The following review is based on the tour from Saturday, April 28th. Please note that every tour (including those going to the same destination) is its own unique experience and can vary slightly.
As beautiful as pictures of it are – representing vast gradients of color lined up with the blue horizon – there is nothing quite like standing over the majesty of the Grand Canyon in person. At 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep, its scope and interminable size are mind-blowingly counterintituive to what our most vivid of imaginations could conjure up. It humbles the individual as one ponders the now and the beyond amid the grandiosity of life.
With three disparate vantage points – the North, South, and West Rims – the Grand Canyon is Mother Nature’s painstaking masterpiece, formed over million of years due to the ceaseless erosion of the Colorado River. Four-and-a-half million people visit nature’s mecca annually, and tour companies, like the outstanding Grand Canyon Destinations, which, via the leadership of their contracted guides, offer comfort, expertise, and a relaxing ride from the Las Vegas Strip to these breathtaking visuals.
In addition to choices like the Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon South Rim trips, the full-day West Rim bus tour is one of Grand Canyon Destinations’ most popular choices, and for good reason as it includes not only the life-altering West Rim but a satisfying stop at the Hoover Dam. The tour company, which earned TripAdvisor’s 2017 Certificate of Excellence, is refreshingly forthright with its tour signees, corresponding with them up until the evening prior so that there are no doubts about their designated pick-up time/location.
Passengers are invited onto a spacious bus, à la Windstar Lines, which often collaborates with Grand Canyon Destinations to deliver seamless experiences. One immediately forms a positive impression of the impending adventure upon embarking the bus when ready-to-go breakfast bars and pastries are courteously provided to guests, followed later in the day by sumptuous sandwiches/wraps with potato chips, a cookie, and an apple for lunch.
One of the tour guides is Stanley, a down-to-earth native of Brooklyn, NY, who acts as a crucial liaison between Grand Canyon Destinations and Windstar. Stanley is a smooth driver, raconteur, and gracious host, who embraces the responsibility of ensuring that nobody is ever left behind. He is infectiously passionate about what he does, and voluntarily shares the cornucopia of helpful historical information he has at his disposal.
From the first stop at Hoover Dam in Boulder City, NV, Grand Canyon Destinations’ exemplary guides, one of whom is the aforementioned Stanley, are likely to add layers of historical significance to the views being taken in. For instance, how many people know that the 726-foot-tall Hoover Dam, with a 2,000-year-old life expectancy, is the outcome of 7 states around the Colorado River that made a pact, brokered by President Herbert Hoover, which later became the Boulder Canyon Act? Or, that $49 million was allocated to the Art Deco-influenced and hydroelectric-power project, which consequently yielded the 600-foot-deep Lake Mead reservoir that took 6.5 years to fill to capacity?
Besides the illuminating engineering facts, there is the interesting eyebrow-raiser of a still-visible military overlook, which was built as a preemptive measure in case the Japanese attacked during WWII. Of course, there is the human component, too, which further substantiates the enormity of the unprecedented Hoover Dam undertaking. Stanley elaborates on this, such as the fact that 96 workers tragically died building it. These much-needed fragments of history, and more, allow us to tip our hats to such an achievement and yet bow our heads at the courageous people who staked their lives on the Dam.
The main event is, undoubtedly, the Grand Canyon West Rim nestled in private Hualapai Indian property. Once the bus is parked at the Welcome Center, guests have a reassuringly ample 4 hours to explore and access the reservation’s highly efficient and continuous shuttle system that drops off at the Hualapai Ranch (Stop 1), Eagle Point (Stop 2) and Guano Point (Stop 3).
The Hualapai Ranch offers fun, games, and an ambiance in the style of the Wild West, with exhilarating horseback riding, wagon rides, a mechanical bull, and even a fairground-esque shooting gallery for those who want to test the accuracy of their aim.
It’s at Eagle point, though (which is named after a bisecting rock configuration resembling a guardian eagle with outstretched wings) when the momentum of the jaunt really picks up. While there is an amphitheatre that conveys the absorbing culture of the Hualapai with live tribal music, and even a walking tour of notable Native American dwellings, the prime attraction is the wondrous chasm in the ground that swoons the soul into a spiritual awakening. It is highly recommended that one adds the nominal fee of $27 to the tour package in order to walk on the horseshoe-shaped Skywalk comprised of 1.6 million pounds of specially made glass constructed at a staggering 4,000 feet above the Canyon floor. Acrophobic or not, standing on the glass and looking through the transparency at one’s base allows for a multisensory euphoria that is as sublime as it is thrilling. Better yet, there are photographers on the Skywalk who will ask participants to pose for photo-printed mementos.
As impressive as Eagle Point is, Guano Point is seemingly the manifestation of a mythological and panoramic paradise. For those who don’t mind a little exertion, the pyramidal-rock-stacked “Highpoint Hike” will leave one breathless, not so much for the hike, but the 360-degree splendor it bowls one over with. On one side is the gold, red, and brown of the conventional Canyon vista, and on the other is the Colorado River running through an infinite greenish meadow sunken into the core of the Earth. To put it into perspective, it’s an event tantamount to reaching the climax of a J.R.R. Tolkien epic, or being perched at the pinnacle of the heavens, empowered — not daunted — by the pure might of Mother Nature.
While passengers will be fulfilled with the West Rim of the Grand Canyon alone, there is one final treat on the way back to the hotel: the largest concentration (per square mile) of Joshua Trees in the Joshua Tree Forest. Once again, despite passengers being enervated, there is still much to be excited about as a result of the tour guide’s enthusiasm. Stanley, for example, presents stunning facts, like the fact that these fibrous Yucca trees have roots that run as deep as 30 feet, with a maturation process lasting 60 years, and a life as long as 1,000 years, though one initially contingent on stupefyingly precise conditions to bloom. It’s another reminder that nature’s best gifts have stories to tell that are worth listening to.
Overall, Grand Canyon Destinations’ West Rim Tour is a must-do for it not only augments the observer’s already-magnificent sights with worthwhile details but does so in a placid, respectful, and informative transportational setting.
For more information about Grand Canyon Destinations’ West Rim tour, please visit grandcanyondestinations.com/west-rim