A Skywalk on the Wild Side: Arizona’s Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West is the site of modern marvels like the Eagle Point Skywalk, but also the eternal home of the Hualapai Nation.
There is an undeniable sensation of the prehistoric when standing among the towering rock sentinels and bustling waters of Grand Canyon West, a marvel shaped by the slow churn of time that, to this day, remains sacred to its original Hualapai Nation stewards.
Their centuries-long custodianship of this land is equally spectacular and of benefit to visitors seeking to embrace both the location’s culture and natural grandeur. Situated on the west rim of the storied canyon, Grand Canyon West offers travelers any number of memorable experiences: Extravagant selfie-worthy views, rich history, and outdoor adventure—all easily accessible from Las Vegas.
On a recent trip I made it a point to experience it all, to fully grasp how the seemingly disparate parts coalesce for an immersive and enriching experience.
Take the Long View
The Hualapai imprint is evident immediately upon arrival at Eagle Point, home to the horseshoe-shaped Skywalk that draws visitors to its jaw-dropping surroundings and transparent walkway with a clear line of sight to the canyon floor 4,000 feet below. Before venturing onto the platform, I read the stories of the territory’s tumultuous history that adorn the building’s walls, studied glass-encased Hualapai artifacts, and listened to the traditional music and story-telling that filled the room, tales chronicling the strength of a people whose perseverance against insurmountable odds is as impressive as the environs they call home.
On the Skywalk, I gazed outward at the spectacular formations and to the eagle-shaped rock that gave this place its name, one that’s intrinsic to the origin story of the Hualapai. Back on solid, non-cantilevered ground, I made my way through the property’s Native American Village of housing, sweat lodges, and other traditional structures, models of architecture that stood here long before any outsiders set foot on this land.
Run Through History
While you can easily opt for a day trip, overnight accommodations are available at the cozy, rustic The Cabins at Grand Canyon West. Staying in the cabins put me in convenient proximity to a zipline that allows for an adrenaline-fueled 40 mile-per-hour ride high over the canyon. Also nearby were helicopter and pontoon tours that meander passengers above, through, and finally down into the base of the canyon and a hikable trail.
It was here that I embarked on a contemplative run. A little beyond the first mile, I reached a part of the Quartermaster Canyon rim, where, in 1874, younger Hualapai members enduring the “Long Walk to La Paz” at the gunpoints of U.S. Cavalrymen escaped down a hidden trail into this very canyon. There was a haunting beauty in the stillness of this vast place. Away from crowds, the only sounds emanated from my own footsteps and intermittent birdsong. I saw or heard no other human, the way the natural world intended. It had been an unforgettable day, thanks to the hosts of these stunning environs, of reflection and appreciation.
The River of Life
On my last day, I rendezvoused with Andre Wakuyuta, a Hualapai Game and Fish ranger who previously served as a guide for Hualapai River Runners, the group that conducts heart-pumping single- and multi-day rafting trips out of Peach Springs offering perhaps the most (literally) immersive way to experience the canyon. On our trek along the water I was educated, as one is on a river tour, by Andre’s expertise on local geology, seasonal weather patterns, spotting wildlife, and hunting big game.
It was here, standing alongside rushing waters and flanked by canyon walls, that I observed the rich appreciation by Andre and his tribe for everything the Earth and this life affords. Their way, evident to visitors who choose to pay attention, is rooted in ancient beliefs in a conscious planet along with an existence and universe that are seamless. There is no beginning. No end. Settlers, profiteers, missionaries, and tourists may come and go, but Hualapai Nation, you’ll begin to understand when you visit with open eyes, is forever.