If you want an exciting and different experience around Page, AZ, then the Tower Butte Landing Tour might be just the ticket. Fly by helicopter to the top of the monolithic Tower Butte, LAND, get out and explore and admire the incredible views.
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What is Tower Butte?
A butte is a solitary hill with steep side and a flat top; Tower Butte rises 5,000 feet (1,524 m) above sea level on the edge of the painted desert, just outside Page, AZ. It took millions of years to form, as the solid rock at the top protected it from the erosion of the surrounding land, leaving it towering over its surroundings. It is destined to erode eventually, but thankfully not for millions more years! Sited on Navajo lands, visiting it requires a special permit, but doing so offers spectacular views of Lake Powell and the Grand Staircase.
We’ll explain the booking aspect of the tour towards the end, but let’s skip ahead to the amazing bit first…
We arrived at Page airport before dawn as we’d booked the first flight of the day. This flight takes off as soon as the sun has risen enough to allow the helicopter to fly and is about 35-40 minutes long. Whilst it may not be ideal to be up and out so early, we’d recommend it as the early morning light just makes everything look even more beautiful.
Once checked in by the very friendly agent, it turned out we were the only three people on the trip, so we had the helicopter (which can accommodate six) all to ourselves. Well, they did give us a pilot too; whilst I’d have loved to give it a go, I’m not sure the helicopter or any of us would have made it very far!
The pilot gave us our life vests and explained how they would be used in the event of an emergency over water and walked us outside to the helicopter.
With the sun just starting to appear we just had to wait until it was high enough for the helicopter to be allowed to fly. In the meantime we occupied our assigned seats (this is done by the company based on each passenger’s weight in order to keep the helicopter balanced) and strapped in. Finally we donned the noise-cancelling headsets, the pilot turned on some music that would provide the soundtrack for our flight, and we prepared to take off.
The Flight to Tower Butte
If you’ve never been in a helicopter you might be surprised at how smooth and manoeuvrable they are. A skilled pilot like ours can put them down on a tiny spot and fly them with great precision. We headed out north towards Lake Powell, which in this area looks much more like a river than a lake, before heading east towards the rising sun and Tower Butte.
The trip was only a few minutes old, but was already amazing; the views across Lake Powell, the stunning light and the desert spread out below us. As Tower Butte approached our pilot began to ascend so that we could land. It seemed the helicopter wasn’t too keen to climb up to over 5,000 feet and it took a minute or two to ascend so that we could finally see the top of the tower.
Landing and Exploring
Moving towards it from the east, we were soon over the top of the butte and gently descending until we landed with barely a bump. With the engine switched off, we had to wait a moment until the rotors stopped before we could get out of the helicopter. To say the view is breathtaking is almost pointless; it was absolutely stunning and the early morning light just made it all the more beautiful.
After taking the essential photo of us standing “on the edge”, we had about 15-20 minutes to explore the tower. When booking I’d thought this might not be enough time, but it is actually plenty. We walked the entire rim of the tower, gazed at Lake Powell, looked back towards Page and simply admired the fact that we were somewhere you had to visit by helicopter, or would have to be a very skilled rock climber to stand on. We even dared to peer over the edge as you can see in the following photo, which sadly doesn’t do justice as to how far down it was!
Arriving back at the helicopter it was time to depart; we chatted with the pilot for a couple of minutes and he allowed us to switch seats around so that the person in the back on the way out sat up front and the two in the front occupied the seats each side in the rear. Of course, this might not be possible on your trip, it depends on weight allocation and might not be ok if the helicopter is fully occupied.
We also spoke about our plans to visit Horseshoe Bend later that day and he very kindly called in to ask if he could fly us over it on the way back! Well thankfully they said yes and we got a serious bonus to our trip, but not before he asked us whether we wanted the normal boring take-off, or the exciting take-off as we left Tower Butte. We quickly agreed, exciting please!
Basically the pilot lifted vertically a couple of feet and then tilted the helicopter so it shot sideways and the helicopter seemed to fall off the tower. An amazing experience for sure and added even more value to this fantastic tour. We slowly descended, orbiting the tower before heading off to Horseshoe Bend. Again, this might not be possible on your tour. It is not part of the package and we were incredibly lucky and very grateful we were able to have this opportunity.
Heading east, skirting Page to the south, we overflew Glen Canyon Dam, the reason Lake Powell exists, on the way to Horseshoe Bend. Our pilot made sure both sides of the helicopter could have a great view of the bend and we were so happy with our amazing view, we actually didn’t walk to the bend from the car later. No view could be as good as what we had already seen from high above.
We were soon back at Page airport and landing gently back on terra firma. Thanking our pilot and check-in agent profusely for such a great tour we couldn’t believe it was barely past breakfast time and we’d enjoyed such a fantastic trip.
Have we whetted your appetite to experience this for yourself? All the details on the booking and pre-flight process are below.
How to Book.
The landing tour is only offered by Papillon Grand Canyon Tours which flies from Page airport. The tour can be booked online here. There are not as many dates and times on offer for this flight as for the popular Grand Canyon flights, but if you book well in advance you should be able to pick a time that will suit. We took the first flight of the day which takes off as soon as the sun has risen enough to allow the helicopter to fly.
From the booking page on the website, you can enter the number of adults and children you want to buy tickets for. Then choose your preferred date and click ‘Check Prices and Availability’. If there are tours available on your chosen date you can then choose your preferred time.
You then enter your names and weights (this is necessary to ensure the helicopter is balanced) and can pay to reserve a front seat, although this is subject to weight balance so it is not guaranteed. You then choose your payment method and the system will reserve your seats for 10 minutes whilst you enter the payment details and reserve the helicopter trip of a lifetime.
What to Bring With You
There isn’t a lot of room in a helicopter so you should bring as little as possible and leave backpacks and bigger bags in your hotel or trunk of your car. Things to remember to bring are:
- All passengers will need government issued identification.
- Water: You may bring water, but it can’t be opened in the helicopter.
- Camera! You’re allowed to bring cameras and phones and there will be lots of opportunities for photos and videos, however you are not allowed to bring ‘selfie sticks’ or any other extending camera pole.
- Layered clothing for March to September and winter clothing from October to March. We flew in December and wore winter coats, hats, and gloves. It can be pretty chilly at the top of the tower.
- Sturdy shoes to walk on rough and rocky terrain. Sneakers or hiking boots are recommended.
You need to arrive at Page airport 30 minutes before your flight is due to take off so they have time to do the pre-flight checks, go through the safety briefing etc. You will also be weighed (only the staff can see your weight) to seat everyone to ensure weight is distributed appropriately. It’s a very simple process and the staff we met were super friendly and helpful.
This tour is not cheap, but then helicopters aren’t cheap to fly. But for your money you get an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience to visit somewhere that many people won’t have visited. The time spent on top is just right to explore the tower and at no point did we feel rushed. We don’t regret spending the money for a second; so we say, if you can afford it, do it. You only live once.
If you have any questions, or there is anything we haven’t covered, please feel free to leave us a comment and we will do our best to answer.
Have you done the Tower Butte tour? What did you think?
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