Arizona is full of amazing adventures in breathtaking surroundings, from hiking the trails of Monument Valley to off-road rides through the red rocks of Sedona.
But try as you might, you can only take in so much with your feet firmly planted on Mother Earth – and what is great from the ground is often even better from a bird’s-eye view.
Flight gives you perspective, and whether you’re a sightseer or a thrill-seeker, Arizona’s clear skies and breathtaking landscapes offer air adventures you won’t find anywhere else.
Hover in a Helicopter
Nothing quite compares to a Grand Canyon helicopter tour.
Most tours depart from the South Rim and fly over the northern portion of the canyon. The 30- to 40-minute ride allows passengers to experience this wonder of the natural world as a continuous portrait unfolding before them. Maverick Helicopters and Grand Canyon Helicopters both offer flights from the South Rim.
In addition to a South Rim tour, Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters also offers a different experience from the West Rim. On these flights, rather than soaring above the canyon, passengers take a short ride to the canyon floor, where they then embark on a pontoon ride down the Colorado River.
Airborne in Aircraft
Want to take the ride of your life? Step into the open-air cockpit of a 1930s-era reproduction biplane and relive the barnstorming days of a bygone era.
On this unforgettable Sedona air tour offered by Red Rock Biplane Tours, you ride in front, with the pilot behind you, giving the sensation of cruising in a flying motorcycle over Cathedral Rock and Oak Creek Canyon.
Or, for an equally unique experience, test your skills as a Top Gun pilot at Fighter Combat International.
Partnered with an actual military fighter pilot, you’ll fly a combat mission in a plane specially equipped with a smoke generator and combat sound-card for the realistic sights and sounds of battle. If mock combat isn’t your style, sign up for one of their aerobatic flights instead.
Hot Air Balloon Floats
Float quietly through the blue yonder on any number of hot air balloon rides offered around the state.
The adventure begins at dawn, as you watch the crew unpack and inflate the balloon at the launch site. Once in the gondola, you’ll ascend for a flight that typically lasts an hour and offers panoramic views of iconic landscapes as well as chances to see some of Arizona’s wild critters without them first seeing you.
During winter months, sunset flights may also be available.
Gliding Across the Sky
You won’t hear the whirl of helicopter blades, the roar of an engine or the whoosh of burners on the glider rides offered by Arizona Soaring in Maricopa (south of Phoenix).
Instead, you’ll gently soar along with the birds at a relaxing pace. As a passenger, you can request a mellow or aerobatic sailplane (glider) flight, or you can even fly the aircraft, if you desire.
Hang gliders may not have quite as much control, but foot-launching off the side of a mountain brings you closer to the flora and fauna of the surrounding canyons and valleys.
Tucson’s Arizona Airfoils offers a variety of hang gliding packages, including introductory lessons and tandem flights.
Parachuting with Power
It’s not quite gliding and not quite skydiving, but powered parachuting combines elements of each.
On these rides offered by Scottsdale’s Arizona Powerchutes, participants sit in a cart with a pilot who throttles the vehicle forward and into the air, like an airplane.
You can go left, right, up and down, and the steady 26-miles-per-hour pace makes it easy to glimpse the owls, coyotes and even javelina of the Sonoran Desert below.
Fantastic Freefall – Skydiving
Clear skies and wide-open spaces have made Arizona one of the premier skydiving destinations in the world.
At Skydive Arizona in Eloy, first-time jumpers suit up for a tandem experience with an instructor, board planes and climb to an altitude of approximately 13,000 feet
You won’t “see” much of anything during the 60-second freefall, but once the canopy has opened, the instructor can point out mountain ranges and other landmarks.
Just because you’re in Arizona doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an over-water air adventure. River Parasail in Parker offers you the chance to zoom above the Colorado River.
Attached to a parachute and tethered 50 to 500 feet behind a boat, you’ll float above the river, getting spectacular views of the waterway, as well as the wildlife it supports.