The Grand Canyon is considered one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. Nearly five million people visit this steep canyon each year. The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona but is easily accessible from nearby states like Nevada. One of the most popular ways to tour the canyon is from the sky. Some people choose to do this from a small airplane, but it is much more common to take a helicopter tour.
Aerial Views of the Grand Canyon
The air in the Grand Canyon is so clean that visibility can average up to 100 miles. Nevertheless, it is impossible to see all of the Grand Canyon at one time. The gorge is 18 miles wide and more than 277 miles long. From the air, you can get a true appreciation of the depth of the canyon. It is easy to see the many layers of rock that have been carved out by the Colorado River over the years. You also get a view of the rims and plateaus as well as tree lines and the Colorado River itself. Many Grand Canyon helicopter tours also include aerial views of surrounding landmarks, such as Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and the Mojave Desert.
Landing in the Canyon
Some helicopter companies are authorized to land in the Grand Canyon; others are not. If you do have an opportunity to land in the canyon, you can explore the area on foot. Expect to see wildlife, such as mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various squirrels–mountain lions can also be found in some areas. There are also many different types of desert flora, including creosote bush, white bursage, sagebrush, and blackbrush. You should also take time to appreciate the many different rocks, which have been a part of the canyon for millions of years.
Choosing a Helicopter Tour Company
All of the scenic air tours are based outside of the Grand Canyon National Park, which means that you can’t book a tour through the park itself. However, there are several companies that specialize in helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. Be sure to research potential tour operators carefully before settling on any one company. You want to make sure that the company has a good safety record and employs only experienced pilots who are familiar with the area.
The oldest and largest sightseeing tour company in the area is Papillon. Papillon meets and exceeds federal safety standards and procedures and is known for their exemplary safety record. Because the company has a special agreement with the Hualapai, a tribe of Native Americans who own a 108-mile stretch along the Grand Canyon and Colorado River, Papillon customers can land and tour exclusive areas of the Grand Canyon not open to the general public. Papillon’s most popular tour is the Grand Celebration Tour, which includes an aerial tour of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the Mojave Desert as well as a Grand Canyon landing, exploration time, a champagne toast, and a special picnic 4,000 feet below the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Guest post from Karen Schweitzer. Karen recently took an aerial tour of the Grand Canyon and is looking forward to doing it again at the first possible opportunity.