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. This natural wonder is incredibly beautiful, awe-inspiring and an absolute must-see if you’re on a road trip through America’s southwest. It was always going to be a stop off on our route.
Grand Canyon West Rim Tour
Joshua Tree Forest
We headed to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, the nearest rim to Las Vegas, after stopping off at the magnificent Hoover Dam en route. There’s a forest in the Mojave Desert and the drive took us through the 900-year-old Joshua Tree Forest – I wasn’t expecting that.
The Grand Canyon West Rim is not part of America’s National Park as it belongs to the Hualapai Indian Tribe. The name means ‘people of tall trees’ and the Hualapai Indians run and own the West Rim and reservation. This means that your National Park Pass won’t be valid for the West Rim. You’ll need to park up your car, buy tickets at the visitor centre and take the shuttle bus to various points of interest and viewpoints. The cost of entry to the West Rim includes parking and bus shuttle.
This was our first real look at the magnificent Grand Canyon. Layer upon layer of rich coloured strata stretched into the distance. The blue of the sky was a gorgeous contrast with the rusty-red colours of the rock and the white fluffy clouds on the horizon. Can you see the eagle rock formation that the lookout is named after in the shot 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 Skywalk
Next to Eagle Point 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 Skaywalk cost is $35. Cameras 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. There are lockers for your belongings and professional photographers take your picture which you can buy afterwards. Wheelchairs, prams and pets are not allowed on the Skywalk so as not to damage the transparent floor.
The next stop on the shuttle route is Guano Point which has breathtaking 360° views. It’s worth taking the short hike up to Pyramid Point for panoramic canyon views of the Canyon and the snaking Colorado River. You’ll find the remains of an old tram that stretched more than 8,000 feet across the canyon to a bat guano mine.
The last stop on the shuttle route is the Hualapai Ranch and cabins although we didn’t check this out. At the ranch you can take wagon rides, learn about the Hualapai people and get stuck into cowboy pursuits like rope skills and tomahawk throwing. Cabins are available for overnight stays and they’re the only accommodation at Grand Canyon West. Perfect if you want to see a canyon sunrise and sunset.
Driving Directions from Hoover Dam to Grand Canyon Skywalk
Get directions from Vegas to Hoover Dam – then it’s around a 2-hour drive from Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon 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.
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Need to know…
Grand Canyon 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. Ticket prices vary for different packages and start at $43.42. Details here. Most visitors stay 3–4 hours and the last ticket is sold 1.5 hours prior to closing time.
What to take
Food and drink, except water, must be purchased inside the West Rim and can’t be taken in from outside.
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.
I’d love to visit the South Rim to get a different flavour of the canyon. Have you been to the Grand Canyon and which rim did you visit; North, South or West? Any tips…?
From here we drove 108 miles to Seligman for kicks and kitsch on Route 66