Grand Canyon Helicopter: Flying 4,000 Feet to the Bottom!

Grand Canyon Helicopter: Flying 4,000 Feet to the Bottom!

It’s the dream of many Las Vegas travelers: Descending nearly a mile into the craw of the Grand Canyon and triumphantly standing on the banks of the mighty Colorado River. Then reality takes hold. You do an epic overnight hike or take a Grand Canyon helicopter. Considering most people are looking for a great day trip, a chopper ride is your only true option (and the best one!). 

There’s two main places where helicopters fly the canyon: The West Rim and the South Rim. But it’s only at the West Rim that permit you to land at the base (South Rim flight plans only let you fly from one side of the gorge to the other and back). 

Flights leave daily from the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The West Rim is only 120 miles off to the east. Travel time is approximately 45 minutes. En route, you’ll see some fantastic sights like Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the New Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, an ancient Joshua Tree Forest, and parts of the Mojave Desert that look downright prehistoric. 

You now are in canyon country. The West Rim is much more arid than it’s South Rim counterpart, which is in the Kaibab National Forest, home to the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine in the country. The other thing that defines these rims is color. The West Rim’s are subdued and pale while the South Rim’s are more vibrant. 


The rush and excitement reaches a crescendo as your helicopter leaves the West Rim and drops into the canyon and begins it’s 4,000-foot descent. This is canyon carving at its best. From hereon, it’s imposing cliffs, outrageous rock formations, and dusty buttes until your helicopter lands on a dirt helipad alongside the Colorado River. 

The three main Grand Canyon helicopter tour operators (Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance) let you hop off the chopper to enjoy a Champagne Picnic before turning you loose to explore the canyon’s ancient floor. Time at the bottom is a minimum 30 minutes. 

In addition to bottom-landing flights, there are also side-trips like Hummer off-road adventures, horseback rides, and smooth-water rafting trips. There’s also a basic air-only West Rim helicopter tour (great if you have limited time.). Another major West Rim attraction is the Skywalk. As it should, too. Take a look at these crazy facts: 

1. Lets you walk 70 feet beyond the edge. 
2. Lifts you 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. 
3. Can withstand magnitude 8 earthquakes and 100 mph winds. 
4. Can support 800 people. Only 120 people are allowed on it at the same time. 
5. More than 200,000 people visit it each year. 
6. Each of its 46 glass panels cost 0,000! 

Noted earlier, there are helicopter flights departing from the South Rim, but they do not land. The compromise is that you get to fly across the Dragoon Corridor, the deepest part of the Canyon, until you reach the beautifully isolated North Rim. Some the cleanest, clearest air exists here, enabling you to easily attain visibility of 150 miles or more. There are no helicopter flights between the West Rim and the South Rim. 

The return flight to Vegas can also be adventurous. If you can squeeze it in, definitely add a Grand Canyon helicopter ride over the Las Vegas Strip. It’s the perfect way to top off seeing the Grand Canyon and getting two items off your bucket list.

Travel writer Keith Kravitz writes exclusively about Grand Canyon tours. Use this link to see Top 3 Grand Canyon helicopter tour companies.

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