Only a short drive from Las Vegas, a trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon can be a very rewarding experience.
Destination at a Glance
|Date of Trip||November 2006|
|Destination Good for||Sightseeing, Photography/Videography, Outdoor activities|
|Best Time to Go
||Anytime – though can be cold in Winter|
|Good Way to Get Around||Own Car: Yes||Tour: Yes||Taxi: No||Walking: Yes|
|Appox. Trip Cost||Free to Fairly Inexpensive|
|Entry Requirements||Possible Parking and tour fees|
|Didn’t get to do||Tour of Hoover Dam power plant|
|Would I Recommend||Yes|
|Overall Trip Rating|
Trip Review (Click Thumbnails to see Full-Sized Images)
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States and is fully deserving of that popularity. It’s one of the rare destinations that actually live up to the hype; where the term “pictures just don’t do the place justice” actually holds true. There are several ways of getting to the Grand Canyon – all depending on where you are starting from (fly vs. drive) and what park of the park you intend on entering (North vs. South Rims). The most popular routes to get to the Grand Canyon tend to be flying into major city airports and driving to the park, like from Phoenix, Arizona for example.
My journey started as an off-shoot of my Las Vegas trip via a full-day tour from a company called Pink Jeep Tours. For $225 per person, the tour includes pick-up/drop-off at any Las Vegas strip or downtown hotel, personal guide, driver, all fees into the Grand Canyon (Skywalk not included) and a decent lunch (a $380 tour includes the Skywalk, pontoon and Helicopter rides). So at around 8am, the company will pick you up at your in what else, a big Pink Jeep Cherokee. I don’t generally care for Group Tours, but the maximum number of folks they will fit in the Jeep is 6-7 folks – so it’s not that bad. Once everyone in your group is picked up from their respective hotels, the 45 minute or so haul to the Hoover Dam begins.
The Hoover Dam is about 35 miles southeast of the city of Las Vegas and generates power for Nevada, Arizona and a good part of Southern California. This huge hydroelectric power station was the largest concrete structure in the world when it was completed in 1936. Via the Hoover Dam Bridge, you can see Lake Mead – the reservoir created from dam. When I visited the dam, I noticed the so called “bathtub effect”; which is caused when water levels decrease in the lake, salt deposits are left on the sides of the rock walls that are bleached by the sun, turning them into the white “bathtub ring” around the lake. While this is excellent for taking pictures, this is not so good for the water supply in Las Vegas. Some estimates conclude that Las Vegas could run out of water in 2010 if the drought conditions do not change…Yikes!!!
Although my tour did not include a long stop at the dam, there are a few options worth taking note. An interesting option is to take a tour of the Hoover Dam facility. The self-guided tour includes several theaters detailing the history/current operations, displays, up-close and personal views of the power plant inside of the dam, an observation tower and a walk along the top of the dam. Hoover Dam tour costs $30.
The Grand Canyon
After taking several pictures at the Hoover Dam, it was off on the 2-plus hour drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Once there, the natural beauty and sheer amazement begins. In a nutshell, here are my thoughts on the Grand Canyon:
- Activities – Rafting, hiking and camping are all popular activities at the Grand Canyon. Several reputable rafting companies offer anything between 1-3 hour and 4-5 day rafting excursions through the winding valleys of the park. Though visitors can hike and camp on their own without a guide, the US Park Service does not recommend it – especially for single day Rim-2-Bottom and back hikes.
- Viewing the canyon – There are several ways to view the canyon – each with its unique perspective. The most popular (and least expensive) is to simply walk along the South Rim. The South Rim provides excellent aerial and overhead views of the canyon allowing wide angle landscape shots, as well as detailed shots of formations, waterways, etc. All of the pictures and video in this review were taken from atop the South Rim. A different visual perspective is to take a helicopter tour of the canyon. Not only do these tours provide near vertical views of the area, but many helicopters land inside of the Canyon (not all the way to the bottom) for excellent upward facing views. Finally, the bottom of the canyon provides a truly unique perspective on the canyon – with the sides of the walls extending thousands of feet above your head – almost blocking out the sun. Hiking or rafting in are the best ways to get to the bottom of the canyon.
- Skywalk – Opened in March 2007, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is a horseshoe shaped glass walkway 3,600 ft. above the canyon floor. In my mind, the Skywalk is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the views from the platform are just stunning (so I hear). On the other hand – those are gonna be some very expensive pictures! First and foremost, there’s a $32 fee just to get on the contraption. This fee is above any other fees to get to the platform, such as park entry, parking, etc. Beyond that, since the platform is made of glass – cameras, video camcorders and cell phones are banned from the Skywalk. Permanent and stationary cameras are mounted on the platform and the pictures taken from them are available for purchase at the gift shop. According to Wikipedia, the cost of a visit to the Skywalk is a minimum of $85 – and this is before the cost of any pictures. Surely some nice views – but not $85 worth of goodness.
Old Cowboy Town
As I mentioned earlier, lunch was included in the Pink Jeep package. After leaving the Grand Canyon, we were taken to a replica 1800s western town – the fake OK Corral I called it. The replica town had a bank, stable and of course a saloon. As we entered the town a gunfight broke out – lmao. Guess someone was cheating at a game of cards and got thrown through a window and shot the F up; then the shooter gets into it with the Sherriff. Luckily, the town also had an Undertaker. Kinda cheesy – but in a good way. There were also a few animals visitors could play with, including horses, cows/bulls, and goats. Lunch was fine – sandwiches and beans if I remember correctly. Obviously, whoever runs this town has agreements with tour operators to bring visitors to the grounds, so I’m not sure it is open to the general public.
The Grand Canyon is one of those rare destinations that actually live up to the hype. The almost unspoiled landscape is like nothing else in the United States – perhaps the world. Whether camping, hiking, taking a helicopter tour or just standing on the South Rim – you can’t help but to take excellent pictures. Skip the Skywalk – just too expensive in every way for not significantly better access. Throw in a tour of the Hoover Dam – and you’ve got yourself an excellent time.