After the drive from Palmdale to Arizona, we started the trip at the Grand Canyon. We opted to check out the brand new Grand Canyon Skywalk on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
In general, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole Grand Canyon West experience. I was prepared for things to be a little unorganized and rough, but that couldn't have been farther from the truth. The road out there is truly 14 miles of washboard dirt road, however it really wasn't that bad as long as you didn't try to go 40 MPH on it. We had no trouble in our rented sedan. The drive is through a beautiful patch of Joshua Trees which was very cool. The scenery headed out there was very pretty.
When we got there, they had set up a second parking lot as their main lot couldn't accomodate all of the cars. They were shuttling folks from the remote lot to the main welcome center pretty seamlessly. The welcome center is little more than a counter to purchase your package for the day and a gift shop. There was quite a line to buy packages, but it moved very quickly. They also had a cash only line inside the gift shop which hardly anyone knew about, so bring cash if you can. We purchased our package within 5 minutes of arriving thanks to the cash only line.
The buses to shuttle you out to the various point were very clean and nice...I was honestly expecting old school buses. The drivers were very friendly and there was plenty of staff around to help you out, answer questions or just take pictures for you. Our first stop was at the Skywalk at the Eagle Point stop. The whole process of getting from the bus and out to the skywalk was very well organized and easy.
They are checking cameras right before you walk out to the skywalk, but it was done very quickly. I expected to be pretty disappointed that I couldn't take pictures out there, but truthfully I ended up being thankful that I wasn't out there with a bunch of folks taking pictures. I think it really would have muddled things up out there. Also, if I'm honest, there was nothing to really take a picture of
while on the skywalk that you couldn't take from the viewpoint right next to it after I got my camera back. Also, I had no trouble keeping my cell phone in my pocket, so I did snap a couple pictures of our feet walking on the glass with that.
The experience of walking on the Skywalk itself was kind of cool. The clear glass runs down the center and there is frosted glass on the sides. Everyone stepped out onto it by avoiding the clear glass and stepping onto the frosted glass. It was funny to watch since it was essentially the same glass. A man came on with a wheelchair and actually made every effort to immediatly wheel himself onto the frosted glass right away. I don't think most people were even aware they were doing it. From there folks would slowly start to let go of the sides and step out into the middle. You do eventually lose all perspective of how high up you really are. It was a pretty view and a fun experience, but the best part was really the experience with all of the other people. There was definitely a camraderie out there. I think that's why the camera thing didn't bum me out much, it would have changed the dynamic and interaction with everyone else. We were allowed to take our time and stay out there as long as we wanted. It was great.
Eagle Point also has a village of recreated Native American structures which was really interesting to see and the views of the canyon from the areas next to the Skywalk were amazing. If you have one person in your group who doesn't want to walk on the Skywalk, they will definitely still have things to see and do at the stop while you walk out there.
They have a permenant tarp in place so there are plenty of tables in the shade to sit and eat. Very nicely done. After we ate, I hiked out to Guano Point which is a peak connected to the main area by a land bridge. The hike to the top was definitely the highlight of my day. It was a bit challenging, but the view was well worth it. Indescribable. The hike back down was harrowing, but fun. Parents, don't let your kids hike out there alone. This is really undeveloped land and they shouldn't be running around unsupervised. If you tripped in the wrong spot on the way back down, you really could go right over the edge.
We finished up at Guano Point with a little shopping from the many vendors set up next to the bus pick-up. Lots of traditional Native American jewelry and various other small items.
We decided to skip the final stop to the Ranch and Cowboy Village. It seemed a little more touristy than what we were interested in (petting zoo, gunfight recreations...etc.) We headed back to our car and took the bumpy ride back out completely impressed with the day. We heard that there had been around 2,000 - 2,500 people there on Saturday, but you would have never known it. Considering the tribe averaged 700 visitors a day before the Skywalk opened, they are handling the increased traffic remarkably well. I would definitely recommend visiting there, even if you had no interest in walking on the Skywalk. It was just a great way to see the Grand Canyon and not deal with all of the traffic and crowds of South Rim.