I was in Las Vegas for a weekend and decided to do a day trip to the Grand Canyon. There are many tours running from Las Vegas to the canyon; you can opt for road or air tours.
Road vs Air Tour
Driving to the Grand Canyon takes about 3-5 hours one way (depending if we are talking about the West or South rim) – but in any case driving means a full day out. If you opt for air tours, you have a choice of half-day to full-day tours. Most of the tours from Las Vegas will take you to the West Rim – which is closest to Las Vegas. But you also have options to go further to the South Rim etc.
I opted for a full air tour from Vegas to the South Rim. With tours from Las Vegas, you have several companies to choose from – just mentioning the few I shortlisted based on the type of tour and destination:-
- Maverick Helicopters (which is the one I finally decided on)
- Sundance Helicopters
Which part of the Grand Canyon to visit?
As mentioned, most tours from Vegas will take you to the West Rim. You have the option of half-day to full-day tours depending on the tour itineraries selected. Recommended if you are short of time.
What’s great about these West Rim air tours –
- You get beautiful aerial views of the famous Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Mojave Desert
- Many tours offer a landing below the rim for a short picnic – not enough time for any hikes though
- Several tours offer the opportunity to experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk – horseshoe-shaped glass bridge, 4,000 ft above ground, which extends 70 feet out over the rim of the canyon. Read more about the experience here – https://grandcanyonwest.com/explore/west-rim/skywalk-eagle-point/
- You can also get tours combined with boat rides on the Colorado river
The South Rim, is managed by the National Park Service. The pictures that you see in postcards and magazines are most likely taken of the South Rim. Most tours to the South Rim are full-day tours. So what you get in South Rim are:-
- Gorgeous, breathtaking views of striped canyon walls and deep gorges. In fact, the South Rim has some of the deepest gorges in the entire Grand Canyon. Highlights in the Canyon include Tower of Ra, Dragon Head, and Dragon Corridor
- Usually, the tours will include a stopover at the Grand Canyon Historic Village where you can get beautiful panoramic views of the Canyon and if time permits do short hikes along the trails to designated viewpoints.
- Unlike the West Rim, where helicopters are able to land at the floor, you can reach the Grand Canyon floor only by hiking down either the South Kaibab Trail or the Bright Angel Trail. This kind of hiking will take some time so you may not be able to do this with a day tour from Las Vegas. But this will be a great idea should you plan to spend one night or more in the Canyon.
- The South Rim doesn’t have any water tours. If you want to go on river rafting or boat rides – you probably need another day’s trip or find a tour that can combine the South Rim tour with a visit either to the West Rim or the East Rim (as the locals call it unofficially) where you can find the Antelope and Glen Canyons.
Anyway between the West and South Rim, I opted for the South Rim tour so I cannot compare between the two personally. But if you want to see the real Grand Canyon majestic views like the ones in the magazines – go for the South Rim.
Canyon Dream Tour with Maverick Helicopters - Review
Flight from Las Vegas
Maverick Heli offers two tours for the South Rim from Las Vegas – the Grand Canyon Explorer and the Canyon Dream Tour. Both tours include pickup from your hotel on the Vegas Strip to the Henderson Executive Airport, where you will depart for the South Rim in a small plane. My pickup was at 620am – I was punctual, so was Maverick – that was good. But as usual – some other folks were not. Next pick up at another hotel – we had to wait for a young couple for a bit. Anyway – luckily, we were still good on time.
As you wait for the flight to take off – you can have a quick breakfast – coffee/pastry at the airport.
The flight was great – very comfortable, there are two seats per row so everyone got a window seat, which was nice. We did have seat numbers – so all was very organised. I thought the flight there was also quite cool – gorgeous views.
After landing at the South Rim, we were taken in a trolley/shuttle to the helicopter terminal. Super excited by this time – my first time in a heli!
How was the ride? Beautiful views, really great to be up in the air and looking down at the beautiful scene; the ride was just under 30mins. I wished it was longer. Twenty-five minutes passed by really quick.
Check out the video below – short clip of the view from the helicopter. Amazing!!!
Grand Canyon Historic Village
The next and last stop before flying back to Vegas is the Grand Canyon Historic Village. The company provided each of us with a lunch box – a sandwich and a drink at the Bright Angel Lodge in the village. You will also have some time to walk around the village, or just admire the beautiful views of the Canyon from the various viewpoints in the village/trails.
Verdict on Maverick Tour
Overall it was an excellent tour – a good introduction to the Grand Canyon. I don’t know about the West Rim, but the South Rim tour is value for money, for sure. Absolutely gorgeous views. Highly recommended. I think from beginning (from the hotel pickup) to the end – the service was top notch. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. I had a great time!
Overall Grand Canyon Experience
If you happen to be around the area – it is a MUST to do a trip to the Grand Canyon. It will be an unforgettable experience and you would probably come back for more. I know I want to. Looking at the majestic views – I remembered thinking that I wished I had more time for this trip. I would have loved to stay here and do a bit of hiking. You can stay in the national park at any of the hotels/cabins such as El Tovar hotel or Bright Angel Lodge. It would also be great if you can include the Antelope Canyon in the trip. If I had more than one day – then Day 2 would definitely be a trip to Antelope Canyon.