Maverick Sun-Dancer Tour to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas
The Grand Canyon is a place that sits on most people’s MUST-SEE lists and for many, the proximity to Vegas makes the canyon the perfect destination for an excursion away from the City. However, despite being reasonably close to Vegas’ it’s not quite as near as people envisage and it’s a long full-day excursion on a coach tour or even Self Drive. However, there is one way to visit the canyon in just a few hours and get to live like a real rock star at the same time …Helicopter!
In this Maverick Helicopters Grand Canyon Tours Review, we take a look at one of our most recommended tours the Maverick Sun-Dancer Tour and the Maverick Wind-Dancer Tour, which are both very similar, more on this below. This tour is operated by our number one operator and takes guests right into the heart of the Canyon, provides perspectives and views unavailable by other means, and does so in a fairly concise time frame so you can still get on with your Day in Vegas. It is the perfect answer to seeing the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas and might not cost as much as you initially feared!
We take a look at why you might want to consider this tour, what the other options are, which other Helicopter companies you might consider, and take a close look at exactly what the tour entails, naturally from a first-person perspective. These tours are less expensive than you might think but not exactly cheap, so it pays to make sure you know exactly what to expect, make sure you pick the right tour and have realistic expectations of what a tour like this delivers. It is not a VIP Private tour after all.
- Tour – Maverick Sun Dancer (also covers Wind Dancer)
- Departs from – Las Vegas – Harry Reid (McCarran) International Airport Heliport
- Aircraft – Eco-Star (Eurocopter EC130) – 7 Seat Helicopter
- Cost – $467-579
- Duration – Overall: 5 hrs – Flight time: 1hr 30mins
- Highlights/Landmarks – Las Vegas Strip – Lake Mead – Lava Butte – Hoover Damn – Grand Canyon West – Bowl Of Fire – Las Vegas Strip
Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours From Las Vegas
Of course, most people considering this tour are primarily interested in seeing the Grand Canyon. There are several ways to do this from Vegas, and a Chopper is just one, so why should you choose this method of seeing the canyon, instead of some of the possibly more costly ways?
There are three big reasons to choose a Grand Canyon Tour From Las Vegas, One is the unique and really wonderful perspective flying to the canyon allows. You get to see the canyon from a really different vantage point than most and can actually fly down into the Canyon and land at the bottom with a Glass of Bubbly! It’s the stuff fantasy Itineraries are made of!
Second, it is by far and away from the most Time effective. The trip we took are around 4-5 hours out of our day, if you visit the canyon by a tour bus, you would not even have got to the canyon in that time! Looking at a Map, Grand Canyon west seems really close to the City, but those distances are deceptive and even in a car it’s a good 2.5 hour drive each way. So the only way to get out to see the Canyon and be back at the Blackjack table before dinner is by chopper.
The final reason…Well, it’s pretty cool to fly there in a Chopper right? Sipping Bubbly at the bottom of the Grand Canyon while your, (almost) Private helicopter provides the shade is just the ultimate bling right? These are the Selfie moments that will blow away your friends and family and show you really are living it to the max in Vegas. We know the last one shouldn’t matter so much, but it does!
There are several operators that will take you out to the Canyon and on the whole, they offer fairly similar tours and fairly similar prices. Maverick is really our Number One choice mainly due to the really modern and well-maintained fleet.
Papillion is also a really good operator and also uses only Eco-Star EC130 helicopters and offers very similar prices and experiences. You can find more about the various operators here:
Best Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
Choosing the Wind / Sun Dancer Tours
The first thing to clear up is that the Sun Dancer and the Wind Dancer are the Same Tours..the difference? One takes place around Sunset. That’s it.
We took the Sun Dancer tour to get those great Golden Hour shots, but really there are pros and cons to visiting at this time. It is mainly light issues and the high contrast when in the canyon and the low sun pretty much obliterates a large part of the sky. This is especially worse in the winter when the low sun means views to the right of the aircraft are pretty much non-existent as the sun blinds you for the first leg, and the second leg is largely into the sun and the view out the front of the chopper is pretty terrible.
With the Wind Dancer Tour that operates at other times of the day, the sun beats straight down and the light is much more friendly. But you are not going to get those simply gorgeous Sunset colors that the Sun Dancer Tour offers.
Maverick Wind Dancer Tour
Maverick Sun Dancer Tour
Other Grand Canyon Tours from Maverick.
As well as the Sun / Wind Dancer tours Maverick offers an array of other Grand Canyon tours. These offer other landings, Fewer Landings, more time at the Canyon, and various other additions. They are all fairly similar so whichever you choose our Experience below will be quite relevant.
SkyWalk Odyessy – $574
The other part of the West Rim people like to visit is the SkyWalk and the Grand Canyon West Visitor area. This tour gets you straight to the Skywalk and express entry out onto the glass walkway. For those wanting to experience the walkway without 4-5 hours of driving this is pretty much your only option. However, we question just how great the views of the canyon are from the walkway, considering you have just flown over it in a helicopter?
This is why we prefer the Wind/Sun Dancer tours as you still get the stunning views of the canyon but the champagne landing feels far more special to us than visiting the walkway. Apart from the landing destination, the tours are very similar.
Indian Territory – $694
If you really like the sound of both the Canyon Landing AND the SkyWalk, then this could be your best option as it takes you to both! First, you land at the bottom of the Canyon, just like the Wind/Sun Dancer, then fly up and land at the Grand Canyon West Area where you have 2.5 hours to explore. The Skywalk is not included in the pretty hefty price tag, but you can purchase it while there. But you do get a lot of time to explore the Rim and really take in the sights.
If you are looking for a more complete Grand Canyon experience then this is a good option as you get it all. The downside is, that you will be away from the Strip for around 8hours. It’s a full day, and one of the appealing parts of the Heli-tours is time-saving. This really isn’t the case with this tour. However it’s still faster than driving, you just spend a lot of time at the Rim. And if you are ok spending a day away from the strip then it’s a great choice.
But for those REALLY looking for the best Canyon Experience, might be better to look at the South Rim
Western Journey – $429-509
As above, only cut out the first landing at the bottom of the Canyon. This can save you a bit of money but does not save that much time and you are still away from the Strip for 7+ hours. The Highlight of these tours for us really is the Landing Inside the Canyon, so we are not fans of losing that. The views from the Visitor Center at the Rim are breathtaking and it’s really worth seeing as well as the SkyWalk, but if this is on your list we do suggest paying the extra and getting the CAnyon Bottom Landing too.
Grand Canyon West Bus & Air – $299
The Cheapest tour, but for a reason. This tour gets you to the Canyon by bus. It’s a good 4 hours each way and really misses the point of a helicopter tour. The only upside is when you finally get to the West Rim you then board a helicopter and fly into the Canyon.
Paying a bit more gets you the whole ride there and back by helicopter and saves you hours of sitting on a coach. If you are going to go down the cheaper route, just skip a helicopter altogether.
West Rim 6-in-1 – $459
Finally, the 6-in-1 is an all-day epic adventure away from the City. Rather than just lumping you on a bus a ferrying you to Grand Canyon West, this tour takes its time and shows you the sights on the way. as well as showing you around the West Rim rather than just dropping you off.
It’s a nice tour, but it’s a guided tour with a short helicopter flight when at the canyon, we really think flying the whole way is the best choice.
Maverick Flight Experience
As we have said most of the experiences on offer from Maverick are pretty similar, it’s just the different and additional locations that change. So whichever you choose the below description will be pretty apt. And really the other big operators are not that dissimilar either and have pretty comparable routes and experiences. We really think the Wind/Sun Dancer is the optimum choice, but whichever tour you choose the basic elements of our description will apply.
Let’s take you through our Personal Experience to show you exactly what to expect if you choose Maverick.
The first order of business is getting to the Heliport. You can either drive yourself, where there is ample parking and it’s a short drive from any Las Vegas Hotel within a 5-mile radius. Or grab an Uber or Taxi, again it’s a short hop and not very costly. However, included in the price is Free Hotel Transportation.
While this seems a No-Brainer, it does mean sacrificing a bit more of your day to the tour than if you make your own way over to the Heliport. The Buses make several Hotel Pick-ups and are not fast. You are usually required to meet the Bus at least 1 hour before your tour! Of course, the big advantage here is if you meet the bus and get delayed then it’s on Maverick, if you turn up late on your own accord then it’s in you and you could miss the flight. Due to this we always plump for the transport.
Mavericks HQ – Heliport
Maverick Base is situated at Harry Reid International Airport (Previously McCarran) but it is on the west side of the airport just off the strip next to the Las Vegas Sign and nowhere near the chaos of the terminals. This is great for both getting there and flight operations and you are not contending with the main air traffic.
The Heli-Terminal is large and modern with plenty of space to sit and wait for the flight. Check-in is usually a bit manic as for operational purposes all the flights go out at the same time. There can be up to 10 helicopters taking off at the same time and heading to the canyon. This means that all these passengers arrive all at once and it gets a bit hectic.
There is definitely a feeling of being processed here. Despite having paid nearly $1000 for the tour, you get the distinct feeling of being treated like Cattle. As we said there are a lot of people all arriving at once and they need to get everyone processed before the flights are due to leave, but it certainly could be a lot more personal at this point.
Fortunately, that changes when your Pilot Arrives. You will be given a boarding color and when your assigned aviator arrives their job is to take you more under his wing and act as a tour guide and assistant as well as fly the aircraft. You will now be in a much smaller group. usually around 6 people, we were in a group of 3 couples, so the Pilot has much more time to talk to you all and explain what is going on.
Boarding and Seating assignments
It is the Pilot’s job to break the bad news about the seating assignments. This is the most contentious issue about helicopter tours and where you are positioned in the helicopter can really make or break the trip. The good news on the Canyon trips is this is rotated, so you are guaranteed a good seat for at least part of the trip, and unfortunately a bad seat for another part!
Note – On many shorter flights such as the strip tours the unlucky guests given the worst seats are told this is due to weights and balances and there is nothing that can be done, it’s all assigned by the computer sorry it’s for safety. Well on these longer flights the Cabin is rotated so every possible passenger combination is realized, how does that fit in with the Auto-assigned for safety line???
All the departing helicopters load simultaneously and the Pilot helps everyone into the seats, checks the safety belts, helps with the headsets, etc. Then the engines are wound up and the whole fleet rolls out in convoy, it’s quite a sight!
First Leg – Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West – 45 mins
Best Seats – Left-Hand Side Rear
The first leg is the longest leg of the flight. It is actually one of the most direct sectors and pretty much leaves Las Vegas, after flying partway up the strip, to the East, and then almost directly towards the Grand Canyon.
You fly out over Lake Las Vegas and the Lava Butte, then across Lake mead towards the incredible Hoover Dam. At this point, the Pilot does some impressive S-Turns and gives both sides of the helicopter great views of the Dam.
From here it is a pretty long and tedious flight over bleak and barren terrain. It has its own unique charm and as you approach the canyon things start getting steeper and there are a few fun low passes of small mountain ridges. As you approach the CAnyon you pass the old Pearce Ferry Airport and then finally up towards the Grand Canyon West Center and the Skywalk. The views now are pretty stunning especially on the Sun Dancer as the light starts to color up.
Finally, the Helicopter crests the Rim of the Grand Canyon, and the Pilot starts the descent down to the bottom of the natural wonder. There are several minutes where you soar along inside the canyon an opportunity only available to people choosing to see the canyon via these types of Helicopter tours
Landing at the bottom of the Canyon
At this point, the Helicopter makes its first landing. This is at the bottom of the Canyon in an area completely inaccessible apart from by helicopter. Maverick pays an incredible sum to the Reservation every you to be allowed to use this landing sight, so if you were wondering where your Tour fee goes this is a large chunk!
The Landing sight is really beautiful you are not at the bottom of the canyon but perched just above the Colorado River. The canyon wall towers all around you. It’s a really wonderful and remote location.
Much is said of the Western portion of the canyon. It is unarguable that it lacks some of the beauty and scale of the more upstream portions at the South and North Rim. But in isolation, it is still an incredible natural wonder.
When we visited the River was its glowing green color and looked splendid. But you should be aware that at other times of the year, it can take on a more brown and sludgy appearance.
You have around 30 mins to explore the limited area around the landing site and get a healthy amount of Selfies to make those back at home jealous. The Pilot also turns barkeep as they open up the Champagne and start pouring. Helpings were really generous and the Pilots just keep going until it was time to leave. Due to the bumpy nature of the flight in, glassware was not on the menu and plastic glasses were offered instead. There was also a selection of snacks on offer, such as chips and nuts, nothing too exciting but if you are really peckish it helps, but it’s far from a meal!
The Champagne was really flowing and we finished at least 2 bottles, and we think the Pilot would have opened another if we asked! But time was getting away from us and before long we were all boarding the Chopper ready for the next leg. As we said the Pilot Rotates the Seating so for the next leg you get a different View.
Second Leg – Grand Canyon West to Fuel Stop – 15 Mins
Best Seat – Front Seats
The Next Leg is the shortest and least scenic, but the initial section is one of the most fun and exciting as the Helicopter zooms along the canyon for quite a way at a really low level before gradually claiming out the canyon through a Side-Channel giving you a long time inside the canyon walls which give a much great appreciation of speed than when you are just cruising along at a greater height.
Once out of the Canyon unfortunately the low sun really caused some visibility issues but there was not really that much to see on this leg anyway. The route heads out over the partially abandoned Meadowview estates and the small Josua Tree forests that cover the highlands. here.
The Next stop is simply a fuel stop, this is put in mainly for operational reasons, but it allows the Pilot to rotate the guests one last time so everyone gets a go in each seat. On our trip it also allowed the sun to get a bit lower and start producing the wonderful sunset colors we came for, and also stop being quite so much in our eyes!
Third Leg – Fuel Stop to Las Vegas and Strip Tour
Best Seats – Left-hand Side Rear
The views in this leg are pretty good from all locations in the aircraft but as you get to Vegas the Views out of the left-hand side offer by far the best vantage point of the City Skyline. This Itinerary really is swings and roundabouts as you are sure to get the best views for part of the trip but also the worst for others.
The route here takes you back towards lake mead and over the wilderness area of the lake. Our pilot was out to spot wild horses, Burros, and donkeys along the water’s edge. He claimed to have seen a few but we were unable to locate them. The area though was gorgeously beautiful and shimmering purple and blue in the fading sunlight.
We then headed over to the Bowl Of Fire a small red Sandstone area, similar to the Valley of fire which glowed spectacularly below us. We then passed the other side of the Lake Las Vegas Lava Butte and headed back into the Las Vegas Valley, The strip glistening in the distance as the city lights started to turn on for the evening.
The flight along the edge of the strip only takes a few minutes but is always a real highlight, and then as the Heli rounds the Golden Towers of Mandalay Bay you head back to the Airports Heli-pad for a hover-taxi back to the Apron.
Back on the Ground
Back on the ground after a total flight of around 1 hour 30 mins and 45 mins on the ground, all that is left is a quick goodbye to the pilot and then back into the HQ with the option to purchase a photo that was taken at the beginning. With the advent of Smartphones and the Pilots offering to take any amount of photo’s you like we saw little point in paying the pretty high additional cost for a print!
The Buses back to the Hotels were all waiting outside and we were back at our hotel less than 30 mins after landing. The total time for the entire experience was about 4 hours, plus around 30mins either side to get from the Hotel room to the pick-up point.
This is one of the features we really liked as some of the other tours would have taken up nearly a full day!
When summing up a Helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon it’s hard not to get pretty lyrical about the experience. The imagery is very evocative and phases like “Bucket List”, “Once In A Life Time”, and “Dream Experience” quickly start to get bandied around.
And while that’s all pretty understandable from a Sales Brochure, the actual experience is far more down to earth. The processing at the HQ, the less-than-ideal seats for some portion of the flight, sharing a Cabin with some unknown strangers, the not-so-picture-perfect west rim, and of course, the plastic champagne glasses all just take the shine off the experience a little.
But this is nit-picking. You really do have to take a step back and realize what you are actually doing. Visiting one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, in a helicopter, from Las Vegas, It’s pretty heady stuff and is worthy of a bit of bluster.
The desert surrounding Vegas and the Canyon is not always the prettiest, but it has a barren epicness to it, and soaring over the vast expanse really gives you a sense of scale. Lake Mead is a glistening Jewel in the barren land and when you finally get to the Canyon you can experience something very few people get to do and actually fly through the canon and land at the bottom. Pretty much every Flight Simulator has the Grand Canyon Pre-Saved as a destination as one of the first things people want to do is fly through the grand canyon and this tour is one of the only ways you can actually do this as flight operations are essentially barred from the Cayon in all other locations. Only here do the Hualapai allow helicopters into the highly restricted airspace.
It is overall a very special experience. Sure we wish maybe there were a few little sparkles added on, but the purchase price is really not that lavish when you consider the sheer magnitude of what you are getting. When you start to consider the cost of the operation, the Hugely expensive aircraft ($3mil+ Each), the cost of Aviation Fuel, the Aiport fees, the Pilot’s Wage, and the extortionate fees the Hualapai Tribe change the Helicopter companies to touch down on their sacred land (Our Pilot claimed it was $5mil a year!).
When all this is taken into account suddenly $450-600 seems a bit of a bargain. And that is the thing, you really are buying an incredibly lavish, unique, and once-in-a-lifetime experience for the same price as a couple of nights at a Vegas Hotel! It really is not that out there and quite affordable to anyone who really wants to see the canyon.
On top of this, it is VERY time effective. The Drive out to the West rim is 2.5+ Hours each way, more if you take a coach, and you are only then at the top of the canyon. It’s a huge day out and for a large part pretty dull and boring as you sail across the endless desert.
Via a Helicopter, it’s 4 hours door to door and you really get to see the best of it.
So is the Maverick Sun Dancer or Wind Dancer Tour worth it, Absolutely. These are the kind of experiences you will really regret NOT having. Life is for living and these are the sort of trips that make you really feel that IS what you are doing, Living!
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Have Your Say
Have you taken a Helicopter tour out to the Grand Canyon? What were your thoughts o the experience? What company and Tour did you take? What were the negatives and what really made the trip special? Whatever your thoughts just fire away in the comments below. And as ever just let us know if you have any questions at all.