By Keith Kravitz
What makes Las Vegas helicopters the preferred way to visit the Grand Canyon? Simple. Speed, comfort, and price.
The West Rim, known as Grand Canyon West, is only 120 miles due east of Las Vegas and requires a short 45-minute helicopter ride. The South Rim is 270 miles east and is too far for helicopters. To get there, take a 45-minute plane ride to Grand Canyon Airport before transferring to a South Rim helicopter.
The West Rim (also called Grand Canyon West) is popular with Vegas visitors for three reasons: 1) It’s a half day tour; 2) you can fly to the bottom; and 3) you can experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk. West Rim trips include pick up and drop off at your Las Vegas hotel, as well as a light snack, Champagne toast, or lunch. The best time to depart is in the morning so you’ll be back in Las Vegas by late afternoon.
Mentioned earlier, Grand Canyon West is the only place where you can fly and land on the bottom of the Canyon’s ancient floor. The descent is utterly thrilling, and many tour operators offer you the chance to upgrade your package to include a rafting trip on the Colorado River. The world-famous Skywalk is found here, too. The “Glass Bridge” is a favorite with travelers because it extends 70 feet beyond the rim’s edge and suspends you 4,000 feet above the river.
It pays to make the extra effort to reach the venerable South Rim. This is National Park’s crown jewel and features its most-prized views. Getting here from Las Vegas requires booking a 45-minute airplane tour that includes a South Rim helicopter flight. Helicopters are not allowed to land at the bottom of the Park. Instead, they fly an amazing route over the Kaibab Plateau and into the Dragoon Corridor until they reach the North Rim and return to the heliport. Most of these tours include a bus transfer that takes you to the rim where you can explore on foot such view points as Mather Point, Yaki Point, and Hermit’s Rest. Depending on the operator and the season, you might be able to include a river rafting trip.
Las Vegas helicopter operators fly the EcoStar aircraft. These helis are built from the ground up for sightseeing. Cabin size is 25% larger than that of ordinary helicopters. Grand Canyon temperatures can be extreme, but are no match for the EcoStar’s climate-control system. Stadium seating, a configuration where seats are tiered and face forward, is standard. These aircraft incorporate the Fenestron tail rotor, which reduces noise by 50%. For South Rim travelers, fixed-wing aircraft handles the airplane segment of your trip. Papillon, for instance, flies the Vistaliner, a plane customized with over-sized windows and plush seats. Like helicopters, the Vistaliner is quiet, climate-controlled, and streamlined for a smooth ride.
The largest helicopter companies in the U.S. operate in Las Vegas, including Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance. This means there are plenty of tours to the Grand Canyon West and the South Rim from which to choose. The market is competitive, too, and you are bound to find some great deals. Because it’s the largest operator, Papillon Helicopters offers the best prices and promotions. Their best West Rim tour is the Grand Celebration and their top South Rim one is the Grand Canyon Deluxe with Helicopter. Maverick and Sundance have positioned themselves as high-end providers of tours and their prices are higher than Papillon’s. That said, Maverick offers the most custom trips and wedding packages. Tour prices for Grand Canyon West and the South Rim are similar, and range from $250 to $425-plus per person. Upgrades, such as river rafting, horseback riding, and ATV trail riding, increase your price per person and are best booked ahead of time as adding these upgrades during the tour will be sold at a premium. To get rock-bottom price on these tours, book online.
If you are looking for a quick and easy way to enjoy the Grand Canyon Canyon, take a Las Vegas helicopter. It takes just 45 minutes to reach the West Rim and only 45 minutes by airplane to get to the South Rim before transferring to your helicopter. Trip duration is typically half a day, and done aboard aircraft (helicopters and airplanes) that are designed for sightseeing and comfort. Upgrades are available, including river rafting, bottom landing, and the Skywalk. The price is right, too, but to get the cheapest rates, reserve your flights online at the company’s website. Next time in Las Vegas, make a day trip out of the Grand Canyon, and do it in style and comfort on a Las Vegas helicopter.
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Traveler writer Keith Kravitz reviews the best Las Vegas helicopter tours at