Trying to organise a trip to the Grand Canyon from Vegas is quite frankly hard work; confusing and a bit of a minefield. There are so many options in terms of which area to visit; South, West or North rims, which mode of transport to use; car, bus, plane or helicopter and what company to book through; the prices vary from the reasonable to the outlandishly ridiculous. It took us days to decide which trip to book and quite a lot of internet research but we finally decided to visit the West Rim via an organised coach trip.
Initially we had wanted to do a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon direct from Vegas but this would have cost about $500 each which was way above what we could afford, besides, that kind of money will pay for a week somewhere in Europe further down the line. We also decided on the West Rim because there was more to do and see and many people had recommended this area over the north and south rims. We opted for an all day bus tour through Grand Canyon Destinations for $89 each. Our 6.05am pick up from Circus Circus was on time and we were on our way!
Our guide for the day was Gia and our driver Mona. Gia was very awake even at that time of the morning. Too awake! Far too talkative anyway 😉 We were unfortunately the first pick up so after several other pickups along the strip, over an hour had passed before we were all aboard and finally leaving Las Vegas. We passed the highway near the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead on the way.
Gia was very informative with tips and knowledge of the local area. She even ran a competition with prizes; we only had a few hours sleep the night before so this kind of engagement was a bit of a struggle for us but it was entertaining none the less. We arrived for a break at Last Stop Travel Centre where we picked up our pre prepared lunch and any snacks we wanted. All stocked up we hit the road again and made our way to the West Rim Visitor Centre, Hualapai Nation. The journey from Vegas to the Grand Canyon is a little over 200km, and with multiple pick ups and stops took over 3 hours to get there.
Now this part got very confusing; we knew we could book additional extras on the day including the Skywalk and a helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon. The Skywalk was $33 dollars each and I’d seen it online; it was a short walkway over the canyon but didn’t really look worth it so we didn’t bother. We were tempted by the helicopter trip but it was $219 each for (allegedly) 30 mins over the canyon and a landing. We ummed and argghed but decided against it hoping we wouldn’t regret it – it was just too much money. Instead, we opted for a tour in the bus with Gia for $20 each. The confusion here arose because different people were doing different things which caused a lot of stress for our tour guide. Some went to helicopters, some were using the shuttle busses and some like us were touring so everyone had to be in different places. Eventually everyone got sorted and we headed off in the coach to our first stop Eagle Point.
Eagle Point is where the Skywalk is located and also hosts a replica Native American village and traditional music. The West Rim is located on the Hualapai Reserve and we sat and had lunch watching a music and dance performance by some members of the Hulapai tribe.
We had a lot of time here, more than we needed but this was because there were queues for the skywalk and as we weren’t doing it we had more time to hang around. We were also asked not to explore the replica village as that was part of our tour; instead we got our first glance of the Grand Canyon; not too shabby!
Apparently the place has its name due to the rock resembling an eagle in the middle – with the sun and the shadows highlighting the Eagle even we could see that! We couldn’t fathom the alligator or dog supposedly also visible in the rock formation though, as that needed a bit more imagination!
Eventually we managed to find Gia and the rest of the group and continue with the tour of the Native American Village. We had a whistle stop tour of Teepees, sweat houses and ovens.
It was quite interesting but so bloomin’ hot. We unfortunately visited these parts in a heatwave and the temperature today was around 45C 🥵🥵. Apparently the day before a couple of people became very unwell due to the heat so we were given cold water today every time we stepped off the bus. Anyway stop one completed now onto our next stop – Guano Point.
So called because they used to mine bat shit here! This was the highlight of our trip – this place was amazing and had the most spectacular views. Gia helped us to get some amazing pictures on the rocks; the difference here is that the edges are not cordoned off it is just sheer drops so you have to be careful!
We walked further down the hill but unfortunately I was a little overcome by the heat-I hid under a bush in the only bit of shade I could find and Nigel continued on. There were two big stone mounds called ant hills which you could climb, Nigel climbed to the biggest one and took some pictures from the top, including a view down to the Colorado River.
There have been a few movies filmed in this part of the Grand Canyon, two of the better known ones being ‘From Here to Eternity (1953) and ‘Thelma and Louise (1991). Gia was able to show us a small bit of wreckage remaining from the first film and the exact ‘driving off the cliff’ spot from Thelma and Louise.
We left Guano Point at 2.45 to pick up the other passengers from the visitor centre; then it was the journey back to Las Vegas; grabbing a couple of quick pics of the Hoover Dam on the way.
We arrived back into Las Vegas just before 6 and opted to hop out at the first stop at Excalibur as not only did we want to look around that area but because our stop would also have been last again.
Thoughts on the day
It was a long day but for us it was the most affordable way to see the Grand Canyon. Did we regret not doing the helicopter ride? After speaking with some who did it, definitely not! There were several complaints that the flights were only 10-15 minutes long instead of the advertised 30, and didn’t land in the canyon due to the heat. One lady who did it said she regretted it and really wished she did the tour like us; they had to rely on the packed shuttle buses to get around and she didn’t see anything like we did and spent a lot of her time trying to get her money back, or at least a partial reduction due to her disappointment. I believe she succeeded in getting around $40 back. We loved the scenery, the heat not so much but it was a fun day at an absolutely outstanding natural wonder of the world, and one that will live long in our memories.
Carol & Nigel x