Do you crave adventure? Then you can’t miss the Skywalk, located at Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian reservation about 120 miles east of Las Vegas. That’s only about 3 hours from the Strip.
Extending 70 feet from the edge of the Rim at Eagle Point, the Skywalk offers unparalleled views – literally – straight down to the Canyon floor 4,000 feet below. It may look like the Skywalk defies all known laws of physics, but we promise you it doesn’t.
To get you in the adventurous spirit, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
1. What is the Skywalk?
The Skywalk is a U-shaped cantilevered glass bridge that extends straight out from the edge of the Canyon wall.
Image Source: Werner Keulen
David Jin, a Las Vegas businessperson, first envisioned the Skywalk when he visited the Grand Canyon in 1996. In partnership with Lochsa Engineering, MRJ Architects, and Executive Construction Management, Jin designed and built the Skywalk, and when it opened in March of 2007, the first people to step onto the Skywalk were lead by Buzz Aldrin and Jon Herrington, the first Native American astronaut.
2. What is a “cantilevered bridge”?
A cantilevered bridge is a structure that projects horizontally into space, supported only on one end. Large cantilevered bridges like the Skywalk are supported using beams and trusses built using strong, heavy materials like structural steel or concrete box girders.
3. How was it built?
Construction of the Skywalk began on October 6, 2004, when the Hualapai Indians blessed the site. One month later, drilling began, and after a year and a half, drilling was complete. Welding the steel beams took another 4 months.
The Skywalk was assembled on site. It was lifted into place using special manipulators designed to lift the heavy glass panels using large suction cups. Two and a half years after construction began, the glass panels were rolled into place using the same method the ancient Egyptians used to build the pyramids.
Watch this video to see how the Skywalk was built:
4. How does the Skywalk stay up?
The Skywalk rests on a foundation of 8 columns that support box beams that are 6 feet high, 32 inches wide, with 2 inch thick walls. The foundations for the box beams are 45 feet deep, and are anchored into the limestone bedrock to act as counterweights for the Skywalk’s cantilever design. The Skywalk itself is supported on tuned mass dampers designed to reduce normal vibrations caused by wind and people.
5. How thick is the glass?
The glass deck of the Skywalk originally consisted of four layers of low iron glass, measuring four inches thick, 10’2” wide, and each weighing about a ton. In 2011, four years after the Skywalk opened, the glass panels were replaced for the first time using a 150 foot crane to lift each new 1,800 lb. piece of glass into place. The new Skywalk floor consists of five layers of glass, measuring 2.5 inches thick. Each plane also has a “sacrificial” top layer that can be removed and replaced by hand if it gets scratched – no giant crane required.
Image Source: tipsfortravellers
The glass fences surrounding the edge of the Skywalk are two layers thick to allow them to curve around the bridge’s U-shaped design, and they’re about 5’4” tall, so there’s no risk of falling.
The Skywalk weighs well over 1,000,000 pounds. The steel alone weighs 1,000,000 lbs, and the glass weighs more than 80,000 lbs.
6. Is it safe?
Of course! The Skywalk can support the weight of 71 fully loaded 747 airplanes, or more than 800 200 lb. people (though its maximum occupancy is only 120). It can also withstand winds up to 100 miles per hour and magnitude 8.0 earthquakes. And in case you still aren’t convinced, the red limestone that anchors the Skywalk can support 16,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
7. How much is admission?
To take a stroll on the Skywalk, you must purchase an admission package that includes the Skywalk when you first arrive at the Grand Canyon West area. There are multiple packages available at different prices, some of which include the Skywalk and some that don’t. Package prices range from $45-80. VIP packages and add-ons are also available.
Alternatively, guided tours like this Grand Canyon West tour include Skywalk admission. We also offer a number of tours that include optional passes to the Skywalk. Check out all of our Grand Canyon West tour packages.
8. Can I take pictures on the Skywalk?
To protect the glass paneling from scratches, personal items including cameras and cellphones are not allowed on the Skywalk, but you can purchase a souvenir photo from a professional photographer. You’ll also be required to wear fabric shoe covers to prevent scratching.
For thrill-seekers and adventure-junkies, the Skywalk is a can’t-miss Grand Canyon experience. Nothing compares to the feeling of walking beyond the Canyon Rim and peering straight down to the Colorado River 4,000 feet below.