2007 May 6

     Okay, let me get this off my chest. The Hualapai Tribe built the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, a beautiful and intriguing way to experience the Grand Canyon. On the telephone and on their web site they are honest about prices and restrictions. The experience itself was professional, pleasant, and profound. Yet, for some reason, this tourist attraction has received scathing reviews from people whose expectations are far removed from any reasonable expectation of reality.

     My own experience was totally positive. I paid what I expected to pay, this is a wonderfully beautiful place, I got more than I expected, I didn't wait in any long lines, the staff people were all courteous and professional, and I had a good time.



The Grand Canyon West Tour Package

     The Hualapai Tribe offers a variety of tours from Grand Canyon West Airport (1G4) starting from US $50 plus $25 for the Skywalk including any landing fee at 1G4 plus a hearty buffet meal. They even offered me 10% off because I'm a member of AAA. The only "gotcha" (explained over the telephone and on the web page) is they won't let people take any metal objects on the Skywalk itself, including cameras, so tourists have to pay $15 for pictures of the Skywalk and $20 for pictures of themselves on it.

     I landed and parked my airplane at Grand Canyon West Airport (1G4). It was a short walk into the gift-shop area where my two friends and I waited in a short line to buy our tour tickets. The Spirit Tour was US $50, the Skywalk was $25 extra, and we got a 10% discount because I belong to AAA which paid for the 7% tribal sales tax.

     We waited a few minutes outside for the bus which was a nice, comfortable coach. The driver described the three bus rides of the tour: airport to Eagle Point, Eagle Point to Guano Point, and Guano Point back to the airport. There is a smaller van to take tourists to the Hualapai Ranch with other attractions. We were shortly dropped off at Eagle Point where the Skywalk awaited us.

     The three of us turned over our Skywalk tickets, checked our cell phones and cameras, walked through a metal detector, and were hand-wanded by a large security guard. Maybe they're protecting the glass floor of the Skywalk and maybe they're trying to get extra revenue from photographs, but they do take their restrictions seriously. They gave us cute little booties to wear over our shoes so we wouldn't scratch the glass.

     On the Hualapai web site it says, "Walk on the skywalk: There are no personal items allowed on the Skywalk, you will be asked to store them in lockers. You can take photos of the Skywalk from the side and a photo can be taken of you on the bridge and available for purchase if you choose however, personal belongings on the bridge are not allowed to protect from dropping items and scratching the glass."

     The Skywalk was fascinating and, of course, a little unsettling. It's strange looking straight down between our own two feet at rocks far below. A few folks boldly walked on the clear glass, most of us kept mostly on the frosted side areas, and a few seized the handrails taking terrified mouse steps. The combination of the fantastic view out and the disquieting view down makes the Skywalk an interesting experience.

     Along with the Skywalk, Eagle Point had some native-style tepees and huts and a family doing native dances to recorded music.

     A short wait for a short bus ride led us to Guano Point.

     Guano Point is so named, they tell me, because the natives used to use guano, bat poop, to make the war paint for their faces. Never mind the etymology, Guano Point is a truly beautiful place. We took a short walk, not really a hike, to the pointy end of Guano Point.

     Guano Point is a lovely place surrounded on three sides with breathtaking Canyon views. There is also some old mining equipment of some sort hanging around.

     The buffet lunch is a choice of pulled beef or chicken, corn on the cob, cornbread, coleslaw, cake, et cetera, with no charge for second helpings. After the meal, we took the next bus back to the gift shop at the airport.



The Flight from Phoenix

     I've been warned that the drive to Grand Canyon West is long and tedious with 15 miles (25 Km) on a rutted dirt road. This is a good reason to get there in an airplane. Another good reason is that I have an airplane and like to fly it.

     The flight from Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (DVT) to Grand Canyon West Airport (1G4) spends its first two-thirds over relatively-lifeless terrain. The last third, from Peach Springs to 1G4, is over the western end of the Grand Canyon, quite a view in anyone's book.

     Our trip home was bumpy with lots of updrafts and downdrafts all the way home. (Maybe this was the aviation equivalent of the bumpy dirt road we avoided by flying.) While this was bouncier than is usual for Arizona, the Grand Canyon is often a windy place which means the air is often turbulent.

     The Skywalk is visible from the air, but I had to look for it. It isn't the obtrusive, offensive eyesore its critics seem to think.



Seeing the Grand Canyon

     The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West is a great place to visit and a terrific way to see the Grand Canyon. However, I would not recommend having it be the only way you see the Grand Canyon.

     First of all, Grand Canyon West is on the edge of the inner canyon so the viewer misses the grandeur of the entire canyon. There is an intimacy here at Grand Canyon West that complements the vaster views of the South Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail.

     Second, I didn't find any hiking opportunities at Grand Canyon West. Part of the joy of the Canyon is hiking its trails. Hiking is a wonderful way to experience the vastness of the Grand Canyon.

     I've been lucky enough to get to Tuweep (also called Toroweap) on the north rim. The airport there is now closed (as of 2007 May) and there is hope it will reopen soon and I can go back to this stupendous inner-canyon overlook.

     So go to the Skywalk and enjoy it. I think you'll enjoy the view, the technology, and your hosts. But also make a point of seeing other parts of the Grand Canyon. There's so much canyon to enjoy, you may as well see as much of it as you can.


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