I get lots of folks via live chat asking me for an alternative to taking the bus to the Grand Canyon Skywalk
. Nearly 99.9 percent of the time I'll recommend taking the plane. There are a lot of reasons for this so I'll keep this article short and to the point.
The first big differentiator is price. Few know this but airplane tours are cheap. Especially compared to helicopter tours, which are twice as expensive. More impressive is the fact that planes are just $75 more than taking the bus!
Of course, each mode of transport has its advantages and disadvantages. Helicopters, for example, fly at a lower altitude while buses include a Hoover Dam photo stop. Looking at the big picture, though, these differences are minor compared to the value the Skywalk airplane delivers.
The plane takes off daily and approximately on the hour throughout the day. The departure point will be from the Boulder City Municipal Airport, a Las Vegas suburb that's 20 minutes by shuttle.
Once in the air, you'll fly over Lake Mead and Hoover Dam (yes, you'll be able to take pictures of both). Then it's off to Grand Canyon West. Total flight time to the West Rim is about 30 minutes, which is about 15 or so minutes faster than going by helicopter.
Landing is at the Grand Canyon West Airport. There you'll hop a shuttle to the Grand Canyon Skywalk visitor complex. This building is quite large and impressive. There's always a long line to access the Skywalk but this doesn't apply to you because this tour package includes VIP tickets that let you cut to the front
(Note: During the summer months it's not uncommon for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees. Winter months can carry a pretty decent wind chill. During these times you'll truly appreciate the VIP access included in the trip).
Inside the complex you'll put protective cotton "booties" over your feet in order to prevent scratching the $250,000 glass panels that form the deck. Words can't really describe the feeling one gets walking 70 feet past the edge because it's so exhilarating. By the time you reach the furthermost point, you'll be standing 4,000 feet over the bottom. More Skywalk info here.
Most visitors spend about 30 minutes on the Skywalk then head back to terra firma. However, if you decide to spend the entire 3 hours allotted to exploring the West Rim on the bridge, go for it. However, I think you'll benefit more by exploring some of the Rim's terrific landmarks.
West Rim Lookouts
The #1 lookout is called Eagle Point. It's just south of the Skywalk and offers tremendous views of the Canyon. Please be careful near the edge, as there are no "true" guardrails. The other lookout worth doing is Guano Point, the former site of a bat guano mine and a great place to see the Colorado River. Go here for more about the West Rim
Lot's of folks ask me about the size of the airplane. It's a great question. The planes used hold up to 19 passengers and are completely customized to deliver the best sightseeing experience possible by featuring large cabins, oversized windows, multi-lingual trip narratives and wings attached to the top of the aircraft so you can see everything outside and under the plane.
The Skywalk Airplane tour is all-inclusive. That means that pick up and drop off at your Las Vegas hotel is free. This is a huge convenience because self-driving through Vegas these days can be nightmarish! Also included is a BBQ lunch (vegetarian can be requested) prepared by the Hualapai Tribe, as well as all taxes and fees (a/k/a fixed price) & VIP access to the Skywalk. In other words, there are no "surprises."
The Skywalk airplane tour from Las Vegas is one of Sin City's best trip values. The flight over is just 30 minutes. Plus it includes a VIP pass that lets you cut to the front of the line to do the Skywalk (this is a BIG deal!). You get up to 3 hours to explore the West Rim, including the Skywalk. It's an all-inclusive package (free lunch, hotel shuttle service, taxes/fees/Skywalk pass) so the price is fixed. In my opinion, this tour is an incredible value. Just make sure to book it at least 72 hours in advance or it might be sold out.
Have a GRAND day,