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Flying a Chopper Over the Grand Canyon

Posted by on June 7, 2011

Seriously, you can’t imagine how cool I felt typing “chopper” above. As if I actually had anything to do with piloting the chopper, other than attempting to climb into the pilot’s lap when he veered a little too close to the canyon’s walls.

Absolutely, without a doubt, the coolest thing we did the entire time we were in Vegas was taking a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon with Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. This is the tour we did and we also added the Skywalk and river cruise. I recommend it totally.

When we first began planning our trip to Vegas, my husband and I both really wanted to work in a trip to the Grand Canyon. But, even though it is within driving distance (about 6 hours from Vegas), we had so many commitments and so little time, that it was just not going to happen. Until I talked to Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. And they said they could give us a little helicopter ride there – and it was only a 45-minute flight! We were thrilled. We had never been to the Grand Canyon and now we were going to fly over it, land and take a raft trip down the Colorado. Well, that was pretty nice but if only we could visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk too.

Wait.

We were going to do that too. Could life get any better? I didn’t think so.

Luckily, since I get motion sick and am afraid of heights (can you think of a more appropriate person to take a helicopter ride?), we had already taken a helicopter trip over an active volcano when we were in Hawaii and I quickly got over any fear I might have about this fabulous mode of transportation. However, I did pop a Bonine since a helicopter can be pretty vertigo-inducing in a whoops we just dropped 50 feet sort of way.

Papillon picked us up right in front of our hotel, which is what they normally do, and transported us to the Boulder City airport, about 15 minutes from downtown Vegas. We checked in, watched a little safety video, sat waiting for our names to be called and spent the entire time amazed at the incredible variety of countries that were represented in that little airport. Each time they called a group of passengers up, they told what country they were from and, I’m going to just say right here that the United States was pretty poorly represented. Y’all need to get on over to the Grand Canyon!

Finally, they called our names and the names of a lovely family of four from New Zealand who were super-friendly which was a good thing because we spent the entire day together. It was also a good thing because four fit in the back of the helicopter and two in the front and this meant that we got to sit up front where my husband could take approximately 6,902 pictures through the windows. And they were all so good that I agonized over which ones to show you.

We climbed in and the helicopter lifted up as lightly as a butterfly and zoomed forward, where the pilot paused and looked both ways to make sure it was clear, then popped straight up in the air and I was extremely glad I had taken my Bonine.

Lifting off the ground.

Checking for traffic.

We flew forward over Boulder City, which was originally built in 1931 to house the hundreds of workers who created the Hoover Dam and still exists as a lovely little town right outside Vegas.

Boulder City, Nevada

One thing I noticed immediately was the area we were flying over reminded me of the area we had flown over in Hawaii. Our pilot informed us that this is because this area was also created by an ancient lava flow. Parts of Hawaii are formed by brand-new, hot lava but parts looked just like area of Nevada. I found this fascinating.

Ancient lava flow.

Ironically, in the middle of the desert, part of our safety briefing had included information about life vests and we were required to wear them when we were flying. This is because when Hoover Dam was build to dam up the Colorado River, this naturally resulted in some bodies of water forming. We would be flying over them and had to be prepared in case we had to ditch. A highly unlikely scenario.

Coming up on one of the many lakes.

This area has been experiencing a drought for several years and you can really tell this when you see the bodies of water near Hoover Dam.

Check out the lower water level.

Next, we flew over Hoover Dam and had a great view of the new bridge and road they built recently to help with the congestion on the original road over the bridge itself.

Hoover Dam

We flew over more brown and gray and tan desert landscape until, suddenly we saw a trail wending its way through the country. Our pilot told us it was one of the original Mormon wagon train trails. Can you imagine trying to make it through that desolate, rough country in a wagon train?

Wagon Train Trail.

Next, our pilot decided to mess with us and told us that the huge cross we were going to see had, more than likely, been created by aliens to be seen from space. We were all really and he was all no, not really. Duh. It’s actually an old practice landing strip used by WW II fighter pilots. No aliens, but still pretty cool.

Possible alien signal. The description I prefer anyway.

We knew we were getting really close to our ultimate goal when we saw the Colorado River.

Colorado River

One more stomach-fluttering lift up and there it was. The Grand Canyon.

Beginning of the Grand Canyon.

The generous irrigation of the Colorado River causes lush greenery to sprout all along the water’s edge.

Into the Grand Canyon.

The sides of the canyon rose up on either side of us in incredible peaks and formations against the sky.

We have seen golden-red, hot lava pouring into the ocean and a gigantic glacier calving into the sea, but they were nothing compared to this incredible, incredible experience.

However.

Things only got better when we actually landed in the Grand Canyon.

But, you’ll have to wait on that part of the story until my next post.

Gotcha.

OK, I’ll be nice. Here’s a video from Papillon about our experience. Yes, it was just that cool.

 

Full disclosure: Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters provided us with a hosted tour,  but as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.

15 Responses to Flying a Chopper Over the Grand Canyon

  1. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    Thanks for sharing your Grand Canyon adventure! We have visited this area including the Canyon, on land, and it is amazing. Too bad you didn’t get to spend time in the area. Sedona is pretty great too!
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..A Budapest Wine Adventure

  2. Sophie's World

    Funny, I lived in the USA for 5 years, but never managed to get to Grand Canyon. Seeing it from a chopper would be a nice bonus, I think. Also, I wonder what the alien signals might signify 😉

  3. jade

    I’ve always wanted to ride in a helicopter but am a little scared- this seems like the perfect way to overcome that fear while seeing great American landscape. I really love the Grand Canyon
    jade recently posted..Animals we met in Mexico

  4. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy

    What a great adventure. I saw the canyon from the rim so I can’t even imagine how much better it was being in a helicopter.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..9 Things You Didn’t Know About Yellowstone National Park

  5. adventureswithben

    I took a tour over Victoria Falls and loved it. I bet the Grand Canyon was just as great!

  6. The Travel Chica

    I did a helicopter ride through the Royal Gorge. My stomach did a few flip-flops, but it was amazing!
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Learning to Cook in Buenos Aires

  7. Jeremy Branham

    Been to the Grand Canyon but didn’t take the helicopter tour. What a great perspective on the Canyon! Definitely one you can’t get from the edge. You get to see how big and deep it really is!
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Vancouver- TBEX- travel blogging- and my first modeling gig

  8. jamie - cloud people adventures

    like jeremy said, what an amazing perspective of the canyon you must get from up there! i still imagine myself weaving through a canyon in a helicopter all movie-star style. one way to actually do it!
    jamie – cloud people adventures recently posted..Laguna Lachua – Guatemala

  9. Anh Nguyen

    How was walking along the Skywalk? I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon since they built that but heard it was a surreal experience. I’m scared of heights too so not sure how much I’d enjoy it =P.

  10. Norbert

    Ahh, pretty nice. I was looking at these Helicopter tours over the Grand Canyon the other day. I was surprised (well, not so much really) how expensive tour around Las Vegas are!! Still, I think this tour is worth it since the Grand Canyon is pretty impressive.
    Norbert recently posted..5 Additional European Cities To Visit If You Love Architecture

  11. Andrea

    SO jealous! Our biggest regret from our trip to Vegas a couple of years ago was taking a bus trip instead of the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. We were a bit scared of heights and helicopters and it was more expensive but after the ridiculously long bus ride and then only an hour at the Canyon, we realized our mistake. Looks like a fantastic journey!

  12. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    This is so awesome! And exactly what we want to do when we visit the Grand Canyon. We almost went last month, but as it was last-minute we couldn’t fit in everything we wanted, so we just scrapped the plan and decided to go some other time. Jealous! :)
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..The Sea Spirit House in Yachats- OR

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