One of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon is by taking a helicopter tour. 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.
Grand Canyon helicopters take off from Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Airport, which is located in Tusayan, Arizona, just about ten miles from the South Rim. You won't find direct flights from Vegas to the South Rim. Instead, you will need to take a plane or bus and then transfer to a helicopter.
But which Rim is the best? If you are looking for adventure, go to the West Rim. Choose a landing tour to the West Rim and you can experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which is made of glass and allows you to walk out over the canyon far below, or you could take a thrilling boat ride down the Colorado River.
On the other hand, the South Rim has been dubbed the official Grand Canyon, and is worth seeing too. It is around 270 miles from Vegas and is a popular tourist destination for people visiting 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.
Summers are hot along the West Rim; daily temperatures reach past 100 degrees. You should bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect you from the heat and sun. Long sleeve shirts are recommended as well, and sturdy footwear is necessary since the terrain is rocky. Winters are cooler and relatively mild. It is a good idea to wear gloves, a hat, and a medium weight jacket to stay warm.
Conditions are different along the South Rim where the summers are cooler. That's because the elevation is over six thousand feet. 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.
The Rim you choose, along with the season of the year and its weather, will affect the time of day you choose to fly. During the summer, early morning flights are a good choice. That means tours that take off before lunch. If you are planning to take a landing tour of the West Rim, then you definitely want to get started early so you can beat the oppressive heat that builds by late afternoon. Another thing to consider is the Arizona rainy season that runs from July through September. That means lots of thunderstorms. Like clockwork, they unfold during mid-afternoon. If you book your Grand Canyon helicopter tour during that time period, chances are good it will get delayed until the storm passes, or it could get cancelled altogether.
There are other important aspects of morning flights. For one thing, morning air is smoother and by afternoon, turbulence begins to build. Plus, visibility is much better too. A haze often lingers in the air during the summer. It could be cause by pollution, dust, or fires. The plus side of the debris in the air is that it makes for spectacular sunsets, so that could be another good time of day to fly.
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 in the air and go, because there is nothing quite so awe-inspiring as viewing the Grand Canyon from above.