate 40 west to Williams, Arizona. From Williams, take Route 64 north to the South Rim. It’s the longest route at about 860 miles, and the least direct, but you’ll know what to expect on the highway. The shortest and most direct route takes U.S. 285 south from Denver to U.S. 160 in Del Norte to U.S. 89 south. After a short drive, you reach the eastern terminus of Route 64 in Cameron, Arizona. Route 64 hugs the canyon wall before getting to Grand Canyon Village. If you’re headed to the North Rim, take 89 north to 89A before turning south onto 67 at Jacob Lake.

Other ways to get to the Grand Canyon

Greyhound provides bus service from Denver to Raton, New Mexico, a stop on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line. You’ll need to get to Raton a few minutes before 11 a.m. to catch the train, which means leaving Denver at around 5 a.m. Amtrak provides thruway bus service from Williams Junction to Williams, where you can catch a shuttle bus or the Grand Canyon Railway for the 60-mile ride to the South Rim.

Greyhound provides service from Denver to Las Vegas. It’s a 15-hour ride that begins just before 1 a.m., or just after midnight. From Las Vegas, you can book a shuttle to the canyon, take a small plane to the limited-service airport at the Grand Canyon or, if money is no object, take a private helicopter ride.

A number of tour companies offer trips from Denver to the Grand Canyon. Many of them include stops at other western destinations like Yellowstone National Park, Las Vegas and Mount Rushmore.

Flights from Denver to the Grand Canyon

Flagstaff, 81 miles southeast of Grand Canyon Village, is the nearest large airport to the South Rim. Direct American Airline flights lasting about an hour leave Denver International Airport daily for Flagstaff. From there you can rent a car for the drive to the canyon, hop on the Southwest Chief for the ride to Williams Junction or arrange for a shuttle to deliver you to the South Rim. More airlines fly from Denver into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 250 miles south of the Grand Canyon. From Phoenix you can drive a rental car or take a shuttle.

Tips for your trip to the Grand Canyon

No matter the route you take, plan for two days of driving, one way. If you can afford to take your time, choose a route that takes you through natural wonders like Capitol Reef National Park or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Keep the weather in mind when you make your plans. The North Rim is closed in the winter due to snow that closes the road. Arizona’s monsoon season brings heavy rain in mid- to late summer.

Mid-spring to mid-fall is the busy season at the Grand Canyon. Make reservations for accommodations and mule rides well in advance, and, if you’re planning to head into the backcountry from the South Rim, you’ll need to apply for a backcountry permit months before your trip. North Rim permits are easier to get.

Regular shuttle service connects the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon from mid-May to mid-October.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.