Many years ago, I went on a Grand Canyon West airplane tour. After enjoying great views from above, the plane landed on the west rim, and we disembarked for breathtaking views of the deep canyons.
Later, we enjoyed a barbeque lunch prepared by the Hualapai tribe - then flew back to Las Vegas.
Fast forward to 2020, I decide to relive this experience with my family but was surprised with a totally different place.
Instead of the pristine Grand Canyon experience, we were herded through a large gift shop/visitor center, bus ride to rim locations, and wnt on the glass-bottom Skywalk.
Tip: The West Rim is not part of the National Park system. So you will have to pay a separate fee to enter and another fee for the SkyWalk. Go here for the latest fees and rules.
I had mixed feelings about this progress. On the one hand, it is much more organized with more services like cafes and restaurants. On the other hand, it is way too commercialized with a lot of opportunities to spend money.
The Hualapai tribe gets most of their income from tourism to the West Rim, so it is understandable they would like to encourage us to spend more money.
Once you pass through the visitor center, you have to take a bus to the first of two observation points.
If you have never seen the Grand Canyon before, this first glimpse of the deep canyons and red-colored ridges will take your breath away.
Venture to the edge of this short walkable rim to get a feel of how deep the bottom of the Canyon is. Look around to spot the Colorado River in the distance.
And after this initial view of the Canyon, head to the Skywalk for a different kind of experience.
This 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is not of anyone with a fear of heights. But if you can stomach it, pay the fee and walk on the bridge to nowhere, Look down and enjoy the views 4,000 feet below you.
There is no time limit on your experience. Spend as much time as you like admiring the views all around you and below.
Pose for photos by professional photographers and remember to check them out as you exit.
Tip: You are not allowed to bring your own cameras or phones, so you have to use the photographers and buy the photos if you want a record if this adventure.
The second bus stop is at Guano Point. This area has more stunning views and a lot of opportunities for hiking and rock scrambling.
As you exit the bus, you can walk along the rim. You will soon notice that you are literally on a point jutting into the Canyon.
Tip: Unlike the South Rim, there is no railing along this rim. So walk carefully and avoid getting too close to the edge.
The hike terminates into a high outcropping of rocks with a 360-degree view of the
Canyon and the Colorado River. You will have to scramble up the rocks to get the best view, but it is worth the effort.
The West Rim is also the launchpad for more adventures at the Canyon.
You can go on a White Water Rafting experience, ziplining, or on a helicopter tour. You can also rent cabins at the Hualapai Ranch. Go to the website for full details and prices.
On the Way
While driving to the West Rim we came across the Joshua Tree Forest.
Although California has the well-known Joshua Trees National Park, I think the one in Arizona is more impressive.
The best place to view this forest is at Grapevine Mesa point at the intersection of Pierce Ferry Road and Diamond Bar road.