With Independence Day coming up, expect big crowds at Grand Canyon National Park. The surge in travelers will also impact canyon airplane tours, which historically sell out during this all-American holiday.
"Visitation to U.S. National Parks spikes during summer, especially during the week of July 4th, and the Grand Canyon is no exception," said Keith Kravitz, owner of Grand Canyon Airplanes.
The crush of travelers is expected to impact the availability of air tours.
"Air tours in general and airplane flights in particular sell out during this time," noted Kravitz. "Advanced reservations are recommended in order to get seats."
Kravitz advised purchasing airplane tours at least 72 hours in advance.
"A week ahead of time is best," he said. "However, unlike helicopters, which can accommodate up to six passengers, airplanes can take up to 19 people, so your odds are better getting seats three days out."
The majority of aircraft flying the Grand Canyon are twin-engine deHavilland Otters and the Beechcraft 1900Ds.
"Many travelers think these aircraft are 4-passenger Cessnas, which just isn't the case," said Kravitz. "These are full-on airplanes that have been fully customized for sightseeing.
"For example, these planes have oversized windows, spacious reclining seats and excellent A/C. Further, most are equipped with pre-recorded trip narrations in up to 11 languages, including German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and more."
Grand Canyon airplane tours depart daily from Las Vegas, NV, and Tusayan, AZ, a small town located near the edge of the South Rim.
Las Vegas flights go to the West Rim and the South Rim of the canyon.
"Planes take 30 minutes to reach the West Rim and 60 minutes to get to the South Rim,” Kravitz said. “When it comes to the later, planes are truly the only way to go, especially compared to self-driving or bus tours, both of which can take up to six hours."
West Rim flights are air-only or land at the top at the Grand Canyon West Airport.
"Both kinds of flights go over Lake Mead and Hoover Dam before going over the canyon," said Kravitz. "West Rim landing flights can be upgraded to include a helicopter ride to the bottom and a boat ride down the Colorado River."
The West Rim is the only place in the National Park where helicopters are permitted to land at the bottom.
The Las Vegas direct flight to the South Rim, Kravitz explained, includes a 2.5-hour bus tour inside the Park.
"The South Rim flight is truly one heck of a value," he noted. "It comes with lunch, all taxes and park fees and a ground tour. Total tour time is about 9 hours door-to-door. For Las Vegas travelers, it's a great option."
Tusayan (or South Rim) flights depart from Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. The standard trip lasts upwards of 50 minutes and covers nearly 75 percent of the Park.
"This flight covers all the key highlights," Kravitz said. "The South Rim, North Rim and everything up to the eastern boundary is included. If a visitor has just one or two days to spend at the canyon, it's strongly recommended to book this air tour because of how comprehensive it is."