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Are you thinking about going to Grand Canyon West? If so, you don’t want to miss the Grand Canyon Helicopter and Pontoon tour! This adventure lets you experience the canyon from above AND see it from the bottom.
On the tour, you’ll get to land on the canyon floor and float the Colorado River aboard a pontoon boat. And there’s a surprise on this tour, too – one that will help you always remember your time there.
I got to go on the Helicopter and Pontoon tour a few weeks ago. So I put together this review to show you what it’s like and share my tips to help you have the best experience possible!
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Video: See The Helicopter & Pontoon Tour
In this video, you’ll see what the tour is like, including footage from my time there. I also share eight things to know before you go. (If you only want to see the tour, skip to the four-minute mark.)
Getting There & Directions
The Helicopter and Pontoon tour is at Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai reservation. Once you pass by the security checkpoint, you’ll need to head to the main terminal first. Just look for the structure that resembles a big, white fluffy pillow.
Next, stop off at the information desk inside the main terminal to confirm your flight check-in location. (From time to time, the check-in site changes.) But most days, you’ll go to the Air Ops building for your flight.
The Air Ops building is across the street from the main terminal. It’s easy to find, too – it’s the tan building with the brown trim.
Days Open & Hours
The Grand Canyon West Helicopter and Pontoon tour is available every day of the week. But there are only a maximum of 14 flights each day. So if you want to do this experience, it’s a good idea to book in advance.
- Monday – Sunday
- 9:00 am until 2:00 pm
Helicopter Pontoon Tickets
Grand Canyon West Helicopter Pontoon tickets are sold in 20-minute intervals. For example, you can book a reservation at 11:00 am, 11:20 am, or 11:40 am.
This is not the full length of the tour, though. The entire experience will take you about 45 minutes to an hour. And that includes your flight to the bottom of the canyon, a boat ride on the river, and then flying back to the top.
As of the date of this article, ticket prices are $259 per person (plus sales tax). But the Helicopter Pontoon tour is an add-on experience. So you’ll need to buy a General Admission (GA) ticket for Grand Canyon West AND a Helicopter Pontoon ticket.
Or, if you’re interested in doing the Skywalk too, you can get the Grandest Package, which includes GA, the Helicopter Pontoon tour, and Skywalk. Booking this package will save you money over buying each separately.
You’ll need to check in for your Grand Canyon West Helicopter tour at least 30 minutes before your reservation time. Typically, this is at the Air Ops building. But again, the location can sometimes change, so follow signage or ask the information desk in the main terminal.
At check-in, you’ll step on a scale so that a staff member can record your weight. All seating inside the helicopter is based on weight and balance requirements, so unfortunately, you won’t be able to pick your seat. But no matter where you sit, you’ll have a fantastic view!
Next, you’ll watch a video that goes over the helicopter’s safety features. You’ll also learn how to fasten your seatbelt on the aircraft. Pay close attention here because the seatbelt system is different than on an airplane. And it can be a little confusing when you’re trying to do it fast. (At least it was for me!)
So just remember that one strap goes across your lap, two go over your shoulders, and turn the shiny side of the latch towards your body. But don’t worry; if you need assistance, the ground crew or pilot will help you with your seatbelt.
All cell phones need to be switched to airplane mode before takeoff. You can use electronic devices during the flight to take pictures – so you can bring your cell phone or camera. But, using tablets during the flight is not allowed so that you won’t block the views of other passengers.
Grand Canyon Helicopter And Pontoon Tour
Now for the fun part – getting to the bottom of the canyon! When your flight is announced, you’ll follow the crew member to the tarmac. And then, the ground crew will check again to ensure the right person is in each seat so that the helicopter is balanced.
They don’t give you a headset to wear, so I recommend bringing earplugs and putting them in before you board. And that’s because the chopper’s sound can be a little disorienting when you’re walking out to the aircraft. Also, if you have sensitive ears like me, it can get pretty loud inside the helicopter.
Helicopter Ride To The Bottom
Once everyone has their seatbelts on, it’s time for take-off! Your flight time to the bottom of the canyon is about seven minutes, and you’ll descend 3,500 feet.
The helicopter moves fast across the reservation terrain. And then, all of a sudden, you’ll get to the rim, and the ground falls out beneath you. You’ll fly close to the canyon and see shapes in the rocks, too. Be sure to look for the Skywalk, which will be to your left as you fly out over the rim.
As you get closer to the floor, it’ll look like you’re headed straight for a canyon wall before you bank towards the river. Then you’ll fly along the Colorado and land in a spot you won’t believe! Another ground crew there will assist you in exiting the aircraft.
Getting To The Dock
Once you get off the helicopter, you’ll need to find your way to the boat dock. Don’t worry; there are signs leading the way! To get to the pier, you’ll pass by a picnic table, walk down a few flights of stairs, and then a long ramp will lead you to the pontoon.
It’s a bit of a trek to the boat dock, and you’ll be mainly walking in the dirt. So wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also, walking down to the dock is the easy part, but going back up is harder. So take your time and rest on the way up if you need to!
The pontoon boat has lots of room, and the seating is padded and comfortable. It also doesn’t matter where you sit because, at each seat, you’ll have an unobstructed view of the canyon on at least one side.
But, if you’re the first to the boat, you’ll have your pick of all the seats. So, if that’s the case, I recommend sitting in the front row, so you’ll also get an excellent view of the canyon ahead. And if you want to sit at the bow, you’re welcome to, but fair warning – it’s the splash zone!
Colorado River Pontoon Ride
The boat starts slow but then speeds up and goes pretty fast! It’s so much fun and, surprisingly, a smooth and calm ride. I even have back issues and had zero problems riding in the pontoon. And I sometimes get motion sickness, too, but I didn’t have any issues with that either.
The boat ride is also much more than just a ride on the river. The tour guides are all very skilled and knowledgeable. So while cruising on the Colorado, you’ll get to learn all sorts of interesting things about the Grand Canyon and the Hualapai Tribe, including:
- Canyon fossils
- Hualapai food sources
- Wildlife and types of fish
- Grand Canyon facts
- Colorado River statistics
There are also sandbars in the river that can pop up and change places throughout the day. Rest assured, your tour guide knows how to read the river, and will steer clear. But there is something special about seeing one – your guide might stop the boat and do a photo shoot!
Now, the photo shoot was my favorite part of the tour. (We weren’t expecting it at all!) So when you’re on the Colorado River and close to a sandbar, your tour guide may put the boat in neutral, making it turn slowly in circles.
Each group then gets to go to the front of the boat and have their picture taken. Our guide, Shorty, spent a lot of time with each guest so that everyone could get their “money shot.”
Shorty must’ve taken at least a hundred photos of us from all different angles. And as the boat turns, the scenery behind you changes, too, so you’ll also have different backdrops in your photos.
It’s such a cool keepsake, and so awesome of the guides to take the time to do this. So if you want some photos to remember your pontoon adventure, be sure to bring your phone with you.
Return Helicopter Flight
There’s only one way out of the canyon – another helicopter ride to the top of the rim! So once you’re done with your boat ride, you’ll walk back up the ramp and climb the stairs to the helicopter landing pad.
They give you adequate time to make the trip back, so if you need to stop for a minute, feel free to do so. There are also picnic tables where you can sit down and rest.
You’ll fly out of the canyon opposite to how you came in, so you’ll see even more of the Grand Canyon. I thought the flight back was faster than the way down, and it also took us closer to the canyon walls. It felt like we could reach out and touch the canyon!
Things To Know Before You Go
Here are a few things I hope you’ll find helpful when planning your Grand Canyon Helicopter and Pontoon tour.
Best Times To Go
The shadows are longer in the canyon in the early morning and later afternoon hours. So if you don’t want as many shadows, book a Grand Canyon West Helicopter and Pontoon tour time when the sun is directly overhead. That said, I think having some shadows can be a good thing!
For instance, our Helicopter and Pontoon reservation was at 2:00 pm, but we didn’t take off until around 2:30 pm. Going in the mid-afternoon, I was nervous about how the pontoon photos would turn out because of the shadows. But the colors in our pictures turned out beautifully!
We did have the sun in our eyes on the helicopter ride back, though, so we couldn’t see as much of the canyon once we turned the corner. So if you want to avoid that, go around noon instead. But again, I liked the time frame we booked, and if I went again, I would choose that reservation time because the colors were so vivid.
Regarding the time of year, it can get chilly in the canyon during the winter months and very hot during the summer. So if you want milder temperatures, go during the spring and fall. I went at the end of October, and the weather was perfect.
There is an outhouse near the boat dock at the bottom of the canyon – if you need to go while you’re down there. But I recommend using the restrooms before leaving on your Grand Canyon West Helicopter and Pontoon tour.
You’ll find spacious bathrooms inside the Air Ops building. Or you can head across the street to the main terminal and use the restrooms there. Between the two, I prefer the ones in the Air Ops building. They’re not nearly as crowded and they’re nice and clean, too.
If you want to see everything at Grand Canyon West, it works out well to book the Helicopter and Pontoon tour as your first adventure of the day. Since it’s at the main terminal, you can just hop on the shuttle to go to other parts of the canyon after you’re done.
I like doing it this way because you won’t feel rushed at the other sites or in a hurry to get back for your tour. And you’ll also save time because you won’t have to go back and forth on the shuttle.
Grand Canyon West Helicopter & Pontoon Safety
I’ll admit – I was nervous about going on the helicopter! But my fears quickly subsided when I saw all the safety measures in place. The helicopter company double-checked everything, including our names and weight. And everyone was required to watch a safety video too.
When we walked out to the aircraft, the ground crew ensured each guest was seated in the assigned seat. And before take-off, they checked our seatbelts to make sure we had them on correctly.
Additionally, our pilot was knowledgeable and had a lot of flying experience. He wanted everyone to feel comfortable on the flight – even asking if it was anyone’s first time in a helicopter.
At the bottom of the canyon, another crew helped us exit the aircraft. There were also water jugs and cups at the picnic tables for anyone that needed a drink. And a defibrillator near the boat dock too. (Hopefully, no one will ever need that, but it’s nice to know it’s there, just in case.)
They also have quite a few pontoons on the river and extra staff, so if anything were to happen, a new boat would be on the way shortly!
GRAND CANYON HELICOPTER & PONTOON
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Getting to see the Grand Canyon from the bottom was incredible. Not many people have the opportunity to experience the canyon that way. And sitting on the boat and looking up at it all was one of the best moments of my life.
I was scared to fly in the helicopter, but I’m glad I did it. And although the view from the aircraft was AMAZING, the boat ride was my favorite part. I would do this experience all over again to go on the pontoon. It was so much fun, and the peace I felt that day is something I’ll never forget.
This attraction was a good reminder that sometimes you have to do things that scare you because it’s these moments that make life so fulfilling. So if you’re like me and hesitant to go, please don’t be. If I can do it, you can do it!
And if you’re not nervous, but you’re just wondering if the Grand Canyon Helicopter and Pontoon tour is worth it, it’s SO worth it!