Grand Canyon Helicopter Trips Over the Winter Season

Travel & LeisureOutdoors

  • Author Susan Bissonnette
  • Published November 17, 2013
  • Word count 772

Out here in the Southwest, winter is in full effect. So if your plans are slated to include a Grand Canyon helicopter ride, make sure to dress warmly. Lately, the weather has been cool, crisp and wonderful, but there have been times when it's gotten cold.

I guess you could say "cold" takes on a different meaning out here. During the day over here in Nevada and Arizona, you can expect high temps during the day to reach into the 60's. At dawn, there can be freezing temperatures but that's not all that common.

Now that I've said that, please don't get lackadaisical. For instance, the South Rim during winter is not a place for shorts and flip flops. Believe it or not I've seen folks from Las Vegas arrive up here like that. The cold starts nipping at them and before you know it they sprint back to the bus.

My recommendation is to give the 10-day weather forecast a good read and be conservative when it comes to predicting cold weather. The best helicopter feature superb climate control in the cabin but you'll want to still be prepared.

Just how prepared you are will be based on the rim that you visit. The West Rim, for example, is warmer than the South Rim (elevation 7,000 feet). In fact, expect the weather at the West Rim to be a lot like that you'd find in Las Vegas, except possibly a little colder and windier.

The key thing is to pack for comfort. In my case, I like to dress using layers. By that I mean I start with a t-shirt underneath everything, then a shirt, a thick sweater and a jacket. Of course, this depends on which Rim I plan to visit and what I plan to do there. Bringing a hat, gloves, lip balm and gloves are also essential to having a great experience. Scarves are a nice addition and work great to keep the cold out.

I touched on sandals earlier in the article. You might barely be able to use them in Vegas, but it's just not a good idea when visiting the canyon. You'll begin to notice that it was a bad idea when you walk outdoors from check-in to your helicopter. Things become really apparent for those taking a tour that lands at either the top or bottom of the canyon -- that's when you wish you had some socks. The actual moment, however, comes once you deplane, which is either the top or the bottom of the West Rim.

Please be aware that helicopters from Las Vegas don't fly to the South Rim. It's just too far. This leaves you with two options: airplane and bus. On average, it takes the bus 5 1/2 hours to reach the South Rim. By contrast, the airplane takes 60 minutes. You can probably tell which option I'm leaning toward

Just like helicopters, airplanes, too, come with awesome climate control. Not quite comparable to what you get in a helicopter but comfortable all the same. It's whenever you deplane at Tusayan, which is where the Grand Canyon Airport is located, that you suck it up and enter an environment that's nothing like Las Vegas'. And it's here where I suggest you consider taking a pair of personal ice cleats, as there might be ice at some of the key lookout points.

Incidentally, I was checking out the Mather Point lookout at South Rim last year. Ice was on the steps to the lookout and on the lookout itself. The Park Service staff did there best to prevent slipping by throwing salt on the ice. All the same, I had my pull-on ice cleats with me and was very happy that I packed them because I had total piece of mind walking over that stuff. In fact, I was like walking about on a calm summer day without a care in the world. Not my greatest example but I hope you'll cut me some slack.

I hope I gave you an idea of what to anticipate when going for a helicopter trip to Grand Canyon National Park. Take note that the West Rim is very different from the South Rim. The former is windier and cold (bring a windbreaker) and the later is much cooler and there’s always a chance that there could be some snow. In regards to flying on a helicopter, that's a great choice. These aircraft are a very good way to get into the heart of the canyon, and I’m confident you’ll feel as passionate about them as I do once you are back on the ground.

Travel editor Susan B. is an authority on Grand Canyon helicopter flights. She suggests visiting this site for a list of the best and safest air tour operators and here for some awesome discounts:

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