Grand Canyon Coaches' West Rim Bus, Helicopter And Boat Tour
Grand Canyon Coaches' Grand Canyon West Rim Bus, Heli and Boat tour is an all-time favorite for travelers who want to leave nothing on the table when it comes to experiencing the National Park.
This is an all-day adventure that departs Las Vegas around 7:30 a.m. Pick up is usually around 5:45 a.m., so make sure you set the alarm clock or get a wake-up call from the front desk.
Grand Canyon West is 120 miles from Las Vegas. Drive time is 2.5 hours. The drive heads east from The Strip, exits Green Valley, cuts through Boulder City, skirts Lake Mead (the largest man-made reservoir in the U.S.) and pulls over at Hoover Dam for a photo stop (15 minutes).
Pressing on from Hoover, you'll cut through an impressive mountain range. The Colorado River is on your right hand side, and you'll see it here and there with the best view being at Willow Beach in Arizona.
Out of the mountains, it's smooth sailing until you turn off on the Pierce Ferry Road. By now, you're surrounded by the Mojave Desert, and you'll even cross through an ancient stand of Joshua Trees. The last segment of the drive is on the Diamond Bar Road, 10 miles of which are unpaved (God bless you who self drive!).
Diamond Bar ends at the entrance to Grand Canyon West. The bus will take you to the heliport where you'll board one of Papillon's many helicopters. Upon buckling up, you'll vertically lift off and begin the 4,000-foot descent to the bottom. This is an amazing flight that is only permitted at the West Rim.
Takes about 10-15 minutes to land on the bottom at one of Papillon's helipads. A Hualapai Indian guide will assist you off the aircraft and direct you to the trail that leads to the boat dock. It's a gently sloping trail that practically anyone in average physical condition can do.
The boat dock is right off the bank of the Colorado River. You'll hop aboard one of the Tribe's steel-pontoon boats and cruise up river for about 15 minutes before the river pilot cuts the engines and lets the watercraft drift back to the dock. The sound of the river churning against the canyon's walls is one of life's greatest pleasures.
I always tell friends, family and readers to take their time walking back to the chopper. It's not everyday your at the bottom of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Now's also a good time to get those pictures you missed, including one of the helicopter as it starts up.
The flight to the top is just as incredible as the descent. You'll pass a variety of surreal buttes, spires, and side canyons. I usually find that it's during the ascent where I really come to terms with the fact that the canyon is Herculean in scale.
Back on terra firma, you'll shuttle over to the Grand Canyon West visitor complex and start the guided rim-top portion of the trip. As you can see, this trip has many "parts." Yet every time I do it, Papillon pulls it off to perfection.
I recommend checking out Eagle Point and the Grand Canyon Skywalk complex. This tour doesn't include the glass bridge. If you want that one, click here. Anyhow, Eagle Pt. is adjacent to the Skywalk and affords some tremendous views. Just be careful - there are no guardrails.
Then it's off to Guano Point, which is also know as the "Bat Cave" because it's home to a now-closed bat guano mine. It seems crazy now to start a mine there but at the time guano was an in-demand material for fertilizer. Guano Pt. offers 360-degree view of the canyon and the Colorado River. It's also where you'll enjoy your complimentary BBQ-style lunch that's prepared by the Tribe.
In most cases, you'll have time to explore the Rim. There's plenty to check out, but there's a couple of places that you'll definitely want to visit. The first is the Indian Cultural Center, which is a re-creation of an Hualapai Indian Village. The other is the outdoor amphitheater, which is where the tribe performs native dances and songs. Lastly, there's the Hualapai Ranch, a western town where you can mock gun battles (it's also the final place for lunch if you pass on Guano Pt.).
Then it's back on the bus to Las Vegas. You'll return the way you came, and, depending on the time of year you visit Grand Canyon West, you'll be treated to a fabulous sunset. Otherwise, most people use this time to relax, nap, look at their photos or enjoy the view outside.
Total tour time: 12.5 hours
Grand Canyon West
The West Rim is located at Grand Canyon West. The destination is located entirely on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, which encompasses more than 1 million acres of untouched Mojave Desert. Right now, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is the main attraction. However, the tribe has big plans for the area and is proposing to build several hotels, restaurants, deluxe visitor lounges and a tram that will go from the top of the rim to the bottom.
The West Rim is a land of extremes. It's hot and rough out there. Further, you're on the bus for more than 12 hours. Getting on-board a deluxe bus is mission number one. These state-of-the-art vehicles come with oversized viewing windows, industrial A/C, recliner-style seats, clean bathrooms and a quiet-ride suspension system that makes you feel like your hovering over the hiway. The goal is to arrive back at The Strip feeling refreshed and energized so you can continue your Vegas vacation without missing a beat.
I'm still chatting with people who are under the impression that buying this bus tour is cheaper when they get into Las Vegas. Folks, disabuse yourselves of that notion. It's patently untrue. Instead, buy your coach trip on the Internet. Moreover, buy it direct from the tour operator! I know, it sounds illogical, but it's true. It's on the sites of tour operators where I find discounts up to 30% on a regular basis. But remember: in order to get that Internet price, you've got to buy it on the Internet. One last tip: don't wait until the last minute. This bus package is super popular and sells out all the time. To book it, RSVP at least a week to three days ahead of time.
Have a Grand Day,
P.S. This particular Grand Canyon tour sells out fast during high season, which runs from April through November. I urge you to consider booking in advance as it will guarantee you a seat. Reserve this special Grand Canyon bus tour now