Thursday, April 4, 2013

Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon West is the Land of the Hualapai Nation.  It's also well known for the glass skywalk that you can walk on to see over the cliff of the canyon.

During a recent family trip to Las Vegas we decided to visit the Grand Canyon for a day.  The south rim is the national park and looks like a great place to visit.  However, it is at least a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas - each way!  So, we decided to visit the west rim of the canyon which is only 2.5 miles from Las Vegas.  It also allowed us to drive past Hoover Dam (didn't stop this year since we were there recently) and through the Joshua Tree Forest.

The first nice Joshua tree we found.

My kiddos had a great time exploring the dessert during our short stop.

This Joshua Tree Forest on the way to Grand Canyon West.
I must confess that this picture was taken on our way back to Vegas.
It was a short opportunity on top of the hill.
It was much prettier on the way to the canyon but I didn't realize it would be the only spot
that I could take a picture on some sort of angle (see more of the trees). 

There is a large section of the road that is not paved.   It's very dirty and I have heard can be very bumpy!  We are from Michigan so it wasn't bad for us ;-)  However, we could have been there during a time where they just repaired some spots....

Yes - all visitors must check in at the main terminal!  My mom was there 2-3 years ago and she never mentioned this to us.  I later found out that the options have changed a lot since her visit.  

You purchase tickets to access the canyon at the main terminal.  There are many packages available but at the time of our visit the cheapest was about $45 a person - after you add the taxes and fees!  You can't get anywhere near the canyon without paying that fee!  So we parked and entered the big white puffy building.  There, we used the restroom and paid for our entrance into the park.  You can also do some shopping in the gift shop.  An option that we were offered that I wanted to share with you:  You can add on meals and it is presented as a discount if you do that at the time of purchasing your tickets.  It is a nice option but we found out that not all the menu options are included.  Ask to look at the menu of what is included to see if you want to participate.  We purchased meal tickets for my kiddos only to find out later that the options were not anything they would eat.  BUT - when we were at one of the food stops we saw that they sell hot dogs (not part of the meal ticket)....  

The cost of your visit can really add up at this place!  We opted to not go on the glass skywalk.  The cost to walk out on it was pretty high!  Plus, they do not allow you to take camera's or any other items on the skywalk.  They will take a picture of your group for a cost but, like I said, the cost of things adds up quickly...  However, it is a "once in a lifetime experience so you may choose to do it.  My mom and step-dad had their picture taken on the skywalk during a previous visit and it turned out great!

Instead, we opted to take advantage of a helicopter experience through Papillon that we priced out and reserved ahead of time.  It included a helicopter ride into the canyon, a 10 minute boat ride on the Colorado River, and a helicopter ride back out of the canyon.  The deal we got at the time gave us all that for just $125 a person plus the $45 pp to get into the park.  It was $88 a person (with fees) to walk out onto the glass skywalk - not including the picture but it does include the entrance into the park.  From the main terminal we were able to access the helicopter company.   You may be able to take do a last minute flight but they were busy when we went and they said it gets much more busy later in the day.  We had a 1:40 pm flight scheduled but they squeezed us in early since we arrived earlier.   

A friend once told me how awesome it was to take a helicopter into the canyon.
I am so glad that we choose this experience for our visit!

Papillon landing spot in the Grand Canyon.
It's very dry, dusty and dirty!

Restroom option at the Papillon landing spot.

Stairs to get to the boat.  I saw other companies landing spots and most seemed to have stairs
and a walk required to get to the boat.

Waiting for the boat.

Walkway down to the boat.
It makes sense but look how dirty the water is!!!

Boat ride (kids wore life jackets).
Good thing we brought the sunblock and sun glasses!

Picture perfect!

Now back to the parking and shuttle area to see the rest of the canyon.  

This gives you an idea of the three stops that they shuttle you to.  One Shuttle will take you to Eagle Point (where the glass skywalk is located).  From there you take a shuttle to Guano Point.  Those two locations are where you will see the Grand Canyon.  There are many great picture opportunities and more!!! The 3rd shuttle will take you to Haulapai Ranch.  Each time your ticket is scanned so make sure you do not leave a location until you feel you have fully explored it - you can not return without paying an entrance fee again!  At least  that was my understanding.

I often mention that things change so you will want to check out pricing and such for your trip - especially if you are reading this post a couple years after I wrote it.  This is a good example:  I mentioned that my mom visited this area 2-3 years ago.  At that time, you drove directly to the skywalk.  You could see that portion of the Grand Canyon for free!!!  It was later that they added the parking location, main terminal, fees, and shuttles into the park....  Of course, adding more cost to the visitor.

"Shaded" area at the main terminal where you wait for the shuttles and/or get started for any helicopter rides.
There are two main lines for shuttles.  One will take you to Eagle Point - which will then take you to Guano Point.  The second line takes you to Hualapai Ranch.  The helicopter shuttles are also in this area but the companies will lead you to their shuttles which are small buses.

What the big shuttles look like.
 We opted to visit the ranch first (after our helicopter ride).  Mostly because we had family that were meeting us later that we wanted to have with us for any Grand Canyon stops.

The ranch will not get you close to the canyon.  It's main purpose appears to provide a cowboy town experience.

A "cowboy" at the ranch.

We were shown how to pan for gold.
So fun!

There were cowboy games to play.

Picture opportunity for Harry and the gang.

Cowboys showing us how to rope cattle.  They also had a "shoot out" while we were there.
The ranch wasn't busy when we were there.  It was our first stop while most people make it there last stop.  We did not eat there but I have read reviews stating that it has the best meal option.  It looked great but there wasn't anything for my fussy kiddos or vegetarian me.  They also offer horse rides and a gift shop.

Next, we took the shuttle back to the main terminal and met up with the rest of our group.  As a surprise to my kiddos, my mom and some of her family joined us.  It was a huge surprise that I thankfully caught on video!  Thankfully we had Verizon Wireless so we could communicate with each other in the canyon (to arrange the surprise).  We were told that they are the only carrier with great coverage there.  

From there we took the shuttle to Eagle Point.  It is the location of the skywalk, gift shops, your first chance to look over the canyon, get a-la-cart food (including a couple of vegetarian options and hot dogs), explore some history, and it's the only spot with a penny smasher machine (located in the skywalk building).

Somehow I failed to get a picture of the skywalk.  Many are posted online but I have never seen one that actually shows you that the glass walk is attached to a building.  Anyway, I was surprised to see that  so I wanted to share...

Some of our exploring at Eagle Point:

There was a clock to let us know when the next show was taking place but it was broken - we didn't see a show.
My husband was reluctant but finally posed for this picture for me ;-)

Next, we boarded the shuttle to head to Guano Point.    

This is a huge area where you can hike out to the cliff and get some great views!
I opted to stay back with the kids while the other adults explored.

Eating area and restrooms at Guano Point.
My mom and her family ate here and it was a good dinner plate (not a-la-cart).
My husband regretted missing out on this (we ate at the a-la-cart option at Eagle Point).
This location offered amazing views on all sides!!!!

I loved this crazy tree with the black birds hanging around!

Area at Guano Point to wait for the return shuttle (back to parking).
They had a little market where you could buy handmade jewelry and stuff.

Looking back at the food area from the shuttle.

I LOVE this picture of my step-dad at Guano Point!

Tell me about your Grand Canyon adventures!  I'm really curious to hear about the South Rim (National Park) and if anyone has taken the train that I have heard is awesome!

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