Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Have you walked OVER it? I have! The Grand Canyon West Rim gets a bad rap. The South Rim is beautiful, but so is the West Rim. The two experiences are very different; they should not be compared. Picking one over the other is apples and oranges. Bottom line, if you are in Las Vegas and have a day to spare, don’t miss the Grand Canyon West Rim… and stop at Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam along the way.
Lake Mead sits on the Colorado River 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. The lake is actually a reservoir that serves 20 million people in the Arizona, Nevada, California area. Start the day off early to avoid huge crowds and catch the sunrise over the lake from Lake Mead Overlook in Boulder City. Then drive down to the Las Vegas Boat Harbor for a few more photos of the lake before moving on to Hoover Dam.
Hoover Dam sits on the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada. It was built during the Great Depression to provide clean water. Drive across Hoover Dam to Arizona and continue winding up the hill past the parking lots. Turn around and slowly make your way back down stopping at various points to take photos. Park at the bottom and walk across the dam. Move on to the parking lot next to the Colorado River Bridge. Walk up a short hill to the access point and walk out on the bridge for the classic photo opportunity of Hoover Dam.
Grand Canyon West Rim
Grand Canyon West Rim is located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. The West Rim is an easy two-hour drive from Hoover Dam; allow for 3-4 hours in the area and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. This area is undeveloped. There are no guardrails or rock walls to obstruct your view. It is the home of Skywalk, a horseshoe shaped glass bridge suspended 70 feet past the rim and 4000 feet above the canyon. The glass is able to hold 71 million tons so no need to be anxious. Don’t miss this opportunity to take a walk on the West Side!
Park your car and pay the entrance fee. Consider taking a helicopter to the floor of the canyon and a pontoon ride on the Colorado River. Jump on the shuttle; it runs every 15 minutes and will transport you to 3 spots. Skip Hualapai Ranch and go straight to Eagle Point. Hang out on the cliff and ponder life until the crowd clears, then take your photos. The huge rock you will see in front of you is Eagle Point. If you look closely you will see what appears to be an eagle about to take flight. Notice how close you are to the rim of the other side, you can see so much detail, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Head over to the skywalk when the next shuttle group arrives. Place all your belongings in a locker, even your phone and camera. There are two lines, one is for those getting photos and one is not. The photo line is long; the photos are expensive. Walk slowly across the bridge, you are not allowed to double back. You are above the canyon and the view is unobstructed; it is a surreal experience. Take your time and enjoy it. There is also a Native American Village exhibit and Native American Dancers in an open-air amphitheater at this stop.
Move on to Guano Point and enjoy your BBQ lunch at a picnic table on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Climb the rock for a 360° view of the canyon and Colorado River. Why the name? Guano (bat poop used for fertilizer) was briefly mined in the bat cave below you in 1958-1959. A tower remains as a reminder of man’s attempt to mine the canyon.
If time permits stop at the western style Hualapai Ranch before leaving the area. Grab an ice cream, watch a tribal dance, giggle at a western shoot out and enjoy this touristy area. You may opt to take a horseback or wagon ride to Quartermaster Point for views of the Colorado River and North Rim. There are also cabins available here for an overnight experience.
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