The Grand Canyon has to be Arizona’s most famous landmark and, without doubt, the largest. In fact it’s vast, stretching for 277 miles, up to 18 miles wide in places, and striking depths of over a mile deep where the Colorado river cuts through the canyon’s floor.
But with such a massive natural feature, which part should you visit. Read on to find out what your options are and what to expect from a visit to the Grand Canyon West Rim. A must do if you’re in Vegas for more than a few days.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon – which part to visit?
Our visit to the West Rim was a no brainer because it was en route to Seligman and Route 66 which was part of our South West USA road trip. It’s also very easy to visit the West Rim as a day trip from Las Vegas .
But there are also the South Rim, North and East rims to explore. But which rim of the Grand Canyon is best for you. If you’re not sure we can run through your options:
The West Rim
This is the closest part of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas at 2-3 hours drive from the city. If you visit the West Rim you can experience the Skywalk, a huge horseshoe shaped glass bridge, which is suspended between 500 ft (150 m) and 800 ft (240 m) above the floor of the Grand Canyon.
If you’re in Vegas without a car then a bus tour to the West Rim is one of the must-do day trips from Vegas. The bus day tour takes from 10-11 hours and gives you the chance to stop at Hoover Dam and see Joshua Tree Forest on the way. Breakfast and lunch is included.
If you’re really pressed for time then you can take a helicopter tour to the West Rim and get some fabulous aerial views of the canyon and also Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.
The South Rim
The South Rim is another 2-3 hours drive on from the West Rim and a total of 4-5 hours driving from Las Vegas. Despite the extra driving time you’ll get to see the most impressive views of the Grand Canyon.
The East and North Rims
Both the East and North Rims are probably too far away for a day trip from Vegas to be comfortable, unless you’re prepared to rent a car and spend two or three days exploring. If you’re planning to stay overnight then these AirBnbs near the Grand Canyon are worth checking out.
Be assured that whichever part of the Grand Canyon you choose to visit you’ll witness nature’s beauty and splendour at its awe-inspiring best.
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West Rim
If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas check out the directions from Vegas to Hoover Dam which is literally on the way. Then it’s around a 2-hour drive from Hoover Dam to the West Rim. Take the Hoover Dam Bypass over The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge on Highway 93. After around 40 miles hang a left onto Pierce Ferry Road by the Grand Canyon Skywalk sign.
Continue on through Dolan Springs keeping an eye out for the Diamond Bar Road sign (31 miles) where you turn right. You then take the Diamond Bar Road for about 21 miles to Grand Canyon West. On arrival park up in the designated parking area and buy your tickets at the Tour Centre. You don’t need to book in advance.
If you don’t have a car then check out these other ways to visit the Grand Canyon from Vegas.
Hoover Dam view from Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
When is the best time to visit West Rim?
From February to May or September to November are generally the best times to visit the Grand Canyon West Rim. June to August is peak visitor season with crowds and queues and full shuttle buses.
I’ve been in February, on a helicopter tour, and the temperature was pleasant, although we got some nasty bites when we took our walk around the canyon floor. Take mosquito repellentwhen you go.
I’ve also been towards the end of September and it was hot but not too hot. We stayed at the top in the reserve Hualapai reserve without going to the bottom to the river and didn’t get any bites this time. During the summer temperatures can reach highs of 30°Cs (around 100°F).
Tip: Whatever time of year you go be sure to wear a good insect repellant, take a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. I like to use my insulated flask which keeps my drinks nicely chilled – the mounth is wide enough to fill it with ice cubes.
Joshua Tree Forest
The Grand Canyon’s West Rim is the nearest rim to Las Vegas. After our visit to Hoover Dam, the route took us through Arizona’s 900-year-old Joshua Tree Forest. Who knew there’s a forest near Vegas! Joshua trees are named because their branches spread upwards like someone raising their arms to heaven.
It was good to stop off for a few minutes and take in the views and a closer look at some of the trees, which are in fact yucca trees.
Joshua Tree Forest, Arizona
The Hualapai Indian Tribe
The drive from Hoover Dam to Grand Canyon West Rim is around 96 miles and the journey took us just under 2 hours. The West Rim is not part of America’s National Parks. It actually belongs to the Hualapai native Americans.
The tribe have lived in the mountains of north-western Arizona since 1883. The name Hualapai means ‘people of tall trees’ and the native Americans run and own the West Rim and reservation and consider the land to be sacred. This is why no food and drink, except for water, can be brought into the reservation from outside. There is a cafe and drinks stops if you need a snack.
This also means that your National Park Pass won’t be valid for the West Rim and you’ll need to buy tickets to enter the site. (Scroll down for more info).
Park up your car, there’s plenty of room in the car park and buy your tickets at the visitor centre. There’s also a shop there selling souvenirs and essentials.
Getting around Grand Canyon West Rim
A hop-on/hop-off shuttle bus is included with all the ticket packes. The shuttles run continuously from the car park on a loop around the West Rim with four stop off points. This means you can take in the sights at your own pace hopping on the next shuttle when you want to move on the next viewpoint.
Main sights at the West Rim
There are three main highlights which you’ll see at the Grand Canyon West Rim:
- Eagle Point/Skywalk
- Guano Point
- Hualapai Ranch
West Rim views – Eagle Point
Our first stop at Eagle Point was our first real look at the magnificent Grand Canyon. Layer upon layer of rich coloured strata stretched into the distance. The blue sky and soft white clouds were a gorgeous contrast with the rusty-red colours and strata of the rock.
Can you see the eagle with its outspread wings in Eagle Point rock formation below?
People were getting dangerously close to the edge to get the ultimate selfie. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you tumbling over into that 4000 ft drop. Be careful if you’re visiting with children…
Grand Canyon West Rim Skywalk
Next to Eagle Point viewpoint is the Grand Canyon Skywalk which opened in 2007. It has a plexi-glass floor and extends 70 feet over the edge of the Canyon’s rim. If you have a head for heights you can look 4,000 feet below to the floor of the canyon. The Grand Canyon Skywalk cost is $23 in additional to the general entry fee package to the West Rim.
Cameras and phones aren’t allowed on the Skywalk and I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to take my own shots so we gave it a miss. I must admit it also made me feel a bit wobbly just looking at the Skywalk.
There are lockers for your belongings and professional photographers take pictures which you can buy afterwards. Wheelchairs, prams and pets are not allowed on the Skywalk so as not to damage the transparent floor and visitors are required to wear elasticated shoe covers.
There’s an Amphitheatre near to Eagle Point where live Native American performances take place.
The Hualapai Ranch
The last stop on the shuttle route is the Hualapai Ranch and cabins. At the ranch you can take wagon rides, learn about the Hualapai native American people and get stuck into cowboy pursuits like rope skills and tomahawk throwing. There’s an old jail and town hall and is just like walking into the Wild West.
Cabins are available for overnight stays and they’re the only accommodation at Grand Canyon West Rim. Perfect if you want to see a canyon sunrise or sit around a camp fire toasting S’mores and singing cowboy songs like on the Colorado dude ranch.
Guano Point Viewpoint
The final stop on the shuttle route is Guano Point which has breathtaking 360° views of the West Rim. It’s worth taking the short hike up to Pyramid Point for panoramic views of the canyon and the snaking Colorado River far down below. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
You’ll also find the remains of an old tram that stretched more than 8,000 feet across the canyon to a bat guano mine and the Hualapai market where a range of homemade handicrafts and jewellery are on sale.
What you need to know when visiting the West Rim
Grand Canyon West Rim opening times
West Rim is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily from October – March and from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily from April – September. It is open every day of the year including all major holidays.
West Rim ticket prices
Ticket prices start at $45 per person for general admission which includes parking, shuttle buses and entry to Eagle Point and Guano Point. It’s an extra $23 for the Skywalk. Admission cost details here. Most visitors stay 3–4 hours and the last ticket is sold 1.5 hours prior to closing time.
What to take with you to Grand Canyon West Rim
All food and drink, except water, must be purchased inside the West Rim and can’t be taken in from outside. There are two cafes,; Eagle Point cafe and the outdoor Guano Point cafe which serve drinks and snacks. The Sky View Restaurant serves a good variety of meals with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto incredible West Rim views while you eat.
Remember to take sunscreen and hats in summer and a fleece in the winter as it can get chilly. You may also need insect repellent – I got some nasty bites when I visited in February a few years back. Pets are not allowed to be left in vehicles nor can they go on tours. Pet accommodation is available at the Hualapai Ranch for a fee.
Is the Grand Canyon West Rim worth it?
Absolutely yes, especially if you can’t get to the South Rim. The Grand Canyon is definitely a bucket list trip and the views from the West Rim are absolutely stunning.
I’d love to visit the South Rim to get a different flavour of the canyon and get some hiking in. Have you been to the Grand Canyon and which rim did you visit; North, South, East or West? Any tips…?
From here we drove 108 miles to Seligman for kicks and kitsch on Route 66
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