In 1966, when my husband was transferred from the USNavy Post Graduate School in Monterey CA to Key West Florida, we had two children and three cars. We shipped one car from San Francisco to Miami by rail, and then drove the other two cars. My husband drove the 1932 Plymouth (pictured) and I drove our 1963 VW bus. My parents came out from Maryland to make the trip with us.
We left Monterey and did an overnight stop in] Calico CA near Barstow and visited the Ghost Town. The next day, we passed Twenty-Nine Palms, and stopped for the night in Kingman AZ. In those days of course, there was no I-40. From there we went up US 180 to the park and entered at the South Entrance.
I took the top picture (a digitized slide) from the driver's seat of our VW bus. You can see the steering wheel reflected in the windshield. My husband has stopped to avoid hitting some cows that were wandering around on the open range land.
After we left the park by the East Entrance (Desert View) we went up US 89 and across US 160 to Four Corners and Mesa Verde CO.
You may as well park and walk to some areas. The parking at the core market plaza and Bright Angle Lodge is packed with cars. Many people drive into the area and then cannot find a spot to park. It is limited, for sure. A large number parked way out near Mather Point, and then still had difficulty finding parking for the vehicle. It was further under construction so detours and less spaces were available while I was here.
As a major tourist attraction located in a fairly remote area of the USA, you can expect auto traffic to be a major problem at the Grand Canyon. People don't want to be bothered with any of the alternatives.
The problem is that there simply isn't enough space to built a huge parking lot to accomodate everyone that wants to come here, particularly during peak season.
This leads to city-like congestion problems, lack of parking places, and people having to park their cars quite some distance from where they really want to be.
Parking areas A and B are large lots that sometimes have parking places available. They are located near the park headquarters (near Mather Campground and Shrine of the Ages). The B lot is near the businesses in Market Plaza, and therefore usually fills up very quickly, even though it is the largest parking lot in the area. Parking area E is near the Backcountry Information Center, and has large parking places for RVs and trailers. However, it is quite a distance from there to the Canyon, and you will want to be prepared to use a shuttle bus if you need to park there. Lots C and D are near the train station, and may have spots because they are lesser known. However, they may fill up fast under certain conditions. Smaller parking areas are scattered around the south rim area, and available spots will most likely be hard to find, particularly during the peak season.
There are several large parking areas, and if one of them is full, it is best to find another one and take the free shuttle bus to your ultimate destination. You are going to find that it is difficult to find parking exactly where you want to.
The auto traffic also has lead to significant environmental degradation of the area around the South Rim near Grand Canyon Village, as people park in places they shouldn't if they can't find a spot near where they are looking, and wander through the forest and wear out the plants - which leads to erosion problems during the flash storms that do happen from time to time here.
So, unless you are planning to go to one of the lesser trafficed areas of the park, I suggest that you be prepared to park a long distance from where you want to be, and use a shuttle bus to get where you need to go from where you have parked (see the shuttle bus tip).
I went to Grand Canyon via car. It was a pretty long drive from Las Vegas. There were not a lot of big cities along the way, and the land was mostly desert and barren mountains.
But it was a great experience...got to see Hoover Dam along the way. From Las Vegas, I took U.S. 93 south (which passed through the dam). In Kingman, AZ, get on Interstate 40 East and drive and drive. In Williams, AZ, take the Arizona SR 64 exit and drive north on SR 64. It will merge with U.S. 180 which leads to the entrance of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.
If you're using Interstate 40 to get to Grand Canyon, you will pass through several exits that will lead you to the Historic Route 66. In 1926 Route 66 was designated as a federal highway that linked Chicago and Los Angeles. It became America's favorite route to the west coast.
Be sure to pick up some Route 66 souvenirs at gas stations, which there aren't many, along the interstate.
To get to the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park your choices are more limited. You must first get to Jacob Lake which is about 30 miles north of the north rim park boundary.
If you are coming from Los Angeles or Las Vegas take Interstate 15 north to its junction with Utah's state Route 9, which is just north of St. George, Utah. Take UT-9 east, through Zion National Park, to its junction with U.S.Route 89 at Mount Carmel Junction. Take US-89 south to Kanab Utah where an alternate route to US-89 splits off. Take alternate US-89 south from Kanab to Jacob Lake Arizona.
If you are coming from Salt Lake City take Interstate 15 south to it's junction with Utah Route 9 and follow the directions given above.
If you are coming from the east or south (Albuquerque or Phoenix) you must first make your way to Flagstaff. From there take US-89 north to where alternate US-89 (US-89A) splits off, which is just south of Page, Arizona. Take alternate US-89 west to Jacob Lake. From Jacob Lake drive south approximately 30 miles on Arizona Route 67 to the park boundary. From the park boundary it's another 10 miles or so to the north rim.
The Grand Canyon is located in northern Arizona about 70 miles north of Flagstaff. To get to the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park you have a number of choices:
From Los Angeles and other locations in southern California you should first take Interstate 15 north to Barstow and then take Interstate 40 east to Williams, Arizona. From Williams you should take Arizona Route 64 north to the Grand Canyon.
From Las Vegas you should take U.S. Route 93 southeast towards the Hoover Dam and Kingman, Arizona. From Kingman take Interstate 40 east to Williams, Arizona and then take Arizona Route 64 north to the Grand Canyon.
From Albuquerque and other eastern locations you should take Interstate 40 west to Flagstaff, Arizona and then refer to the directions below.
From Phoenix take Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff and then refer to the directions below.
From Flagstaff, Arizona there are two possible choices for getting to the Canyon: U.S. Route 180 north to Arizona Route 64 north to Grand Canyon (south entrance) U.S. Route 89 north to Arizona Route 64 west to Desert View (east entrance).
Best way to get around the grand canyon is to drive to all the view points. At least that is what we did.You can also walk around. When you get there you get a map and some info so then you can see what to do. We thought it was best to drive around, and sure did not regret.