So the Americans have this little erosion problem that draws 5 millon visitors per year. Yep 5,000,000, that’s a huge number. The Colorado river, which is barely a trickle in the Arizona dessert has managed to carve this monumental cavernous gorge which draws not only Americans, but visitors from all over the world. Yes, I’m talking about the Grand Canyon. NOTHING I had read or seen could have prepared me for this amazing sight! WOW!
So I’m a little patriotic, I love Australia. I think our outback is underrated, and I have seen some stunning Aussie gorges. Could the Grand Canyon really that much better…
The answer is, the Grand Canyon, like all amazing natural formations, is natures work of art, and truely needs to be seen to be believed. It is spectacular, and no image will ever do it justice.
I did a little research prior to booking our tour. I would like to share my findings with readers.
We had hired a car in LA and drove straight to Vegas. When I was first planning the Grand Canyon visit I thought we would simply drive ourselves there and save the tour fees.
After a little more research and I found out the drive from Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was at least 4 hours. That’s an 8 hour round trip. If you add time for rest breaks and then trekking around that big hole in the ground it was going to be a HUGE day. There had to be an easier way?
Online there were quite a lot of tour operator offering day trips to the Grand Canyon. I selected one from the Viator website because it had a 4 1/2 star rating.
Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip from Las Vegas with Optional Skywalk
The tour was 12 hours and included:
Coach trip to the Grand Canyon West Rim
15-minute Hoover Dam photo stop from the pedestrian walkway
Optional IMAX theatre – Grand Canyon
3 hours at the Grand Canyon
Drop-off at Las Vegas hotel
The price was $220 per person. So where do I sign up? This seemed like the perfect, no drama way to experience the Grand Canyon, plus get a little running history on the area along the way.
…but wait, there’s more!
Remembering that America is the land of coupons I googled coupons for the tour, just as I was about to book.
The coupon fairy cut my tour price in half!
4 people on the 12 hour Grand Canyon Tour went from $880 down to $299. Same coach operator, same tour and same inclusions. But a saving of more than 50% on the tour.
The site offering the discounted tour was Smarter Vegas.
Happy that I snagged a deal we set off to meet our guides.
As we left Vegas our driver explained that Las Vegas is completely surrounded by a mountain range. It was something that we had noted as we drove into Vegas from LA and now as we left the city we were again climbing over the range.
We were told that Mount Charlestown is the highest mountains to the west of Las Vegas and we saw it still had a decent covering of snow on the top. It was a pretty amazing sight given we were in the dessert!
Our first stop on the tour was to Hoover Dam. The Dam cost 45 million dollars in 1931 and was built in the Great Depression. The companies were given 7 years to complete the project or fines would be issued. They completed the project in just 4 years.
The Colorado River goes all the way to Hoover Dam, and is the primary water source.
We had the opportunity to hike up to the dam and walk along the rim. It was still an amazing engineering feat.
Back on the bus we crossed The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This large arch bridge spans the Colorado River which is the natural boundary between Arizona and Nevada.
We settled back into our seats to look out the window. The scenery looked like it was straight out of a roadrunner and coyote cartoon. There was rocks, sand, mountains and sparse tufting greenery with an occasional cactus. I honestly expected to hear a “meep, meep,” from the Roadrunner.
Our next stop was at the Arizona welcome centre an hour later. This was to be our lunch break. A buffet lunch was provided at the cafe, and we were given the opportunity to watch an IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon’s history. The lunch was fine but the IMAX was disappointing.
When we embarked on the coach trip this morning we were given the “hard sell” and encouraged to pre purchase tickets to the IMAX show. The “upsell” is a big thing in the states. We purchased 4 tickets and expected a geological history of the Grand Canyon but instead we got something that was more like a promo video for the company and other tour operators. It highlighted the helicopter rides, boating on the river over time to the current day and light aircraft flights. It wasn’t at all educational or worthwhile.
Thankfully our bus driver was a wealth of information about the history of the area. He explained that it had been Spanish explorers that first stumbled on the Grand Canyon in about 1580. It wasn’t until the 1800’s it was officially navigated and mapped.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles in length and 18 miles across at it’s widest point. This monstrous hole in the ground is located completely in Arizona but the west rim in not located on American soil.
Have I confused you?? The portion of land on the west rim is owned by the Native Indians and is a reservation. It does not come under the US law. The reservation was established in 1883 and consists of 1,000,000 acres. In 1919 the Grand Canyon was declared a national park, this declaration only applies to the remaining south rim area of the canyon.
The South rim is 230 miles south of the west rim and further away from Vegas. We also needed to travel up 7000ft in altitude so we were warned the climate would be cooler. The bus driver informed us that Spring time is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon as there are significantly less visitors which means better photo opportunities and more time enjoying the view.
As we approach the Grand Canyon visitor centre the scenery slowly changed from rocky dessert to a cool climate pine forest. Although it was spring break the area had experienced a major snow fall just two weeks early. The children were thrilled when they spotted snow still on the ground in places.
The visitor centre is located in the tiny resort town of Tusayan. Tusayan is home to approximately 500 residents. It’s a quaint little village which exists wholly for Grand Canyon tourists.
We continued to drive and entered the Grand Canyon National Park. There was snow on the ground everywhere! We were getting more than we bargained for, the Grand Canyon Tour and the chance to build a snowman or have a snow fight.
We were looking out the window when our attention was directed to five Elke in the forest just metres from the road. They looked perfectly relaxed in the snow and the pine forest. Our first stop was at Mather Point. We disembarked and walked a short distance along wide, paved hiking trails to the lookout. We chose the shortest trail so we could get to the view quickly.
WOW! It was not what I was expecting. It was a yawning great gash in the landscape. The distance across was too much to fathom. Looking down, the river was like a tiny trickle, in a tiny crack, a million miles away. Some areas of the lookout were fenced but most were not fenced. It was easy to trace along the top of the Grand Canyon and find a secluded spot to just sit and ponder this vast natural wonder.
We took some time to hike along the trails and find new vantage points to view the Grand Canyon. Each area we saw was awe inspiring in a new way. The different hiking trails were marked to tell visitors their suitability for mountain bike riding and strollers. There were tracks that ranged from ten minutes walks to overnight camping hikes.
After another quick play in the snow we boarded the bus to ready to go to our next lookout. Bright Angel is just 6 miles from Mather Point and offers another stunning view of the landscape.
Our drop off point at Bright Angel was right at the rim on the canyon. There was literally no need to walk more than a few steps to see the grandeur. A sandstone block wall provided a nice spot to sit and admire the view. We had an hour available to walk around, take photo’s , souvenir shop or get a bite to eat.
Also located at Bright Angel are some pretty spectacular lodges. Each of the individual cabins are built just metres from the rim of the Grand Canyon. I could just image how majestic the changing hues in the rock stratum would look at sunrise and sunset.
I image Bright Angel would be almost still when the tour buses left at the end of the day. The overnight lodgers would have the view to themselves and could bask in the timeless wonder of these rocks.
We were ready to leave. It had been a fantastic day but we were ready to get back on the bus and be driven home. I was thankful Brett didn’t have to drive. There had been so much to see along the way, and keeping his eyes on the road would have meant missing the unique and changing scenery. The bus drivers commentary had also added so much more to our understanding and appreciation of the Grand Canyon National Park.