Grand Canyon helicopter tours are a fantastic way to experience the National Park. However, not all flights are created equal, especially when it comes to the time of day in which to fly. Read on and I’ll reveal how to determine the best departure times so you get the most awesome trip possible.
Canyon helicopter tours depart from Las Vegas, NV, and Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan, AZ, the small town located 10 minutes from the gates of the South Rim. There are no direct helicopter tours from Las Vegas to the South Rim. To do that, you’ll need to first take an airplane or a bus and then transfer to a helicopter.
Which Rim is for you? Go for the West Rim if you want thrills and adventure. Specifically, I’m referring to landing tours that let you add either a helicopter ride to the bottom, a boat cruise on the Colorado River or a stroll on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the glass bridge that lets you walk 70 feet past the edge.
As for the South Rim, it’s the destination that many call the “official” Grand Canyon. It’s located some 270 miles from Las Vegas and is popular with travelers based in Central Arizona. Helicopters are not allowed to go below the rim or land at the bottom. However, that’s easily rectified when you fly through the Dragoon Corridor, the deepest, widest section of the National Park.
West Rim weather is scorching hot during the summer, with temperatures breaking 100 degrees nearly every day. I recommend you bring water, sun block, a hat and sunglasses. I also suggest you wear a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of running shoes as the terrain is rocky. Winters are relatively mild with temperatures dropping at the beginning of the year. During this time, I suggest wearing a beanie, gloves and a medium-weight jacket.
South Rim summers are nice and temperate. This is because the elevation is 6,000-feet plus. I still recommend you have on your person plenty of water and sun block. Winters are more extreme than that at West Rim. It’s colder here, and the chance of snow is greater. Having said that, winter is one of the best times of the year to visit South Rim because you’ll pretty much have the park to yourself.
Seasons, weather and rim play a big part in determining when to fly. During the summer, I recommend going on any of the early morning flights. This means anything lifting off before lunch. Moreover, if you are taking a West Rim landing tour, by all means leave as early as possible in order to beat the heat. The same thinking applies to flying from July through September when the Monsoon sweeps into Arizona. Monsoons are basically thunderstorms. Like clockwork, they unfold during mid-afternoon. If you end up flying during this time frame, there’s a good chance your flight will get delayed or cancelled.
In addition, there are two key things to know about morning flights. First, the air is smoother, especially during summer when minor turbulence pick up in the afternoons. Secondly, visibility is better. Again, during summer, there’s a haze in the air. Forest fires, dust and pollution cause this. That said, the other great time to fly is around sunset, which is enhanced by this air “debris.”
Don’t stress if you can’t get a morning flight. Yes, it’s better, but overall, helicopter tours are awesome in and of themselves. Just get yourself airborne over the canyon and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
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