Grand Canyon National Park enjoying record visitation and travelers are being urged to book their tour soon in order to pick from the best ones at the lowest prices.
"Usually, winter is the time of the year when it's slow, " said Keith Kravitz, owner of Grand Canyon Tours. “But January 2015 has been incredible in terms of the number of folks visiting the Canyon. "
Most trips begin from Las Vegas or South Rim, AZ, the typical starting point for visitors heading up from Phoenix/Scottsdale, Williams, Sedona and Flagstaff. “It's just a 3.5-hour drive to the Canyon from the Phoenix metroplex and much of it is done through some very beautiful Arizona scenery, " said Kravitz.
From Las Vegas, visitors can go to Grand Canyon West, which is 125 miles east of town, and Grand Canyon South, which requires a 5.5-hour drive but can also be completed in 1 hour by airplane. “Going to the South Rim is usually determined by the amount of time it takes to get there, " said Kravitz. “Nowadays, most are choosing the 60-minute direct airplane tour. "
The preferred Vegas tours are done by helicopter, which go to the top or bottom of the National Park. “The runaway favorite is the trip that lands on the bottom for a Champagne picnic and a picnic, " noted Kravitz. “Then there's the one that extends that package to include a Colorado River boat ride plus a VIP ticket to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. "
The Skywalk is Vegas’ most famous outdoor attraction. Made of glass, the platform lets visitors walk 70 feet across the edge until the bottom of the Canyon is 4,000 feet beneath the surface of the structure. “It's an incredible experience and the views are simply unmatchable, " said Kravitz.
Travelers should be advised that Las Vegas helicopters only fly to the West Rim because the South is too far. Further, these particular flights are the only ones that land at the bottom; flying below the rim and landing is banned at that South Rim by the National Park Service (NPS).
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At South Rim, there are 30-minute and 50-minute helicopter trips. The faster one goes form Grand Canyon South to the North Rim and back. Before landing, it journeys through the Dragoon Corridor, the widest and deepest section of the Canyon. The 50-minute flight does the same and it also includes everything up to the Park's east border with extra time over the isolated North Rim.
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Plane tours can be found from Las Vegas and the South Rim. Generally, Vegas airplanes resemble choppers in that they offer opportunities for travelers to land at the top and bottom of the Canyon. “The trip that's getting a lot of attention is the one that lands at the top of the West Rim and comes with a helicopter ride to the bottom, " said Kravitz. “For the super-adventurous, this package can be extended with a boat ride down the Colorado River. "
Chopper rides often sell out because they are limited to six or seven people per aircraft. Planes, by comparison, support 19 people, which means more seats can be found for less money. “It's always wise to consider an airplane tour if helicopter tours are booked solid, which is quite common, " said Kravitz.
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Las Vegas bus tours are very popular with budget travelers. Trips leave once daily in the morning and go to either the West Rim or the South Rim. Overall tour time for these journeys is 13 hours for the West and 15 hours for the South. “Be prepared to spend an entire day on these Vegas bus tours, " said Kravitz. “Typical return time to The Strip is between 8 p. m. and 9 p. m. so avoid making dinner or entertainment plans that night. "
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