The Grand Canyon is by far one of Americas greatest natural wonders. Many family vacations, road trips, and other adventures are centered around visiting it. We recently took a road trip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and had our minds completely blown! I wanted to share this road trip planner for visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim from the Flagstaff or Sedona Arizona area with you. If you follow our route, you’ll have a solid day of fun, and see two other National Parks in the same day!
When visiting the Grand Canyon, you have a few different choices. You can see the South or North rim at the Grand Canyon National Park , or visit the West Rim via the Hualapia Nation and take a walk on the skywalk. If you’re in Arizona, the best choice is to visit the South Rim. It will give you the largest visitors’ center and afford you the opportunity to travel across much of the canyon’s rim. When visiting the area, I suggest staying in the Flagstaff/Sedona area. It’s central to quite a few attractions and is relatively affordable. Doing so allows you to take a circular route to the Grand Canyon, the town of Bedrock, Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater.
Planning your Road Trip Route for Visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim
From Sedona you’d want to head up Interstate 17 until you hit Flagstaff and then get off on HWY 180 North. If you’re staying in Flagstaff HWY 180 is one of the main routes that runs parallel to I-40. Once you’ve started north on 180 continue about 51 miles and you will hit the junction with HWY 64. There’s a town called Valle there, and it’s home to the first stop on our trip, Flintstones Bedrock City. Continue on HWY 64/180 N another 27 miles or so and you will find yourself in the Grand Canyon National Park (more info below on the park etc). Once you’ve decided to keep moving, follow HWY 64 N. Look for signs that lead you to Desert View. This road will take you for another 26 miles along the southern edge of the Canyon. There are a TON of pullouts and views here so plan on it taking a while. The last stop will be the desert view with the watchtower. Continue east and exit the National Park. You will see several signs for a town called Cameron to direct you, after 30 miles you’ll hit HWY 89 and go SOUTH (don’t go towards Cameron when you hit HWY 89 or you will go north) continue for 20 miles and you’ll see a turnoff on your left for Wupatki. It’s very small and there are not many signs for it before hand, so keep an eye out for it. Once you make the left, you are on Loop Road. This road will take you through Wupatki and Sunset Crater. It’s a total of 35 miles and it will leave you on HWY 89. Go south from here and you will hit Flagstaff in 16.1 miles. For us the whole trip was about 7 hours start to finish. If you are traveling with kids etc, I would expect it to take a bit longer. Here’s a map of what the loop looks like.
A Photo Tour of our Journey
Now that you know what route to take, here’s a photo tour of our trip. The trip on 180 North was rather pretty, as it takes you through Coconino National Forest. We never knew just how lush and green Arizona could be!
When we hit Valle, we HAD to stop at Bedrock City. It’s a fun little attraction and it was only $10 a person. We spent about an hour there touring the place. (see our full Review of Flintstones Bedrock City here)
After leaving Bedrock City we made our way to the Grand Canyon! The main entrance takes you to a large visitor’s center where you can get maps and information. There is an option to take a bus along the western rim of the canyon, that we chose not to do. It takes a couple of hours, and we were going to drive along the whole eastern road instead. If you walk right behind the visitors center you’ll see the first and one of the most stunning viewpoints.
We then took a lovely scenic drive along the rim, stopping frequently at the viewpoints and pull outs to be constantly amazed!
The last stop in the park was the watchtower. It was really cool to see, and you can great a great view of the canyon from the top! There is a small cafe here to stop and grab a bite to eat. I can’t tell you if the food is good, because we packed a lunch, but it sure smelled tasty!
After that we made our way east out of the park and towards HWY 89 S. Even though the Canyon officially ends there are some great views.
We then entered Wupatki National Monument, drove along the loop road, and took a look at the old ruins located there.
After Wupatki there was some lovely open road along the way to Sunset Crater.
Then we arrived at Sunset Crater and spent some time looking at the volcanic landscape.
After Sunset Crater it was sundown and time to head back to the hotel and get some rest. While this trip took us the whole day to complete it was absolutely well worth the time. Seeing the Grand Canyon was definitely the highlight of the day, but adding the rest in made it a great all-around adventure. Hopefully you can enjoy our route as well and leave your own stories in the comments.
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