We traveled to the Grand Canyon both by air, and by land. We’ll share some of the benefits of both. For details on our land-based excursion experience, you can read it here. There are a few ways to make your Grand Canyon experience exceptional like:
- DIY and pay the entrance fees and navigate the park by yourself by car or campervan.
- Guided land tour, Pink Jeep Tours. Relax and let a professional guide you. Relax on the edge, have lunch and take in the grandeur.
- Helicopter ride with Papillon. See the Grand Canyon from an entirely exclusive and unique perspective few have seen.
The Helicopter Ride over the Grand Canyon
We were fortunate enough to fly with Papillon an exclusive charter company with 48 aircraft in their fleet. They run the airport terminal in Boulder City and it’s a first class experience. They are professional, accommodating, and have a great sense of humor and it’s evident everyone working there loves their jobs.
Papillon is the world’s oldest and largest sightseeing company, offering over forty unique adventure excursions and specializing in the Grand Canyon experience overall. The views and experiences on our trip left us breathless, and created memories that will no doubt be unforgettable.
Getting to the airport is also a painless task. All that we had to do is walk right outside our hotel and the Papillon tour bus was there waiting for us to hop on and head out. The bus took us on a scenic drive outside the strip and offered a unique view of Las Vegas. We traveled to the north end of the city and ultimately to the Boulder City airport. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the staff at Papillon. After we were checked in we took a brief tour of the beautiful and scenic facility. Surrounded by beautiful glass windows, we were able to see up close the fleet of planes and helicopters. We felt like VIPs waiting for our pilot to arrive and tell us to step board. The Golden Eagle Air Tour was definitely an activity that you should experience!
Arriving at the Local Airport
We took off from the boulder city terminal which was amazing. There’s plenty of refreshments, snacks and souvenirs to browse and purchase while you endure a short wait for your flight. When our names were called we met our pilot, who had a great sense of humor, and ushered us to the chopper after pleasantries. When we got the the helicopter, we were amazed because it’s all glass. You can easily see 360 degrees and it feels like your in a bubble that flies. Kalon has been in a few helicopters mostly for skydiving, but the AS350 was the nicest he said he’s ever seen.
The Grand Canyon Experience ride
This is my first helicopter ride, and it didn’t disappoint. There were Bose headsets that cancel out any ambient noise, and we talked amongst the passengers and pilot while listening to background tunes. Luckily the pilot had good taste in music and played some classic rock, which set the mood nicely. There were also too many perfect selfie moments in the helicopter we couldn’t resist.
The take-off was almost as fun as the Grand Canyon itself. We accelerated to over 100 knots just feet off the ground, it was so exciting being a passenger on this incredible aircraft. As you watch all the desert cactuses zip by lifting off the ground, your stomach can’t help but jump with excitement. I never felt scared for a single second, the pilots are truly professionals and make the ride exciting, but offer a feeling of security.
Though Papillon offers many tours, we enjoyed the Golden Eagle Air Tour. Another unique point about the helicopter tour is that you get the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon from above, obviously, but both sides too. The ground view is stunning, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something just brilliant about soaring above one of the most massive natural features on earth. The simple fact of being able to be flown through this magnificent feature spells nothing short of bold, and unique.
The Sights and Landscape
While flying in the helicopter, the landscape that we flew over was amazing as far as the eye can see. Color gradients, rock formations, the Colorado River, and the Hoover dam are easy to spot from far away. The first area that we flew over was the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, which really could be a tour in itself. The Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The dam was built on the Arizona-Nevada border. The primary purpose of the Hoover Dam was to provide consistent and clean water from the Colorado River to promote economic development. From above we were able to really see the size of this incredible structure. The pilots have a tremendous local knowledge of all landmarks and historical sites, and it added to the experience to hear their commentary as we flew along.
Lake mead was a sight to see, the sheer contrast of the aqua water against the dry barren landscape was stunning. Lake Mead is located on the Colorado river, about 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. It is the largest man made reservoir in the United States. The reservoir delivers water to the states of Arizona, Nevada and California, providing nourishment to nearly 20 million people and large areas of agricultural farmland. Gazing at the lake from such high above, gave unparalleled perspective into the size, and volume of water that it can hold. With the birds eye view, the drought situation became even more obvious. Water marks are clearly visible where the lake used to be when full.
Over all Experience
In conclusion, seeing the Grand Canyon, really will never disappoint an eager traveler. How you choose to see and experience can’t lead you wrong. It’s a matter of choice. On one hand, driving through the park will definitely offer an incredible, ground level experience that is unique. However it will take you whole day from early in the morning to late afternoon leaving you pleasantly spent. On the other hand, a flight will allow you to make the most of a day, and the experience is independently incomparable, unique, intimate, and definitely more exclusive.
If flying in a helicopter is not unique enough for you, then flying through the Grand Canyon will be. It’s a flight, and experience that people you share it with will not forget. It is worth every penny. Out of millions of visitors a year to Grand Canyon National Park, only a select view will record it’s sights in their memories from above. Check out Papillon and see which Grand Canyon experience tour would best suit your group or families needs.
Where to Stay
We stayed at The D Hotel. It’s located in the heart of downtown, on Freemont Street. Fremont street itself, is amazing, and a totally different experience than staying on “The Strip”.
Downtown. There they also offers tons of “Non Gambling” activities in addition all it’s people watching amazement. Try Slotzilla, a zip line ride which is just steps from the The D. Check out our video of us soaring above all downtown. We would highly recommend checking it out, if nothing else, than for the people watching. The D has modern decor, and a really upscale feel to it. It’s well placed, super clean, and puts you in the heart of Downtown, which is the best place to stay and is well priced to matched, hands down.
Note: Although all opinions expressed are my own, our Grand Canyon experience was made possible by Papillon.