Las Vegas Sightseeing – The Two Best Grand Canyon South Rim Airplane Tours

Las Vegas Sightseeing – The Two Best Grand Canyon South Rim Airplane Tours

The Grand Canyon is larger than life. It’s 190 miles long, averages a mile deep, and covers 1,900 square miles. On foot, you will see just a fraction of this natural wonder. For those serious about tackling this geological beast, the only real option is to take an airplane tour.

I know of only two tours that truly get the job done. One’s called Grand Canyon Deluxe and the other Grand Discovery. Both are operated by Grand Canyon Airlines. Here are specifics:

Grand Canyon Deluxe

This flight departs from Las Vegas, NV, and it’s the only air tour that goes direct to the South Rim. It takes 45 minutes to reach the Park. The trip is conducted aboard a fixed-wing Vistaliner, an aircraft that has been fitted with over-sized windows for sightseeing (and photos!) and an enlarged cabin for comfort. Optional in-flight pre-recorded tour narration in multiple languages is offered. The flight pretty much follows the Colorado River east. You’ll fly over Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., and Hoover Dam, the second largest dam in the nation, before touching down at Grand Canyon Airport. Here, you’ll deplane and board a luxury bus to the South Rim. This tour will include a stop at Mather Point, the rim’s best viewpoint, before going to Bright Angel Lodge where there are a number of great gift shops and restaurants. You can book this trip at $ 190 for adults and $ 170 for kids (these are discount Internet prices). Total trip time is eight hours.

Grand Discovery

Leaves from Grand Canyon Airport, Tusayan, AZ. The airport is only 10 minutes from the National Park’s main entrance. Many consider this the tour that “defined” airplane trips above the Park. Conducted on a Vistaliner, it departs daily and heads east, crossing Zuni Point and the Zuni Corridor where you’ll see the Desert Watchtower, the Painted Desert, and the Navajo Indian Reservation. The flight returns along the North Rim past Imperial Point, the highest point in the canyon, to the Dragoon Corridor, the widest, deepest part of the Canyon before making an exhilarating descent over the Kaibab Plateau. There are no bad seats on this tour. Price is $ 120 for adults and $ 98 for children. Air time is 50 minutes.

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between the South Rim and the West Rim. Here are some facts that clarify the two places:

South Rim

The South Rim is located in the heart of Northern Arizona some 277 miles east of Las Vegas. From Phoenix, it’s a four-hour drive, and, from Sedona, AZ, it’s a two-hour one. Many travelers refer to this part of the canyon as being the most authentic. In fact, most of the pictures you’ve probably seen of the Park were taken here. It’s famous for its viewpoints (Mather Point, Yaki Point, Hermit’s Rest), trails (Bright Angel, South Kaibab), and gift shops (Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge, Kolb Studio). From Las Vegas, two types of tours regularly go here: Bus (a 5.5-hour drive) and airplane (a 45-minute flight).

West Rim

This rim is just a mere 120 miles from Las Vegas. It lies slightly beyond the National Park’s official boundaries. It’s home to the world-famous Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge that extends 70 feet past the edge and suspends guests 4,000 above the Colorado River. In addition, this rim is the ONLY place where you can ride a helicopter to the bottom. There are several ways to get here from Las Vegas: Bus (2.5 hours), helicopter (45 minutes), and airplane (25 minutes). Please note that there are no direct airplane tours between the West Rim and the South Rim and vice versa.

I’ve experienced the South Rim bus and airplane tours from Las Vegas. I highly recommend the Grand Canyon airplane tour. It may cost a bit more, but you’ll get to the canyon faster as well as arriving more energetic and ready to go. Equally important is that by taking an airplane flight you get back to Las Vegas in time for your evening plans. As for flights that originate from South Rim, AZ, the Grand Discovery tour is far and away the best value. I can assure you that what you see in 50 minutes would take days on the ground. That’s not an exaggeration. The price, too, is spot on. So get your carry-on and make sure you’ve got your camera – it’s time to hit the skies and enjoy the Grand Canyon to its fullest.

Ready to take a Grand Canyon airplane flight from Las Vegas, NV? Check out travel expert Keith Kravitz tour operator reviews first at

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