— Las Vegas: 4-Day Grand Canyon North Rim Loop —
View from Bright Angel Point trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
People standing on top of Angels Window on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Bison can be seen in this meadow sometimes on the drive into the North Rim
A Western Tanager at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Bright Angel Point overlook
Snow Canyon State Park aerial view
The red sandstone in Snow Canyon State Park dwarfs all visitors
Explore the red sandstone at Snow Canyon State Park
There's lots of history at Snow Canyon State Park
A well-preserved dinosaur footprint at Dinosaur Tracks just west of Tuba City, Arizona
Three fossilized dinosaur eggs at Dinosaur Tracks just west of Tuba City, Arizona
There's nothing around the prolific Dinosaur Tracks trackway
The Dinosaur Tracks trackway just west of Tuba City, Arizona doesn't disappoint
There are adult and baby dinosaur tracks just west of Tuba City, Arizona
An ancient Native American dwelling at Wupatki National Monument
Another ancient Native American dwelling at Wupatki National Monument
An ancient Native American dwelling at Wupatki National Monument north of Flagstaff
Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater National Monument outside Flagstaff, Arizona
A few trees already growing out of the Sunset Crater Volcano cinder cone
View of the San Francisco mountains from Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Neon green lichen growing on the lava at Sunset Crater Volcano just outside Flagstaff
Sunset Crater Volcano just north of Flagstaff, Arizona
Hoover Dam just outside Boulder City, Nevada
Hoover Dam turbine control station
The Hoover Dam turbines
The Colorado River flowing out of the bottom of the Hoover Dam
Looking Down the Hoover Dam
A Hoover Dam building built into the side of a cliff
Some of the Hoover Dam intakes
Lake Mead view from the Hoover Dam—the white is Lake Mead's "bathtub ring"
A dramatic statue at the Hoover Dam
Buildings a long way down at the base of the Hoover Dam
Bighorn Sheep hanging out in a Boulder City, Nevada park
Bighorn sheep in a city park in Boulder City, Nevada overlooking Lake Mead
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 —
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.
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.
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.
— Recommended Trip Variations —
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.
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.