Grand Canyon Ranch

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonMy friends and I always say that the trick to living in Las Vegas (or New York City or Los Angeles…) is getting out of town for weekend getaways like Ojai, South Beach or Napa. But one of my most memorable getaways in the past few months was an even quicker trip, to Grand Canyon Ranch — we left at 4 pm and arrived home early enough the next morning to make it to work almost on time. But it felt like we’d gone to the other side of the world and back. That’s one of the most magical parts about living in Las Vegas — as you fly away the scenery goes from razzle dazzle to miles of nothingness is a blink of an eye. The part of this trip I was most excited about — my very first helicopter ride! My friend and coworker Tiffany had invited me on the overnight to get to see the ranch, as our company has some exciting things planned with them. I couldn’t wait! We both went straight from the office, in high heels and dresses. Our fellow passengers, all in appropriate tourist wear, looked at us like we were nuts. We’ll know for next time!

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonRocketing over the Strip, with the gold MGM buildings sparkling in the sun.

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonFrom a helicopter, even the spectacular Hoover Dam looks small.

Pretty soon, we were flying over nothing but the Southwest’s natural beauty, like this extinct volcano.

Grand Canyon, travel, Las VegasAfter an awesome flight through the Grand Canyon, we landed at the famed Grand Canyon Ranch, near the Canyon’s West Rim. We were picked up in a covered wagon (with a woman driver!) and rode in with the ranch’s owner, the charismatic Nigel Turner, here with Tiffany. Nigel, a British jet-setter with an impressive roster of celebrity friends, fell in love with the Southwest, a passion he pours into this property. He was an amazing host. After just 15 minutes with him, we couldn’t have been more excited for our night! Between the covered wagons, miles of untouched land and smiling happy people, I couldn’t have felt farther from Las Vegas, even though our flight had been less than an hour.

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonAfter an ice-cold beer, the first thing we did was change into sportier attire to get ready for sunset horseback ride through the Joshua Tree forest. Admittedly, I was scared to death, having not ridden a horse since I was a teenager. But I had nothing to worry about. These horses were pros at handling inexperienced rider like me. At sunset, we were treated to a concert by the ranch’s entertainer, Casey, shown here, as we admired wild buffalo, which you can see behind the fence, and toasted with champagne. Also pictured: Boot, who helped me conquer my horse-riding fear. After we returned, we ate an amazing meal and stayed around the table for hours, talking to Nigel and drinking delicious wine. We finished the night singing around the campfire with Casey, the open sky filled with stars.

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonThe cabin where I spent the night. You can also sleep in the teepee shown here in the background!

Grand Canyon Ranch feels like a million miles from Las Vegas.

This beautiful horse came galloping up to tell me, “good morning.”

After a hearty breakfast, we couldn’t have been sadder to be on our way home — even worse, we were headed straight to work. I felt like begging to stay for another week! The Grand Canyon Ranch staff couldn’t have been a happier group of people, so in love with where they got to work every day. It was contagious.

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonAs we wait to board our helicopter for the trip back, Tiffany models the life preserver required by the FAA,  for the trip over the … desert.

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonAfter flying back over the desert, the pilot  telling us of all the John Wayne westerns shot there and real-life adventures of legends like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the lights of Vegas first come into view.

Las Vegas, travel, Grand CanyonArriving home in Las Vegas, we fly over the Strip casinos, including New York, New York, Excalibur, the Luxor and Mandalay Bay.

I could have written a series of posts on the thousands of years worth of history of the ranch at Grand Canyon Ranch alone. I urge you to read more about it, starting here.

For more information and to book a trip, click here.

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. That looks like such a fun night, and I’m sure it was a great getaway from the glam Vegas life. And you look so cute in the first picture!

  2. Ha thanks! Finally moving on from Argentina. 😉 It was an amazing night!

  3. I love the life jacket for flying over the desert. Way to go FAA!

  4. Right? I am all about extra safety measures, but it seemed a little ridiculous! Maybe it was the adrenaline that made me giggle so much!

  5. Great weekend Abby!

    Horse back riding fell in to the “never thought i’d enjoy it as much as I did” catagory for me after I made a trip to a local ranch. Trotting though…. painful for a newbie!

    I’m luvin the scenery too. Riding that as sunset, I’d feel a whole new “wild west persona” over taking me if I was on the same trip.

  6. Haha so glad you get it, Shaun! It was really magical being out there in the real “wild west.” These were actual working cowboys, something that’s sadly starting to disappear. I loved that ranch!

  7. Love this post and I really want to go to this ranch, it sounds incredible. I’m definately going to read the other links you supplied. I had no idea there was an extinct volcano in the desert and that you had to have a life jacket flying over the desert! Good Job as always Abby!!!

  8. Lisa, the history is incredible. I will tell you more, too, next time we talk. I’ll never forget that place!

  9. It sounds soooooo relaxing. I would like to go, oh, NOW. 🙂 Great pics, too!!

  10. Aw, thanks! You can tell which two were taken with my BlackBerry ha.

  11. This is so completely awesome! I’d always thought I might not be able to ride in a chopper due to my claustrophobia, but I went up in a four-seater Cessna piloted by Scott week before last, which was even smaller, so now I might take a stab at the helicopter…someday.

    We wound up skipping the Grand Canyon this past week due to our desire to just get home ASAP, but this is making me wish we didn’t!

  12. A helicopter ride! Great views I imagine, and I also find it difficult to spend those hours in a better way!

  13. I LOVED the helicopter ride — starting with take-off. It felt like a floating car!

  14. Aren’t helicopter rides so much fun? What an awesome adventure!!! Love your pics.

  15. FUN! Was flying in a helicopter scary? I’ve never been, but it looks freaky!

    It’s funny how even the biggest most imposing sceneries in real life, like the Hoover Dam, look toy-like from the air…

  16. You sold me on Grand Canyon Ranch! I’ll be checking out their site for more information. Sounds like Nigel knows how to run a ranch! I’ve only flown once in a helicopter (in Hawaii) — looks like a great way to travel to GCR.

  17. Fun! I want to go on a helicopter ride! Though the rushing back to work thing doesn´t sound so great.

  18. This really knocked me out. I had no idea that there was anything like this available in that area. Definitely going to bookmark the site for the future!

  19. I wasn’t scared at all in the helicopter! Those machines are no joke — smoothest ride, and the pilots knew their stuff.

    Cathy and Linda — you would LOVE it! It’s really special! Let me know if you really do look into going.

  20. I love the desert! Its always so peaceful and beautiful. After reading your experience, I’m so envious you got to explore it from a helicopter! The last time I got to ride in a small aircraft was in a cessna. Its different thrill from riding a commercial airline. Speaking of which, a life preserver in the desert – silly, silly FAA. I hope it can turn into a parachute. Awesome photos, particularly of that blonde horse who ran to you – such a stunning beauty.

  21. “Does it turn into a parachute?” Hilarious — that’s what they need! I love tiny airplanes. I was shocked how different it was than the helicopter, which just sort of hovered and took off. I felt like I was in the Jetsons!

  22. When I first saw the title, I thought you meant the spa Canyon Ranch… This sounds like such a cool, authentic experience!

  23. What an amazing trip! But you should never have to go back to work the same morning you return.

  24. Liz — haha Canyon Ranch would’ve been just as relaxing! Just in a different way… It was an amazing experience.

    Stephanie — I had no idea what I was in for, and then I didn’t want to leave!

  25. I want to go there!! I’ve never been in a helicopter, I think I’d like that part too!

  26. You would LOOOVE it!! So peaceful and, uh, safe. It was amazing. You’d take the most beautiful pictures there!

  27. Damn! I am so jealous right now over that helicopter ride…. 🙂

  28. Helicopter? So jealous Abby!

  29. The helicopter was definitely what I was most looking forward to! And then I got there and Nigel and the ranch were amazing, too…

  30. That horse is so cute!! My biggest Vegas regret is not taking a helicopter over the Grand Canyon (yes, we stupidly took the bus tour because choppers freak us out).

  31. Those chopper pics are pretty sweet! I visited the Canyon a few years ago and loved it. You look beautiful in your first pic, Abby!

  32. Eeeee! The ranch looks so awesome! I’m such a sucker for things like that (even though I’m from Texas, I never tire of the southwest). Thank you so much for sharing the pics from the helicopter! I’ve always wondered that that looked like.

  33. What a fantastic getaway. It doesn’t matter if you live in a huge city or small village, a break always does you a world of good.

  34. That sounds like a great 12 hours getaway! I was scared too in Nicaragua when I got on a horse again after 10 years. But I only needed a little time to get used to again and totally loved it! I think that its like riding a bike, you never forget how it works even though you didn’t practice for a long time!

  35. Andrea!! The helicopters weren’t scary at all actually. Those are some hefty machines!

    Erica, me, too… We stayed up late talking about New Mexico, Texas and the rest of the Southwest. I never tire of it either.

    Oh, Ryan, I need another getaway like that now!

    Seba — I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one scared. My friend was more scared of the ‘copter and thought I was nuts. Nigel had my back: “These helicopters are million dollar machines, and those horses have a mind of their own!” Exactly!!

  36. Awww thank you, Charu! The Grand Canyon is pretty magical, right?

  37. Wow this is gorgeous! Wonderful pictures 🙂

  38. Thank you, Angela!!

  39. I love seeing things from the air (but I’ve never been on a helicopter ride– something to do soon, for sure). Fun getaway!

  40. This looks like so much fun! I’m definitely going to have to give it a try some day. Would love to cover it for my blog too!

  41. FUN! I’ve never been in a helicopter either! I’ve been to Vegas and the Grand Canyon though, but not a ranch. When I come visit maybe we can go? 🙂 haha

  42. That is so cool!!! That is something I have wanted to do since I got here… it really is crazy how you can REALLY get out of Vegas so quickly.

    I love that the FAA requires a life preserver as you fly over the desert. Classic.


  43. Sometimes the hour ride to Mt. Charleston seems like a drag, but it really is SO fast and easy to get out of Vegas!!

    Cailin, when are you visiting?!

  44. Well that’s an awesome little getaway! The helicopter ride alone looks amazing 🙂

  45. It was! I was most excited for that actually — and had no idea the fun night I had in front of me at the actual ranch!

  46. Ooh, sounds like you had a fab outing. And choppers are such fun, aren’t they…

  47. I had a blast!

  48. Leslie Gargan says:

    Nigel, John, Mauri

    Well done!!!


  49. Thank you, Leslie! Your men look great! 😉

  50. I would LOVE to do this one day. (BTW – Are you heading to Europe for TBU?)

  51. I completely, 100% agree with that first statement- so true! Looks like you had a fun time, I’d love to see the grand canyon from the air like that!

  52. From helicopter to covered wagon in one day = fun! And the life preserver required for the desert is hilarious!

  53. so jealous

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