This is the simplest route to the canyon, a 60-mile straight shot north from Williams, which lies along I-40. To get to the South Entrance Station , take I-40 exit 165, turning north on Highway 64. The road cuts through open prairie scattered with one-seed junipers, where you might glimpse a herd of elk or pronghorn. After passing through Valle (about 40 miles) look for Red Butte to the northeast. Straight ahead, the canyon is barely recognizable, a dark line on the horizon where the North Rim  juts above.
This is a good route if you neglected to make reservations: You’ll be passing several campgrounds around Williams, Valle, and Tusayan, and Valle’s two motels may have vacancies even during busy summer months. Most visitors experience their first canyon panorama four miles past the South Entrance station at Mather Point . A couple of miles farther along, historic Grand Canyon Village  is tucked in a forest of ponderosa pine along the rim.
Travelers bound for the canyon from Flagstaff have three options. They can head for Williams (about 30 miles west on I-40) or the East Entrance , or take Highway 180 northwest, connecting to Highway 64 at Valle.
At 78 miles, Highway 180 is the shortest route from Flagstaff to the canyon, and it’s also very scenic, skirting just west of the San Francisco Peaks through a forest of ponderosa pine and aspen before cutting across an open juniper woodland.
Coconino National Forest offers several possibilities for side trips, including a back-road drive through Hart Prairie’s aspen groves, a ride up the chairlift to the Arizona Snowbowl, or hikes around and up Kendrick Peak.
As Highway 180 swings west toward Valle, the road passes close to Red Mountain, an extinct volcano and fascinating geology hike. At Valle, turn north (right) on Highway 64 for the remaining 20 miles to Grand Canyon.
The East Entrance Station , less trafficked, is reached by driving 89 miles north from Flagstaff (or 106 miles south from Page), a scenic route with options for side trips, especially if you’re interested in archaeology, geology, or Indian art.
As you leave Flagstaff on U.S. 89, Elden Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks rise on the left. Cinder cones east of the road indicate the region’s volcanic past, which you can explore by taking a right at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, 11 miles north of Flag. The park’s main road loops back toward the highway, passing through Wupatki National Monument, which preserves several major prehistoric ruins.
U.S. 89 continues north through the Coconino National Forest and the Navajo Reservation, skirting the edge of the Painted Desert, marked by softly rounded low hills of the colorful Chinle Formation. (If you’re driving south from Page on U.S. 89, you’ll pass alongside the reddish Echo Cliffs, which rise above reservation farms and ranches. You’ll see several traditional Navajo dwellings, circular or octagonal hogans. The old stone building at the Gap is one of the region’s historic trading posts. Continue toward Cameron and the junction with Highway 64.)
Highway 64 leads west 30 miles to the Grand Canyon’s East Entrance, but a mile north of the junction, you can visit historic and contemporary trading posts at Cameron, a worthy side trip. Along Highway 64, stop for views of the Little Colorado River Gorge at the scenic overlook, where Navajo artisans sell jewelry, pottery, and other items. Desert View, one of the South Rim’s  highest overlooks, is just beyond the East Entrance. Here you’ll find a seasonal campground, Desert View Market, a bookstore, a trading post and deli, restrooms, and, best of all, the intriguing Watchtower , a Mary Colter landmark.
Only 1 in 10 canyon visitors makes it to the North Rim , usually inaccessible in winter due to heavy snows. Jacob Lake is the nearest town, 30 miles from the park’s North Entrance Station on Highway 67. If you’re arriving from the west, you’ll pass through Fredonia, Arizona, before climbing the high Kaibab Plateau  on U.S. 89A. Stop at the LeFevre Overlook for a dramatic view of the pink, gray, white, vermilion, and chocolate cliffs of the Grand Staircase to the north.
If you’re arriving from Flagstaff or Page, turn west on U.S. 89A, crossing the Colorado River over the Navajo Bridge and continuing through House Rock Valley. (Lees Ferry is a short but scenic side trip to the launching point for most white-water rafting  trips.)
In 1996, six condors were reintroduced to the wild from atop the Vermilion Cliffs, rising to the north above the low Marble Platform. Dirt roads lead south to Marble Canyon  overlooks and north to the Bureau of Land Management’s Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. The highway quickly climbs the Kaibab Plateau  toward Jacob Lake, where you can stop at the Kaibab Plateau Visitors Center , operated by the U.S. Forest Service, or grab a bite to eat at the Jacob Lake Inn.
From Jacob Lake, turn south on Highway 67 (usually closed by snow during the winter). The 45 miles from Jacob Lake to the North Rim are one of the loveliest drives in Arizona, through grassy meadows edged by hills with ponderosa pine, fir, spruce, and aspen.