One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon can be explored in many ways: by plane, bus, train, raft, car, or on foot. But to truly see its magnificence, you need to take a tour on one of the Grand Canyon helicopters.
What makes helicopter tours so special? In a nutshell, much of the National Park is inaccessible wilderness. That and the sheer size of the Park (over a million acres) make choppers the best way to see as much as possible.
Grand Canyon helicopters take off from Vegas and from Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN), just outside the South Rim’s main gates in tiny Tusayan, AZ. Several Vegas tour operators offer air tours, and some use airstrips in nearby Boulder City and Henderson, NV. There’s even a helipad right on the Vegas Strip! Just so you know, departures from the Vegas suburbs are cheaper than flights leaving from the Strip (I guess you pay for the convenience, but you do avoid the 30-minute drive to the ‘burbs).
The chopper flight from Sin City to the West Rim only takes about 45 minutes. At 277 miles away, the South Rim is beyond the range of Vegas choppers. All South Rim helicopter tours take off from GCN.
West Rim Landing Tours
West Rim air tours can be truly special, though. For one thing, this is the only place in the Park where Grand Canyon helicopters are allowed to land on the bottom. The most popular West Rim landing tour is a flight to the bottom of the canyon, where passengers disembark to enjoy a Champagne picnic next to the Colorado River.
Two other landing tours are especially popular. One lands at the top and includes VIP access to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This famous all-glass structure lets you stand 4,000 feet above the bottom while you’re 70 feet past the edge of the rim. You can see the bottom far beneath your feet through the glass panels! The other really popular trip is an all-day smooth-water float tour down the Colorado River.
West Rim Air-Only Flights
If you’re short on time or your budget’s limited, consider an air-only flight. You’ll fly over scenic Lake Mead and majestic Hoover Dam (landing tours do this too) before circling the canyon and finally turning back.
South Rim Helicopter Tours
South Rim choppers fly out of GCN year-round, even during winter. No landing flights are offered at the South Rim – FAA regs and the National Park Service prohibit flying below the level of this rim. That’s okay though, because the air-only options are terrific.
There are two types of South Rim helicopter tours: a 30-minute version or one that gives you 50 minutes of airtime. I like the longer one because by the time it’s over I’ve seen almost ¾ of the entire National Park!
I’ve tried to summarize your options for seeing the National Park by helicopter. I hope it helps you be aware of your choices for air tours at this beautiful place. They’re all exciting, and you wouldn’t be disappointed by any of them.
Flights leave on the hour from Vegas and GCN 365 days a year. Landing tours from Vegas give you a lot of bang for your buck, but so do the 50-minute flights out of GCN. Book at least a week in advance to make sure you get a seat. And do it online, because that’s where you’ll find the best deals. Complete your purchase on the tour company’s website and you’ll get a super Internet rate!
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