The Grand Canyon, a colossal chasm carved by the meandering Colorado River, presents an otherworldly landscape that draws visitors from all corners of the globe. Exploring this geological masterpiece from the sky offers an unrivaled vantage point.

Helicopter tours provide a bird’s-eye view of the canyon’s dramatic vistas, but with four distinct rims to choose from, deciding where to take off can be as daunting as the canyon is deep.

Quick Answer: Best Rim for a Helicopter Tour

  • South Rim: The classic Grand Canyon experience with the most varied tour options.
  • West Rim: Best for those short on time, with options to land at the bottom.
  • North Rim: Offers a remote and less-traveled perspective (seasonal access).
  • East Rim: Less popular for helicopter tours but close to iconic landmarks like Horseshoe Bend.

The Grand Aerial Panorama: Choosing Your Rim

Embarking on a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon isn’t just about seeing a natural wonder; it’s about storytelling, where each rim narrates a different chapter of this majestic landscape. Here’s how to choose your aerial odyssey.

The South Rim: A Panoramic Tapestry

The South Rim is often synonymous with the Grand Canyon itself. It’s the most visited section, and for a good reason. This rim boasts an array of well-known lookout points and a depth of tour options that cater to both first-time visitors and returning enthusiasts.

Helicopter Highlights:

  • Expansive Coverage: South Grand Canyon helicopter tours often extend to both the eastern and central regions of the canyon, offering a comprehensive view of the park’s most iconic scenery.
  • Historical Context: With narration by experienced pilots, you’ll get insights into the geological and cultural history of the sights below.
  • All-Season Access: Unlike other rims, helicopter tours operate year-round, allowing for flexibility in travel planning.

The West Rim: Thrills Above & Below

Closest to Las Vegas, the West Rim is ideal for travelers looking to blend the glitz of the city with the grandeur of nature. The Hualapai Nation operates this portion of the canyon and has developed unique attractions like the Skywalk, a glass bridge that hangs over the canyon.

Helicopter Highlights:

  • Landing Tours: Unique to the West Rim, some tours descend 4,000 feet to the canyon floor, a privilege that’s off-limits at other rims.
  • Skywalk Proximity: Many Grand Canyon West Rim helicopter rides offer packages that include a stop at the Skywalk, adding an extra dimension to your adventure.
  • Rapid Retreat: It’s the best choice for those with limited time, offering shorter flights that still capture the essence of the Grand Canyon.

The North Rim: A Secluded Spectacle

The North Rim presents the Grand Canyon at its most serene and untamed. Open from May to October, it attracts a fraction of the South Rim’s crowds, appealing to those seeking solitude and unspoiled scenery.

Helicopter Highlights:

  • Exclusive Views: The higher elevation provides a unique perspective, with lush forests framing the canyon’s rugged edges.
  • Tranquil Tours: With fewer helicopters in the air, tours over the North Rim can feel more private and personalized.
  • Seasonal Splendor: Autumn tours reveal a kaleidoscope of colors as the foliage transforms, offering a stunning contrast to the canyon’s hues.

The East Rim: A Rare Route

The East Rim is something of a misnomer; it’s not officially designated as part of the Grand Canyon National Park but includes nearby attractions like Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. Helicopter tours here are less common but can be combined with other aerial tours of the region.

Helicopter Highlights:

  • Exclusive Attractions: Flight paths may include views of the Little Colorado River confluence and the majestic Marble Canyon.
  • Beyond the Bend: Tours might extend to iconic bends in the river, most notably the Horseshoe Bend, a sightseeing highlight.

Factors to Consider

Accessibility & Proximity

Consider your starting point. The West Rim is closest to Las Vegas, while the South Rim is accessible from cities like Flagstaff or Phoenix.

Time Constraints

If your schedule is tight, the West Rim offers the quickest turnaround. The South Rim is best for those who have more time to delve into the Canyon’s grandeur.


As one might expect, the price of Grand Canyon helicopter tour isn’t cheap. Tours with various departure points and options start at around $200 and go all the way up to $600 per person.

Desired Experience

Adrenaline-seekers may prefer the West Rim for the unique bottom-landing experience. The South Rim’s extensive flights cater to those seeking educational narratives alongside stunning views.

The Views Unveiled

Each rim provides a distinct visual story. The South Rim is replete with landmark features and panoramic vistas. The West Rim offers a raw and immersive experience, with the opportunity to touch the ancient ground. The North Rim dazzles with its elevated, lush landscapes and quieter atmosphere, while the East Rim can offer sights of lesser-known but equally awe-inspiring terrains.


The North Rim’s seasonal access means that for a significant portion of the year, it’s not an option. The South Rim’s all-year access ensures a helicopter tour is almost always available.

The Verdict: Which Rim Reigns Supreme?

While “best” is subjective, the South Rim often takes the crown for the best Grand Canyon chopper tours due to its combination of accessibility, variety of views, and year-round availability. However, for those looking for a unique experience like landing at the bottom of the canyon, the West Rim is unparalleled.

Conclusion: Your Grand Canyon, Your Choice

In the quest for the best helicopter tour, aligning your expectations with each rim’s offerings is key.

Whether you seek the comprehensive South Rim experience, the convenience and adventure of the West Rim, the solitude of the North Rim, or the unique vistas of the East Rim, your choice will ascend beyond mere sightseeing—it will soar into the realm of the unforgettable.

The Grand Canyon from above is not just a journey over a natural monument but a flight through history, geology, and the very spirit of the American landscape.