During our stay in Las Vegas, it was impossible to skip the Grand Canyon. Given the multitude of things we wanted to do, we didn’t choose the longest excursion, but one of the most unforgettable! We chose to take our first helicopter ride to see part of the Grand Canyon.
What is the Grand Canyon?
Yes, almost everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon. But where is it located and how was it formed?
The Grand Canyon National Park is a national park in the United States located in the northwestern part of the state of Arizona. Its fame comes from the canyon dug by the passage of the Colorado River: the famous Grand Canyon which stretches over 277 miles (446 km) long between Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Its depth reaches up to 5,249 feet, or 1600 meters (4,265 feet on average) and its width goes from 3 miles to 19 miles (5 km to 30 km) depending on the place.
It is not the widest nor the deepest canyon on earth. Nevertheless, it is impressive and it is known for its splendid views.
What is the Best Way to see the Grand Canyon?
If you want to see the Grand Canyon, you’re spoiled for choice. You can do it by land or by air.
Some people prefer to be self-sufficient and drive to the Grand Canyon in a rented car. It is also possible to enjoy the pleasure of being taken by bus, plane or helicopter with excursions scheduled daily by specialized tourist companies. There is a good way for everyone.
My husband and I left the car when we arrived in Vegas and decided (after much thought) to have a new experience: the helicopter.
It’s good to know that while the Grand Canyon stop is part of a road trip by car, other helicopter and airplane flights also leave directly from the Grand Canyon rim.
Company Choice: Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter
We booked our helicopter tour through Papillon and chose one of the most popular flights, the Papillon Grand Celebration Tour.
This tour takes you to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, flying over the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. A break is planned with a snack in a specific area before heading back to the airport.
How long is the Helicopter Tour to the Grand Canyon?
From departure to return to the hotel, which is included in the price, it takes between 4 hours and 4 1/2 hours. So you should plan a half-day in your program. The flight lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes, interrupted by the stopover for the picnic and the refueling of the aircraft. In our case, the helicopter took off around 3:40 p.m. and returned around 5:45 p.m.
The approximate duration of the tours is systematically indicated on the website of the company Papillon and will depend on the options subscribed. For example, the trip becomes a full-day trip (10 hours in total) when it is combined with the rafting activity.
Helicopter Flight over the Grand Canyon: our Feedback
Departure from the Hotel
The day before the tour, we called the company to confirm the flight and tell them the hotel to pick us up.
Even if you don’t take the option to be taken by limo, the company plans to pick you up at your hotel. No time to lose to find out how to get to the runway!
The same day, at the agreed time, you just have to wait at the bottom of the hotel for the vehicle to pick you up. It will make several stops to pick up other participants. It is good to know that this is the case even for the limousine and that there is no other particular service in the vehicle; we had even ended up being squeezed in the car…
Passenger Check-in and Boarding
Once we arrived at Papillon, we went to the reception desk to check in, and we had to show our passports. Each passenger is weighed. Thus the pilot can distribute the weights equitably within the aircraft. But you can rest assured: he will not separate two people and so we traveled side by side.
We then waited in a lounge provided for this purpose. We had a bit of a wait because the weather was uncertain. It was windy.
We were a bit afraid of the cancellation, but the staff finally got confirmation that the flight could go ahead. We were 12 passengers. There were two helicopters to leave at the same time.
In each helicopter, there are two rows of seats: three seats in front, including the pilot and four in the back. My husband and I were placed on the left side, behind the pilot. The company’s helicopters are specially designed with large windows to make the observation from the air easier for each passenger.
The helicopter finally took off, and we gradually saw all of Las Vegas before moving away from it.
The pilot gave us some information about what we were seeing: Lake Las Vegas, Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, the Colorado River… To complete the picture, pre-recorded explanations were played in our headsets, available in several languages. We could listen to them in French.
Flying over these places is amazing. To see from so high the city in the middle of nowhere is impressive. The greenery of the Las Vegas golf course, on the edge of a lake, reminds us of all the energy necessary to supply and sustain these arid spaces.
Then there was the great Lake Mead, the dam, the river… and the Grand Canyon, of course. The beauty of these sites is not to be defended. We enjoyed every moment.
Stopover and Picnic
The helicopters land on private areas provided for this purpose.
Tables are installed with awnings. After a short series of pictures of the surroundings, the huge cactus and the helicopter, we were able to settle down and eat.
Each one has a small wicker basket filled with victuals: Pringles, apple wedges in bags, cakes… all this with a glass of champagne from California. As Frenchies, we will say that it is not as good as a French champagne… and some British people who were with us seemed to agree. However, champagne still makes its little effect, in the middle of nowhere.
We then boarded the helicopter again, and the pilot started on the return journey.
He landed on a new area after only 10 minutes of flight. This one was concreted, surrounded by fences and many cars belonging to the people working there. We got off and waited for the aircraft to be refueled.
After another take-off, we headed to Vegas, where we could see the city with the sun just starting to descend behind the mountains. After a few views of the big hotels on the Strip, we landed.
The arrival of the Strip is sublime. You see hotels, attractions and monuments such as the Stratosphere or the Eiffel Tower of Paris differently.
This return was a bit nuanced for me because, after having eaten my snack quickly (the stopover lasts 30 minutes watch in hand to enjoy the place, eat and drink), I felt bad and I had difficulty to enjoy the last 40 minutes of flight. But don’t worry, my husband and the other passengers were fine!
So the day ended with the return to the hotel in the luxury vehicle.
In conclusion, if you want to take a helicopter flight and see the Grand Canyon, this is the trip for you. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck. I only put a small downside about the limousine option. I would probably exchange for the sunset option if I had to do it again.
Regarding the company Papillon, it remains the most popular in Las Vegas for tours to the Grand Canyon. Everything is well organized so you can book your seats with them with your eyes closed. The fast pace of the tour is a bit disturbing, but it makes sense since the number of passengers per day is so high.
Some Tips to Prepare your Helicopter Tour on the Grand Canyon
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this experience in the best possible conditions:
- Book your flight well ahead before your stay.
- Bring a bottle of water: although you will have the picnic, it’s better to be prepared.
- Don’t forget your camera to immortalize these panoramas.
- For clothing: the company recommends light clothing from March to September and winter clothing from October to mid-March. We did our tour in October with pants, sweatshirts and sneakers.
- Don’t eat your picnic too quickly! It’s better not to finish it than to get sick…
My Best Pictures of Grand Canyon