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Sunday
Sep272009

A New Perspective at the Grand Canyon West

By Amy Pulver

By now, you have undoubtedly heard of the new Skywalk at the Grand Canyon West. We decided the best way to report back was to actually experience the Skywalk ourselves. So, the Infinity team packed our bags and headed north. We recommend not getting your directions online at Mapquest. Although it added an extra adventure to our trip, there was no need to take a dirt road on the way to the hotel! We stayed at the Hualapai Lodge located at 900 Rte. 66 in Peach Springs, capitol of the Hualapai Tribe. Hualapai Lodge has rooms ranging to $120. It has a lobby with a large fireplace, clean and basic rooms. They have a pool, gym, laundry and dining facilities. We thought they were joking when they asked if we would like earplugs when we checked in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a joke; there is a train that passes the lodge every 20 minutes.

The Road To Grand Canyon West

In the morning, we played it safe and decided to take the paved route through Kingman to the Grand Canyon West. Unfortunately, this meant a 2½ hour additional drive — and we still ended up having to drive 14 of the last 21 miles on an unpaved road. If you do stay at the Hualapai Lodge, we recommend you take the faster route to the Grand Canyon. There is a dirt road access to Grand Canyon West, which only takes about 90 minutes. However, if you want to get a restful night’s sleep and not have to drive in the morning, your best bet it to actually stay at the Grand Canyon West at the Hualapai Ranch. The Hualapai Ranch offers a Wild West experience with cowboys, western shows, opportunities to go horseback riding and old-fashioned western meals. You can stay overnight at the ranch and awake to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Regardless of where you stay, you will want to get to the Grand Canyon early and beat the tour buses that usually arrive around 11 am. (www.westerndestinations.com).

Skywalk and Tour Packages

In order to access the Skywalk you must purchase a tour package. Currently Grand Canyon West offers several packages. The least expensive package that offers the opportunity to add on the Skywalk is the “Spirit” Package at $49.95 per person. This package allows the visitor to go to Eagle Point, Guano Point and the Hualapai Ranch. Tour packages include an all you can eat meal with lots of yummy options. The add-on for the Skywalk is $25 for a total of $74.95 per person. Additional packages offer such activities as horseback riding, hummer tours and helicopter tours.

The Hualapai tribe, who own 108 miles of the Grand Canyon West and over 1 million acres of land, also own and operate the Skywalk. The Skywalk is not for the faint of heart. The first step out onto the cantilever-shaped glass walkway may be the hardest. The glass floor is comprised of five layers of tempered glass and allows visitors to stand 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon. Visitors are provided with booties to protect the Skywalk floor. However, there is an 8-millimeter wearing surface that has been specially designed, allowing for it to be replaced as the surface wears. You must check all personal belongings before entering the Skywalk. Yes, this mean cameras and cell phones. There is a chance to have your photo taken for purchase once you are on the Skywalk. Remember, you must purchase either an outside or on-site tour package to see the Skywalk. The Skywalk truly offers a remarkable way to view the Grand Canyon. We noticed that not too many people wanted to walk down the center of the Skywalk. Most people chose to shuffle along the edge hanging on to the railing. What will you do

Helicopter and Boat Adventure

If you made it this far, we highly recommend a helicopter ride. The company we used, Papillon, was running three helicopters the day we were there (with capacity for a couple more on busy days). There is another helicopter company, as well as tours that fly in from Vegas, Phoenix and other surrounding cities. In no time, we were checked in given our seat assignments. We had a brief wait for our turn, but this was a good chance to get some great helicopter photos and chat with the flight ground crew. The crew we spoke with was eager to answer our many questions and calm our nerves. Before we knew it, we were taking our seats and getting strapped in. As the helicopter edged over the lip of the canyon it literally took our breath away. We began our descent of over 4,000 feet to base of the canyon. Make sure you bring your camera with you because you will get some once in a lifetime photos from the helicopter.

We were dropped off a short distance from the Colorado River for our boat trip. One look at the banks of the river and you can see just how low the water level has fallen. In fact, the water level is dropping at an alarming 4 inches per year. Remember the temperature at the bottom of the canyon can be 15-20 degrees warmer. So, even though the tour company provides some water at the bottom, you will want to bring plenty of your own. Be sure to wear comfortable hiking boots or sneakers because there is a short hike down to the banks of the river. After the excitement of the helicopter ride, the pontoon boat offers a great opportunity to sit back and relax and take in the beauty around you. Don’t be shy; be sure to ask questions of your guide if you have them. Refreshingly, there was no pre-rehearsed lecture on the Grand Canyon. Our tour guide, also a Hualapai tribe member, was highly knowledgeable and answered any and all questions. We learned that early morning is the best time to catch the big horn sheep that live in the canyon. It is at this time of day that the sheep flock to the river to gather water for the day before they trek back up to the walls of the canyon where they live among the brush. The only green you will see at the base of the Grand Canyon is along the banks of the Colorado River. The tamarisk trees lining the river were brought in from the Nile in Egypt in the 1930s to see how they would fair. Unfortunately, it is these trees that rob the Colorado River of much needed water. Each year crews are brought in to cut down the trees (which inevitably come back). This process takes approximately 3-4 months.

Don’t Miss All the Grand Canyon West Has To Offer

After the boat trip, another helicopter takes you back up to the top of the canyon. From there you can be on your way to one of the other sights in the vicinity. Shuttle buses and vans will take you to the Skywalk at Eagle Point, Guano Point and Hualapai Ranch (see inset for details). The Grand Canyon West has it all including a chance to view Native American dancing, traditional Hualapai dwellings and purchase authentic jewelry. Overall this is a trip you need to make. When you go don’t forget to bring the essentials to get the most out of your trip. Plenty of water and sunscreen are a must, as well as layered clothing and comfortable shoes. Most importantly, bring your camera. You’ll want to remember every detail!

Actual Native American dwellings were authentically constructed at Eagle Point by representatives of each nation using materials from their individual reservations. Each dwelling includes a wealth of stories and displays.

250-seat amphitheatre with scheduled Native American presentations performances.

Lookout point features the natural formation of an eagle in the canyon.

The Skywalk | Guano Point

Incredible overlook over the Colorado River

“Highpoint Hike”

The Hualapai Buffet

Tram remnants

The Hualapai Marketplace featuring handmade crafts and jewelry

The Hualapai Ranch

Cowboy games and demonstrations

Horse-drawn wagon ride

Petting zoo

Cowboy cooking

 

Location/Transportation 

Grand Canyon West is located in northwestern Arizona. Visitors can start their tour directly from Las Vegas, Nevada; Kingman, Arizona; or Peach Springs, Arizona; all of which are approximately two and a half hours or less from Grand Canyon West.

More than 30 tour and transportation companies service Grand Canyon West from Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sedona via airplane, helicopter, coach, SUV, and Hummer.

Grand Canyon West is also accessible via private vehicles. Maps and directions available on www.destinationgrandcanyon.com. Visitors who drive should plan for at least four to five hours of traveling time and two to three hours of tour time at Grand Canyon West. 

From Las Vegas, Grand Canyon West is approximately 120 miles west. Park & Ride services are available for a nominal fee from Dolan Springs, AZ

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Grand Canyon West - Technical Fact Sheet

Glass side rails will be approximately 1.5 inches.

Glass floor is constructed of 5 layers of tempered glass. The top layer will be an 8-millimeter wearing surface designed to be replaced as the surface wears. The second layer will be 6 millimeters and the bottom three layers will be 19 millimeters.

The Skywalk is approximately 70 feet long by 65 feet wide. The actual walkway is approximately 10 feet wide.

The glass side rails are approximately 4 feet, 6 inches high. There will be vertical steel posts every 5-7.

More than 1 million pounds of steel were used in the construction.

There are two steel box beams to support the structure. The box beams line both the outside and inside of the structure, measuring 2 feet 8 inches wide by 6 feet deep.

There is a concrete track and 8 concrete columns reinforced by cement and rebar. More than 108 holes were drilled 30-40 feet into the bedrock. These holes were filled with rebar and cement. The steel rods vary in thickness.

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Eagle Point

Authentic Indian Village: Native American tribe dwellings are featured in a walking tour setting. Dwellings from tribes including Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, and Hopi are represented, as well as tipis used by many Plains tribes.

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