Being lucky enough to be able to have traveled quite often, I’ve made many friends overseas. And through the use of social media, email, etc, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with the many friends and acquaintances I’ve made over the years. Some of these friends have been able to meet other friends of mine, proving how small this world of ours really is. I’m a firm believer in going out and experiencing the world. There is so much out there to see, do and eat. Even in your own backyard. Living in the US of A, we’re blessed to have such a large backyard to explore. One of those great places in our own backyard is one of the world’s greatest wonders, the Grand Canyon!
As a kid, we grow up learning about this amazing feat of nature, but most of us don’t get the chance to view it up close and personal. This is one place that everyone should visit. Everything from hiking, to whitewater rafting, to helicopter and mule rides to the bottom. There is something to do for everyone. If you can’t find anything, just open your eyes and enjoy the spectacular views.
Since moving to California, I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than a few times. The west rim is only 2-2.5 hours from Las Vegas, so it makes it an easy trip. There are plenty of companies that offer guided tours, but we decided to forge our own path. We made the trip to Las Vegas the day prior and woke up early(7am, ok, not really early) to make the drive.
The best thing about this particular trip is a couple of those aforementioned friends of mine were able to join me. Getting to the west rim from Las Vegas is quite simple. Take US-93 towards Phoenix. You’ll pass over the Hoover Dam and continue on US-93 until you reach Pierce Ferry Road (Mile Marker 42). Make a left turn and head North. You’ll see signs directing you where to go. The roads get a little rough(dusty and unpaved) around 20 miles in. They’re still manageable with a car, just be careful while driving. The road will end at the entrance, which is also the airport for the area. You can also find directions here.
The west rim of the Grand Canyon or Grand Canyon West is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe. While Grand Canyon West isn’t part of Grand Canyon National Park, you still have all the stunning views, Eagle Point, Guano Point, Hualapai Ranch and the Skywalk. The best time to visit is late fall until late spring. The temperature is less and more bearable. We went in August, and the heat pushed the thermometer well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The park is open 365 days a year, even on Holidays and Government shutdowns. Their hours are from 7am-7pm in the summer and 8-5 the rest of the year. However, they do sell the last ticket approximately 1-1.5 hours before they close, since it takes around 2-3 hours to explore the park.
The Hualapai Tribe operate a system of Hop-on/Hop-off buses. Our first stop is Eagle Point. Eagle point offers one of the best attractions the park has, the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Its plexiglass floor extends 70 feet over the edge of the Canyon’s rim, allowing you to look straight down to the canyon floor 4,000 feet below. It is 10 feet wide, and flanked by glass walls 4–6 feet high; high enough to keep you inside, but low enough to allow you to explore and view the Canyon unencumbered. They do restrict the use of cameras, which includes phones, on the Skywalk, but offer a professional photographer to take your picture on the Skywalk, which are available for purchase.
The Skywalk may be the main attraction in the Eagle Point area, but there are a number of other things to do. There is walking tour of the Native American Village: authentic Native American dwellings depicting multiple tribes. There is an amphitheater where you can enjoy live Native American performances from various tribes demonstrated continuously all day. They even have a shop with authentic, handmade Native American crafts and jewelry.
Our next stop is Guano Point. This area has to be the most beautiful, the most worthy of extra time spent in the whole park. Be to take the “Highpoint Hike,” an easy trail that offers breathtaking panoramic canyon views of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.
There are remnants of a historic tram that stretched 8,000 feet across the canyon to a guano (bat dung) mine. It stayed up for around 50 years until the cables were ripped down by USAF jets conducting maneuvers in the canyon.
You can also dine right on the edge of the Grand Canyon with 360° canyon views and interact with Tribal members that sell Native American jewelry and crafts.
Our last stop is the Hualapai Ranch. It’s a western ranch with horseback rides on the canyon rim as well as Cowboy entertainment, wagon rides, tomahawk throwing and roping. You can also stay overnight in one of the western themed cabins. Hualapai Ranch offers the only “in-park” lodging available Grand Canyon West.
Here are a few things to remember when going to explore the west rim of the Grand Canyon.
1. Bring sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, and dress in light layers
2. Bring at least a quart of water with you. It’s very hot in the summer, so plan accordingly.
3. There is almost no cell service at Grand Canyon West. Do not rely on your mobile for emergency calls, nor your smartphone for directions, a connection to the internet, or travel apps. Be prepared with some printed or written directions, and make your hotel reservations ahead of time. You can print directions here.
4. There are no services along the 50–70 miles between US-93 or Kingman, respectively, and Grand Canyon West, so make sure you have sufficient gas, air in your tires, and your car is in good working order. Take precautions typical of any road trip; have water, food and emergency supplies in your vehicle.
5. You can find ticket prices here. There many different packages to choose from. Grand Canyon West offers the only helicopter trips to the canyon floor. Call (888)868-9378 or (928)769-2636 for more info.
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