13 Mar Grand Canyon West: Adventures at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is just one of those places that has left its mark on us. The splashes of pink shining off the rocks at sunset, the Colorado river that twists throughout the rocks thousands of feet below, the vast nothingness spread out before our eyes, are sights that will remain forever in our memories. We visited the South Rim of the canyon a few years back, but recently we were invited back to the canyon for some fun adventures at Grand Canyon West. This time around, we spent a day flying down the zip line, riding horses to the rim of the canyon, testing our fear of heights on the glass bottom skywalk, hiking at Guano Point, and relaxing in our cabin at Hualapai Ranch. It was definitely a different side to the canyon than we experienced on our first visit, and it was a day full of adventure and adrenaline.
Perhaps our favorite adventure in Grand Canyon West was the brand-new zip line that opened to the public in January 2018. The zip line is made up of two runs, the first run is around 1,100 feet long, and the second is steeper and around 2,100 feet long. You will fly almost 1,000 feet above the canyon at speeds of up to 50 mph.
The zip line tour starts at the Hualapai Ranch where you get suited up with a harness and helmet. Once you have your safety gear ready to go, you hop in a cart and make your way to the zip line. There are several flights of stairs to climb before you get to the top of the first platform.
Then, the real fun starts—you are hooked in and let loose for a wild ride.
We had a blast flying over the canyon! We were soaring down the lines so fast that my eyes started to water from the chilly morning air. It was so much fun that I couldn’t stop laughing and shrieking the entire way down. Views of the canyon sprawled out in the distance, and the farther along the zip lines we went, the better the views became. At one point, we were even able to spot a river in the canyon below!
After we made it to the end of both zip lines, we got back in the cart and started towards the ranch. We took a pit stop to take a look at the canyon from a different viewpoint while the zip line guides told us stories of the rock formations.
The Skywalk is essentially a horseshoe shaped glass walkway that sits 4,000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon. The 10-foot-wide glass bridge extends out 70 feet over the canyon to give you a thrilling view straight down. From the platform, you can test your fear of heights and find expansive views of the canyon for a one of a kind adventure.
Do note however, that photos are not allowed on the bridge. You need to lock up all of your belongings in a locker before heading onto the bridge. But, if you want a photo to remember your experience, there are several photographers on the bridge that can take photos for you. You have the option to purchase individuals photo prints, or a zip drive with all of the photos the photographer took of you plus several photos of the Grand Canyon. We don’t normally purchase photos from attractions we visit, but we did buy one printed photo of us on the bridge—we couldn’t resist.
If you want to see the Skywalk from a different vantage point, head to Sa’ Nyu Wa restaurant for views of the bridge while you eat. This restaurant provides a fantastic view of the Skywalk, and while photos of the bridge aren’t normally allowed from here either, we were able to take a few extra snaps when the manager was showing us around.
For a different perspective of the canyon, hop on a horse and go for a ride to the edge of the canyon.
Grand Canyon West offers 30, 60 or 90 minute horseback rides, each with different views of the canyon. Due to time constraints, we opted for the 30 minute ride. Neither Micah nor I are experienced horseback riders, so the short and simple ride to the edge of the canyon and back was perfect for us. Plus, the views of the canyon were wonderful in the early morning light!
Hike at Guano Point
Hiking always makes its way onto our itineraries—it’s one of our favorite things to do, and at Grand Canyon West, it was no exception. Because the land at Grand Canyon West is all tribal land, you aren’t able to roam around the rim of the canyon and hike on unmarked trails. But, one of the areas you are able to explore and wander around, is the Guano Point area. The trail at Guano Point is short and sweet, and you can make it as easy or as difficult as you would like. Part of the trail is flat and groomed, and there are also plenty of rocks to climb around and explore.
Make sure to check out the remnants of the tram that used to run across the canyon to a guano mine on the other side of the canyon. The tram used to span around 8,800 feet across the canyon, and that’s how this area received its name. It is crazy to imagine how intense the tram ride would have been during operation—it’s definitely a long way down!
The views from this vantage point are absolutely spectacular. You will definitely want to plan a couple of hours (or more!) to soak up the views at Guano Point. We arrived late afternoon and once the area closed at 5 p.m., we could barely pull ourselves away. The phrase of the afternoon became “one more photo!” because we just couldn’t stop.
The Hualapai Ranch is essentially a replica of an old Wild, Wild West Town. Complete with a (root) beer saloon, a gun show, the Shootin’ Gallery which is an animatronic shooting game, wagon rides, mechanical bull rides, hay bales to lasso, and more; the ranch is a cute spot for some Wild West fun. We couldn’t help but think how perfect this spot would be for a family with kids—we would have loved visiting the ranch when we were children!
Overnight in the Cabins at the Hualapai Ranch
If you’d like to stay overnight at Grand Canyon West, there are 26 rustic cabins at Hualapi Ranch that you can rent. We spent two nights in a cabin and really enjoyed the solitude after the crowds left for the day. Our cabin had a patio out front, queen sized bed, couch, and a bathroom—it was a cozy place to spend a couple of nights.
Weather permitting, you can join a nightly bonfire complete with s’mores and campfire stories. And, if you are thirsty at any point throughout the night, the Food Hall doors stay open 24 hours (food service stops at 8 p.m.), so you have access to coffee, tea and soda. Breakfast is also included in your stay, and we had the option of pancakes, eggs, biscuits with gravy, bacon, sausage, and toast.
There are several restaurants at Grand Canyon West, so you can surely find something to suit your tastes and budget. Each viewpoint stop has a restaurant or café to pick from, but we only ate at the Hualapai Ranch Food Hall and the Sa’ Nyu Wa restaurant at Eagle Point.
The Food Hall at the Hualapai Ranch offers western style food and musical entertainment. You can dine at the Food Hall for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast, as I mentioned above, was included with our cabin stay. We ate here both mornings and enjoyed the short stack pancakes (which were huge!) with bacon, and another meal of eggs, toast and bacon. For dinner, we returned to the Food Hall for another nice, hot meal. We had our choice of meat, two sides, cornbread, and a cookie.
For lunch one day, we ate at Sa’ Nyu Wa, which is the fine dining restaurant at Eagle Point. Micah ordered the French dip sandwich and I had the Hualapai tacos on fry bread. Both options were delicious, and the views of the canyon and Skywalk right outside the window made the experience complete. Since we were there for a work project, the chef brought out a sample of some other dishes served at the restaurant, as well. We were able to try the fry bread appetizer, calamari, quail, chicken wings, and more—needless to say, we were stuffed!
When you visit Grand Canyon West, there is an admission cost per day to enter the tribal lands. There are several different admission packages that you can purchase. Basic admission (Hualapai Legacy Day Pass) includes access to the viewpoints and stops via a shuttle bus, photo opportunities with the Hualapai tribal members, and an official Hualapai visitation certificate. In addition to what is provided with the basic day pass, the Legacy Gold Level comes with a skywalk ticket and a meal at one of the viewpoint restaurants. There is also a VIP admission option which includes a guide and a Native American gift in addition to everything in the packages listed above.
No matter which level of admission ticket you decide on, you always have the option to add on any meals or activities once you arrive. You can participate in activities such as horseback riding, aerial tours, boat rides and float tours, zip lining, rafting trips, and more.
Tips for Visiting and Things to Remember
While images of off-trail hiking might come to mind when visiting the Grand Canyon, this portion of the canyon is located on Tribal Land. This means that since the land is used by the Hualapai Tribe for their day to day lives, you aren’t able to roam wherever you want. You need to stay on marked trails and access points, as well as ride the shuttle through the park. But this doesn’t mean you won’t experience the amazing wonders of the Grand Canyon. You do have access to many fantastic views of the canyon as well as all of the adrenaline inducing adventure activities we mentioned above.
It’s always a good idea to make advance reservations for lodging, and there are several activities that can be booked online prior to your visit. Head to the Tickets tab on the Grand Canyon West website to see what can be purchased in advance. But, reservations for most of the activities can be booked upon arrival.
So, no matter how you decide to experience the canyon, it’s definitely one of those places that deserves a spot on everyone’s bucket list!
We visited Grand Canyon West as part of a paid media campaign. Special thanks to Grand Canyon West for hosting us on our adventures through the canyon. As always, all opinions, thoughts, and ramblings are our own.