Las Vegas Airplane to South Rim w/ Bus
The Grand Canyon Deluxe airplane tour is Papillon's most popular way to visit the South Rim of the National Park from Las Vegas, NV. Why? Consider the alternative: A 5.5-hour bus ride. Flight time? One-hour. To me, the choice is clear - fly!
The Grand Canyon Deluxe departs every day of the year from Boulder City Municipal Airport, which is a painless, 30-minute shuttle ride from the Vegas Strip.
The flight takes off in an easterly fashion. Five minutes into it, you're over Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the U.S., and Hoover Dam, the legendary structure that controls the flow of the mighty Colorado River.
Onward, you enter the airspace over Grand Canyon West, which is home to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the glass bridge that lets visitors walk 70 ft. past the edge of the rim. If you are interested in exploring this part of the canyon, you will have to book a separate trip as there are no flights/tours between the West Rim and the South Rim.
By now you've hit your cruising altitude and you're south of the Colorado River, the waterway that starts at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and ends in Mexico's Sea of Cortez. The river will be used as a guideline until you reach Kaibab National Forest, home to the largest stand of Ponderosa pine in the U.S.
The descent starts here. In minutes, you'll be landing on the tarmac of Grand Canyon National Park Airport, elevation 6,000 feet plus. You'll transfer to a deluxe luxury bus for a tour inside the park, which is just 10 miles from Tusayan, the small town that hosts the airport.
The ground tour lasts around two-and-a-half hours. In that timeframe you'll see all of the National Park's key points of interest, including Mather Point, Yaki Point, the Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village and more. Moreover, you'll have a stop over in the Bright Angel Lodge area where there's a host of gift shops and restaurants.
Back on the bus, you'll make the 15-minute trek back to the plane, board, buckle up and take off into the evening sun. I can't guarantee you'll see sunset but you'll definitely be getting dusk as you speed toward Las Vegas.
Total trip time (hotel pick and drop off): 9.5 hours
The Grand Canyon Deluxe tour is conducted aboard a 19-seat, twin-prop Vistaliner airplane. These aircraft are designed specifically for sightseeing, featuring large viewing windows, a giant cabin, lounge-style seats and an aerodynamic design that makes the flight as smooth as silk. Two pilots, both of whom are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, also man each flight.
The Grand Canyon Deluxe upgrade is a 30-minute rim-to-rim helicopter ride. This is not an ordinary up-and-down ride. Here you take off at 200 mph over the South Rim and go right into the Dragoon Corridor, the widest, deepest part of the canyon. When I tell folks about this upgrade, they fall over themselves to get it.
The South Rim
I find a bit of information about this part of the canyon helps let you enjoy it more. For starters, the National Park comprises more than a million acres of pristine wilderness. The Colorado River, which splits it into North Rim and South Rim, winds through it for 277 miles. The canyon itself measures one-mile deep and up to 18 miles across. Those are some pretty impressive numbers. Think you can absorb all that on foot? I didn't think so.
What to Wear & Bring
Being that this trip is aerial and ground, you will be exposed to the elements. Thus, to a certain extent, you need to dress for the season. South Rim summers are temperate, but you'll still need to pack a hat, sun block, and sunglasses. Winters are cold, and I recommend you wear pants, a long-sleeved shirt, hat, medium-weight jacket and sturdy footwear.
Doesn't matter what time of the year it is, this air tour is always in demand. I always recommend booking it 72 hours and 1 week in advance. Don't make the mistake of trying to book it within 24 hours of your desired departure date. The chances of getting it are slim, especially if you're a group of three or more.
There's misinformation floating out there saying it's beneficial to purchase your Grand Canyon Deluxe seats at the destination. It's not true. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Buy seats in Vegas and you'll pay more. So, where are the deals? On the Papillon website. On recent purchases, I've been able to save bundles of cash and I recommend you do the same.
Have a grand day,
P.S. I rate the top 3 Grand Canyon helicopter tour companies that fly out of Las Vegas, NV. Click here to see who's my #1 choice. .