Vegas to Grand Canyon excursion worth the early rise

Abby TegneliaDo I look like I’ve been up since 3:45 am? Let me tell you — it was worth it! Because I managed to drag myself to the airport by 5:30 am to meet up with Papillon helicopters by late morning, I got to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon as I flew from Boulder City, Nevada (20 minutes from my house in Las Vegas) to the South Rim. And that was before I got to experience the Canyon in two very different ways. In fact, this unique excursion on Papillon proved to be such an exciting, fun-filled day that I forgot to be tired. As far as day trips go, this was the best of the best! This was my third visit to the world-famous national park; each was special in its own way, but this one was definitely the most exhilarating. And did I mention it was brand-new? I love being among the first to try anything!

Like I said, my little group of Las Vegans met at the Boulder City airport at 5:30 am. There, we boarded a private plane, my third private flight in a very short amount of time. My life is definitely in a strange phase. I’m getting spoiled!

Papillon Grand Canyon


It was very early in the morning, but we were all smiles!

Marina Nicole Vox Solid

Marina arranged our day trip on behalf of Papillon. She’s the best!


The sunrise was stunning — first the light came up over Boulder City, and then Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.

Papillon Grand Canyon Tours

Sunrise over Lake Mead.


Then, finally we saw the early morning sun shed light on the magnificent Grand Canyon.

Papillon Grand Canyon Tours


After we landed near the South Rim of the Canyon, we ate breakfast and headed to the heli-pads. I love helicopter rides! My first time was also in the Grand Canyon, when I went to Grand Canyon Ranch, which is on the way from Vegas to the West Rim. The helicopters were bigger on that tour, and we all wore headsets with microphones so we could chat with the pilot. At Papillon, the recorded tour seemed a bit impersonal, but I’m sure the tourists we had in our ‘copter enjoyed the Dutch recording that was offered! They had every language. It is so cool to see the Canyon like that — I really couldn’t recommend the helicopter any more.

Papillon helicopters

Dorky tourist pic with my friend Zeke Quezada, wearing our fanny pack life jackets.


Lucky for me, I got shotgun! It was just me, the pilot, and unobstructed views of the Grand Canyon.

Papillon helicopters


Enjoy some of late morning shots I got of the South Rim!

Papillon helicopters


Papillon helicopters


But our day was only halfway done! Stay tuned…

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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. What a day! And THREE private jets. What the what?

  2. Great photos, Abby! I love the one of the sun just touching the tops of the canyon.

  3. That is also my favorite, even though the detail didn’t really come through on my cheap camera. But I LOVE that light!

  4. Wow what an amazing experience!!!!!! Awesome pics!

  5. This sounds amazing! What a great way to experience all that beauty… You deserved it for getting up that early!

  6. Now that is the way I want to see the Grand Canyon, how spectacular!

  7. Fantastic bird’s eye view…wow!

  8. No, you don’t look like you’d been up since 3:45 — you look fabulous! What an exciting excursion and great way to see the Grand Canyon. You lucky girl….

  9. Ahhhh … this makes me miss the beauty of the southwest SO much. What a cool experience, even though I am terrified of helicopters. Can’t wait to read the second part of the story!!

  10. Another private jet AND a helicopter ride? You definitely are getting spoiled! The views are beautiful.

  11. Wow. The Grand Canyon is beautiful any time, but it’s really gorgeous in the early morning light, isn’t it?

  12. Um, this looks amazing! I’m doing a helicopter ride over the strip when I get to Vegas… very different views but I think will still be amazing 🙂

  13. You are going to love it!!

  14. Confession, I’ve never been in a helicopter. I think over the Grand Canyon may be the perfect spot to correct that. Can’t wait for part 2!

  15. Oh man that is some serious photography opportunities! Looks like a fabulous time!

  16. Wow wow wow. The Grand Canyon is one of my top things to see – and this looks like a hell of a way to see it!

  17. What a stunning way to see the grand canyon. We visited the canyon from Vegas a couple of years ago and I wish we could have experienced it like this.

  18. Getting up early is almost always worth it. And helicopters are such fun, aren’t they…

  19. Yes, they are! I love how they just float up, as close to the Jetsons as I think I’m going to get.

  20. Pretty sure Papillon is who I used a few years ago when I took a helicopter to the Canyon. We landed in basin of a section and had a boxed lunch before heading back to Vegas. One of the better times I’ve had traveling and worth every penny…

  21. Jeez Louise, now THAT is the way you see the Grand Canyon… like a boss!

  22. Now that is a great reason to get up at 3:45 AM!!

  23. Amazing! Gorgeous! Beautiful! Postcard Perfect! I actually really want to try a helicopter ride, but am so scared! I think I’ll put it on my Do One Thing A Day That Scares Me list for 2013.

  24. Thanks for a great story of your big day out. We are planning to visit the Grand Canyon on our next big trip so this trip looks like it could be a good option.

  25. Hard to beat that reason to get up early! Looks like a fantastic way to spend a day.

  26. You look FABULOUS as usual! I love going to the Grand Canyon and would LOVE to see it from the air that way one day too. Lucky you!

  27. Beautiful! I have had doing this on my “to Do” list forever! I need to make it happen. Stunning.

  28. You took the easy way this time. You have to hike it next time 🙂

  29. You clean up pretty well for someone who gets up that early! I would just smash my alarm and go back to sleep…

  30. How fun! I’ve never been to the grand canyon, but wow…a helicopter ride would be the way to do it!

  31. You have to go!! It’s a must-do for anyone living in the Southwest. 🙂

  32. Amazing way to visit the grand canyon in Style 🙂 This is certainly the best way to view it – an ariel shot with stunning captures 🙂

  33. Stunning views, Abby, you took beautiful pictures!

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