Well, we are back home again! We had a great trip exploring the Southwest. We were gone for eight days and made it to the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, as well as the Sunset Crater & Wupatki national monuments. We walked where dinosaurs walked in the Navajo Reservation, and met some awesome folks while eating fry bread at this amazing roadside stop. Seriously, it was awesome, go here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/native-grill-navajo-soul-food-cameron
While we typically seek out the less “toursity” options wherever we go, Ron wanted to change it up a bit this trip and check out the Grand Canyon West.
If you are looking for a non-traditional Grand Canyon experience, the Grand Canyon West is a pretty awesome option. Once you make the trek out to the Hualapai reservation, you can view the landmark by either helicopter, plane, boat, or their glass bottom SkyWalk.
The Grand Canyon West is not affiliated with the National Parks, therefore you will need to purchase entry from the Hualapai Nation directly. The tickets can be purchased here from www.grandcanyonwest.com or can be purchased when you arrive. The tickets are a bit pricey but the experience is far different from the one you’ll get at the Grand Canyon National Park.
When we were first researching a trip to the SkyWalk we were a bit hesitant as the website does not boast a family friendly experience. We read notes about no strollers being allowed and no infants or toddlers on the Skywalk. But we made a few phone calls, and were pleased to find out that PJ would be allowed to join us as long as she was worn in a baby carrier positioned in front. We always travel with our Ergo360 Baby Carrier, so we booked the $76.00 Legacy Gold Package ticket to experience the glass walkway forgoing the $200 option to take a helicopter tour through the canyon. Children under three are free. (Maybe we’ll try the helicopter after our next lotto win.)
Once we arrived, we were amazed at organization of this destination! Right next to the parking lot, beautiful bright red helicopters & planes hopped from ground to sky in a precisely choreographed dance. If you have a little one who is in to planes, their entire twenty minute attention span could be filled with watching them take off and land! The main visitors center and gift shop is composed of a huge white tent that leads directly out to the first bust stop where you can hop on to a shuttle bus to take you to each of the three viewing points. Shuttles run constantly, and they don’t wait for them to fill up so you are never waiting very long to get moving.
The first viewing point is where we realized that either they must need to update their website to attract more families. While it was obviously still under construction, Hualapai Ranch included a replica western town where visitors could pan for gold, tour the jail, ride a mechanical bull, practice their lasso skills on hay bail steers, and take in a magic show that begins every 15 minutes! This stop also had a restaurant, and of course a gift shop. Stagecoach, wagon, and horse rides are also available for an additional cost here as well. There is an option to stay overnight on the ranch, but it was booked full when we were planning our trip.
The second Shuttle stop was Eagle Point which includes the SkyWalk as well as an exhibit of various native dwellings. Named for an amazing rock formation that indeed looks exactly like an Eagle with outspread wings, this location is gorgeous! It is also place where if PJ was walking I might be temped to leash her as there is no railing along the canyon edge. It was a little hard to stomach all the selfie-stick wheedling tourist shuffling up to the very edge of the canyon to take photos! We wandered around to look at the replica sweat lodges and teepees before getting in line for our chance on the Skywalk.
Once we entered the Skywalk building, we were instructed to put all extra belongings into the provided lockers and cover our shoes with protective booties. No phones or cameras are allowed on the skywalk, however photographers are there to take photos of you if you choose. We got some great shots out of our little session with the photographer on the walk, but I was pretty disappointed to find out that the fee for photos was anything but reasonable. A printed copy of a single photo cost $20, and to get the set of all six photos in digital form was $60! Even with a life that revolves around online photos, we couldn’t stomach the price gouge and only ponied up for a single print. While the lack of photos was a bit of a let-down, the skywalk itself did not disappoint! The experience is breathtaking!
The final shuttle stop took us up to Guano Point where we partook in the meal included with our Legacy Gold Package. The food was edible BBQ beef and corn, but was really nothing to write home about and the outdoor dining hall is plagued by aggressive crows and squirrels being fed by tourists, but the view was again spectacular. At this stop there is also the “Highpoint Hike,” which is quite an easy trek and offers up some more beautiful views.
In short, be prepared to shell out some dough for the skywalk experience. This is a not a good option if you are a large family looking for an inexpensive day of entertainment. But if you want to give the kiddos a good thrill, and make some memories I would say loosen the grip on your wallet and consider it the Disneyland of National Monuments. It is a place I would like to take our little one back to when she is a bit older and more able to appreciate it.