Papillon Helicopters is the largest supplier of Grand Canyon helicopter tours. This company provides flights to the West Rim and the South Rim. I’ve flown Papillon to both destinations. Here’s my no-nonsense writeup on my West Rim trip.
I scheduled by far the most comprehensive trip Papillon offers. It included a descent to the bottom, a 30-minute Grand Canyon river rafting trip, and tickets to the Grand Canyon Glass Walkway.
The trip includes free hotel pick up and drop off. My driver picked me up exactly as planned and got me to the heliport promptly. I picked out a morning flight for best visibility. I also up-graded my heli to an EcoStar 130. It’s a bigger aircraft and features theater-style seating. It’s also a more stable, less noisy ride and comes with wrap-around windows.
I hit the sky with five other energized travellers. Maximum occupancy in choppers is 6 people. I’m 6′-4″ and had plenty of legroom. I wasn’t squishing my neighbor either. All of us had our very own individual headset. You can use it to hear a pre-recorded tour narration (translated into 10 languages!) or talk with your pilot and fellow passengers.
The trip took us over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and the new Hoover Dam Bypass. Choppers fly at a lower elevation than airplanes. The aerial views were incredible. Our pilot was kind enough to take the “long way” over Hoover Dam prior to making a straight shot to the Grand Canyon.
The West Rim was ahead of us. Our pilot enthusiastically told us to prepare for the 4,000-foot descent to the bottom. It was essentially a canyon carve between cliffs, buttes, and spires. Ten minutes later we landed at the bottom. My package deal included a Champagne picnic (delectable!). I walked along side the Colorado River and boarded one of several large pontoon rafts.
This is a smooth-water float tour. That means there are no rapids. I’m happy I brought sun block and a hat. It was hot and i’m fair-skinned. The boat ride was incredibly relaxing. The view from the water is breathtaking. My guide was a walking encyclopedia about the canyon and was the first to spot one of the region’s rare Big Horn Sheep.
Back on our Papillon helicopter, we made the ascent to the top (every bit as exciting as the descent) and got out on the landing strip near the Grand Canyon Glass Walkway. I’m a huge fan of the Sky Walk. Everyone’s got an opinion relating to this attraction. I for one loved it and believe it’s not possible to leave Las Vegas without experiencing it.
There was somewhat of a crowd. I turned up my iPod and time flew. The glass walkway, the panels of which are reported to have cost more than $250,000 each, takes you 70 feet beyond the edge of the rim! It’s totally safe. The bridge was designed to hold 800 people throughout an earthquake with 100 MPH winds! I looked down. My stomach cringed. Below some 4,000 feet was the river I had just rafted (it looked like a ribbon).
On the ride back to Las Vegas, there was a second opportunity to see the lake and the dam. The weather was spectacular that day and out came the cameras. In general, this Papillon Helicopter’s trip gets high marks. You get a real sense that you’ve “done” the canyon, which, incredibly, was accomplished in only 1 day! If you plan on flying the West Rim, definitely consider going with Papillon.
Mr. Kravitz is a travel writer who specializes in reviewing Grand Canyon tours. He recommends that readers go here for special pricing on Papillon Helicopter tours.