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 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 rock layers, it exposed over two billion years of earth’s geological history. What is left is stunning and 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, marvelling 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 immigrated to the new colonies, and 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 an extensive area, there are several 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 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.
The National Park Service manages both the South and North Rims. There is a fee to enter the park of about $30/car. I believe different passes are available, depending on how long you plan to stay. As the Grand Canyon National Park is a park, there are plenty of opportunities for camping, lodging and a range of outdoorsy activities. Visiting the Grand Canyon can 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 is not operated 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 to elevate your experience in a heartbeat.
Grand Canyon skywalk
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is located in the West Rim, and 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 than not see it at all.
Some consider this an inferior view of the canyon compared with the South and North Rims. Honestly, I will say that I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw. The canyon views 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 worth it. At about $80 (US), this is not a cheap one, but if you’re all the way here, you 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 Wild West movie set. 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, and 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 had done 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 had lived in these areas way before the settlers came along and took over. That part of history isn’t pretty, but it’s an integral part of today, and we should learn about it when it’s in front of us.
This made this stop a more meaningful experience and one I would recommend, especially if you’re in Las Vegas.