Out here in the Southwest, winter is in full effect. Thus if you plan to take a Grand Canyon helicopter tour anytime soon, make sure you bundle up. For the most part, days are clear and crisp, but at times it can be downright cold.
"Cold" is a relative term. During the day over here in Nevada and Arizona, you can expect high temps during the day to reach into the 60's. Sometimes it freezes at dawn, but it's more the exception than the rule.
Having said that, I urge you not to drop your guard. If you are headed over to the South Rim from Las Vegas, do yourself a favor and don't come in shorts and sandals. I've seen people arrive like that and all it's going to do is cut into the "enjoyablity" of your trip.
My recommendation is to give the 10-day weather forecast a good read and be conservative when it comes to predicting cold weather. Even though helicopters can maintain a nice, toasty in-cabin temperature, I still say 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.
Bottom line is pack for comfort. In my case, I like to dress using layers. That means a t-shirt, a sweater and a light or middleweight jacket depending on the rim I'm going to visit that day. I'm also bringing gloves, a hat, sunglasses and lip balm. If I'm feeling functionally stylish, the scarf is coming with me.
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 when you land and exit the aircraft, which will be either the bottom or top of the West Rim.
Please be aware that helicopters from Las Vegas don't fly to the South Rim. It's just too far. Thus you have two options: Bus or airplane. On average, it takes the bus 5 1/2 hours to reach the South Rim. The airplane takes all of 60 minutes. I think you can probably tell which option I'm going with (the airplane).
Now, like helicopters, airplanes are climate controlled, too. Not quite comparable to what you get in a helicopter but comfortable all the same. It's when you deplane at Tusayan, home of Grand Canyon National Park Airport, that you suck it up and enter a climate that's nothing like Vegas'. And it's here where I recommend you consider taking a nice, tidy pair of pull-on 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 analogy but I hope you'll cut me some slack.
I hope I gave you an idea of what to anticipate when taking a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon. Please remember that the West Rim is much different than the South. The former is cold and windier (bring a windbreaker) and the later is much cooler and there's always a possibility that there could be some snow on the ground. In regards to flying on a helicopter, that's a great choice. These aircraft are an excellent way to get into the heart of the canyon, and I'm confident you'll feel as enthusiastic about them as I do once you are back on terra firma.
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