The most fun and exciting tour you can take of the Grand Canyon is one that goes by helicopter. Tour helicopters hover over many of the main landmarks at the canyon, and they can also fly down to the canyon floor. It's truly an amazing experience, but it is even more so when you fly at the right time of the day.
These tours lift off from airfields in Vegas, and from the Grand Canyon Airport, which is located in Tusayan, Arizona. The Las Vegas helicopters only fly to the West Rim, while the Tusayan helicopters only tour the South Rim. There aren't any Grand Canyon choppers that fly between the two rims, but travelers coming from Vegas can catch a 45-minute plane ride to the South Rim and to a heli tour that way.
Some of these Grand Canyon flights are air-only tours, and they are ideal if you don't have much time to spend touring the canyon. These Canyon air tours last about three hours from start to finish. But, if you can swing it, I recommend landing tours because you'll see the canyon from the ground as well as from the air.
Mornings are the best times for Grand Canyon helicopter tours, and the earlier the better. With that in mind, try to find a tour that departs between 7am and noon. If you'll be flying out of Vegas, you'll need to check in at least 90 minutes before your flight takes off. The ones that lift off from the Grand Canyon Airport require you to check in 30 minutes ahead of departure time.
Morning helicopter tours are best for several reasons. The air is less turbulent in the morning since the sun hasn't had time to heat the air as much, and this means your flight will be much smoother. Also, afternoon flights are more likely to be canceled or delayed due to thunderstorms that often develop later in the day.
The views are clearer during early morning hours too, particularly in the summer when wildfires create smoke and haze. Afternoon fires put out so much smoke that it's more difficult to see clearly. Also, dust builds up in the air as the day goes on and this makes the air hazy. On the other hand, that haze comes in handy during the sunset tours because it makes the sky and canyon walls more colorful.
If you will take a landing tour that takes you to the canyon floor, then you don't want to book the earliest tours. It will still be pretty dark at the bottom of the canyon, especially during the winter months. However, a flight that leaves at 8 am or a little later would be idea.
Another thing to remember is to dress for the climate. For summer tours I suggest wearing lightweight pants or shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, sunglasses, and running shoes or hiking boots. Adding a medium-weight jacket, gloves and a warm hat works well for winter tours, although you should wear pants instead of shorts. No matter what season you visit the Grand Canyon, you should take along sun block, water, and salty snacks.
Book in Advance
The morning flights are very popular and they fill up fast, so you need to book your tour in advance. Shopping for your tour early allows you to choose from a wider selection of tour types and times, and even better, you can save money on your tour if you buy it online. Don't put off booking a tour until the last minute. Booking your tour in Vegas or at the canyon is the worst thing you could do because you'll almost always pay more than necessary.