Grand Canyon West: The Skywalk and Eagle Point
It has been considered one of next landmarks in the United States.
A walk over it is considered an out of this world experience.
It was designed to withstand winds of about 100 miles per hour and an 8.0 magnitude earthquake.
The vertical drop from the top is higher that any skyscraper in the world.
It is owned by a tribe.
The surrounding scenery is breathtaking and mesmerizing.
Seventy one loaded 747s can land over it without breaking it.
In certain way, we have it thanks to the hard work of a river.
Its motto is “Walk the Sky”.
Do you have an idea of what I am talking about?
I am referring to the Skywalk. Yes, that transparent horseshoe-shaped bridge hanging over the Grand Canyon. You must have seen it before. It made news worldwide when it opened to the public in 2007.
In the past years, I have been reading stories of this engineering marvel. Then, I discovered how tours to visit the attraction are available from Las Vegas. Being the casino hater (sorry) I am, I said “Next time I visit Vegas, I will do the Skywalk”. Well, after several visits, I finally made the decision to book and go for the adventure. Adventure? At least it is for a high altitude coward like me.
For the record, let’s set some things straight. The Skywalk is at the rim of the Grand Canyon but it is not inside the national park of the same name. The land where the structure stands is property of the Hualapai Nation. Because of this, they are the ones who receive most of the operating earnings. This area of the canyon has been named Grand Canyon West (to differentiate it from the North and South rims which are inside the park). A visit to this part of the Grand Canyon gives you access to the Skywalk, two magnificent (incredible, outstanding, astonishing) view points, Hualapai ranch and meals (usually included on the package you have to buy). There are also members of the tribe offering dancing demonstrations and willing to answer questions. If you want to take things a step further, there are opportunities to do boat and helicopter rides.
Once at the Hualapai Reserve (and after you have paid the fees), you are transferred in shuttles to the different viewpoints.
How to get there
The two major, closest cities are Las Vegas to the North of Kingman to the South. I did the trip from Las Vegas with a tour company. Take into consideration this is an entire day affair. It takes three hours to drive to the place. Then, you have four hours to take a look around, eat and do the Skywalk. Lastly, there is another three hour drive back to Las Vegas. I didn’t feel the drive monotonous because there were several stops along the way. For the ride back, you are probably going to be dead tired so you are not going to feel the drive.
All I have described can be done independently, if you have your own set of wheels. Do your research before committing to these options since it is still expensive to visit in this way and parts of the road which takes you to the visitors’ center is unpaved (can break some rented vehicles agreements).
I don’t want to start writing about how the Skywalk was built and what materials were used. I may not explain everything in the needed amount of detail. However, I encourage you to search (ex. Wikipedia) and read more about how this structure was built. All the details are extremely interesting. Once you are face to face with the peach colored bridge, you know some careful planning and design was needed. So, go ahead and learn a little bit more about this beauty.
The Skywalk is located at Eagle Point. The Colorado River can be seen 4,000 feet below the rim. This was my first time at the Gran Canyon. I had all these dreams of how it would look. I have seen the pictures. Nevertheless, I was completely blown away when I saw the big scar on the surface of earth. It is so humongous!!! I felt so small (the helicopters flying next to the walls looked like flies).
There is nothing separating you from the canyon. Because of this fact, you have to be extra careful when walking around the rim. As you can imagine, some people were doing the usual crazy poses at the actual rim (just inches from the abysm). As I have discussed before, I am afraid of heights so I stayed at least one meter from the rim. At some points, I took courage and walked a little bit closer to take a look at the green, sneaky river below. Wow, I am so glad I went to see this. It is something that has no comparison.
The Skywalk was just right there next to the viewpoint. Don’t get me wrong for what I am going to say. The Skywalk looks impressive from the viewpoint. However, you have to walk it (at least once) to get the entire feeling.
As I was getting closer and closer to the walk, I started to get more and more nervous. I am not going to lie. I even though about going back and not doing the walk. I convinced myself that everything was going to be fine (not of great help after seeing the Titanic exhibition at one of Las Vegas hotels).
But you know what, once I was over the actual Skywalk, all the fear disappeared. I mean I still was a little nervous but the colors of the canyon walls take dominion of your emotions. You cannot believe what is going on. You are actually like a bird floating over one of nature’s most magnificent work. I walked slowly, appreciated the views and kept smiling. I even sat over the bridge for one of the crazy photos the photographers make you do.
Once I got off the Skywalk, I breathed with relief. I am so happy I decided to do this. The canyon is beyond words. The river below and the actual platform attached to the rim can’t be compared to anything I have done before. Hope my experience and descriptions help you to put this experience in your “must do” list.
Cameras and personal articles are not permitted in the Skywalk (you have to leave your belongings at a free locker).
While walking, your shoes are covered with special paper booties design to avoid scratching the glass.
Have you visited the Skywalk? Let me know about your experience in the comments section below.