SPOTLIGHT: There are 2 Las Vegas Airplane Tours to Grand Canyon (West Rim) that Get the "Lion's Share" of the Business but One in Particular Truly Stands Out..."
As far as I'm concerned there are only two options when it comes to Las Vegas airplane tours that land at the West Rim: The one that gives you up to 3 hours to explore the National Park and the other that does that too plus the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
Before I plow ahead, if you are still undecided on which rim to visit, I recommend you also read this article. It will help you determine which part of the Park to see. And if you decide that the South Rim is your destination, then cut to the chase and pick between these two airplane tours.
OK, back to the issue at hand.
The big difference between the two West Rim flights is the Skywalk. That's it. And it's important because if you decide to do the Glass Bridge then you need to bundle it into your package because purchasing your ticket onsite will be more expensive. It will also be more inconvenient because it will eat into your precious time at the Park.
I say "precious time" because the Skywalk is tremendously popular and an internationally famous attraction. It never ceases to amaze me when I see lines of people getting ready to "walk the sky." But indeed that's just how hot the Bridge has gotten so factor that in if you intend to make your decision upon arrival.
It's this very point of deciding last minute to do the Skywalk that separates the two flight packages. Unfortunately, I kind of straddle the fence on this issue. On one hand, I agree with travelers who want to wait until they get to the Canyon to decide because many freak out at the thought of walking 70 plus feet past the edge before standing 4,000 over the bottom!
Consider that, please. If you get vertigo, pass on doing the Bridge. However, if you don't have "height" issues, the Walk is definitely a must-do because the views are superior to anything else in the area and the sensation you get standing there in the abyss is an experience second to none (except possibly bungee jumping or going to the top of the Empire State Building in New York).
If you do the Skywalk or opt not to, there's plenty more to see and do at the West Rim. The Hualapai Tribe, which owns and operates the reservation upon which the Skywalk sits, operates a fleet of clean and comfortable shuttle buses that you can use for free to navigate about the Park. I urge you to take advantage of this transportation, especially when it comes to getting out to Guano Point.
(NOTE: The other West Rim landing tour that I get REALLY excited about is the one that lands, comes with a helicopter tour to the bottom and a boat ride down the Colorado River. This trip is the ultimate option and of course it costs more than the others but it's worth every cent. I know that a lot of my foreign readers choose this option and I approve because if you're coming all this way to see the Canyon I think you want to take the tour that does the top and the bottom and this particular does just that and more. )
Guano Point is the furthest point north inside this part of the Park and it's the site of an old bat guano mine, the main structures of which are still visible. The great part is the view and it's one that encompasses the Colorado River and the bottom of the gorge. Both airplane packages come with lunch and you are welcome to eat out in the plein aire here at Guano Point (my preference) or you can partake at Eagle Point, which is adjacent to the Skywalk complex.
Other things to do while wandering this amazing landscape include the Hualapai Ranch, which features mock outlaw gunfights (the kids love it), and the Indian Cultural Center, which is an outdoor museum wherein you can get an authentic sense of how the Hualapai and the other native peoples of the area survive out in such harsh conditions. I say this out of respect because summer temperatures form June through September top 100 degrees with regularity.
Which quickly brings me to what you need to do to prepare for a summer visit. By all means please bring water. It's blazing hot and you must stay hydrated so always carry a bottle of water with you. Wear a brimmed hat, too, and put on sun block prior to "hitting the road." I also like to pack a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. You can decide between pants and shorts though I favor the later because of comfort. Lastly, pack along a salty snack like trail mix.
As for the flight itself, it's a journey in and of itself. The great thing about airplane tours is that there's usually availability (helicopter tours on the other hand often sell out, especially if you are booking less than a week in advance). You'll also find that planes depart on these tours up to four times a day. My recommendation here is to grab a morning flight, especially during summer. This is because the hottest time of the day is between 3p-5p in the afternoon.
The flight path is filled with incredible sights but the ones that stand out for most folks is Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. The Lake is a beautiful blue and stands in stark contrast to the desert in which it exists. The Dam is one of the southwest's most remarkable landmarks; you'll fly over it so get your cameras out in advance so you can start snapping away before it disappears beneath you. Then there's the Mojave Desert, which is unique for it's habitat and vegetation and is truly a unique vision from the air because of its aridity.
Finally, you'll get an incredible aerial view of the Canyon itself. Seriously, this is a million-dollar view and rivals anything you'll see from the ground or the Skywalk and its something you've got to do once if you are in Las Vegas. In addition to the Canyon's miraculous cliffs is the Colorado River, the waterway that's practically solely responsible for forming the Canyon as we know it today.
I hope this article about Las Vegas airplane tours to the West Rim proved helpful as you research air tour options. This piece focused on landing tours and makes the point that the if you want to see the Skywalk before you try it you will pay more. On the other, it's a good tactic if you're concerned about heights and more. Then there's the airplane tour that does the top and bottom and the river (you can even upgrade it to include the Skywalk). It's not the cheapest option but my God it's the best because you will have truly seen it all. And isn't that one of the reasons you wanted to see the Canyon anyways?
Until next time -