This Adventurous Way to Visit the Grand Canyon Also Supports the Indigenous Hualapai People

Opt for visiting Grand Canyon West.

<p>Bryan Kroten/Courtesy of Grand Canyon West</p>

Bryan Kroten/Courtesy of Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon National Park is the second most visited national park in the U.S., with 4.7 million visitors in 2022. As a traveler, that should tell you two things: that the Grand Canyon is amazing, and that the park will be busy. But what many visitors don’t realize is that there is another, lesser-visited site on the western rim of the Grand Canyon — and this site is owned and operated by the Hualapai Nation, whose ancestral homelands are in the area.

Because Grand Canyon West is Native-owned, money spent there goes directly to the Hualapai people. Plus, visitors can get a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of the Hualapai and walk the lands that have supported this community for centuries.

In addition to the unique cultural experience it offers, Grand Canyon West is a true adventure destination. Its biggest draw is the world-famous Skywalk, which protrudes 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon — a whopping 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. The experience is amplified by the fact that the horseshoe-shaped skywalk is made out of glass, allowing you to feel just how high up you are.

Nearby, at Guano Point, the Highpoint Hike trail leads to the remnants of a tram that once stretched 8,800 feet across the canyon. The views from this lookout point are some of Grand Canyon West’s best and most dramatic.

<p>Courtesy of Grand Canyon West</p>

Courtesy of Grand Canyon West

If heights aren’t your cup of tea, you can journey to the solid ground at the base of the Grand Canyon and go on a one- or two-day whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River with Hualapai River Runners. Along the way, you’ll see the homes the Hualapai built along the walls of the Grand Canyon, learn about the tribe’s history in the area, and discover the significance of the Colorado River for the Hualapai.

For aerial views of the Grand Canyon, there’s a helicopter tour that takes travelers from the West Rim to the canyon floor, where a pontoon boat is waiting. Back up on the West Rim, you can hop on Grand Canyon West’s zipline, which is 3,200 feet long and soars 500 feet above the floor of a side canyon at 40 miles per hour.

<p>Courtesy of Grand Canyon West</p>

Courtesy of Grand Canyon West

Once you’ve got your heart pumping, take a moment to learn about your hosts, the Hualapai people. You can talk to the ambassadors at Hualapai Point and shop at the Hwal’bay Trading Post for souvenirs from tribal vendors. At Eagle Point, you can walk through a village that was built to show how the Natives who roamed these lands lived. The village includes traditionally built housing, cooking ovens, and sweat lodges, and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you can witness the dances and music of the Hualapai Tribe in the outdoor amphitheater.

There’s plenty to do at Grand Canyon West, so most guests stay a night (or two) in one of the park’s three accommodation types. If you’re coming with a group, book The Cabins at Grand Canyon West, which can house up to six guests and typically come equipped with a refrigerator and microwave. The Hualapai Lodge is the best choice for visitors looking to raft, hike, and fish during their visit and there is RV parking for those who arrive with their home in tow.

<p>Courtesy of Grand Canyon West</p>

Courtesy of Grand Canyon West

One of the most unique things about Grand Canyon West is how remote it is. As such, there is no Wi-Fi access, so the Hualapai Nation developed a new app that provides information about the various viewpoints and contains a wealth of cultural information — including the story behind sacred rituals and Native language tips. You can download and explore the app here.

The easiest way to get to Grand Canyon West is to fly into Las Vegas and make the 2-hour drive to the site. The site is 3.5 hours from Flagstaff, Arizona, and 4.5 hours from Phoenix. Grand Canyon West is located directly west of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, but because there is no direct road connecting the two sites, travelers have to journey 241 miles or 4.5 hours to reach Grand Canyon West from the South Rim. 

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