Deciding on whether to visit the Skywalk or Grand Canyon National Park while staying in Las Vegas? That’s a tough one. Both attractions are worth the trip. However, there are a few logistical and budgetary differences between the two that can help solve the dilemma for you.
This is a big issue for a lot of people. It takes a bus 2.5 hours to reach Grand Canyon West and 5.5 hours to reach the South Rim. It takes a helicopter 45 minutes and an airplane 25 minutes to reach the West Rim, respectively. It takes an airplane 45 minutes to fly to the South Rim; there are no direct helicopter flights. Be prepared to spend a full day on trips to the West Rim. South Rim airplane trips need a full day, too, while bus tours average about 15 hours.
The one-way driving distance from Las Vegas to the West Rim is 128 miles and 279 miles to the South Rim. Both are relatively long trips. Fortunately, today’s motor coach has all the amenities, including plush seats and a clean bathroom. There are also a number of stops where you can stretch your legs (including Hoover Dam).
THINGS TO DO
Each rim has distinct things to do. The West Rim is famous for its man-made attractions while the South Rim is praised for its incredible natural beauty. Additionally, while there are visitor facilities at the West Rim, the ones at South Rim are more developed.
This part of the Canyon is crammed with fantastic viewing spots. The most famous are Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, Yaki Point, Hermit’s Rest and more. All can be reached via the Park’s excellent free shuttle bus system.
Plenty of casual dining here. The Bright Angel Lodge restaurant serves up home-style cooking that’s priced right. Maswick Lodge offers cafeteria style. There’s a small snack bar behind the Lodge Restaurant. High-end dining (and cocktails) can be had at El Tovar. Near Mather Campground is a supermarket with deli, fried foods, and pizza.
This is a South Rim “must-do.” For Native American handicrafts, it’s the Hopi House. Go to Verkamp’s or Kolb Studio for books, DVDs, and maps. The gift shop inside the Bright Angel Lodge is the place for t-shirts, water bottles, keychains, and postcards.
Grand Canyon West
The Glass Bridge is becoming Las Vegas’ hottest “off-Strip” attraction. Since opening to the public in 2007, more than one million people have experienced the Bridge. It’s a fantastic structure: Made of special glass, it extends 70 feet over the Canyon, wherein you are suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River.
This is truly a special place. It features a Wild West town where gun fights are staged. Other cowboy “games” include axe and hay bale throwing. You get saddle up and go horseback riding or be involved in a cattle drive. Overnight lodging is available.
Eagle Point is the main lookout for the West Rim. Spectacular views are to be had. Be warned – There’s no guardrail. The region includes an Indian village and outdoor amphitheater for talks on local culture, flora, and fauna.
Grand Canyon West is a relatively new development of the Hualapai Indian Tribe. The complex that services the Skywalk is the hub of activity and includes a gift shop (this is where you pick up your Skywalk souvenir photos) and snack bar. The Tribe’s future plans for the area include hotels and restaurants.
There’s a huge difference in climate. The South Rim is located in a national forest at an elevation of 6,000 feet while the West Rim is atop high desert at 4,500 feet. Here’s a snapshot of each rim’s annual temperatures:
Elevation is 4,700 feet.
Jan. – March
Average high temperature: 70 degrees. Average low: 43 degrees.
April – June
Average high temperature: 96 degrees. Average low: 65 degrees.
July – Sept.:
Average high temperature: 105 degrees. Average low: 76 degrees.
Oct. – Dec.:
Average high temperature: 76 degrees. Average low: 46 degrees.
Elevation is 7,000 feet
Jan. – March
Average high temperature: 45 degrees. Average low: 21 degrees.
April – June
Average high temperature: 69 degrees. Average low: 39 degrees.
July – Sept.
Average high temperature: 82 degrees. Average low: 52 degrees.
Oct. – Dec.:
Average high temperature: 52 degrees. Average low: 27 degrees.
WHAT TO WEAR AND BRING
Warm layers in the winter and wind-resistant, cool clothing in the summer. Expect winter snow at the South Rim and wear pants, shoes and a jacket (it’s not uncommon to see people in shorts!). During the summer, always bring a water bottle and plenty of sunscreen.
Grand Canyon West rim tours start at $ 94. South Rim at $ 79. Tour prices include Park entrance fees. Book online to get the best price. Skywalk tickets are extra and cost $ 29.95 for adults, $ 22.95 for children ages 3-11, and $ 26.95 for seniors and military personnel.
The Rims of the Grand Canyon are wondrous places. It would be great if there was a Grand Canyon day trip that did both but there isn’t (if there were, it would be a two-day trip). However, the Rims are different enough in terms of tour time, price, and attractions that you can find the trip that’s right for you.
Travel insider Kelly Kirbee posts the best deals on tours to the Grand Canyon’s West and South Rims at http://www.GrandCanyonDayTrips.com
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