Grand Canyon West Rim tour
When traveling, almost every day fellow travelers or random locals I meet ask me the same question ”What is on your bucket list then?”
And to be honest, my bucket list gets bigger and bigger every few months so I quit writing down the places I still want to visit in the future. A human life just cannot be long enough to visit all the breath-taking places in the world, I think.
But there is a number of destinations I just could not live without not exploring them. Grand Canyon has always been one of them. When I decided to visit the US West Coast this time after visiting NYC, Washington and Boston in 2012, Grand Canyon being one of the Seven Wonders of the World had to be on the to-do list and I am definitely considering one of those Grand Canyon helicopter tours. It might seem overly touristy, but it looks like the only way to get a grand perspective on just how vast and magical this natural wonder truly is.
Spending a few days in Las Vegas in April, I had the best chance to pay a visit to the millions of years old Colorado river craved canyon.
I planned to go to the South Rim at least but on the morning of the tour I was advised the bus was overbooked and kindly asked if I was willing to do the West Rim part of the Grand Canyon instead. Both tours were bus tours but the West Rim was a bit more expensive and supposed to be less touristy. So I was in!
Since I was picked up at my hotel in Las Vegas around 6 am, it took us around 4 hours to get to the West Rim. After we picked up our breakfast and a hot drink, we hopped on the bus. On the way we had a few restroom stops which I was very grateful for (you know, keeping up with my healthy lifestyle I drink 3 – 4 l of tea/water per day).
We also had a few minutes to walk the Hoover Dam bridge to see the famous Hoover Dam from pretty close. Along the bridge the history of the dam is written with the main facts and standing so high above the dam itself filled me with a lot of adrenaline. It was incredibly high and taking photos of the dam in such a wind was a bit scary!
When we finally made it to the Grand Canyon, I was pretty dusty and shivery from a couple of km of the unpaved rough road. But the adventure has only started!
The bus left us at the entrance to the West Rim where we could get souvenirs mostly made by the Hualapai Native Americans living 55 miles from the Grand Canyon. They spend 2 hours commuting from Peach Springs to the West Rim just to work here.
There’s different packages you can choose from when visiting the West Rim – I had the one called Hualapai Legacy Silver which came with a lunch at a viewpoint of my choice and the shuttle buses between the viewpoints.
One of the things I really enjoyed at the West Rim was exactly the shuttle buses between the 2 viewpoints and the Hualapai Ranch where I could spend the time I wanted to and not follow our group like sheep when I had to.
Eagle Point at West Rim
The first shuttle took me to the Eagle Point.
And here he was!
The Grand Canyon in all its beauty was looking at me and I was falling for its charms.
However, my love was not perfect. I guess love never can be perfect!
I was a bit disappointed by the colours as on all the photos the Grand Canyon looks so reddish but in reality it was just grey. Also, I don’t know if it was just a super touristy day when I visited but there were too many tourists trying to save their lives and not to fall down. It was a bit of a risk to take a snapshot each time I walked a little bit closer to the edge. Because no matter how careful I was, there were still too many people around who could just screw it up by accident. Oops and you are gone!
I did enjoy the views though. Could easily just get a lot of food and water, and sat here listening to music all day long. Sunset must be wonderful here!
But I just walked it along a few times and checked out the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk from far. The 1,200 meters glass bridge above the Grand Canyon floor appears on most of the canyon photos all around the world. But as it is not allowed to take any cameras nor phones there, it felt like waste of my time.
I preferred to take a stroll around the Native American Village with authentic dwellings from multiple tribes.
First, I saw a Hualapai Wikiup made of a Juniper trunk to accommodate entire family.
The second native dwelling was the Hogan by Navajo Indians made just of mud and wood. The wood cannot be from the trees struck by lightning because in Navajo believe that those trees attacked by lightning lost their spirit. The branches are laid in a circle to symbolize the world and the entrance faces the East because everything prosperous comes with the dawn of a new day from the East.
The third Sweat Lodge of the Havasupai Indians reminds the Navajo Hogan without the entrance part. Willows, earth, clay and Banana Yucca make the dwelling strong and flexible.
The Tipi houses of the nomadic Plains were my favorite ones probably. The colours and the conical style made the dwellings look so alive and full of energy! It is said that they reflect the nature’s perfect form and provide the direct contact with the source of life. And I do believe so. Just entering the Tipi boosted my energy. I spotted that the Plains build a fire in the middle to keep warm in winter together with using buffalo hide.
The last dwelling in the Native American Village was the Hopi made of stone and clay and used as storage, or for work and ceremonies.
After the Native American dwellings I passed by the West Amphitheater where you usually can experience performances such as dancing or Bird Dance but I just saw an older Hualapai tribal member singing. There’s also the Creations by Native Hands building with painted murals and many handmade souvenirs for you to take home.
Guano Point at West Rim Grand Canyon
I hopped on the shuttle bus leaving every 10 – 20 minutes and got off at the Guano Point which is very different to the Eagle Point. I found the viewpoint a bit bigger so less touristy, or maybe just many tourists were enjoying their lunch here with 360 degree canyon views.
Here I could sit back and relax for a few minutes with no one else around me for at least a few meters. It was relieving! I did the same thing on both sides of the viewpoint but the left side was less crowded. Observing a helicopter flying through the Grand Canyon over the Colorado River was definitely an adventure for me! My bigger camera lense helped me to get close ups of the different layers of the canyon and also made three birds flying around bigger than just dots.
I did climb the Highpoint Hike to the top like a few other people. Standing on the top with 360 view was magical. I could feel the majesty of all the millions of years the Grand Canyon has been craving by the river.
When on the top, I asked a guy to take a photo of me only to find out Jeremmy was a tour guide working for Virgin Holidays. (And here I was, going to the Grand Canyon South Rim by air the following day. That’s what I call destiny!)
Unfortunately, it was time for me to get my lunch and I couldn’t see the remnants of a historic tram that once stretched 2,700 meters through the canyon to a guano mine.
Another shuttle bus got me to the Hualapai Ranch. It was love at first sight – horses of different colours, men shooting with guns and roping, cowboy entertainment, a complete western hospitality with some fun included, I’d say. I mean not counting an old prison and the guillotine.
Getting my lunch at the ranch was amazing – free drinks and then a choice of both unhealthy and healthy options. Chicken, beans, salad and corn bread were my options while listening to the western live music.
Unfortunately, there was no time left to do horse-back riding. I only met an interesting older gentleman taking care of horses here for years. He came to the Grand Canyon West Rim when he was 17 and never left.
”I love my job. There’s nothing better than to enjoy what you are doing and even get paid to do so. I get paid to be here with horses every day. Horses are my biggest passion.” he told me.
And I could not agree any more with him. I love my job too even though travel blogging is not easy.
On the way back to the West Rim entrance, I only had a minute to buy some gold in a bottle and 3D Grand Canyon postcards (I am collecting postcards and snow globes back in Slovakia). I never had time nor opportunity to talk to any Hualapai person. Such a shame! Heard they are shy but you can still talk to them. I only remember an older man from the tribe who genuinely smiled at me a few times at the Hualapai ranch when having lunch. A memory of a mountain lion on the wall staring at me with those strict yet cute eyes got stuck on my mind too.
Grand Canyon West Rim tour was really touching! I left my heart in Grand Canyon. I left my heart in San Francisco gets boring already, doesn’t it? (although I really did there too!)