Article Overview: Grand Canyon Shuttle
The Grand Canyon shuttle system is probably the best shuttle system in the entire National Park Service and makes getting around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon a breeze.
In this article I’ll go over the different shuttle lines and routes, operating hours, itineraries you can plan based on your time in the park and what you want to see, and of course shuttle etiquette.
A lot of people visit the Grand Canyon without even knowing that the park has this amazing shuttle system that can really make for a much more efficient and enjoyable visit. It’s best to read up on the Grand Canyon shuttles and their routes before visiting so you can plan a great trip and maximize your time at this world class outdoor destination.
So let’s dive into the Grand Canyon shuttles and see how they can make your trip even better!
Grand Canyon Shuttle
Table of Contents: Grand Canyon Shuttle
Table of Contents: Grand Canyon Shuttle
- Grand Canyon Shuttle
- Things to Know Before Visiting The Grand Canyon
- How to Get to the Grand Canyon
- The Grand Canyon Shuttle System
- Grand Canyon Shuttle Routes
- Grand Canyon Shuttle FAQ
- Grand Canyon Shuttle Summary
- Grand Canyon Shuttle Map
Things to Know Before Visiting The Grand Canyon
$35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass ($20 for motorcycles and $20 for bikes or walk-ins) OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more, including 2,000 sites for free after a one-time $79 fee.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our good friend, Earth 🙂
The Best Guide Book for Grand Canyon National Park is this one, which we’ve marked up and highlighted quite a bit.
The Best Map: I like this map best for Grand Canyon National Park.
National Parks Checklist Map: This beautiful National Parks Checklist Map can be ordered to your house.
Framed National Parks Map: We’re a sucker for maps, this framed national parks map is the best.
Where to Stay: This is our favorite hotel in/around Grand Canyon National Park. It’s even accessible seasonally via the Grand Canyon shuttle purple route.
How to Get to the Grand Canyon
I guess we should briefly talk about the best way to get to the Grand Canyon! While the Flagstaff Airport is definitely the closest to the Grand Canyon, it’s usually fairly cost-prohibitive to go this route given the high prices for flights and/or rental cars.
Your best bet is to fly into either Las Vegas or Phoenix and drive from there. Given their similar distances I would check combined airfare and rental car prices and go with the cheaper one.
|Airport||Distance||Approximate Drive Time|
|Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG)||90 miles||1.5 hours|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)||230 miles||3.5 hours|
|Harry Reid International Airport Las Vegas (LAS)||275 miles||4 hours|
From Flagstaff, AZ: Take Interstate 40 to State Route 64 and follow signs (pictured in red above).
From Las Vegas, NV: Take US Route 93 to Interstate 40 to Route 64 (pictured in green above).
From Phoenix, AZ: Take I-17 North to Flagstaff then I-40 West to State Route 64 (pictured in orange above).
The Grand Canyon Railway provides a scenic journey from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim.
If you’re looking to do an Arizona road trip that includes the Grand Canyon, check out my in depth guide to creating the best Arizona road trip!
The Grand Canyon Shuttle System
The Grand Canyon shuttle system is a unique feature of Grand Canyon National Park that can make your trip a lot easier and more time efficient. Shuttle rides are free and unlimited with your entrance fee.
We highly recommend taking advantage of this unique service because parking in various areas is limited, particularly during the summer and holiday seasons.
The Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal
The Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal (pictured above) is the Grand Central Station of the Grand Canyon if you will. Why they didn’t call it that I don’t know.
From here you can hop a shuttle and reach just about any point on the South Rim. This is also where you’ll want to head back to to get to your vehicle after emerging tired and hungry from finishing a hike.
Grand Canyon Shuttle Routes
The Grand Canyon shuttle system has 5 routes, two of which operate seasonally. Except where otherwise stated, shuttles arrive every 15-30 minutes. Some of the routes interconnect, offering opportunities to change routes, but none of them overlap. I’ll go over the routes below.
The Kaibab Rim Route (Orange)
Known as the Kaibab Rim or Orange Route, this shuttle travels both eastbound and westbound from the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal.
The Eastbound Route offers direct service to South Kaibab Trailhead from the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal. It then continues to Yaki Point, and Pipe Creek Overlook, before returning to the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal. This route is a favorite for hikers owing to its direct access to South Kaibab Trailhead. The stops at Yaki Point and Pipe Creek Overlook afford more incredible views of the canyon for those not looking to hike down.
The Westbound Route leaves from the Visitor Center and travels to Mather Point and Yavapai Geology Museum before looping back to the Visitor Center. This route offers incredible panoramas of the Grand Canyon from Mather Point and an opportunity to explore the geological history of the canyon at the Yavapai Geology Museum.
|Season||First Shuttle From Visitor Center||Last Shuttle From Visitor Center||Frequency|
|Winter (December, January, February)||8:00 AM||5:00 PM||Every 30 minutes|
|Spring (March, April)||6:00 AM||7:00 PM||Every 15 minutes|
|Summer (May through September)||5:00 AM||8:00 PM||Every 10 minutes|
|Fall (October, November)||6:00 AM||6:00 PM||Every 15 minutes|
NOTE: Service starts at 4 am, and the last bus is 30 minutes after sunset. (50 minute round trip ride)
The Village Route (Blue)
Known as the Village Route or Blue Route, this shuttle operates in a loop and connects the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal with campgrounds, lodges, the Backcountry Information Center, and the Market Plaza.
NOTE: Service starts at 4 am, and the last bus is 10:30 pm. (50 minutes round trip)
Hikers Express Shuttle
This is a special early morning shuttle (without a color) for hikers looking to get an early start on the day’s activities. The shuttle starts at Bright Angel Lodge then stops at the Backcountry Information Center, makes a third stop at the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal, before making a final stop at South Kaibab Trailhead.
|Month||Departure times from Bright Angel Lodge|
|January||8 am, 9 am|
|February||8 am, 9 am|
|March||7 am, 8 am, 9 am|
|April||6 am, 7 am, 8 am|
|May||5 am, 6 am, 7 am|
|June||4 am, 5 am, 6 am|
|July||4 am, 5 am, 6 am|
|August||4 am, 5 am, 6 am|
|September||5 am, 6 am, 7 am|
|October||6 am, 7 am, 8 am|
|November||7 am, 8 am, 9 am|
|December||8 am, 9 am|
NOTE: This is a one-way shuttle and does not return hikers to the visitor center.
The Hermits Rest Route (Red)
The Hermits Rest or Red Route operates from March 1 to November 30, 2023. It provides transportation between Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest along a 7-mile road near the rim of the canyon, with 9 exceptional scenic overlooks. The service is accessible via shuttle bus, on foot, bicycle, or by commercial tour.
For more information about the best viewpoints in the park, check out our guide to the 20 best overlooks in the park.
NOTE: Private vehicles are allowed only during December, January, and February.
|Operating Months||March – November|
|Private Vehicle Access Months||December – February|
|Accessible by||Shuttle bus, foot, bicycle, commercial tour|
|Total Stops||9 scenic overlooks|
|Round Trip Duration||80 minutes (without getting off)|
|Last Outbound Bus||1 hour before sunset|
|Last Return Bus||30 minutes after sunset|
Below is the Hermits Rest Shuttle schedule by season. Remember that park maintenance and inclement weather make the schedule subject to change so be sure to check the park website before you arrive for the latest information.
|Season||Start Time||End Time||Frequency|
|Spring (March 1 to May 26)||4:30 AM||One hour after sunset||Every 30 minutes|
|Summer (May 27 to September 9)||4:00 AM||One hour after sunset||Every 10-15 minutes from 6:30 AM to sunset, and every 30 minutes before 6:30 AM and after sunset|
|Fall (September 10 to November 30)||5:00 AM||One hour after sunset||Every 30 minutes|
Note: The last return bus stops at all Hermit Road bus stops on the way back to the village.
Inclement Weather Operations
Note from the Park about Inclement Weather Impacts: During summer thunderstorms or other inclement weather, shuttle bus service may be suspended. Visitors will not be transported from the Village Route Transfer Station to viewpoints along Hermit Road.
However, drivers will attempt to shuttle visitors along Hermit Road east to the Transfer or serve as standing shelters along the route. When service is suspended, buses with additional capacity will stop anywhere along the Hermit Road where it is safe to pick up visitors.
The Tusayan Route (Purple)
If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon in the summer then this is the park hack for you. Skip the long lines to get into the park and the hassle of parking your car and hop on the Tusayan Shuttle Route (AKA the Purple Route). The town of Tusayan is located just outside the park and is where many people choose to stay when visiting the Grand Canyon.
This seasonal shuttle service with four convenient stops in Tusayan will whisk you to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in no time and without any of the hassle of driving yourself! They even have a park-and-ride lot near the IMAX Theater which is perfect for RVs and trailers.
|Operating Months||May 27 – September 9, 2023|
|Service||Tusayan to Grand Canyon Visitor Center|
|Round Trip Duration||40 minutes|
|First Bus from Tusayan||8 am|
|Last Bus from Tusayan||9:45 pm|
|First Bus from Grand Canyon VC||8:25 am|
|Last Bus from Grand Canyon VC||9:30 pm|
To take advantage of the ease and convenience of the Tusayan Shuttle Route you’ll need to have your park entrance pass when you board the bus. This allows the bus to bypass the long lines at the entrance and drop everyone off at the Visitor Center inside the park.
You can get a park entrance pass at any of these four locations:
- National Geographic Visitor Center (IMAX Theater)
- Canyon Plaza Resort
- Pink Jeep Tours
- Red Feather Lodge
- West Wind Air Service
There are also automatic machines where you can buy your pass conveniently located at the shuttle bus stops in front of the IMAX Theater and the Grand Hotel. Of course we recommend getting the America The Beautiful Pass if you plan on visiting any other national parks. At a one-time fee of $80 you get access to all of America’s national parks for free for the entire year.
What the Grand Canyon Shuttle Looks Like
The Grand Canyon shuttles are really quite nice. They’re kept very clean, have friendly drivers, contain informational signs about the shuttle route, and are air-conditioned. (The one pictured above has a few seats roped off, this was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the buses are now back to operating at full capacity.)
If you’re visiting during the summer or a popular holiday weekend like Memorial Day you can expect to see the buses full to the brim with hikers and gear. Not to worry though, they come every 15-30 minutes so you’ll have no trouble getting a spot.
Grand Canyon Shuttle FAQ
Yes! Use of the Grand Canyon shuttle is included in your required park pass ($35) at no additional cost to you. You can ride the shuttle an unlimited amount of times within your stay. More on what’s included in your pass here.
We like the Hermits Rest (Red) Route for its seclusion and incredible viewpoints.
It’s definitely better to take the shuttle. In addition to saving time by skipping entrance lines and avoiding looking for parking, parts of the park are closed to private vehicles seasonally making the shuttle your only option. The Grand Canyon shuttles are fast, convenient, and easy to use, making them the right choice for any visit.
The shuttles run ever 15-30 minutes. Typically ever 15 minutes in the summer and spring with service slowing a bit in the winter.
Unless you’re visiting in the winter you should definitely plan to utilize the shuttle system to make the best of your time at this incredible destination.
The shuttles can be crowded during the peak summer months for the most popular routes. Once on board, the shuttle is pretty comfortable and is definitely the most convenient option to make the most of your time at the park.
Grand Canyon Shuttle Summary
The Grand Canyon Shuttle system is extensive, reliable, and incredibly useful, affording in-the-know visitors opportunities to really maximize their time at this world class outdoor destination. Knowing about the shuttles and where they can help you with your trip is one of the keys to a successful visit at the Grand Canyon.
I hope this deep dive on this amazing shuttle system has been helpful. It’s our goal here at More Than Just Parks to serve up inspiration and useful information to help you plan your travels to America’s amazing public lands. And please send us some photos from your travels!
Grand Canyon Shuttle Map
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