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West Rim: Things to Do While Visiting Grand Canyon West by Bus

If you know someone who's been to the Grand Canyon, there's a good chance you've heard them talking about bus tours and the West Rim. Grand Canyon bus tours are incredibly popular, especially with people who are vacationing in Vegas.

Earth's Crust

Carved out of living rock over millions of years by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is an immense place - 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and up to a mile deep. Personally, I think every inch is magnificent, rich in natural beauty, abundant wildlife and interesting rock formations. Even the canyon's walls are beautiful, with colorful strata indicating different types of rock.

Plus, Native Americans have lived in the area since ancient times, and evidence of their past and present habitation in the area is a living lesson in Indian culture. The Hualapai Tribe actually owns and operates Grand Canyon West (the West Rim) - it's located on their tribal land.

The West Rim isn't far from Sin City (about 120 miles), so it's a perfect candidate for a day trip. Grand Canyon bus tours are a terrific value because they're all-inclusive, meaning the price includes Vegas Strip hotel pickup and drop-off, lunch, the services of an experienced driver/guide, and all applicable National Park fees and taxes. The motor coaches are comfy and you can kick back and relax while you're watching the sights pass by.

skywalk eagle point

En Route

On the way to the West Rim you'll see scenic Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, an engineering wonder and a spectacle in and of itself. Once you arrive at Grand Canyon West, you'll see another engineering wonder - the fabulous Grand Canyon Skywalk. The Skywalk is also called the "Glass Bridge," because it's made of transparent glass!

The Skywalk's a hot ticket - one of the most popular attractions at the West Rim. At its apex, you'll be standing 70 feet past the canyon's edge and around 4,000 feet above the Colorado River! Other neat things you should know about the glass bridge (technically, as a reader pointed out, it's a walkway) include:

  • Cost $30 Million to build;

  • Comprised of 45+ glass panels that cost $250,000 each;

  • Can withstand Magnitude 8 earthquakes;

  • Largest glass cantilevered bridge on the planet.

The Skywalk is an awesome experience. I highly recommend springing for tickets by upgrading your Grand Canyon bus tour package. Of course, the walkway isn't the only interesting thing at Grand Canyon West - far from it! Other highlights include:

  • Guano Point (where there used to be a bat guano mine!);

  • Eagle Point and its interesting rock formations;

  • Hualapai Ranch, where you and the kids can watch an old-timey Western show and grab a bite to eat.

Upgrades

Tour companies offer several optional upgrades of the basic bus tour, and I recommend upgrading if you can. As I mentioned earlier, you can add VIP access to the Skywalk. Other add-ons for West Rim Grand Canyon bus tours include:

  • An exciting chopper ride to the bottom (Grand Canyon West is the only section of the canyon where this is permitted), followed by a champagne lunch

  • A smooth-water rafting trip down a calm section of the Colorado River

Grand Canyon bus tours are the most affordable way to see this magnificent place. In fact, they're a terrific value because they include so much.

Self-Drivers

There's always the option that you can driver yourself to the West Rim. I'm not a big fan of it because the last part of the road is unmaintained dirt and it can get quite rough. Plus, when it's all said and done, you're going to pay a lot more compared to a bus tour (or an airplane tour for that matter!). All that aside, if you do find yourself arriving at the West Rim in a rental, I recommend you take this helicopter/boat tour.

lunch at guano point

Luxury Bus

The buses used on canyon trips these days will blow your mind. Unlike the old "land sharks" of times past, these coaches are true luxury. The interiors are huge and having enough personal space is never an issue. Climate control is also important, and these buses are outfitted with the best. I should know - I took a West Rim trip in the middle of July. Outside, it was 105 degrees! Inside, it was a cool 75 degrees. I appreciated every minute of it, especially between stops when we had to get out into the heat. Other great features on these coaches include:

  • Oversized viewing windows

  • On-board lavatory

  • Plasma TV's

  • Quiet-ride suspension

  • Recliner-style sheets

I'd be remiss if I failed to mentioned van tours. These are more expensive because seating is limited up to 10 people. Further, the vans themselves are equipped with deluxe leather captain's chairs and the same technology that comes on a standard luxury bus. The other huge van-tour benefit is time. There are fewer people to manage so you spend less of it getting everyone on and off the van. Moreover, you and your fellow passengers can call the shots on "comfort breaks" and how long you want to stay at a particular point of interest. For more info about these van trips, go here.

RSVP & Good Deals

I recommend making reservations a week in advance. Heck, during summer, I recommend two weeks. These bus tours are incredibly popular and sell out all the time. Don't wait until the last minute to book them because you won't get seats. I'm very serious about this because I've consoled way too many travelers who call in looking for same-day bookings prior to their flight out of Vegas the next morning. It just isn't possible (or feasible). Avoid the stress. Book in advance.

Do yourself a favor and book your seats directly on the tour company's website instead of going through a third party like Expedia or Orbitz, your hotel concierge, or a street ticket kiosk. You'll save money and you'll have a lot more tour choices. Just make sure you complete the entire transaction on the tour company's site. That way you'll qualify for a terrific Internet discount.

west rim helicopters

Conclusion

I hope this article about things to do at the West Rim was helpful. Grand Canyon West is an awesome place, and, because it's a hop, skip and a jump away from Las Vegas, it makes for a terrific day trip. For the most part, all the key points of interest have been listed in this article. Of course, there are others, and you'll be in a better position to determine if you want to see them upon arrival.

As for tours, I'm a big fan of those that add a helicopter ride to the bottom or a boat ride down the legendary Colorado River. Another favorite is the one that bundles the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Naturally, time and budget will dictate, but you also have to factor in availability. As noted earlier, get your bus tickets a week ahead of time. And when you do, make sure you book them online. Follow these simple steps and you'll be in for the ride of a lifetime!

Click for Bus Tour Departure Times & Prices

Have a grand day,

P.S. Not sure which tour operator to use? Go here for a comparison of bus tour operators based on safety, quality and price.

 


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