Glamping is a relatively new word, combining glamour with camping. The word may be new, but the idea of getting out into nature without leaving one’s creature comforts behind is as old as kings and caravans. What better place to elevate your glamping game than in the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon Glamping Resort is aimed at drivers heading for the Skywalk, the clear glass observation deck 4,000 feet over the canyon, just fifteen minutes away. The resort also serves those coming from Las Vegas for a helicopter tour through the Canyon, as well as horseback riding or an ATV adventure.
This part of Arizona is also near Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, both well worth visiting. Lake Mead is famed for its beaches and boating options. The massive Hoover Dam shows the enormous effort, including loss of lives, to build the dam that keeps the lights of Las Vegas (and air conditioning) running.
The resort offers a comfortable night’s stay that’s still close to nature. Grand Canyon Helicopter Adventures, the operator, can also provide transportation from Las Vegas.
The Hualapai Tribe built Skywalk. It is a big operation, with a huge parking lot and free shuttle buses between its three sites. At the Skywalk, you’re given a locker, so you’ll drop no camera, phones, wallets etc. over the canyon. After the imposing Skywalk view, there are several hiking trails and miles of reddish rock formations and the Colorado River to see.
Rather unfairly, the Skywalk has something of a reputation as a tourist trap. Certainly, the fees the tribe charges are considerably higher than the entrance fees to the national park, and busloads of tourists are encouraged to shop in the souvenir stores. But the Grand Canyon West area, near the glamping resort, has some advantages over the national park. The Skywalk itself is quite impressive, the first-ever 4,000-foot-high glass bridge, extending 70 feet past the edge of the West Rim.
It also may be a better bet for tourists visiting Las Vegas with limited time. Skywalk is just two hours from Las Vegas by car, much closer than the Grand Canyon National Park whose north and south entrances are five hours away. And frankly, its higher fees can keep the crowds smaller.
Although I have something of a fear of heights, we signed up for a visit to the Skywalk as well as a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon from the glamping resort. Perhaps surprisingly, my first helicopter ride felt like a psychologically safer experience than walking over the Skywalk. Still, I managed to slowly circle the skywalk staying well clear of its glass wall, peering down at the canyon and the river far, far below.
When you enter the Grand Canyon Glamping resort under an endless blue sky, you pass an enclosure holding a small herd of indolent buffalo. There’s a corral for horses (horseback riding is an available activity at the resort.) A pen that will become a petting zoo is packed with young goats.
A food truck is on site to provide hearty guest meals; ours were prepared and delivered by Steve in his charming Hungarian accounts. In addition to horseback rides, there are ATV tours and even a landing pad for a helicopter for aerial tours of the Grand Canyon. I learned that helicopters are safer than they might look, and that riding an all-terrain vehicle and keeping it going in a straight line in the heat and dust can be harder than it looks.
As for accommodations, guests will find fantasy teepees line up across a narrow road from equally fantastic covered wagons. They are the equivalent of a modern hotel room with couch, queen bed, toilet and shower.
In the 19th century similar Conestoga wagons were called prairie schooners for their canvas ‘sails.’ While these are not original Pennsylvania-built wagons with canvas covers arched over wooden hoops, they are far more comfortable. The modern version is a mainstay of the glamping industry, luring potential operators with lines like “Quickly increase your property’s capacity.”
The glamping version was as close as I’d want to get to the real thing for two nights. Our wagon boasted air conditioning and heat, a shower with flush toilet, and the 21st century necessity of life, good Wi-Fi. There was no TV, but a comfortable bed, perfect after a day of outdoor activity. The wagon was snug and warm even as the wind howled, and the hanging lamps and the canvas top shook. The wind noise was noticeable, but I grew up one house from a subway line, so I slept soundly.
Before we went to bed, we shared wine with our neighbors, around a fire the helpful hosts helped us build. There were stars galore, and we had smores (marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for the uninitiated) to melt in the fire.
Said one visitor as we watched the stars and enjoyed the fire, “I can’t wait to come back in a year when everything’s here.”
A Western town is planned, along with a restaurant and additional housing. A petting zoo is coming, and many of the baby animals are already in place.
There’s tremendous potential for people unused to camping to visit a spectacular setting while still enjoying some creature comforts. But what is already at the Grand Canyon Glamping Resort, from prime desert land to a million stars at night, is pretty spectacular.
published 2023-06-09 09:10:06