Depending on how you define it, the closest city to Arizona's Grand Canyon might be Tusayan or Williams or Jacob Lake or Flagstaff (all in Arizona) ... or even Las Vegas, Nevada. Technically, Tusayan is the closest geographically, but tourists often have considerations that make them look into other nearby cities.
The Grand Canyon is located in northern Arizona and features over 200 miles of spectacular views of mesas and valleys. There are three points of access to the canyon--the South Rim, the North Rim and Grand Canyon West, which is not part of the national park. The park attracts over 5 million visitors annually, most of whom visit the South Rim because the North Rim is less accessible and is closed from mid-November to mid-May. The North Rim is technically only 10 miles from the South Rim, but it's over a 200-mile drive.
Tusayan, a village of about 600 people, is the closest community to the South Rim, about seven miles away. Tusayan has motels, restaurants, stores, campgrounds and other services for tourists.
The village also has the closest air travel opportunity, Grand Canyon National Park Airport. Most tourists choose a different airport, however, because of the extra expense involved with GCN and the limited number of commercial flights. Flagstaff has the next closest airport, about 70 miles away. Flagstaff, in turn, is more expensive to fly into and out of than Las Vegas or Phoenix, the two most popular flight options for tourists coming to the park.
Shuttle and bus services are available from Phoenix and Flagstaff, or if you really want to do it in a big way, you can take a helicopter shuttle from Las Vegas.
For people who plan to stay in the general area and prefer to not deal with the tourism congestion of Tusayan, Williams is the next closest city, about 60 miles south of the canyon and situated in the largest stand of Ponderosa pine trees anywhere to be found. With a population of about 3,000, Williams offers tourism opportunities of its own, with abundant outdoor recreation and a historic district depicting what the town was like back in the wild frontier days. There are plenty of motels and restaurants here.
Jacob Lake is the closest community to the North Rim, about 30 miles from the park entrance. This is a tiny, unincorporated hamlet, which offers an inn with motel rooms and cabins, along with a restaurant and stores.
Las Vegas is the closest major city to Grand Canyon West, where the Skywalk is located. At 120 miles from Las Vegas, the Skywalk is a popular day trip. The Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped structure with a glass-bottom path that allows visitors to look straight down thousands of feet into the canyon. Las Vegas is also the closest major city to the North Rim.
When approaching the South Rim by car, it's a horse apiece for Las Vegas and Phoenix, with Phoenix at about 240 miles away and Las Vegas at about 270. Because there are longer stretches of two-lane roads from Las Vegas, tourists can expect that drive to take about an hour longer than from Phoenix.
Most of the organized tours to the Grand Canyon originate in Las Vegas.
- Photo Credit Jon Sullivan photo
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