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Driving from Las Vegas to Marble Canyon

There are a lot of logisitcs to a Grand Canyon rafting expedition, but Western River has simplified the logisitics by including a $200+ flight from Vegas to your river rendezvous at Marble Canyon Lodge. Most folks meet us in Las Vegas and take the flight from Vegas to Marble Canyon. You may opt out of the flight and its cost, but will still need to get yourself to the rendezvous at Marble Canyon. Ground options include driving to Marble Canyon (about a 6 – hour drive), hiring a shuttle van service like St. George Express (about half the flight cost), or thumbing it (not recommended)!

Hitching a ride with St. George Express from Vegas to Marble Canyon is a nice option. They offer daily (12:45 departure) shuttle service from Las Vegas to Marble Canyon in nice Mercedes Benz vans with large windows and a great service mentality.

You can get Pre-Trip travel details on our website where you can get contact info to Marble Canyon Lodge and make needed reservations for the night before your trip.

Driving Yourself: One of our Facebook Fans asked, “…wondering if anyone has any suggestions for good places to stop to see, or stop to eat, along the road from Vegas to Marble Canyon?”

Here is a detailed answer that I hope can help others with similar ponderings: First thing to realize is that the Grand Canyon is a large obstacle, for which airplanes were made to hurdle. BUT, driving in the desert southwest can be an eye-popping (rather than ear-popping) experience… just be prepared for about 6 hours of drive time.

One great advantage of getting to Marble Canyon the night before is taking in the stillness of the place during sunset. Grab a good meal at Marble or at Vermillion Cliffs just up the road. Either place is flavored with a “charming” local brand of service that may make you chuckle. Leave plenty of time to sit on the veranda of either place and soak up the stillness – especially at sunset. If you leave enough time, you can wander down to Navajo Bridge that spans the Colorado from an impressive height. You could also drive 7 miles down to learn about Lee’s Ferry where you’ll begin the river journey the next morning.

  1.  St. George is 2 hours north of Vegas and offers a decent array of restaurants and gas stations along I-15 for refueling. (In ‘n Out Burger, Olive Garden, Brick Oven, Player’s Grill are among them).
  2. If you’re leaving St. George by 12 noon or earlier, you may want to consider the Scenic Options listed below. Each would add 2-3 hours to your drive, but may be worthwhile before or after your river trip.
  3. Direct Route –  Continue north on I-15 to Exit 16 toward “Hurricane/Zion Nat’l Park”. Once in Hurricane (pronounced by locals as “her-i-cn”) you will need to decide if you’re going to take Scenic Option A to the left (north) through Zion National Park. If you continue on the “Direct Route”, you’ll miss Zion Nat’l Park, but still see some dazzling country. As you drive, look out to the south (passenger window) and ponder the fact that the widest gash in the earth’s surface lurks somewhere off in that distance…
  4. Option A – Driving through Zion will take you about 2-3 hours out of the way, through one of America’s greatest National Parks. You can drive through and catch most of Zion’s magnificence as you ascend the switchbacks toward the amazing tunnel built by CCC workers. You eventually join Highway 89 and head down toward Kanab, Utah and meet back up with the usual route. (Best hikes, if you had a day in the park, would be Emerald Pools, or the Virgin River Narrows walk).
  5. South of Fredonia, Arizona, you will see small green signs that keep telling you the elevation. These subtle reminders tell of the emergent Kaibab (ky-a-bab) Plateau. Taking care to not run off the road, glance back northward to the “Grand Staircase” of the Colorado Plateau on display.
  6. On top, amongst the Ponderosa Pines, you’ll come upon a little junction called Jacob Lake. There used to be a Jacob, and there never was a Lake, but there is a gas station and gift shop if you want/need to stop. This is where you’ll have another choice to make about “Option B” (detailed below). This choice, however is an “out and back” one to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon – kind of a must, but you’ll never fit it all into one drive anyway. Staying on the direct route, (or re-connecting after taking Option B to the North Rim) you will descend back down the Kaibab Plateau and into the table-lands through which the Colorado River cuts. You’ll spy traces of the giant gash in the surface of the desert floor as you drop in elevation off the plateau.
  7. Option B – From Jacob Lake, you can drive directly south to overlook the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. (longer drive than you’d expect). The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is much less crowded, and significantly higher in elevation than the South Rim. There is a lot to see here, with lots of short walks from the car to the viewpoints. If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon from either of the rims, then you kind of “have to” either before or after your river trip. You’ll gain a lot of perspective seeing it from both river and rim.

Remember to get to Marble in time for dinner and check in. It gets real dark around there around 10pm in the summer months, and it may be hard to find the help you need to check in, or eat for that matter. And don’t forget that sunset sitting session on the veranda!

Kam Wixom

Kam began guiding in the Grand Canyon in 1991, met & guided with his wife in 2000, and is the proud daddy of 5 kids. He now works as the Marketing Director for Western River Expeditions.

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