Las Vegas Day Trips - Taking a Helicopter to the Bottom of the Grand Canyon

It's the dream of many travelers: Descending a mile into the Grand Canyon and standing on the banks of the Colorado River. The reality is that outside of a strenuous overnight hike, a helicopter is your only real option.

The South and West Rims are the focal points for Grand Canyon visitors. Helicopter flights are available at both locations, but it's only on the West Rim that you can land on the Canyon's floor.

Flights typically depart from Las Vegas, or Boulder City, NV. The West Rim is about 120 miles away. Expect to spend up to 45 minutes en route, and expect some fantastic sightseeing, including Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and parts of the Mojave Desert that look prehistoric.

You are now in Canyon country. The West Rim is distinctly drier than the South, which is situated in the Kaibab Plateau, home of the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the nation. The other differentiator is the color of the Canyon, which is much more subdued and pale than that of the South Rim.

The excitement reaches a crescendo as you leave the Rim and drop into the Canyon, descending nearly 4,000 feet until your helicopter softly lands on a makeshift helipad near the Colorado River, right square in Hualapai Indian territory.

Most helicopter tour operators, including Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance, let visitors deplane, toast their journey with Champagne, indulge in a small meal, and explore the surrounding area. Typical bottom time is about 30 minutes.

There are also air-only tours to the West Rim, as well as a variety of side-adventures, including Hummer tours, horseback rides, Western wagon rides, whitewater rafting, as well as a walk on the magnificent Grand Canyon Skywalk - a glass bridge that lets you feel like you are walking on air.

Noted earlier, there are helicopter flights departing from the South Rim, but they do not land. The compromise is that you get to fly through the Dragoon Corridor, the deepest part of the Canyon, until you reach the beautifully isolated North Rim. Some the cleanest, clearest air exists here, and on clear days its easy to attain visibility of some 150 miles and more.

The helicopter flight back to Las Vegas is equally enjoyable. Depending on the pilot and the package you booked. I highly recommend including an option to fly the Las Vegas Strip, a perfect compliment to just having experienced one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Want to fly to the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Read Keith Kravitz' tour reviews first at

This article was published on 06 Oct 2010 and has been viewed 464 times
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