Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world, with bright lights and opulent casinos, while the Grand Canyon is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, stretching 277-miles and carving a 1.8 billion year swath of geologic time. At first glance, these places seem entirely different. However, Vegas is the closest major airport to the Grand Canyon, and you’ll need a little ‘Canyon Time’ after the crowds and chaos of Sin City.
Grand Canyon West is an easy day trip from Las Vegas with enough excitement and beauty to make it a mini-vacation on its own. This article gives you all the details you need to plan an epic Grand Canyon tour from Las Vegas, from what to do and see to where to eat and stay. You’ll hit the natural beauty jackpot with every pull!
Introduction to Grand Canyon West
The Western Rim is the closest part of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas. Here, you’ll find Grand Canyon West which is home to the famous Skywalk. Unlike the sections controlled by the National Park Service, Grand Canyon West is located on sovereign lands of the Hualapai Tribe. Visitors to Grand Canyon West help support the Hualapai people as funds help to protect their natural resources and heritage.
The Hualapai Tribe lives on over one million acres along 108 miles of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River, including a particularly scenic 17.6 mi² they set aside for visitors at Grand Canyon West. The canyon here is almost 4,000′ deep and 3-miles across. The tribe has facilitated multiple ways for you to enjoy the deep gorges and red rock buttes that are quintessentially the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon West Entrance
The Grand Canyon West entrance is about 130-miles from Las Vegas. There’s a free parking lot and a small airport here, along with a dome building that’s the center of operations. Grand Canyon West’s hours are from 8:00 am – to 6:00 pm daily, including all holidays.
Inside, you can pay your Grand Canyon West Rim entrance fee (or better yet, purchase your tickets online) and enjoy shopping at the gift shop. Be sure to check out the bundles when you pick up your Grand Canyon West Rim tickets to save time and money. Once you pass through the turnstile, you’re ready to board the convenient shuttle buses to explore Grand Canyon West’s two vistas, Eagle Point and Guano Point.
Eagle Point Grand Canyon
Eagle Point (Grand Canyon) is the first shuttle stop. Upon stepping off the bus, you’re immediately greeted with epic views of the Eagle Point formation, a sacred place for the Hualapai. Eagle Point got its name because it looks like an eagle in flight. The other side of the point offers views of the Colorado River, which is very hard to see from the National Park because the inner canyon gorge often obscures it.
The views from Eagle Point alone would justify your general admission ticket, but the tribe goes a step beyond and offers even more things to do at Eagle Point, including the Grand Canyon West Skywalk, Skyview Restaurant, and an authentic Native American village. Each of these attractions is interesting enough to justify its own sections, so keep reading😉.
The Glass Skywalk at Grand Canyon
The glass Skywalk at Grand Canyon West is a unique feature that distinguishes GCW from other parts of the canyon. It’s a 70′ loop extending over the rim with a translucent glass floor. Judging from the T-shirts at the gift shop, it triggers some people’s vertigo. However, we felt entirely secure on the platform without even one butterfly.
The views, however, are outstanding. There’s a dad joke here about out-standing 1000′ above the canyon floor, but all kidding aside, they are amazing. I’ve never looked back onto the rim before, and it felt like I was flying over the canyon.
Entrance to the Skywalk isn’t included with a general admission ticket, but you can purchase it separately or bundle it in with package deals. You almost have to purchase a Skywalk ticket just to experience the feeling and views.
Additionally, you can’t take your own pictures, which is just as well considering the chaos that would ensue with selfie sticks and the stupid things people will do to ‘get one for the Gram.’ However, trained photographers are there to take shots that will amaze your friends and scare your kids (or parents). The photo package also includes some spectacular scene shots that we could only dream of taking.
The Skyview Restaurant
The Skyview Restaurant has a simple short order lunch menu and a limited alcoholic drink selection. The cheeseburgers are legitimately good, but you really aren’t here for the food. True it’s the best food around and an important logistic stop on any Grand Canyon West tour, but the name says it all – Skyview.
If you can, you want to make sure that you can get a window seat. There are a couple of ways to do this. We recommend getting to Grand Canyon West early to beat the heat and the crowds and eat at Skyview for an early brunch. Alternatively, you can put your name on the reservation list, specify a window seat, and wait your turn. If you’re doing this, consider checking in when you arrive at Eagle Point and doing some exploring until it’s close to when your name will be called.
Eagle Point’s Authentic Native American Village
Eagle Point’s authentic Native American village is a free outdoor museum that introduces you to the tribes from the area. You can enter replica houses, read interpretive signs, and see how the native inhabitants have lived for centuries.
If you come on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, you’re in for a treat. The tribal musicians play traditional music as dancers perform in authentic and colorful costumes. When in Rome, you do certain things. When you’re on Hualapai tribal lands, you should indulge in their rich culture.
Guano Point Grand Canyon
Guano Point is the other stop on the Grand Canyon West shuttle. It isn’t as developed as Eagle Point, which was fine with us. We enjoyed the rugged beauty of Guano Point as much as we enjoyed the options and amenities at Eagle Point, but you should do both for the complete Grand Canyon West experience.
Guano Point has a small café (Guano Point Café), restrooms, and the remnants of the namesake guano mining operation. The draw and magic of the area is hiking out onto the tip of the point and discovering unique canyon views along the way. There’s no substitute for boots on the uniquely red canyon soil. It’s not a long or challenging hike, more of a nature walk, really, but you’ll be rewarded with lookouts that are grand beyond imagination.
Cabins at Grand Canyon West
If you’re looking for lodging at Grand Canyon West, you have two choices: The Cabins at Grand Canyon West and RV parking without hookups. That’s it. There are no hotels near Grand Canyon West, so be sure you have reservations at the cabins before staying overnight there. Also, there are no restaurants near Grand Canyon West outside of the park, so be sure to bring dinner with you and breakfast, too (unless you’re taking our advice about having a burger brunch at the Skyview Restaurant).
We also heard that Grand Canyon West was working on revamping their popular Hualapai Ranch experience that has, in the past, worked in Western and Native elements and included dining, so we’ll keep tuned for updates and let you know when they unveil it.
Until then, the Cabins at Grand Canyon West are more than a logistic necessity. They are reasonably priced, cozy, and comfortable. Best of all, they let you see the area in a different light. Hualapai storytellers describe how the canyon walls come alive at sunrise and sunset. Shadows stretch and dance across the limestone stage as the colors flow and transform. The only way to experience this natural performance is with your own eyes, and the only way to do that is to stay in the cabins.
The Sil Daw Ba Nyu Wa (Way of the Warrior) Trail runs from the cabins to the canyon rim. If you’re hiking at dusk, be sure to bring a headlight and watch for snakes. It gets very dark at Grand Canyon West, which also means you’ll be greeted by a blanket of stars twinkling brightly in the clear Grand Canyon air. Even if you don’t ever step foot on the trail, be sure to step outside your cabin during the night to enjoy the celestial show.
Things to do at Grand Canyon West
There are many things to do at Grand Canyon West above and beyond your general admission ticket to Eagle Point and Guano Point. Here are some ideas that can make your visit unforgettable.
- Grand Canyon Skywalk: First and foremost is going out on the Grand Canyon Skywalk for views of the canyon like you’ve never seen before.
- Ziplining the Grand Canyon– If you’re looking for more thrill, you can try ziplining the Grand Canyon. Like the Skywalk, it’s an experience you can only find at Grand Canyon West as you fly over Quartermaster Canyon.
- Grand Canyon Helicopter and Boat Tour – Why only have a Grand Canyon Boat tour when you can have a Grand Canyon helicopter and boat tour? To be fair, you need to take the helicopter to reach the boat ramp, but that doesn’t mean you will not enjoy the ride 3,500′ below the rim before exploring the Colorado River on a guided pontoon boat.
- Stay overnight at The Cabins at Grand Canyon West – Not only are they cozy and comfortable, buy you’ll get ahead of the crowds in the day and enjoy the wide open Arizona sky at night.
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West Rim by Car
If you’re looking for adventurous day trips from Las Vegas, you have to consider going from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West Rim by car. If you wanted to zip out and back, you could leave in the morning and make it back to your Vegas hotel in time for a show. Or, you could take your time and enjoy the sites along the way, stay overnight in the cabins, or do both for an unforgettable and immersive experience.
It’s a little over a two hour drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West, and there’s a lot to do along the way. You can take a kayak trip in Black Canyon and see the Emerald Cave or hike Gold Strike Canyon Trail to the hot springs if you have enough time.
If you are just looking for a little something, you can try some of these options:
- Try Rail Explorers USA – They offer a sunset rail tour that goes perfectly with a morning trip to Grand Canyon West
- Take a Hoover Dam Tour – At one time, this was the largest dam in the world and it’s still a damn engineering marvel.
- Stop at Arizona’s Joshua Tree Forest – There’s a mature Joshua tree forest just off the road by that makes a great place to stretch your legs (take a few pictures too)
Grand Canyon West Helicopter Tours
If you’re looking to take a Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West Rim tour without hitting the road, you can try and fly the skies. Grand Canyon West helicopter tours offer more than just flights over the Grand Canyon. If you choose a ‘Landing Tour,’ you can have the full Grand Canyon West experience. And, since they usually offer shuttle services to Strip hotels, you can do it all without renting a car.
Along the way, you’ll pass over Lake Mead, and most tours will include a flyover of Hoover Dam. If you want a premium experience, you can arrange for a picnic in a private landing pad along the rim far away from the pedestrians at Eagle Point and Guano Point. It takes only 45-minutes to fly from Vegas to Grand Canyon West, so helicopter tours are the best way to make Grand Canyon West a half-day experience if you’re short on time.
Word to the wise, pick your helicopter tour carefully. Every company is different, including where they launch from, how long your hotel shuttle will be, and how they’re ranked on recent reviews. Also, most tour companies offer multiple tours options, so you want to pick the one that suits your taste.
Map of Grand Canyon West Rim
This article mentioned enough places to justify putting in the map of Grand Canyon West Rim. For completeness, we added some Peach Springs locations like Hualapai River Runners (whitewater rafting trips), Hualapai Lodge (and the Diamond Creek Restaurant), and the Walapai Market.
Even though Google Maps labels Grand Canyon West as being in Peach Springs, it’s over an hour and a half drive from Grand Canyon West to the town of Peach Springs.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Grand Canyon West
Is it worth it to visit Grand Canyon West? Absolutely. It’s the same geologic feature you’ll see from other parts and other parks with massive features that fill your vision and expand your imagination. What’s more, your visit supports indigenous people and exposes you to their culture and traditions.
Since Grand Canyon West is an enterprise of the Hualapai Tribal Nation, they are developing the land to serve the tribe best. They can offer unique experiences, like the Skywalk, zipline, and helicopter accessed picnic lunches on the rim. You can also trust that they chose every activity to preserve their cultural history, not exploit it.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Grand Canyon West is the closest portion of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas. By comparison, day trips by bus to the South Rim take about 18 hours door to door. If you gamble on a day trip to Grand Canyon West, you are guaranteed to hit the jackpot!
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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