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Your Points and Miles Guide to the Grand Canyon – NerdWallet

The Grand Canyon is one of the nation’s breathtaking attractions, drawing visitors from around the world. It is also a classic American family road trip destination.

Grand Canyon National Park is enormous and has several entry points, but the most popular location — especially for first-time visitors — is the South Rim. Some visitors come to camp. But if you prefer the comforts of a hotel, there are a number of properties convenient to the South Rim where you can earn and redeem points.

Unless you want to stay two hours away in Sedona, there are three main areas you should consider for your hotel home base. Grand Canyon Village is closest to the park entrance and includes the town of Tusayan, just a few minutes’ drive from the entrance. Williams is a charming town near a train station that takes guests into the park; the drive is about an hour, while the scenic train ride takes just over two hours. Flagstaff is the largest city in the area and about an hour and 20-minute drive from the park.

For hotel loyalty program members, here are some of the top points-redemption options in these areas.

Keep in mind that some hotel amenities or offerings may be altered or on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check the website and contact the hotel directly if you have specific questions about what’s available during your visit.

IHG Rewards Club

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon

Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon

Just one mile from the entrance to the South Rim, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon is one of the closest places to stay using hotel points. Lodging here comes with familiar amenities that Holiday Inn Express fans appreciate, like complimentary breakfast, a refrigerator and microwave in each room, and an indoor pool, making it popular with families. Some rooms even have bunk beds.

The only way to know how many points you’ll need for a free night is to search the hotel’s website for your dates. We found rates starting at 30,000 IHG points per night during for fall 2021, but summer award availability may be scarce. If you have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you can redeem your free anniversary night here, too.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Williams

Would you rather hop on a train to get to the park? The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Williams is a short walk to a depot for the Grand Canyon Railway. Guests here get free breakfast and the chance to earn or redeem IHG Rewards Club points. Depending when you stay, rooms start at about 19,000 points per night.

Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff

The Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff has rooms starting around 20,000 points per night. But it’s farther from the park — about 90 minutes. If you have an early morning flight from Flagstaff, this can be a good choice. Otherwise, the Grand Canyon Village property is the best bet, even if the points rate is a bit more. There’s just something special about being close to Yavapai Point, where some of the best views of the canyon are worth savoring at sunrise or sunset, even if it costs more points to book.

Best Western Rewards

Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn

Your Points and Miles Guide to the Grand Canyon - NerdWallet

Photo courtesy of Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn

Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn is very close to the park’s South Rim entrance and offers comfortable accommodations with free breakfast and an indoor swimming pool and whirlpool. A free night is going for 36,000 Best Western Rewards points this summer and for even less (around 32,000 points) for dates in the fall.

Best Western Plus Inn of Williams

Near the Williams Depot, Best Western Plus Inn of Williams is a good deal. Rooms start at 28,000 points per night. Plus, you get free breakfast and free parking, which means you can leave your car and take the train into the park.

Best Western Rewards® Mastercard® cardholders get automatic Gold status when they are approved for this $0-annual fee card. Gold status means that you earn bonus points when paying an eligible rate if you’re looking to earn points rather than redeem them.

Best Western Pony Soldier Inn and Suites

This hotel is located in Flagstaff, farther from the South Rim entrance than other Best Western properties. The Pony Soldier Inn and Suites sometimes offer Best Western Rewards rates as low as 12,000 points per night in the fall and 20,000 in the summer.

Hilton Honors

DoubleTree by Hilton Flagstaff

Located in Flagstaff, this DoubleTree by Hilton is more than an hour’s drive from the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. But for Hilton Honors fans, Flagstaff is your best option because there are five properties in town.

Snack on the brand’s famous warm chocolate chip welcome cookie as you check-in and start planning your visit to the natural wonder. We found summer dates typically around 40,000 points per night and fall dates slightly below that in the mid-30,000s.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Flagstaff

Your Points and Miles Guide to the Grand Canyon - NerdWallet

Photo courtesy of Embassy Suites by Hilton Flagstaff

A great choice for families, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Flagstaff comes with the brand’s traditional made-to-order breakfast and evening cocktail hour with appetizers, all included in the room rate. The rooms are suites with separate living rooms and bedrooms plus a wet bar with a refrigerator, sink and microwave. There’s a sofa bed in the living room, which makes a night here like scoring two rooms for the price of one.

A rewards night can be priced as low as 31,000 points. Since breakfast and evening cocktails are packaged into the rate, this could be a great use of the free anniversary night certificate if you have a card that comes with a free night like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

Marriott Bonvoy

Residence Inn Flagstaff

The closest Marriott Bonvoy properties are in Flagstaff, and families will appreciate the extra space that comes with the apartment-style accommodations of Residence Inn Flagstaff. Each has a small kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, pantry with dining and cookware, stove, and dishwasher. As a Category 6 hotel, guests can redeem 35,000 to 60,000 points per award night. If you’re looking to redeem the anniversary free night certificate that comes with cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, this could be a great option.

SpringHill Suites Flagstaff

Another all-suite hotel option is the pet-friendly SpringHill Suites Flagstaff, which is a Marriott Bonvoy Category 5 property. One redemption night costs 27,500 to 40,000 points. Its accommodations come with a fridge, microwave and complimentary breakfast.

Other ways to use points to book a Grand Canyon trip

Redeem credit card points

The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel

Your Points and Miles Guide to the Grand Canyon - NerdWallet

Photo courtesy of Xanterra Travel Collection

For explorers who want to take the train into the park, The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel is ideally located near the train depot. It is run by Xanterra, which oversees most hotels within the national park system. This property is popular with families that like to book the train experience, which includes onboard entertainment and the option for additional tours in the park.

Guests can book an overnight stay (with the option to include meals or room only), or simply opt to book train tickets and stay at another hotel.

El Tovar Hotel

Your Points and Miles Guide to the Grand Canyon - NerdWallet

Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Xanterra Travel Collection

El Tovar Hotel is another Xanterra property and is within the national park, just a few feet away from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. If you want to be among the first to see this amazing landmark before sunrise and after sunset, this historic hotel could be the ideal spot to do that.

Book your flight with airline miles

The closest commercial airport to the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, which is served by American and United. It is small and compact with easy access to rental car facilities within the terminal. If you’re looking to redeem miles, this is the closest option.

Phoenix’s airport offers more flight and airline choices, but it’s a 3 1/2-hour drive from there to the Grand Canyon.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

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