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Key Grand Canyon Bus Tours Impacted by Federal Shutdown

Key Grand Canyon Bus Tours Impacted by Federal Shutdown

The U.S. federal shutdown has had a direct impact on the National Park System, including the Grand Canyon. As things stand now, the South Rim remains closed, a situation that’s led to the cancellation of a number of key popular bus tours.

The tour that’s taking the most punishment is one that leaves the Las Vegas and goes to the South Rim. Same for all premium van tours form Las Vegas to the South Rim. These popular trips for the time being are not being sold until the political gridlock resolves itself (and by the looks of it could be a week or so away!).

Phoenix bus and premium van travelers face the same predicament. Thus if you find yourself in central Arizona (e.g. Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale), I suggest self-driving or renting a car to the South Rim and taking a Grand Canyon helicopter or airplane tour (more on this later).

Understand that the shutdown only affects the South Rim. The West Rim, by contrast, is open for business as usual. This is because the rim sits outside of the National Park and is not subject to federal regulation. Thus ALL Las Vegas-West Rim tours are running as regularly scheduled.

Personally, I find this a pretty good trade-off. The West Rim is only 125 miles from Las Vegas. The drive over is just 2.5 hours and buses do it in comfort and style. Plus, once you get to the West Rim, there’s quite a lot to do and see.

By far the number one attraction is the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the world’s largest glass bridge. Then there’s the ability to take a helicopter to the bottom of the Grand Canyon for a boat ride down the Colorado River. Frankly, the heli segment is extra special because it’s the only place in the entire canyon where aircraft can go below the rim and land.

Air Tours

Nearly 95 percent of these trips are flying on schedule. From Vegas, you can choose from aerial or landing tours. Air-only trips take you over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Helicopter landing tours go to the bottom and the top. I prefer the former as it comes with a Champagne picnic. As for airplanes, I like the one comes with tickets to the Skywalk.

The only Vegas air tour that’s affected is the one that flies direct to the South Rim. The reason for this is it includes a bus tour inside the National Park, which is impossible until the political gridlock unwinds. This is one of my favorite trips and I hope it gets back on the market soon.

South Rim helicopters, which take off from the Tusayan Airport just outside the gates of the National Park in Arizona, are flying on schedule. All flights are aerial. There’s a 30-minute flight and a 50-minute flight. The former does the South Rim and back, while the later does that, too, plus everything up to the eastern boundary. Personally, I prefer the “50” because you get to see up to 75% of the Park.

There’s also a South Rim airplane tour available. This is your cheapest air tour option. It’s also your best choice if helicopter tours are sold out because planes can hold up to 19 people while helicopters are limited to six. If this particular flight interests you, book it immediately because last time I checked it was selling out (this is also starting to happen with helicopter rides, too).

That’s it for now. Let’s hope Congress gets back on track. That way we can all breath easier when it comes to our Grand Canyon vacation.

Ready to take a Grand Canyon bus tour? Travel writer Keith Kravitz recommends this page for a list of the best bus tours and here for today’s coupons: