Most of you probably heard of the world-famous Grand Canyon Skywalk, which resides 4000 ft (1200 m) above the Grand Canyon floor. I was visiting Las Vegas and the drive there would be only about 2,5 hours. I never been to the Grand Canyon before, even that I was a couple of times very close. I had to use this opportunity and I did.
But I was kinda surprised once I got there. I expected something completely different. But first some facts.
The Skywalk is located on the lands of the Hualapai Nation. Today , the Hualapai Indian Reservation, created in 1883, is nearly 1 000 000 acres and includes 108 miles of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. The Hualapai decided to open their lands to visitors in 1988.
The whole area of Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk belongs to the Hualapai, who also run this tourist spot. According to what I got told, the Hualapai using now their lands to create some revenue in tourism. The only other craft left would be basketry and it’s not very profitable anymore.
I drove to the Grand Canyon West by car but there also a lot of tours available directly from Las Vegas, if you don’t have a car. Before heading out I didn’t do any research on that location, I just looked up how to get there. I was expecting to drive to the Skywalk and that I have to pay a fee to get on there. After crossing the new bridge near the Hoover Dam I followed the signs to Grand Canyon West and Skywalk. But I was surprised when I ended up near a gate with a big parking lot, big tent, an airport and some helipads.
Once inside the tent I found out that you can’t drive there you have to take a bus to the Grand Canyon. Since I drove over two hours to get here I might as well pay for it and take this little adventure. Equipped with my camera gear I was hopping to get some great shots, especially from the Skywalk. There are a lot of different ticket options and you will find them all on the website. I went with the Hualapai Legacy Package, which is of course per person, but this package doesn’t allow me to go on the Skywalk. To get on the Skywalk you have to buy another ticket. In that case I got kinda lucky, because the weekend ticket is only 19,95 USD and would be twice as much during the week. It’s strange that this it not mentioned on their homepage. The website only offers the Gold Package, which includes the Skywalk ticket already but this one is 80,94 USD after taxes and fees.
My whole package total was 65,07 USD with the Legacy Package and the Skywalk Special. This includes the impact fee ($8) and fuel surcharge ($4) and all taxes. The ticket for the regular legacy package is only 29,95 USD but you have to pay all this fees as well.
Travel Tip: Don’t pre-buy your tickets online if you are only planning on doing the tour (which I will describe in a little bit) and going on the Skywalk for a trip on a weekend day.
However it could get busy during high season, but the only restriction is the Skywalk. They only allow a certain amount of people on the Skywalk at the same time.
At the ticket counter I also got told that I can’t bring my camera on to the Skywalk itself. I was surprised and asked for the reason and the answer I got was pretty much a lie. I was expecting more honesty from such spiritual people, but on the other side we are all humans ;). I got told that the prohibited cameras on the Skywalk because people dropped them and wanted them back and their was no way for the staff to retrieve the items.
First of all, if your camera falls down 4000 ft, you don’t want it back. There will be only small pieces left over after that drop. Then there is always a way, but I understand the area below the Skywalk is very remote and hard to get to. But why would the only prohibit cameras and cell phones on the Skywalk? Exactly to charge you extra for photos taken by their photographers on the Skywalk. That’s all! Only media was allowed during opening day to bring their cameras on to the Skywalk. I was able to bring my wallet and keys on there. It would be a bigger disaster if I drop my keys for my car instead of the camera. I can buy a new camera but a taxi ride back to Las Vegas would be very expensive. This should be communicated more clearly to visitors and not put it behind an “excuse”. They also prohibit backpacks on the Skywalk but right before you go on the Skywalk itself, they have lockers set up to use at no charge, but a big backpack won’t fit in any of the available sizes. I gave mine to the staff members at the ramp on to the Skywalk.
Every ticket includes the bus travel between the following points: Hualapai Ranch, Eagle Point and Guano Point.
The first bus stop was the Hualapai Ranch, which looked like work in progress. There was not really a lot to see. Just a couple old western houses. If you bought a different package you can do horseback riding or a wagon ride. Supposedly there are some activities and shows going on all the time, but not at the sunday I was there.
After a couple of pictures I hopped back on board the next bus which brought me straight to Eagle Point.
This is the stop for the Skywalk and also some great views of the Grand Canyon. If you are facing towards the Skywalk, look to your right, can you see the eagle in the rock formation? That formation gave name to this area.
You can walk up very close to the edge of the canyon, so be careful. There is no railing or any fall protection in place. Of course there is also the famous Skywalk. As mentioned before, you can’t bring a camera on to the Skywalk. They even have a metal detector just to detect if you try to smuggle one on to it. Before you get on the actual Skywalk itself you have to put on sleeves over your shoes to protect the glass from getting scratched. Enjoy the view once you are on it and if you want to have your picture taken by one of the photographers. They are very friendly and entertaining when they try to take your picture. Near the exit you can watch a video of the construction of this remarkable structure.
There are Native American dwellings depicting multiple tribes on a short walkway near the Skywalk-Building. The Amphitheater features performances from multiple tribes and at the shop you can buy handmade and authentic Native American jewelery and crafts.
The next and last stop for me on this adventure was Guano Point.
For me Guano Point was the best part of the whole day. Make sure you walk all the way down to the end of the trail and visit the remnants of the historic tram that stretched 8800 ft (2700 m) across the Grand Canyon to a guano mine. Read up on the information signs to get more information about the history of the tram and mine. Another must-do at this location is to climb up the little rock hill near the tram. From top you have a great 360° view of the canyon and the Colorado River. This is really breathtaking! You will also see helicopters diving into the canyon here.
You also can dine at the edge of the canyon and shop for more authentic and handmade jewelery and crafts here.
After that I took the next bus to get dropped of at the main gate again, where I bought my ticket. If you want you can now start over again and go back to the other points or exit. If you want to start over, you might have to wait in line, depending on how busy it is.
Before you leave the area go back inside the tent to the information desk and show the person there your ticket and you will get one “Certificate of Visit” for each ticket. Unfortunately they don’t even put a lot of effort in that. I only got a blank certificate which I had to fill out myself. I have seen places and people who took more pride in their work as during my visit here.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.