It is possible to tour the Grand Canyon in many ways, such as by bus, rental car, or airplane. The one at the top of everybody’s list, however, is the helicopter tour. These are fast, fun aircraft, and they provide an unparalleled sightseeing experience.
When it comes to helicopter tours, there are some things everyone should know:
- Helicopters travel lower than airplanes – between one and three thousand feet. This gives a better view.
- Helicopters are able to reach inaccessible places. As they need no runway to land, only a landing pad, they can land right at the base of the canyon.
- Wherever you sit, the view will be the best there is. EcoStar 130 helicopters are used, which have the kind of seats found in a stadium. Passengers face ahead and look through a windshield which has a 180 degree view.
- In half an hour, you’ll see what it would take several days to see if you stayed in contact with the Earth. This applies to the South Rim tour in particular, which goes to the remote North rim and then back.
- The upgrades available are nothing less than incredible. After the basic tour, you could add an ATV trail ride, a kayak cruise, a ride in a pontoon boat, or get tickets for the breathtaking SkyWalk.
Most of the tours head for the West Rim – Grand Canyon West. This is just over 100 miles in distance, which takes 45 minutes to travel and would be the perfect day trip. Alternatively, the South Rim, in excess of 270 miles away, requires a trip either by bus and helicopter or airplane and helicopter. I recommend the latter.
West Rim tours leave the area of Las Vegas all year round. To me, the trip is as amusing as if I were at the actual canyon. On the way, you’ll fly above Lake Mead, the United States’ biggest reservoir, and Hoover Dam, the second-biggest dam in the country. It will also be possible to view the amazing Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which is otherwise known as the Hoover Dam Bypass. This is a twin-rib concrete affair which rises 900 feet over the Colorado River. The journey takes in some of the finest sections of Grand Cliffs Wash and the Mojave Desert prior to arriving at West Rim airspace.
There are three options at this juncture:
- You can fly above Grand Canyon West prior to heading back to Las Vegas. There are fantastic views of the canyon, the Colorado River, Eagle and Guano Points, and the glass Grand Canyon Skywalk, which glitters in the sunlight.
- You could make your landing at Grand Canyon West. Usually, you’ll exit the airplane before taking a tour of the Skywalk. This attraction you surely will not miss. It protrudes 70 feet beyond the rim and is 4,000 feet over the Colorado River. Many people say the experience defies gravity.
- You can land at the canyon bottom. This, by a wide margin, is the most highly-demanded West Rim helicopter trip. You will go 4,000 feet down to the bottom, alight from the aircraft, and then partake of a delightful Champagne picnic. The journey back up is equally exciting. If you chose the river raft option, your journey back along the river will be by pontoon boat.
The South Rim trip begins with a flight on a souped-up Vistaliner airplane. This airplane is not small. It can hold as many as 17 passengers while the flight is very smooth. The route goes east, following the Colorado River, and when you land at Grand Canyon Airport, you’ll have seen around half of the canyon.
At this point, you leave the airplane and board a helicopter. You should buckle up, as these speedy aircraft can attain speeds of 200 miles an hour when they dash past the Kaibab Plateau and fly into the Dragoon Corridor, the canyon’s broadest and deepest section. Then, the helicopter will continue to the beauteous North Rim before returning, where you will board a luxurious coach to take in a guided tour of the rim.
The West Rim tour is air-only and lasts for three hours, while a trip to the South Rim lasts for eight hours. Packages include a free shuttle service from your hotel and lunch (unless the tour is air-only). Prices start from $200 and depend on the upgrades you select and which rim you choose to see.
Even at retail prices, helicopter tours represent exceptional value. But why should you pay extra when you could make savings of as much as 35 percent simply by making the purchase directly from the operator? In my time, I’ve flown on nearly everything to hand at Las Vegas, after which my favorite three suppliers are, in descending order, Grand Canyon Helicopters, Maverick, and Papillon. Each can be found online.
Here are some tips you should know prior to booking a tour:
- Be sure to read the small print regarding cancellations.
- Check your reservation with the operator upon arriving in Vegas.
- Choose a flight early in the morning, if you can. This will give you superior visibility as well as a smoother flight. An afternoon flight will suit you better if you would like to encounter the Strip.
- Don’t forget to charge your camera or camcorder beforehand. If you’d like someone else to do the work, the video cameras fitted to the helicopters will make a recording of your tour which can be purchased on DVD.
Tours of the Grand Canyon by helicopter will be a wonderful day trip. The first step is to choose the rim that you wish to see. The West Rim is nearer to Las Vegas and boasts more amenities. The South Rim necessitates a ride by airplane and includes the most famed views. Allow yourself to spend a minimum of $200 per person, and more if you desire upgrades. Then just book your helicopter tour online, and get prepared to enjoy the flight of a lifetime!