Grand Canyon Skywalk

Posted April 04, 2007

Over break, my family and I decided, for the last leg of our trip, to drive out to Grand Canyon West and see the new Grand Canyon Skywalk there. We saw the $25 per person fee (plus fees to get on the reservation, which was probably about $10 per car) and thought it was a little high, but figured it would be a fun end to our trip and decided to go anyways.

Update: There has been some confusion about where I got the price $25. Though I linked to Wikipedia here because it is clear and concise, I did not use it as my source for the price. I got $25 from the Opening Press Release:

Access to The Skywalk will run from dawn to dusk and will cost $25 per person in addition to the cost of a Grand Canyon West entrance package.

"Entrance package" and "tour" sound very different to me, so I did not think the tours were the only option. If you notice, nowhere on that site does it say that buying a tour is the only way to see the Skywalk. Moreover, the "Leave the driving to us" offer implied to me that we could have driven there ourselves.

We drove down Thursday morning, which included 15 miles of bumpy dirt roads before coming to a small airport on the edge of the canyon which consisted mostly of temporary buildings.

We walked in to get the tickets and met a very long line of people waiting to do the same. After 10 minutes of waiting, a "Question Answerer" came by and made it clear why it was taking so long: the sales people had to explain the "packages" and pricing to each and every person in the line. This was not because the package was that complex, but because each person in the line thought they were going to be paying $25 per person. In reality, the tribe was charging another $50 on top of the $25 for each person. You read that right, 75 bucks a pop. The "Question Answerer" explained it to us:

"The investor wants to get his, that's the $25. But it's our land, and we don't get any of that $25, so we have to get ours too, you know?"

It seems what happened is that the tribe got trounced in the contract negotiation, and were left to come up with their own source of revenue. Now, to be completely honest, the $75 got you more than just the Skywalk. It got you a bus ride to the Skywalk, then to Guano Point, another nice view which also had a "buffet" meal, and then another bus to a ranch which had a petting zoo. Not that anyone had come to see any of those things, or to eat at a buffet.

The conversations were the same throughout the line. "That's a load of crap, but, we drove this far, might as well just do it." And most people did. So did we.

First they bussed us out to the site. It didn't quite match the pictures I'd seen of it. It was more like a construction site with a huge piece of I-Beam sticking over the edge. Almost nothing was paved, so when the wind came up, it created small dust storms that made it difficult to be outside. We entered the "Visitor's Center" (a temporary building that smelled strongly of wood varnish) to learn that no cameras were allowed out on the actual skywalk. At best, you could walk to the door of the building, a couple hundred feet away, and take a shot from there. Then you'd have to check your camera in with security. They told us it was because "people were dropping their cameras and cracking the glass" and they did not want to be liable "if someone dropped their camera over the edge". I snuck mine out anyways:

Unfortunately, I was shooting from the pocket because of the five security guards on the Skywalk, so I couldn't get any very good shots.

We got back on the bus to get out of the wind and cold and be driven to the Guano Point, which had food. We figured we might as well get as much as possible out of our $75. Unfortunately, when we got there, we noticed that the line to get back on the bus was over an hour long. As windy and cold as it was, we decided against it. We hadn't expected much from the buffet anyways.

The whole experience was quite disappointing. While the views were spectacular, the cost was just far too high, especially because they were not clearly advertised anywhere. $25 might have been worth it, $75 was far too high. Additionally, none of the infrastructure was able to support the number of visitors and all of the buildings in the advertisements are not built yet. We spent most of our time waiting in line, a lot of it out in the cold, even avoiding the one really long line. My suggestion is to wait until they at least have the buildings built and hopefully have realized that most people do not want to pay that much for that little.

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