Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

How to see the Grand Canyon in one amazing day trip

Written by Fiona

November 22 2017

A day trip from the Arizona city of Phoenix to the Grand Canyon proved to be one of the most amazing days of my life. It’s a must-do on anyone’s bucket list.

Like many people I had seen many photographs of the Grand Canyon and I had viewed a few videos of the vast chasm in the northern Arizona landscape.

But it wasn’t until I was in a helicopter and tipping over the edge of the west rim into the giant, magnificent gorge that I truly felt it: That sudden emotional moment when the grandeur of the canyon’s geology hit me in the heart and belly.

It might sound like an over-reaction, but I could feel tears welling up as I took in the breath-taking beauty and magnificence of this natural wonder. I could not believe it was me, right there, amid the most incredible scenery.

Helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon.

I was sat in the second row of the helicopter during a Westwind Air Service day tour to the Grand Canyon and next to the window. I could see in very close proximity the mind-blowing depth of the steep-sided canyon and the River Colorado snaking along the base far below.

I had thought I might be anxious during the helicopter ride but I could think of nothing else than the stunning views.

After the pilot expertly banked the chopper and straightened up, we descended gently along a fairly narrow section of the long canyon, experiencing the sheer rock walls rising up above us. There are wider and deeper sections of the long canyon but this is the only place where helicopters are allowed to descend into the canyon.

I was sure that I had held my breath for most of the ride although I can hear myself exclaiming: “Wow,” over and again on the video that I recorded. The ride itself wasn’t too long, perhaps 10 minutes at most, but it was easily one of the highlight trips of my life.

See my video blog of my helicopter descent in the Grand Canyon.

Boat trip along the River Colorado

As we landed at the base of the Grand Canyon and climbed out to join a short boat trip along the river I felt my mind still reeling at what I had just experienced.

The chopper landed at the base of the Grand Canyon.

See my blog including a Grand Canyon boat ride video.

I looked up at the mountain high walls of the canyon,casting my gaze both ways along the river and marvelling at this great feat of nature.

A boat trip on the River Colorado in the Grand Canyon.

Magnificent views along the base of the Grand Canyon.

A very happy traveller!

Many millions of years ago, the river carved out the start of this huge canyon, which today extends to 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide in places and to a height of more than a mile.

Read this blog for more information about the Grand Canyon.

For obvious reasons it is named as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Breath-taking scenery.

Whistle-stop trip to America

I had long wanted to see it the Grand Canyon in reality, rather than photos, and a spontaneous visit to friends in Arizona offered the opportunity.

I planned to do a few things during a 12-day trip to America. This meant I would somehow need to fit in a trip to the Grand Canyon in one day, and from Phoenix. Many people advised the best route was from Las Vegas but that city was not on my holiday programme.

I asked around and discovered360 Adventures. tour agency in Phoenix. They advised I contact Westwind Air Service, based at the small Deer Valley Airport to the north of the city. Westwind impressed me from the outset with their range of tours and a wealth of advice.

See why and how I chose the Westwind Grand Canyon Skywalk Adventure Tour – West Rim tour.

View from the small plane.

A small plane allows you to see the landscape from the perfect height.

The trip started and finished with a journey in a small plane from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon. This was an amazing experience in itself because I could see the landscape laid out below the plane, the desert, mountains and then the Grand Canon and its tributaries.

As well as the helicopter ride and boat trip we visited the Skywalk and had lunch close to the edge of the canyon.

I can honestly say that from start to finish, this trip, which included a small pane flight from Phoenix to the grand Canyon, the helicopter trip, boat ride, the Skywalk and lunch was superb. The attention to detail and professionalism are excellent.

The Skywalk

After a boat ride along the River Colorado, which afforded an amazing perspective of the size of the canyon, the helicopter lifted our group back up to the rim.

I had decided that nothing would beat the chopper ride but there was more to come.

We took a short bus trip to the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a semi circle of glass that projects 70ft from the canyon rim and is some 4000ft above the canyon base.

The epic Skywalk above the Grand Canyon.

You are not allowed to take any kind of gadgetry with you on to the platform and everyone must cover their shoes in cloth booties. This is to protect the glass.

There are photographers on hand to take your picture. You can choose whether you want to buy the photos at the end (I bought the lot!) so it’s worth having your photo taken just in case you felt the urge to buy afterwards.

In any case, having a photographer there takes your mind of the enormity of the scariness of the Skywalk.

I don’t like heights. See my blog about the In Pinn for evidence of this. I certainly do not like standing on glass some 4000ft above the canyon’s base.

But I wanted to challenge myself to do it. At first I held on tightly to the handrail and stood on the inner edge, which is white glass. I peered over into the middle where the clear glass revealed the canyon far below.

It totally messed with my brain. I knew I was already standing on the platform but for some reason it felt safer being on the white glass. Eventually, I found the courage to step on the clear glass section but only briefly and with one foot.

I allowed the photographer to persuade me to lie down on the glass so I was looking upwards. This photo is fantastic.

After about 10 minutes or being on the Skywalk I started to feel more confident but my heart continued to race and my stomach churned. I did walk a few steps on the clear glass and I bizarrely enjoyed the surge of adrenaline that this brought.

It was an incredible experience and truly one I will carry with me for a lifetime.

More unique Grand Canyon experiences

After a cooked lunch, we had time to explore the edge of the Grand Canyon. When I say explore, I mean you really could go as close to the edge as you wanted.

A walk from the lunch stop at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

I stayed at least two metres back from the edge at all times and my fear of heights extended to other people being seemingly too close to the edge. I can’t explain why other people being close to the edge upsets me but that is how it is.

More incredible views of the Grand Canyon.

I spent around an hour feeling deeply uncomfortable walking along the edge but I wanted to experience more of the grandeur of this incredible location. I fI was never to return to the Grand Canyon I wanted t have this place deeply embedded in my memory.

The plane pilot Ryan.

See the Skywalk below as we flew away from the Grand Canyon.

Throughout the small plane journey back to Phoenix I relived the amazing experience in my mind. It was a costly outing but I really felt it was worth the money.

My only regret was that G was not with me to enjoy it as well.

I highly recommend Westwind Air Service, which offers a wide range of trips. Also check out 360 Adventures.

More Like This


Historical landmarks of the Golden Triangle – A journey through time, taste and tranquillity


Six new sports you might like to try


Cycling on the Black Isle


Cycle Aviemore to Inverness


Online safety tips to protect your data while you travel


Cruising for the first time: What to expect on board