The Grand Canyon stretches 277 river miles (446 km) across Northern Arizona and in this expanse there are three rims from which to base your visit: the South Rim (location of Grand Canyon Village), the West Rim (location of Grand Canyon Skywalk®) and the North Rim (located on Hwy 76 south of Jacob Lake).
Each view point has its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a suggested list of factors to consider when planning your trip:
Price-Point: Admission varies widely from these two experiences, depending on how many people are in your party (the National Park charges by car, and Grand Canyon West charges by person) and what you’re interested in doing (each location has add-on experiences available at add-on costs). You may also want to consider the time, transportation and opportunity costs involved.
The time of year: Like an episode of Nature, featuring all the depth and vibrant colors that the American Southwest has to offer, the Grand Canyon’s elevations also range from just 4,700 ft (1,430 m) at the West Rim to over 8,800 ft (2,680 m) at the North Rim. This can mean temperature changes from 0°F (-18°C) in the winter to over 100°F (38°C) in the summer.
What you want to see: The Grand Canyon reveals twelve primary rock layers spanning two billion years, and its width varies from only 4 miles (6.5 km) to 18 miles (29 km). Depending on what you want to see (especially for taking pictures) you’ll want to consider the time of day of your visit, the geography you’re interested in seeing and how you want the experience presented to you (such as a National Park format or from the perspective of Native Americans).
Your Itinerary: When traveling the American Southwest, especially in the Grand Circle region, you’ll want (and have the opportunity) to see many attractions. But there can be vast distances between areas of interest. So you might make a list of other attractions you’ll want to visit and plan your trip with all attractions in mind. Some suggested attractions might include Route 66, Sedona, the London Bridge, historic sites, other area National Parks and Las Vegas.
Grand Canyon West® is operated by the Hualapai Nation and offers a different experience all together. Theodore Roosevelt once said “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it.” The advice was largely held to, until in 2007, the Skywalk was fastened to its rim by the Hualapai people. Although tourists can and do visit the West Rim without experiencing its main attraction, the Skywalk, by far most visitors give it a run – so to speak.
The Skywalk presents a whole new whack at grasping the Grand Canyon’s depth. With the first vertical drop some 800 feet and a clear view some 4,000 ft (1,220 m) to the Colorado River, every step across the glass is a huge leap over the landscape below and creates a brief flying sensation.
The drive to this landmark can be as much of the journey as any other scenic desert drive.
Stockton Hill Road routes through portions of the Beale Wagon Trail, surveyed by Lt Beale’s Camel Brigade in 1857. The road escorts travelers through pristine Arizona desert, former mining camps along the rugged Cerbat Mountain Range and a salt flat at Red Lake. Be careful to observe the speed-limits as the drive takes you over several cattle guards and through working ranch lands. You may encounter cattle, coyotes, jack-rabbits and snakes in the roadway. If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of wild mustang.
Once turning onto Pearce Ferry Road, you’ll notice the vegetation begin to change, as you enter a Joshua Tree forest filled with yucca and aromatic creosote brush. Diamond Bar Road takes you through Carlos Elmer's Joshua View (Joshua Tree Forest) into the Hualapai Nation. It passes through a series of valleys with awe-inspiring views of the Music Mountains which border the western rim of the Grand Canyon. Diamond Bar Road will end at the only entrance to Grand Canyon West, which leads you directly to the Grand Canyon West Airport.
From Kingman, you’ll see salt flats, open ranchland, Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View (Joshua Tree Forest).
The North and South Rims are part of the Grand Canyon National Park and are located, interestingly enough, directly across the Canyon from each other. We’ll consider the South Rim in this comparison as it is open year round and the most accessible part of the National Park. The viewpoints at the South Rim also represent the Grand Canyon that people are most familiar with, having been featured in movies and TV shows for decades.
From Kingman, you’ll see Historic Route 66 and all of its attractions, such as: Desert Diamond Distillery, Stetson Winery and Cella Winery, Keepers of the Wild, Grand Canyon Caverns, Bearizona, Planes of Fame, IMax Theater at the National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan.