I don’t think anything can prepare you for visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. No matter how many times I’ve seen it on-screen, real life blew it all away. When I walked up to the rim of the Grand Canyon, it totally hit me. Nature is a mind-blowing artist and we are very insignificant creatures.
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Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is the central feature of the Grand Canyon National Park. Located in Arizona, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. It spans 446 km/277 miles long, 29 km/18 miles wide and is 1.6 km deep. It’s also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
As the Colorado River carved its way through the rugged layers of rock, it exposed over two billion years of earth’s geological history. What is left is absolutely stunning and literally takes your breath away. The canyon’s sheer size is a given, but the unexpected colours and textures add to the effect. It is so peaceful here, and it’s hard to imagine something like this to hold such beauty.
As I sat there, marveling at the vista before me, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who got there so many years ago. Those that made their way to the west, searching for fortunes and a new life. Many of them immigrated to the new colonies, others were born here. Either way, they had no way of knowing what awaited them. It must have astounded them before they even realized its full size. Were they fascinated? Fearful? I think it was both. There is no way you won’t feel anything when you visit.
Visiting the Grand Canyon
As the canyon covers a very large area, there are a number of ways to explore it. There are also parts of it that fall under the Grand Canyon National Park while others don’t.
North and South Rims
The most popular is the South Rim, with many different activities like hiking, flyovers and even boating. It is open all year round, day and night. The North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October and has fewer tourist amenities. This makes it a more appealing stop in my mind. However, the views will be spectacular from either one.
Both the South and North Rims are managed by the National Park Service. There is a fee to enter the park of about $30/car. I believe there are different passes available, depending on how long you plan to stay. As the Grand Canyon National Park is a park, there are plenty opportunities for camping, lodging and a range of outdoorsy activities. Visiting the Grand Canyon can really become an adventure.To get from one rim to the other, you’re looking at a five-hour drive as the distance between the two is 346 km/215 miles.
Unlike the South and the North Rims, the West Rim is managed by the Hualapai Indian tribe. It is not part of the park and not managed by the park services. This location is over four hours’ drive from the South Rim, the closer of the two park locations. It is also about a three-hour ride from Las Vegas. Here you will find the Grand Canyon skywalk that will elevate your experience in a heartbeat.
Grand Canyon skywalk
The Grand Canyon skywalk is located in the West Rim. It is the closest spot to Las Vegas to see the canyon. As our time in Vegas was limited, we opted to drive to this location instead of making the trip to the other two rims. We figured that it’s better to get a taste of the canyon then not seeing it at all.
Some consider this as an inferior view of the canyon when comparing with the South and North Rims. Honestly, I will say that I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw. The views of the canyon here are spectacular and there aren’t hordes of tourists everywhere. There were enough people here, but we never had to fight for space.
The skywalk is a glass, U-shaped walkway that lets you stand 4,000 feet above the canyon. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to bring your own devices to take pics, but the experience is totally worth it. At about $80 (US) this is not a cheap one, but if you’re all the way here, might as well try it.
At the Hualapai Ranch, you’ll find lodging, numerous activities, a gift shop and an on-site dining hall. The whole thing is set in what looks like a set of a Wild West movie. There is a gift shop and if you get there at the right time, entertainment that fits the theme. From lasso lessons to riding the mechanical bull, you can get a taste of the past. We manage to get there at the wrong time. I guess the mechanical bull challenge will have to wait for another time.
Bringing it together
The Grand Canyon is a truly spectacular place. As much as I love architecture, ancient cultures and big city lights, I am a fan of breathtaking landscapes. They, too, have a history behind them.
Visiting the canyon was on my bucket list and I’m glad I got a chance to see it. Would it have been great to see the other parts? Sure. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side. Sometimes you have to make a choice and I’m happy with mine. Don’t be afraid to see things others might not find appealing. If I did that, I would have never seen the canyon.
Visiting the West Rim is also quite interesting. Here you have an opportunity to learn more about the Hualapai people and their connection to this spot. The native tribes have lived in these areas way before the settlers came along and took over. That part of history isn’t pretty, but it’s an important part of today and we should learn about it when it’s in front of us.
This definitely made this stop a more meaningful experience and one I would recommend, especially if you’re in Las Vegas.
Have you visited the Grand Canyon? Is it on your list? Let me know.