— Las Vegas: 4-Day Grand Canyon North Rim Loop —

Bright Angel Point

View from Bright Angel Point trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon North Rim Arch

People standing on top of Angels Window on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon North Rim Meadow

Bison can be seen in this meadow sometimes on the drive into the North Rim

Western Tanager

A Western Tanager at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Tim on Grand Canyon North Rim

Bright Angel Point overlook

Snow Canyon State Park Overview

Snow Canyon State Park aerial view

Snow Canyon Scale

The red sandstone in Snow Canyon State Park dwarfs all visitors

Snow Canyon Rock

Explore the red sandstone at Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon Old Graffiti

There's lots of history at Snow Canyon State Park

Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City Arizona

A well-preserved dinosaur footprint at Dinosaur Tracks just west of Tuba City, Arizona

Three Dinosaur Eggs

Three fossilized dinosaur eggs at Dinosaur Tracks just west of Tuba City, Arizona

Dinosaur Tracks in Car Mirror

There's nothing around the prolific Dinosaur Tracks trackway

Lots of Wet Dinosaur Tracks

The Dinosaur Tracks trackway just west of Tuba City, Arizona doesn't disappoint

Adult and Baby Dinosaur Tracks

There are adult and baby dinosaur tracks just west of Tuba City, Arizona

Wupatki Native American Castle

An ancient Native American dwelling at Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki Native American Dwelling in Grassland

Another ancient Native American dwelling at Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki NAtive American Dwelling on Cliff

An ancient Native American dwelling at Wupatki National Monument north of Flagstaff

Ponderosa Growing Out of Cinders

Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater National Monument outside Flagstaff, Arizona

Pines Growing out of Cinder Cone

A few trees already growing out of the Sunset Crater Volcano cinder cone

San Francisco Mountains

View of the San Francisco mountains from Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Neon Green Lichen Crowing on Lava

Neon green lichen growing on the lava at Sunset Crater Volcano just outside Flagstaff

Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater Volcano just north of Flagstaff, Arizona

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam just outside Boulder City, Nevada

Hoover Dam Power Station

Hoover Dam turbine control station

Hoover Dam Turbines

The Hoover Dam turbines

Colorado River Below Hoover Dam

The Colorado River flowing out of the bottom of the Hoover Dam

Looking Down the Hoover Dam

Looking Down the Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam Pump House

A Hoover Dam building built into the side of a cliff

Hoover Dam Intakes

Some of the Hoover Dam intakes

Lake Mead from the Hoover Dam

Lake Mead view from the Hoover Dam—the white is Lake Mead's "bathtub ring"

A Statue at the Hoover Dam

A dramatic statue at the Hoover Dam

Buildings at Base of Hoover Dam

Buildings a long way down at the base of the Hoover Dam

Bighorn Sheep in Boulder City Park

Bighorn Sheep hanging out in a Boulder City, Nevada park

Bighorn Sheep Overlooking Lake Mead

Bighorn sheep in a city park in Boulder City, Nevada overlooking Lake Mead

Las Vegas 3-Day North Rim Loop

Loop Overview:

4 days, 800 miles, 13 hours of driving                          Best Time to Go: May 15 - October 15

Day 1:  Arrive in Las Vegas & drive to St. George, Utah.  See dinosaur tracks and fossils in town and hike in Snow Canyon State Park.

Day 2: Drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (about a 3 hour drive) and hike around. Stay at Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge or camp.

Day 3: Drive towards Tuba City and go see the amazing Dinosaur Tracks on Navajo land. (dinosaur tracks, eggs, and bones)  Then head south to Wupatki & Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments to see ancient Native American dwellings and hike among lava flows. Have dinner and see some music in Flagstaff.

Day 4: Drive back to Las Vegas (4-1/2 hours), check out the Hoover Dam, look for bighorn sheep in Boulder City, and head home. (Note:  Can also add on South Rim of Grand Canyon if you don't mind adding at least another 3 hours to the day.)

— Trip Details by Day —

Day 1:

Arrive in Las Vegas & drive 2 hours north on I-15 to St. George, Utah.  Exit I-15 in St. George to eat lunch and see in-place dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm. This museum is fairly small, but interesting and unique—the building was built around a dinosaur trackway site found in 2000.  In addition to dinosaur tracks, there's a collection of other fossils.  It's a worthwhile stop.

 

Then head to Snow Canyon State Park and stretch your legs with some good short hikes like Hidden Pinyon Trail.  There's also a short trail that will allow you to scramble down and check out a small lava tube.

 

Fill up the gas tank and pick up snacks in St. George for tomorrow's trip—there's very few places to stop around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  If you have food restrictions (vegan, gluten, etc.), you may want to pick up something for tomorrow's meals as well.

 

Lodging: Feel free to spend the night anywhere you want in St. George.  There are big chain hotels, cute B&Bs, timeshares, high-end spa resorts, and more.

 

Camping: There are fantastic camp sites at Snow Basin State Park.  Make reservations in advance—it fills up frequently.

 

Food: Be aware dining options are slim on Sundays in most of St. George.  Also, dining establishments tend to close relatively early all other evenings. We recommend Irmita's Casita for some delicious, quick post-hike burritos.

Day 2:

Drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (about a 3 hour drive) and get out of the car and hike around.  The back of the lodge overlooks the canyon and there are a couple short trails along the rim in both directions that we highly recommend.

We also recommend driving out to Cape Royal in the park and walk out on a giant natural arch, Angels Window.  This adds an extra 50 miles round-trip of driving to the day, but it's so worth it!

Lodging:  Lodging is very limited around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The easiest option is to stay at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge or its cabins.  Make reservations far in advance because the lodge and cabins fill up. An alternative option would be to leave the Grand Canyon after checking out the view and spend the night in Page, Arizona. (This adds additional driving and some backtracking, so it's not ideal.  It also would make Day 2 a really long day.)

Camping: There's civilized camping at the North Rim Campground in the park.  We also recommend the informal, primitive camping in the neighboring Kaibab National Forest near Crazy Jug Point because you can camp directly on the rim of the Grand Canyon without reservations as long as you don't mind driving down some long dirt roads.  We managed to camp there all by ourselves on a holiday weekend before—it's pretty amazing!

Food: Make sure you pick up snacks before leaving St. George.  The only food option is to eat at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge.  If you have dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten, etc.) you may want to bring your meals from St. George.

Day 3:

Get up early and head north out of the park.  Turn right onto Rt. 89 south. Drive past Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and a few small towns. Turn left (east) towards Tuba City on Route 160—you'll see a sign for "Dinosaur Tracks" a few miles up the road. Stop here. You'll have to make a donation to one of the Navajo guides, but the dinoasaur eggs and tracks are worth it.

Head south on Route 89 and turn into Wupatki National Monument to see Native American dwellings. Follow the road through Wupatki to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to hike among some geologically-recent lava flows.  We recommend the Lava Flow trail. Be sure to stop at Sunset Crater's Visitor Center—it's small but very informative.  The corn cob imprint made in lava by Native Americans is hilarious.

Head to Flagstaff for dinner and lodging.  Flagstaff is a weird, but cool combination between hipsters and cowboys.  (We once saw a man wearing a top hat and handlebar mustache cleaning windows of a local business next to the old stockyards).  The music scene is also surprisingly good—check out The Flagstaff Green Room and the Orpheum Theater to see if anything's in town when you are.

Lodging: Flagstaff has all the chain hotels, but it is a college town, so beware of travelling there on the start of college weekend, homecoming weekends, graduation weekends, etc.

Camping: We also recommend camping just outside Flagstaff at the Sunset Crater National Monument campground—civilized, good for RVs and tents.

Food: The food in Flagstaff is amazing!  Some of our favorites are Diablo Burger and Lumberyard Brewing Company.  If you have food restrictions (vegan, gluten, etc.), Flagstaff can easily accommodate you.

Day 4:

Take Interstate 40 West to Kingman, Arizona for about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Turn onto Route 93 North and follow signs toward Las Vegas. Drive for another hour and 15 minutes, then stop at the Hoover Dam since you'll be passing right by it near Boulder City, Nevada.  We highly recommend taking one of the tours that takes you down into the belly of Hoover Dam. (Don't let the leaking water freak you out too much—it's been like that for years.) If you have the time, take a walk on the pedestrian walkway on the new arch bridge that overlooks the dam.

 

As you leave Hoover Dam and drive through Boulder City, keep an eye out—bighorn sheep quite often can be seen along the road eating the grass or in a city park up on the right. Finish the last 45 minute drive to Las Vegas. Then take a red-eye flight home to finally rest.

 

Add South Rim: If you want, after you leave Flagstaff you can drive about 25 miles west on Interstate 40, then exit to follow signs to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The views are a bit more expansive here, but there are a ton more people and it'll add at least 3 hours to this day.) After talking your requisite selfies, head south again the way you came and proceed west on Interstate 40 again.

Food: The only good place to stop and get food on the way back is Kingman. If you happen to be hungry as you're passing through Boulder City, go ahead and stop at their cute downtown area with a brewery and several restaurants. One is even suposed to be haunted!

Heather's Trip Tips:

1) We like the north rim of the Grand Canyon FAR better than the south rim. It's cooler, bigger trees, fewer people (90% go to south rim), and there's a herd of bison.  But, there is a downside—it closes for the winter (usually October 15 to May 15) due to snow and the views aren't quite as expansive.
2) If you want, you can tack the South Rim onto the end of this trip on your way back to Las Vegas fairly easily.  It only adds another 2 hours or so of driving in total.

3) Always have lots of snacks and drinks in the car. This trip takes you to some seriously barren parts of Arizona. 'Nuff said.

4) Stay longer and see some of the recommended trip variations below and go to Prescott and Sedona. Northern Arizona has so much to offer!

Tim Says:

 

Don't be a wuss—primitive camp right on the Grand Canyon rim in Kaibab National Forest. Unless you sleepwalk—that would be bad.

— Recommended Trip Variations —

Add Zion and Kanab

Extend the trip by a day or two and drive through the spectacular Zion National Park on your way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and spend the night in Springdale, Mt. Carmel Junction (perhaps at the quirky Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge) or drive a little farther to Kanab, Utah. There's lots to see around Kanab: slot canyons, dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, and pictographs. If you're lucky enough to get a permit, take some photos at the famous The Wave rock feature or take a tour of the equally famous Antelope Canyon. I guarantee you've seen the picture of light filtering down into its red, narrow, ribbon-like, smooth shaped slot canyon.

Add Monument Valley

Extend the trip by 2 days and head further east after visiting the Dinosaur Tracks outside Tuba City to Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Lodging can be found in the town of Kayenta, at The View Hotel overlooking Monument Valley, or in the town of Chinle. After seeing Canyon de Chelly, head south and visit Petrified Forest National Park. Then head back west towards Flagstaff and see the Meteor Crater and Walnut Creek National Monument. Spend the night in Flagstaff then pick up where you left off in the 4-day trip plan at Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments. Stay one more night in Flagstaff and then head back to Las Vegas or check out the south rim of the Grand Canyon if you still have the energy and time. (Doubtful.)

 

An alternative is to visit Las Vegas again but this time for a separate 5-day trip that covers the extra items in this trip variation.  Click here for details.

Add Hike to AZ's Highest Peak

Spend an extra night in Flagstaff and hike up to Arizona's highest peak (Humphrey's) from the Lockett Meadow Campground on the Inner Basin Trail through aspens and scenic mountain meadows. And if time permits, get a tour of the the famous Lowell Observatory (you know, the one that got the whole Pluto thing wrong) and do some shopping in the historic Flagstaff downtown district.
 
Note: We recommend camping in the Lockett Meadow campground if you're going to do this hike. It's at a high elevation, so expect cold weather especially at night no matter the temperatures in town.  It's a steep, scary dirt road up so we don't recommend this hike nor campground for RVs or trailers.

 

Don't panic, but keep an eye out for the campground's resident skunk.  He likes to cruise the campsites in search of food and has gotten a little too comfortable around people.  He once sat down next to a friend of ours while we were all talking around a raging campfire.  Our friend could have reached down and petted the skunk from his camp chair.  Once the skunk realized we weren't going to feed him he just casually sauntered off to the next campsite.