Whitewater Rafting

A Southwest road trip checklist

Taking in the Views
W

e’d enjoyed some killer craft beer in Flagstaff, Arizona. We’d camped under the stars in southern Utah. We’d seen a different kind of sparkle of bright lights in Las Vegas. And now, our two-week road trip of the Southwest was reaching the event our group was most anticipating: whitewater rafting on the Colorado River at Grand Canyon West. Kyle — my husband’s best friend and, we’d learned, the group’s most cautious driver — had organized our expedition after finding a workaround that allowed us to whitewater raft on the Colorado River without waiting years for an expensive multi-day trip. After hundreds of miles traveled by car, we couldn’t wait to hop into a raft and take a different kind of journey. 

Hitting the road

My husband, Michael, and I met Kyle and his wife, Soleil, in the lobby of the Hualapai Lodge the morning of our rafting trip. We’d arrived in Peach Springs the evening before and spent the night at the Lodge — which, conveniently, was where the Hualapai River Runners would pick us up and take us to the rafting departure point. 

The four of us hopped into the van waiting outside, and after a tolerably-bumpy hour-long ride, the Grand Canyon came into view as we began the gradual descent to the river. Soleil was a pro at through-the-windshield photography after a few days on the road, and she tagged the rest of us in a video that showed the scenery changing from acres of open space to awe-inspiring vistas.

The entrance to the Grand Canyon West’s Hualapai Lodge bathed in light as darkness begins.
						A suite inside the Grand Canyon West’s Hualapai Lodge with two sided-by-side queen beds neatly made up with brilliant white bed coverings and adorned with Native American pillows and blankets.  Inside the Grand Canyon West’s Hualapai Lodge lobby where a fire is burning in a stone fireplace, couches are ready to welcome guests and the Walapai Trading Post is to the right.

The four of us hopped into the van waiting outside, and after a tolerably-bumpy hour-long ride, the Grand Canyon came into view as we began the gradual descent to the river. Soleil was a pro at through-the-windshield photography after a few days on the road, and she tagged the rest of us in a video that showed the scenery changing from acres of open space to awe-inspiring.

Riding the Rapids

The rafting trip alternated between high-intensity dunks and thrills on the river, and placid floating between rapids. Funnily enough, our positions in the raft mimicked our usual setup in the car on our road trip — Soleil and Kyle in the front, Michael and I in the back! When the Colorado was calm, our guide educated us on the history of our surroundings. The Hualapai people built homes along the walls of the Grand Canyon, which felt significant as we gazed up — soggy and happy — at the canyon walls that enveloped us. The river’s swells were thrilling, and the 45-degree water was shocking at first but felt nice in the Arizona warmth. 

After a few days on the road, even though we had enjoyed the places we’d already seen, we chatted about how our adventure on the river was worth the trip. So many people wait months and months to raft the Colorado River, but Hualapai River Runners was able to give us a taste of the fun without the wait. And, our fun at Grand Canyon West had only just begun. 

The Hualapai
people built
homes along
the walls
of the
Grand Canyon.

After a few days on the road, even though we had enjoyed the places we’d already seen, we chatted about how our adventure on the river was worth the trip. So many people wait months and months to raft the Colorado River, but Hualapai River Runners was able to give us a taste of the fun without the wait. And, our fun at Grand Canyon West had only just begun. 

Whitewater Rafting

A Southwest road trip checklist

Taking in the Views

As seasoned veterans of being in a car, we knew to take every opportunity to stretch our legs when it was presented to us. The four of us trekked the short “Highpoint Hike” to experience 360 degrees of railing-free viewing at Guano Point, with the Colorado River we had conquered the day before below. Above us, old mining equipment stood stately on the edge of the canyon. 

Once again, we were taken back into history. A sign told us that in the 1930s, a predicted 100,000 tons of nitrogen-rich bat guano were found in the cave. The U.S. Guano Corporation, recognizing its value for fertilizer, constructed a $3.5 million tramway system that spanned 7,500 feet and crossed the river to extract it. Unfortunately, the massive amount of guano was actually closer to 1,000 tons, and a U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed into the tramway system’s overhead cable system and permanently disabled it. Crazy!

The following day, after leaving Hualapai Lodge and arriving at the Grand Canyon West Rim, we embarked on a significantly drier mission. Once again, the four of us hopped in a car to explore places we’d never been — this time, the Skywalk, Eagle Point and Guano Point. While the horseshoe-shaped glass Skywalk often gets all the hype, Guano Point felt like an underrated gem. 

As seasoned veterans of being in a car, we knew to take every opportunity to stretch our legs when it was presented to us. The four of us trekked the short “Highpoint Hike” to experience 360 degrees of railing-free viewing at Guano Point, with the Colorado River we had conquered the day before below. Above us, old mining equipment stood stately on the edge of the canyon. 

Once again, we were taken back into history. A sign told us that in the 1930s, a predicted 100,000 tons of nitrogen-rich bat guano were found in the cave. The U.S. Guano Corporation, recognizing its value for fertilizer, constructed a $3.5 million tramway system that spanned 7,500 feet and crossed the river to extract it. Unfortunately, the massive amount of guano was actually closer to 1,000 tons, and a U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed into the tramway system’s overhead cable system and permanently disabled it. Crazy!

One final evening

That evening, we retreated to our Grand Canyon West Cabin where we’d stay for one more night. The spacious porch was the ideal place to relax and relive our adventures over the past two days before heading out for a bite to eat.

After dinner, we settled in under the blanket of Grand Canyon's inky blue, starry sky. We relaxed on the patio and allowed our minds to wander to far off places. We shared stories and sang songs, feeling complete peace as the evening went on.

A rustic Hualapai Ranch Cabin at sunset, complete with a porch and several wooden chairs and the porch light is on. A queen size bed inside a Hualapai Ranch Cabin, the door to the porch is open to a beautiful view of the mountains. The living room inside a Hualapai Ranch Cabin with a couch and loveseat, a television and desk. The door to the bedroom is open with a peek at the bed.

After dinner, we settled in under the blanket of Grand Canyon's inky blue, starry sky. We relaxed on the patio and allowed our minds to wander to far off places. We shared stories and sang songs, feeling complete peace as the evening went on.

A few days earlier we were gazing up at the stars in southern Utah. How different that felt from where we were now! In a short period of time, we’d added more accomplishments to our road trip checklist: rafting on the Colorado River, exploring mining equipment at Guano Point, soaking in the stars and making more memories with every mile.

With a journey ahead of us, I reflected on how far we’d come. I knew I’d remember these days and places, fondly.

We shared stories and sang songs, feeling completely peaceful.

With a journey ahead of us, I reflected on how far we’d come. I knew I’d remember these days and places, fondly.

Buy your tickets for your own Grand Canyon West adventure.