Friday, January 8, 2016

Grand Canyon National Park - Top Wintertime Helicopter Rides

By Jacky Archer

I can't think of a more exciting way to celebrate the winter season than taking a flight in one of the Grand Canyon helicopters. A lot of people think winter is the wrong time of year to visit the Grand Canyon, but you'd be amazed by the way a layer of fresh snow adds a beautiful new dimension to a landscape that's already spectacular. Snow is more likely at the South Rim than at the West Rim, because the altitude there is over 6,000 feet above sea level.

The South Rim

The South Rim is known as the "real" Canyon and it is situated west of Flagstaff, Arizona. So a South Rim tour is convenient if you're going to be in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Scottsdale, or Sedona. However, if you're staying in Vegas instead, you can take a bus or plane to the South Rim for your tour. Taking the plane is a better option since you'll get there in about an hour opposed to the 5 1/2 hours it takes to ride there on a bus.

You can take a 50-minute or 30-minute helicopter tour of the South Rim. The longer tour lets you see so much more, in fact, you'll get to see the North and South Rims as well as the eastern edge of the National Park. However, the short tour is fun too because you get to fly over to the North Rim and back. You'll get a fantastic overview of the Park lands.

There's a new tour I've heard about that sounds pretty exciting. It combines one of the 30-minute helicopter rides with a sunset 4x4 tour. The ground portion ends at Hopi Point at dusk. Along the way you'll get to see one of the National Park's hidden, elevated fire towers.

Helicopter Tours From Vegas

Las Vegas is the departure point for all West Rim helicopter rides. The West Rim is just a little east of Vegas, but the South Rim is outside the range of helicopters flying out of Sin City. There aren't any direct flights between the West and South Rims.

You can take an air only helicopter tour out of Vegas, or you can book one that lands at the Canyon. The both follow the same route to the Canyon and fly over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead along the way.

If it fits in with your time allotment and budget, you should really consider taking a landing tours. They give you a much broader experience at the National Park. You can do fun things like take a float trip along the Colorado River, walk out on the famous Skywalk, and even fly to the Canyon floor for a champagne picnic. However, if your time is limited or if you have a tight vacation budget, then an air-only tour is a fantastic way to see the amazing natural scenery at the Park.

Book Early

Flights on Grand Canyon helicopters are limited and sell out fast, so I urge you to book yours in advance. By booking at least four days ahead, you'll greatly improve your chances of getting the tour and time you want.

Remember, you'll need to dress for the winter weather. South Rim visitors during winter season should plan for the possibility of snow-wear a warm jacket, long pants, a hat, gloves, and sturdy shoes. The West Rim is warmer, but since it may still be chilly, dressing in layers you can shed or add is a good idea. Sun protection is necessary at both rims, so bring sunglasses, lip balm, and extra water too.

Whether you're spending the winter season in Vegas or central AZ, you owe it to yourself to consider a Grand Canyon helicopter ride. It's a terrific way to celebrate the season!

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