The Grand Canyon is inarguably one of the most breathtaking natural features of our planet, and seeing it from above as you fly over in a helicopter allows you to appreciate it in its full splendor.
Several such tours are available, and for anyone interested in what’s on offer, in this post, we have all the info you need about Grand Canyon Helicopter tours from Las Vegas.
The Grand Canyon – An Overview
Although the Grand Canyon scarcely requires an introduction, it’s still worth saying a few words about this breathtaking geological wonder.
Along with the likes of Mt Everest, Victoria Falls and the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon sits comfortably among the most awe-inspiring natural features of our planet.
At 277 miles long, up to 18 miles across and over a mile deep in places, the Canyon has been slowly but inexorably carved into the Colorado Plateau over the last six million years.
It might not be the deepest canyon in the world – depending on how you measure it, that accolade goes to Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal.
However, with the dramatic desert landscape, the two billion years of exposed geology and the vivid shades of red, ochre and russet that line its dizzying slopes, it is arguably the most spectacular – and certainly the best known.
The area has been inhabited for thousands of years by Native American tribes, and the Grand Canyon is also known as a place of great biodiversity that is home to a diverse array of plants and animals.
It is for these reasons the Grand Canyon attracts around five million visitors each year while featuring prominently on the bucket lists of many of those who haven’t yet experienced it for themselves.
If you want to visit the Grand Canyon, you have several options – including taking an unforgettable aerial tour in a helicopter – so now let’s look at how.
Visiting the Grand Canyon
Before planning a helicopter tour from Vegas, you need to know some general details about visiting the Grand Canyon.
Las Vegas is located in the southern tip of the state of Nevada, just to the west of Lake Mead while the Grand Canyon lies to the west of the lake over the state border in Arizona.
Since the Grand Canyon is so long, there are various places where you can see it – but in basic terms, your options are the North Rim, the South Rim, the East Rim and the West Rim.
However, if you are planning a helicopter tour from Vegas, the most important thing to understand is that the South, North and East Rims are much further away.
This makes helicopter tours from Vegas to anywhere except the West Rim much more complicated – although not impossible, as we’ll see in a moment. But first, let’s look at the different sections in a bit more detail.
The South Rim
The South Rim is by far the most popular place to visit, and this is where most of the tourist infrastructure is. This is where you’ll find Grand Canyon Village along with several hotels and Tusayan airport, the starting point for flights over this part of the Canyon.
This is also where you’ll be able to visit several famous lookout points, including Lipan Point, Mather Point and Grand View Point, places that all afford some of the most iconic views of the Canyon.
The South Rim is open year-round, and you can reach the vantage points at any time of the day or night.
The North Rim
The North Rim is much more remote, inaccessible and undeveloped, featuring only one lodge and few other tourist facilities.
However, if you make it across, usually as part of a trek down into the Canyon and then back up the other side, you will have access to lookout points such as Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial and Cape Royal, all of which provide further sublime vistas over the Canyon.
Furthermore, if you cross the Canyon in a helicopter from south to north or vice versa, you will fly over Dragon Corridor, the widest and most spectacular section of the whole system.
Note, though, that the North Rim closes for the winter months, starting from mid-October.
The West Rim
The West Rim has the advantage of being much closer to Vegas, and while it is undoubtedly still an incredible natural feature that would be worth seeing in its own right, it simply doesn’t possess the same draw-dropping grandeur of the North and South Rim section.
The West Rim lies outside of the boundaries of the Grand Canyon National Park around 130 miles from Las Vegas and is administered by the Hualapai tribe as a private attraction.
One of the most famous things to do there is to visit the vertigo-inducing Skywalk, and you can also take in the well-known Eagle Point and Guano Point viewing areas.
Another advantage of visiting here on a helicopter tour is that you are allowed to land on the rim or in the Canyon itself, something that is no longer allowed in the North/South Rim area.
The East Rim
The East Rim lies further to the east of the North and South Rims beyond the national park and is the least visited part of the Canyon, partly because it’s the hardest to reach.
It includes some interesting features such as Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, and one or two packages exist that allow you to take in some of this area as part of your tour.
What Are Your Helicopter Tour Options from Vegas?
Now we know a bit more about the Grand Canyon and the different sections you can visit, now we can start looking at how to see it by helicopter from Vegas.
Vegas has several companies that offer helicopter tours of the Canyon, and their offerings are all broadly similar. Here is an outline of what they include:
The Basic Package
The basic package sees you take off from Las Vegas and fly out to the West Rim. Once there, you will fly around the area, taking in the stunning views afforded from your vantage point high above before turning around and heading back to Vegas.
This basic flight will usually take you over Lake Mead, and you will get to see the Hoover Dam from above too.
There are other options available, though.
For example, you can also choose packages that land on the rim, allowing you to visit the Skywalk, while another possibility is to fly into the Canyon and land at the bottom. Once there, you can enjoy extras like a champagne picnic.
Another possibility is to time the tour so you return to Vegas at around sunset, allowing you to take a short flight over the Strip just as Sin City is waking up for another night of partying.
The North/South Rim Tour
From Vegas, it’s impossible to fly out to the North/South Rim area and back again in a single helicopter ride.
However, if you are particularly keen on seeing that section of the Canyon, it’s also possible to fly by plane from Vegas to Tusayan airport and then transfer to a helicopter for a flight over the Canyon.
The plane flight also takes you over Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, so this option allows you to see just about everything. However, it’s a full-day tour, and it’s also among the most expensive options.
What Do the Main Companies Offer?
Although there are several companies offering helicopter flights or services in Vegas, three of the best are Papillon, Maverick and 5 Star Helicopter Tours.
If you book through a third-party tour operator, these are also the companies you are likely to be flying with during the helicopter part of your tour.
So let’s have a look in more detail at some of the specific packages they offer.
Papillon offers several ways to see the Grand Canyon from the air. Here are a few of the best.
With the Golden Eagle tour, you fly by helicopter over Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam on the way to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, where you’ll fly over the Skywalk, Eagle Point and Guano Point. After this, you will fly back to Vegas and be shuttled back to your hotel.
This is an ideal option for those short on time but who still want to fit in a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon during their time in Vegas.
- Price: from $429 per person
- Duration: 3½-4 hours
- Flight time: 70 minutes
The Grand Celebration tour flies you from Vegas to Grand Canyon West, taking in sights like Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado River along the way.
Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon, you’ll descend 3,200 feet to the bottom of the Canyon to land for a champagne picnic lunch, after which you’ll return to Vegas, enjoying sunset views on the way back.
- Price: from $539 per person
- Duration: 4-4½ hours
- Flight time: 70 minutes
Papillon’s Grand Canyon Deluxe tour is the company’s ultimate Grand Canyon tour from Vegas.
The day starts with a flight to the Grand Canyon National Park, taking in sights like the Mojave Desert, the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Colorado River and of course the Grand Canyon itself on the way.
Once there, you’ll transfer to a helicopter to fly over the most spectacular section of the Canyon, after which you return for a hummer tour of all the best viewpoints in the area.
- Price: from $829 per person
- Duration: 9½ hours
- Flight time: 65 minutes each way by plane + 25-30 minutes in the helicopter
Maverick offers several tour options, and here are just a few possibilities.
Wind Dancer is Maverick’s equivalent of Papillon’s Grand Celebration tour. It includes a flight to the Canyon, taking in sights such as Lake Mead, the Mojave Desert, Temple Rock and Fortification Hill.
You’ll then descend to the bottom of the Canyon for a champagne picnic before returning to Vegas, taking in sights like the Bowl of Fire en route.
A Sunset version of this tour that includes a flight over Las Vegas on the way back is also available for a slightly higher price.
- Price: from $599
- Duration: 4 hours, hotel to hotel
- Flight time: 45 minutes each way
This tour takes in sights like the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Fortification Hill en route to the famous Skywalk. You’ll then enjoy VIP expedited entry to the Skywalk itself before setting off back to Vegas for a flight over the world-famous Strip.
- Price: from $629
- Duration: 5 hours, hotel to hotel
- Flight time: 45 minutes each way
This tour takes in all the major sights of the West Rim section.
You’ll see Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, the Mojave Desert and Fortification Hill as you fly out to the Canyon, and you’ll then land at the bottom of the Canyon for champagne and light snacks.
Following this, you’ll fly back up and land for the second time on the West Rim itself where you can visit Eagle Point and Guano Point. You can also walk the Skywalk for an additional fee.
Next, you’ll fly back to Vegas, taking in the Bowl of Fire on the way, and you will then fly over the Allegiant Stadium before finishing your tour and transferring back to your hotel.
- Price: from $739
- Duration: 7½ hours, hotel to hotel
- Flight time: 45 minutes each way
5 Star is a company that specializes in high-end helicopter tours, and they offer several options that combine a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. Here are some examples of the kind of trip they organize.
This is the company’s basic package that includes a flight out to the West Rim area, flying above and below the rim. Other versions are also available with rim landing, with Skywalk or with a Valley of Fire tour included, although these options cost more.
- Price: from $469
- Duration: 3 hours
- Flight time: 85 minutes
This tour flies you out to the West part of the Grand Canyon for an aerial tour of the area that takes in all the major sights. After that, you’ll head back to Vegas and be transported out to Boulder for a three-hour kayaking adventure.
- Price: from $699
- Duration: 9 hours
- Flight time: 90 minutes + 3 hours kayaking
This option is similar to the kayak tour but replaces the kayaking with a four-hour raft float that starts at the base of the Hoover Dam.
- Price: $from 699
- Duration: 9 hours
- Flight time: 90 minutes + 4-hour raft float
How to Choose Your Tour
You should now have a good idea about the kind of thing that’s on offer, but how do you know which tour is best for you?
The first thing to do is to decide whether you want to see the North/South Rim section or whether you are happy with only seeing the West Rim area.
The West Rim is certainly impressive, and there’s plenty to do there – and it’s also the only place where you can land on the rim or fly down into the Canyon
However, if you are only going to visit the Grand Canyon once in your life, you’re much better off traveling to the North/South Rim section because if you don’t see that part, you can’t really say you’ve done it.
After that, you need to decide what kind of tour you want. Do you just want a flight out and back or do you want to land? And do you want to experience the Skywalk too? Or perhaps you like the idea of drinking champagne at the bottom of the Canyon?
Consider, too, whether you would like to combine your flight with other activities like a hummer tour, kayaking or rafting.
After you’ve decided exactly what you want from your tour, you should compare the similar offerings from each of the companies, paying careful attention to factors like flight time, what’s included – and the price.
All three companies we’ve mentioned are highly reputable, so you should be able to trust them all – so it’s just a case of comparing the tours they offer and deciding which matches your expectations most closely.
While helicopters are generally safe, accidents do happen – as can be attested by accidents that have claimed the lives of several superstars and billionaires around the world in recent years.
For this reason, you are likely to be interested in the safety record of the company you book with.
Currently, 5 Star boasts a 100% safety record, and Maverick has never had any fatalities – although Maverick has had five non-fatal accidents since 1980.
Papillon, on the other hand, has experienced five non-fatal accidents and four fatal accidents since 1980, with the most recent death occurring in 2018.
When Is the Best Time to Go?
Weather permitting, any time of year is suitable for a flight-only tour since you won’t need to worry about the crowds.
However, if you are planning to land and visit some of the viewpoints or other attractions, things can get crowded during peak times, which is during spring and summer – so late summer and fall are better for avoiding the crowds.
In terms of the time of day, early morning can be foggy while late afternoon can be hazy – so for photography and views, the best times to go are usually late morning or early afternoon, although this is only a general guideline, and conditions can vary on any given day.
Is It Worth Taking a Helicopter Tour of The Grand Canyon from Vegas?
Taking a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon can be an experience you’ll remember for your whole life, and even a basic trip to the West Rim and back will be a highlight of your time in Sin City.
However, if you only visit the Grand Canyon once in your life, we strongly recommend seeing the North/South Rim section, either as part of a tour from Vegas or as a separate tour.
The North/South Rim section is where the Canyon is at its most spectacular, and it is only there that you will truly be able to appreciate this natural wonder in its full staggering glory.
What Should You Wear?
From March to September, light clothing will be enough. However, from October to mid-March, you are better off wearing a jacket.
If you are taking a tour that involves leaving the helicopter, note that summer temperatures can be extremely hot while winter temperatures can fall below freezing. Also, there can be a significant difference between temperatures at the top and bottom of the Canyon.
Are There Any Hidden Costs?
You will sometimes need to pay a fuel surcharge, depending on the current price of aviation fuel. You will be told about this during the booking process before you pay.
Is It Possible to Sit in The Front?
The pilot is responsible for allocating seating according to the needs of balancing the helicopter. It may be possible to request a front seat during the booking process, although it won’t be guaranteed.
Papillon gives you the option of requesting a front seat – it’s free to request and $50 if accepted.
Which Helicopters Do the Companies Use?
5 Star flies the Airbus AS350B2, Maverick flies Airbus EC130/H130 ECO-Star helicopters and Papillon uses the Airbus ECO-Star EC-130.
Can You Land at The North or South Rim?
No, helicopters are no longer allowed to fly within 1,500ft of the Canyon inside the national park since a fatal accident in the 1990s.
A Memorable Adventure That’s Hard to Resist
If you’re in Vegas and have the opportunity to take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, it’s an experience you’re unlikely to ever forget – and now, with our guide, you have all the info you need to choose the most perfect experience for you.