Do a Grand Canyon National Park Helicopter Ride This Easter Vacation
Easter is on April 20, 2014, and although the day is on a Sunday and is a holiday too, you can still take a chopper tour of the Grand Canyon since they operate on the usual schedule that day. If this Easter is anything like years past, it will be a busy time for chopper tours to the Grand Canyon.
The two main departure points for Grand Canyon tour helicopters are Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCA) in Tusayan, AZ (just outside the National Park’s main gates, South Rim flights only), and Las Vegas (West Rim flights only). Vegas is fairly close to the West Rim, it only takes around 50 minutes to get there by helicopter.
Currently, there aren’t any air tours (either helicopter or airplane) that fly between the South and West Rims. You might be able to take a flight out of Vegas on a Vision Airlines 737 jet and go to the South Rim as one leg of a tour. If this works out, I will post an update and let you know.
However, no helicopters fly from Las Vegas to the South Rim because it is too far away and out of the range of the tour choppers. It is possible to go from the city of Vegas to the South Rim though. You can take a plane to GCA and board a helicopter there.
Touring The South Rim
South Rim helicopter tours are categorized by time in the air. The standard tour allows you a half an hour of air time while the extended tour gives you 50 minutes in the air. The standard tour takes off from GCA, flies to the North Rim by way of dramatic Dragoon Corridor (the widest, deepest section of the entire canyon), and then returns.
The extended tour version covers the same flight path but also adds a leg that takes you to the East Rim. This takes you over amazing sights such as the Desert Watchtower, Zuni Point, Zuni Corridor, and Imperial Point.
Tours Of The West Rim
At the West Rim, you can opt for a landing tour or just take an air-only tour. The West Rim offers many fun options when it comes to things to do.
If you have a limited budget or are short on time, then the air-only flights are just perfect. They fly out of several Vegas-area airfields and will treat you to views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead in addition to the West Rim itself. That being said, I strongly recommend that you spring for a landing tour if it’s at all possible.
One of these most popular tours is the one that lands at the bottom of the canyon. The tour comes with a picnic lunch and about 30 minutes of free time for exploring the canyon on foot. You’ll be near the Colorado River, which looks peaceful, but is actually the mighty force that carved the Grand Canyon out of the earth. The West Rim is the only place where helicopters are allowed to fly below the rim and land on the canyon floor.
If you’re going to the West Rim, then you don’t want to miss out on the chance to see the Glass Bridge or Skywalk. This bridge allows you to stand 4000 feet above the canyon floor and 70 feet beyond the edge of the rim.
The Skywalk is made up of 40 huge transparent glass panels that cost $250,000 each. You don’t have to worry though, the bridge is strong enough to withstand an 8.0 earthquake and winds over 100 mph. From the apex the views are unequaled – especially of scenic Eagle Point.
There is no better way to see the Grand Canyon than by helicopter. Remember that many people travel over the holidays so Easter is expected to be a busy time for tour operators. Because of the higher demand, many of the best tours will sell out quickly. Book your tour online about one week in advance so you don’t get shut out.
Have a great time on your Grand Canyon adventure!