Aerial view of the Grand Canyon's South Rim .

Aeriel view of the South Rim taken during a flight heading north. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.

To see the canyon by helicopter or plane, you need to start outside the park. Grand Canyon Airport is in the town of Tusayan, although many tours originate from airports in the Las Vegas area and fly to the Hualapai Reservation (Grand Canyon West). Be sure to clarify if you’re seeking a flight over Grand Canyon versus to the canyon. Grand Canyon over-flights are strictly regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and are confined to particular areas and routes that exclude the central canyon. Even after being restricted to the western and eastern ends of the canyon, there are nearly 100,000 air tours annually—plenty of options for those who want to fly over the canyon, and plenty of irritation for those who prefer natural quiet in national parks.

Keep in mind as you shop for a tour that canyon over-flight routes are limited, so your decision will factor in convenient scheduling, customer service, and what kinds of tour package features you’d like in addition to flights. Aircraft also vary in comfort, quiet, and visibility. Flights via helicopter, which fly slower and lower, are generally more expensive than fixed-wing flights. Air tours start around $150 per person, with longer combination tours topping out around $400-600 per person. Most companies discount rates for children.

  • Grand Canyon Airlines (928/638-2359, 800/528-2413) offers options combining fixed-wing flights with helicopter flights, smooth-water rafting, and land tours. Tours are available in several languages.
  • Grand Canyon Helicopters (702/835-8477, 800/541-4537) offers tours in several languages. Charter flights and custom itineraries are also available.
  • Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters (702/736-7243, 800/528-2418) offers a wide selection of destinations and tours, including package tours with rafting, motorcycle, and Jeep options. Tours are offered in several languages in addition to English.
  • Maverick Airlines (702/405-4300, 800/962-3869) tours depart from the Las Vegas area and travel to the South Rim or to the Hualapai Reservation’s West Rim, the location of the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
  • Maverick Helicopters (928/638-2622, 800/962-3869) offers the Canyon Spirit tour departing from the Grand Canyon Airport, as well as a wide range of tours and charters originating in Las Vegas, Scottsdale, and other locations.
  • Vision Airlines (800/256-8767) has packages combining air/ground transportation from Las Vegas to the South Rim. One of their packages includes an over-flight of the West Rim.
  • Westwind Aviation (480/991-5557, 800/869-0866) offers canyon over-flights, charters, and other tour options.

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Grand Canyon.