Grand Canyon Travel: Heli Rides For Winter National Park Visitors

By Kate Reingold


It's winter again and a great time to visit the Grand Canyon National Park. The temperatures have cooled down to the low 40s, there is occasional snow, and the air is crystal clear. The conditions are perfect for taking a helicopter tour over this amazing national landmark.

Departure Points

You can take a helicopter tour out of Vegas in Nevada and out of the airport in Tusayan, Arizona. If you take off from Vegas, you'll tour the West Rim and if you take off from Arizona, you'll tour the South Rim. Unfortunately, you can't fly between the two rims. Instead, if you'll be in Vegas and want to take a helicopter tour of the South Rim, you'll need to fly there by plane and then begin your chopper tour.

The South Rim is colder than the West Rim. This is due to its elevation, which is 6,700 feet. The West Rim's elevation is 4,700. Thus, from December to March, the South Rim's temps will range from 40 to 50 degrees during the day and 18 to 25 degrees at night. By contrast, the West Rim's temps during these months will range from 60 to 70 degrees during daytime and in the 40's during night.

During winter, there's a strong chance there will be snow on the ground. The snowstorms usually pass through the Canyon quickly, so it's rare that a tour will be canceled because of bad weather. The West Rim is usually snow-free, but once in a blue moon it will get lightly dusted.

Tour Refunds

In the rare event your helicopter tour is canceled because of bad weather, your tour operator should give you a 100 percent refund of your money. However, if you buy your tour from a tour consolidator, you may run into trouble because they often remove the refund policy since they are in the business of filling empty seats. So, to be safe, buy your tour directly from the tour operator and avoid sites like Priceline, HotWire, and Expedia.

What to wear during this season deserves consideration. I recommend to family and friends that they figure out a system of "layering." Specifically, find a good base layer. This can be either a t-shirt, or, even better, a shirt made of polyester that wicks away moisture and converts it into heat. These types of base layers are quite popular and inexpensive. Over that, I'd wear a sweater and then a Parka-like jacket. A pair of gloves, a scarf, long pants, wool socks and a pair of sturdy shoes are also suggested.

If you plan to land at the Canyon, you definitely want to dress for the weather. Landing tours are available from Vegas only since South Rim choppers can't land on the rim. Some fun things you can do on a landing tour include enjoying a Champagne picnic, floating along the Colorado River on a boat tour, and walking on the Skywalk. Landing tours are very popular, so you want to book your seats in advance.

Take Action!

How far in advance should you make your reservations? A week ahead of time is a good idea, or earlier if you can, because each helicopter only holds six people, and during the winter, some choppers are pulled from service. Further, and I mentioned this earlier in the article, book your flight direct from the operator on the Internet. The best deals are clearly on the Web, but, in order to make sure you get them, you must fully complete your transaction online (lots of people fail to do this and end up getting billed the retail rate!).




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