In Las Vegas and searching for big-time thrills? Try this on for size: A 10-minute, 4,000-foot helicopter descent that drops into the canyon and carves its sheer cliffs before gently landing next to the Colorado River.
Sound awesome? It is.
Luckily, you’ll be in Las Vegas because it’s the only place where you can take this miraculous tour. Prices start at $280 and depart daily year-round, including all major holidays. The three major Las Vegas-based helicopter tour operators – Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance – offer it. Go and visit Papillon’s website for the lowest price. I’ve used it multiple times to book trips and can vouch that it’s safe and secure.
Helicopters make the 120-mile flight from Vegas to Grand Canyon West in 45 minutes. En route, you’ll fly over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the Grand Cliffs Wash, and the Grand Canyon Skywalk before you make the descent.
A World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon encompasses 1.2 million acres of land, averages nearly a mile in depth, and runs 270-plus miles in length. It’s considered by experts to be one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion on the planet. It’s also famous for its geologic importance: You’ll see sections of the Earth’s crust that range from 200 million to 2 billion years old.
Be on the lookout for plant and animal life. The Park contains several major ecosystems and is home to five of the seven life zones, a phenomena you’d experience if you were to travel from Mexico to Canada. Inside its protected borders, the Canyon claims more than 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 8 amphibian, 17 fish, and 1,500 plant species.
Helicopters alight on private dirt helipads on the canyon floor. Once the rotors stop turning, you’ll deplane and cheers your adventure with a glass of Champagne. Light snacks are provided. You’ll have 30 minutes to explore. I suggest you hunt for fossils (the Canyon was once under a great ancient sea) or hike a stretch to find petroglyphs. You can also upgrade your package to include a pontoon boat ride down the Colorado River.
Most helicopter rides are flown aboard EcoStar 130 aircraft. These “birds” are specifically made for sightseeing, featuring comfortable stadium-style seating, climate-controlled cabins, and 180-degree wraparound windshields that deliver unobstructed views. Each chopper is equipped with two-way digital communication systems that let you communicate with your pilot-guide and fellow passengers. Pre-recorded taped narrations are available in multiple languages for foreign guests.
The West Rim is the only place in the Grand Canyon where you can fly below the rim and land on the bottom. These canyon helicopter tours all originate exclusively out of Vegas. There are no helicopter flights from the West Rim to the South Rim and vice versa. The descent is the main highlight of a trip that includes Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and Grand Canyon West. Prices start under $300 per person and include hotel pick up and drop, Champagne, and light snack. Lasting just four hours, this helicopter adventure makes the perfect day trip for Las Vegas travelers looking for the ultimate thrill.
Mr. Plunket is a travel writer who reports on the Grand Canyon. He recommends clicking on Grand Canyon Helicopters to get this bottom-landing flight at a terrific price.