Las Vegas is synonymous with excess: everything from gambling to partying and drinking. But when you’ve come all this way, there’s absolutely no way you should miss the opportunity to get out of the city for a day to visit the Grand Canyon.
A trip to the Grand Canyon provides you with the chance to tick off a serious Bucket List item. But where should you start with choosing the Grand Canyon trip that’s right for you? The first thing you’ll notice when you go to book your trip is that are so many options. Day trips, weekend trips, overnight trips. Plus helicopter trips, coach trips, boat trips. And that’s before you’ve even decided which part of the Grand Canyon to go to…
- Which rim to visit: North, South, East or West?
- When’s the best time to visit Grand Canyon West Rim?
- What to expect from a trip to the Grand Canyon West Rim
- Key sights at the West Rim
- What is there to eat and drink at the Grand Canyon West Rim?
The Grand Canyon: North, South, East or West?
If you’re eyeing up a trip to the Grand Canyon, you may wonder which rim is best to visit. Here’s a little overview of your options:
- The West Rim: This is the closest part to Las Vegas, but it’s still a good two/three hours’ drive from the city. From here you’ll have the chance to experience the Skywalk, a glass bridge suspended 400 feet above the Grand Canyon floor.
- The South Rim: Around a four/five-hour drive from Las Vegas, the South Rim offers what are arguably the most famous views of the Grand Canyon. If you’ve seen the Grand Canyon in a magazine or on TV, you were most likely looking at the South Rim.
- The East and North Rims: These can be a little too far for a day trip from Vegas, but if you’re desperate to get more Grand Canyon out of your visit, consider renting a car for a few days.
No matter which area you choose, one thing is certain – you’re guaranteed unbelievable views. As much as I’d love to have visited the South, East and North Rims, we were on a tight schedule on our trip. This is why we opted to visit the Grand Canyon West Rim for the day and still leave our evening free for a wander around Vegas.
When’s the best time to visit Grand Canyon West Rim?
Typically speaking, either March-May or September-November are the best times to visit the Grand Canyon West Rim. It’ll be cooler – during the summer it can push highs of 30°Cs (around 100°F) – and you’ll have a bit more space to yourself thanks to the thinner crowds.
If you can avoid visiting the Grand Canyon West Rim during the summer (June-August), it’s probably for the best. This is peak visitor season and waiting times will be long and tourists will be everywhere.
We went in November and the shuttle buses between sights were still bustling. We didn’t have to wait too long to get onto the Skywalk, or to get served at the cafe, though.
What to expect from a trip to the Grand Canyon West Rim
The shorter journey time was definitely something that attracted us to the Grand Canyon West Rim – that and the opportunity to try out the Grand Canyon Skywalk (more on that later).
We opted for an all-inclusive Grand Canyon West Rim tour with Gray Line – at the time our tour included a quick 15-minute photo stop at Hoover Dam on the way out, although it seems like this has since been removed from the itinerary.
A few hours after leaving the Hoover Dam we were at the West Rim. The West Rim is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe – Native Americans who have lived in the mountains of north-western Arizona since 1883. As a result, the land is considered sacred and all off-site food and drink is not allowed to be brought in (or, at least, taken off the coach/out of your car). But don’t fret about going hungry; there are cafes and drink stops for you to enjoy.
Once the coach dropped off in the main car park, our Grand Canyon West Rim experience began. With all the packages, a hop-on/hop-off shuttle bus is included. These run continuously, allowing you to jump off at any of the four stops (including the car park) and explore at your own pace.
Key sights at the Grand Canyon West Rim
The key sights you’ll see at the Grand Canyon West Rim are:
- Eagle Point/Skywalk
- Hualapai Ranch
- Guano Point
Here’s what you can expect at each point:
Let’s start with the stop that you’ll either love or hate: Eagle Point. As the location of the Skywalk, Eagle Point gets pretty busy, but don’t let that put you off.
Eagle Point gets its name from a natural rock formation that looks like an eagle. You can get fantastic views of it whether or not you’re up to braving the Skywalk.
The Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that juts out over the rim of the Grand Canyon. If you look down you can see the floor of the Grand Canyon – almost one mile down! Scared of heights? Just keep repeating to yourself that the Skywalk is strong enough to hold 70 fully-loaded 747 passenger jets…
Before I arrived, one of the things I was itching to know is just what to expect. As well as lockers to pop bags into, each guest is provided with a pair of sexy shoe covers to protect the bridge’s glass floor. Cameras or phones aren’t allowed onto the Skywalk, but you’ll have the services of a photographer to take photos of your group as you go round (see below for a variety of the cringiest ones that were taken of us….). Awkward photos aside, the photographers are great as they’re able to point out all the focal points including Eagle Rock and The Sleeping Dog.
While you’re at Eagle Point, make sure to stop by the Amphitheatre to watch live Native American performances.
Walking into Hualapai Ranch is like stepping out into the middle of the Wild West. There’s everything from horse rides to an old jail, town hall and a, uh, mortuary. Pro tip: if you have the time, you can even stay the night on the ranch, taking the opportunity to make evening S’mores with cowboys around the night-time open fire. It doesn’t get more American than that.
The final stop before the shuttle bus returns you to the main car park, Guano Point is where some of the most spectacular panoramic sights of the West Rim can be found. You can even hike a little (over or around a rocky hill, depending on your fitness levels) round to the remains of the Grand Canyon’s mining endeavours. My favourite spot while at Guano Point was the Hualapai Market where Tribal Members sold a selection of homemade jewellery and crafts. Definitely worth visiting for a few unique gifts!
What is there to eat and drink at Grand Canyon West Rim?
While the land is considered sacred and no off-site food and drink is allowed to be brought in, that doesn’t mean you will go hungry during your visit.
There are cafes and restaurants at both Eagle Point and Guano Point which cater for all budgets and culinary desires. At the time I visited (back in 2015) Eagle Point was the only place on the reserve to grab a veggie meal but things seem to have massively improved over the years!
SkyWalk Cafe: A casual spot where you can pick up quick snacks like breakfast sandwiches and bagels, as well as tasty burgers, pizzas and sub rolls. Beyond ‘veggie’ burgers, garlic fries and malasadas (Portuguese donuts) are some of the menu highlights!
Sky View Restaurant: With floor-to-ceiling windows offering up those incredible West Rim views while you dine, Sky View is perfect for a memorable meal. Their menu is a little pricier than SkyWalk Cafe’s, but includes everything from parmesan truffle steak fries to a fish fry basket and chicken wings.
Guano Point Cafe: This is an outdoor cafe which specialises in quick service. As such, options are limited (at the moment it’s either a pot roast beef, baked chicken or vegetarian masala), but you’ll be able to enjoy 360-degree views of the Grand Canyon while you eat.
This is a beast of a post, and I hope I’ve been able to cover most things about what to expect from a trip to the Grand Canyon West Rim! If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get back to you.