One question that is always asked about the Grand Canyon is "Which Rim is the Best?" You can experience the Grand Canyon a number of different ways with varying amounts of time to explore. With this is in mind, we will help you identify which Rim is best for you!
Are you driving or flying?
If you are driving or taking a ground tour from Las Vegas, the West Rim is probably the best choice if you have one day to see the Grand Canyon. This is not because of the view, but rather the amount of time invloved with driving. If you are coming from Phoenix, Flagstaff, or Sedona, the South Rim is your best choice as it is closer. If you have more than one day to see the Canyon, the South Rim is the best choice as there are more viewpoints and options.
The South Rim is viewable in a day by car from Las Vegas, however you will actually spend much more time driving than actually viewing the canyon. The trip is close to 600 miles round trip from Las Vegas, which takes close to 5 hours each way. Thanks to the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, you can get to the West Rim in 2.5 hours, making it a great choice for one day trips.
If you are flying, you can easily see either the West or South Rim within a half day. The West Rim has more tour options by aircraft as Helicopter companies can land in the Canyon at the West Rim. The South Rim air tours typically are flyover tours, but typically last longer in duration than the West Rim tours. Either the West or the South are good if you do a landing tour because flights are typically under an hour and you get 2-3 hours on the ground at the Canyon.
Which part of the Canyon has the best view?
Both the South Rim and West Rim have stunning views that will rival most anything you have ever seen in your life. With that said, there are some differences that may sway you to one over the other.
The South Rim:
Expansive Views, greater than 10 miles across from Rim to Rim
7000+ feet deep from Rim to River (the river is often hidden from sight from many of the viewpoints)
Less dramatic sheer edges, with many dropping 20-100 feet to lower shelving that gradually works its way towards the Colorado River.
The West Rim:
Closer views of the Canyon as Rim to Rim is about 2 miles across
Very good views of the Colorado River
4000+ feet from Rim to River
Very dramatic sheer edges that drop 1000-2000+ feet straight down
Summary: If you want to see a great view in the distance, the South Rim has a more panoramic expansive view. If you want to really feel the magnitude of a large canyon by being near very steep edges that awaken your senses, the West Rim is probably more ideal.
The South Rim has generally cooler temperatures than the West Rim, the summer months are more pleasant at the South Rim. In the fall and spring, the West Rim is much more pleasant. The winter can be very cold at both the West and South Rim with limited views due to fog, keep this in mind when making plans in the winter. It does snow at both the West Rim and South Rim.
The West Rim has more options for air tours and activities than the South Rim. The South Rim has more ammenities, restaurants, and general development than the West Rim.
The West Rim only has two viewpoints that take no more than 2-2.5 hours to see, it is generally not a good choice for over night or multi-day trips (unless you have mulitple day excursions like rafting planned).
The South Rim is most ideal for multi-day trips.
The South Rim has hiking & camping available, hiking is really only good for people that drive on their own or are spending the night as it can't be done within a 2-3 hour tour setting.
The West Rim is generally more expensive to see than the South Rim, however if you take a tour the price differences can be small and well worth the expense for the time saved in driving.