The Grand Canyon: Improvements vs Charm

Have you ever returned to location that somehow didn’t live up to that majesty you remembered?  Whether a result of different travel companions, a different stage in life, or physical changes at that location, this can often be the case.  I experienced all three of these changes recently when I returned to The Grand Canyon.  Were these changes for the better?  I’ll let you be the judge of that …

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon West on a couple of occasions. Given the chance, I’d highly recommend adding the Grand Canyon to your bucket list; it’s simply awe-inspiring.

Unlike its siblings at the North and South rims, Grand Canyon West is located exclusively on the nearly 1,000,000 acres of the Hualapai American Indian Reservation, created in 1883, including 108 miles of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. The Hualapai, or “People of The Tall Pines,” are native people of the Southwest.

Grand Canyon West is located within a day-trip of Las Vegas, just beyond the Hoover Dam. This attraction is well worth a stop on your way to the Grand Canyon, but I would recommend parking for free on the Arizona side of the dam instead of paying to park on the Nevada side.

Today, they have finished building a highway that completely bypasses the Hoover Dam. This is a great option for those who no longer need to sit in the often congested traffic on both sides, winding down to and then slowly across the dam. However, if you’ve never experienced it, you really should make a point to check out this marvel of human engineering.

The Grand Canyon

The first time we visited, our directions included “turn off the main road onto an un-maintained dirt road. From here it’s only 40 miles to the Welcome Center, but you CANNOT exceed 20-30 MPH because of the condition of the road”. The road was narrow with many small ditches and medium-sized boulders to navigate through.

Though this made for a much longer drive, we were afforded the ability to take in the beauty of the surrounding area, including the Joshua Tree Forest.

When we returned a few short years later, we arrived at the Welcome Center before we knew it! We thought ‘Wow! What happened to that awful road? And where was that beautiful scenery we saw last time?’ The vastly improved road allowed us to get to our destination much faster, but those newly smoothed-out, wide roads also meant zipping by those picturesque Joshua Trees, which no longer lined the road, but were pushed well back. It also meant newly created “Scenic View Points” to avoid being in the way of oncoming traffic.

After arriving at the Welcome Center, you will need to purchase a tour package to actually see the Grand Canyon. These have remained essentially unchanged over the years, except for the addition of the ability to upgrade to experience the SkyWalk – a glass-floor walkway jutting out of the cliff, 4000 feet above the canyon floor. Each package includes transportation to and from 3 view-points: Hualapai Ranch, Eagle Point, and Guano Point.

Hualapai Ranch is a rebuilt cowboy town, complete with trading post, jail, mine shaft, and horse ranch. There are great views, and lots of opportunities to get some magical photos!

Eagle Point is usually the first of the 2 stops overlooking the Grand Canyon. It gets its name from a natural rock formation of an Eagle.

At this stop you can experience some of the history of the Hualapai, including traditional homes, songs, and dance.  You’ll have a great opportunity to interact with some of their members, and if you’re really lucky (like we were) you may even get to take in a private show!

The biggest draw at Eagle Point is now the Skywalk, which repurposed some of the overlook to build a glass-floor 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. It really does provide some stunning views that you can’t get anywhere else, and I’d definitely recommend doing it once!

The final stop in the tour package is usually reserved for Guano Point, named after the old guano mine located on the site. The views from this peninsula are spectacular!

Have you ever returned to a prior destination to find it different than how you remembered it? Were the improvements for the better, or did it lose some of its charm? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

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Be sure to comment below and let me know places you’ve returned to that have changed dramatically.  Is the Grand Canyon on your list?

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