We've just read that the West Rim tours offered from LV mean that you've NOT actually been to the GC.
What does this mean ? Should we be looking at one of the other tours or is this just a pedantic issue ? and what would we be seeing at those locations ?
Most of the tour companies are happy to call it the GC so what is the issue here ?
Let's get a lot more specific in order to answer your question:
1. The Grand Canyon is over 277 miles (446 kilometers) long. The official Grand Canyon National Park covers almost all of this length, but as you might expect, the depth and width of the canyon will vary depending whether you are at one of the ends of the canyon or whether you are in the middle near its widest (and deepest) point.
2. The width of the canyon varies from 1/2 a kilometer to 29 kilometers across (1/4 of a mile to 18 miles across). The deepest and widest point is approximately at the point where the road to the north rim reaches the canyon and the point where Highway 180 reaches (and becomes) Arizona Highway 64 (what is normally referred to as the south rim)--near Yuvapai Point.
3. Since the canyon runs almost exclusively east to west (as the water rushes in this direction), there is no "west rim" in reality. What has become known as the "west rim" is the point where the Hualapai Indian Tribe recently built the "Grand Canyon Skywalk"--and which is at a point right on the western edge of the Grand Canyon National Park--and which, in fact, does not actually reach the National Park's boundary. The reason for this is really simple--the Indian tribe only owns the land up to 1/4 mile away from the Grand Canyon's edge when at the National Park, but owns the land all the way up to the rim when outside of the park. So, what you say is true--the "west rim" is not even in the Grand Canyon National Park at all.
4. So why would people go to the "west rim"--especially since it is so far away from the center of the canyon? Well, first of all, it takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to this point (it is a 121 mile drive)--but it takes about 4 and 1/2 hours to get to the south or north rims (about 275 miles to the south rim--even farther to the north rim).
5. Are the views equivalent? Well, the drop at the "west rim" is about 4,000 feet, the drop at the "south rim" is about 6,800 feet--and the distance across at the "west rim" is about 5 miles, while the distance across at the south rim varies from 12 to 18 miles. Based upon this data alone, the answer would have to be that the views are not equivalent. Going to the "west rim" is just for those who want to say they've seen the canyon, without actually seeing the true gigantic majestic awesomeness of the true canyon. If you are coming to see the true Grand Canyon, you simply must go to either the south or north rims--because the so-called "west rim" is simply a way to cater to the "fast-food, don't have time to make the real trip" kind of tourist.
6. One final note--the road that goes to the "west rim" is actually much worse than the one that goes to the south rim (which is interstate highway most of the way)--and also a bit worse than the one that goes to the north rim. And if you take the one that goes to the south rim, along the way you can see one of the more scenic parts of the old Route 66. To see this, get off the I-40 interstate highway at Seligman.
[ Edit: Edited on 27-Nov-2011, at 10:23 by Calcruzer ]
WOW ! thank you so much for the detailed reply.
As it happens I actually spoke to someone who runs an airplane tour and as soon as I mentioned doing the West Rim tour he advised that if we wanted a true GC experience we should do their South Rim tour instead, so that's what we've decided to do.
Thanks again for this reply and I hope it helps others to make up their minds too
Great answer. You really nailed it. The only thing I can add is that several of my friends went to the Skywalk and all voted it was not worth the time/money. $77 to walk out on the glass for 10-15 minutes is not my idea of a bargain. No cameras on the glass was the deal breaker for me.
Thanks Mike and Caockfrodo,
One other thing of interest is that the Indian tribe couldn't afford the construction (over 30 million American dollars)--and so leased the rights to the whole Grand Canyon West area to a Chinese firm for the next 25 years--and it is the Chinese firm that is charging the $77 per person and also requiring that you pay $20 for parking (and then still take the bus to get to the canyon itself) for those who take their own cars or RVs. I've also heard that so many people have laid down on the glass to look through it that it is now scratched at almost every single point--and as a result you can barely see through it. I've even been told that all the so-called Indian jewelry sold in the so-called "Grand Canyon Indian village" are actually chinese-made fakes.
When I compare the $77 (and up) per person fee at Grand Canyon West to the $25 per car fee that the National Park Service charges at the north and south rim, it is practically highway robbery. But to me, the saddest part is the people that see this "imitation" Grand Canyon experience and don't realize the fantastic Grand Canyon experience that they are missing by not traveling just a few hours farther east.
[ Edit: Edited on 27-Nov-2011, at 20:10 by Calcruzer ]
Yeah I was going to add that there are a lot more restrictions on the west rim.