While an overnight at Phantom Ranch on the floor of the Grand Canyon is commonly known as one of the high-demand accommodations in any national park, visitors who are persistent and flexible – especially those who want the experience of riding a mule – can often get reservations without planning far in advance. The seven-hour mule rides to Plateau Point returning the same day are also more often available than in the past.
Xanterra South Rim L.L.C., operator of lodges and activities at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, accepts reservations 13 months in advance. Xanterra South Rim operates six lodges on the Canyon rim as well as Phantom Ranch, a complex of cabins and dormitories designed by famed architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter and opened in 1922. Tucked in beside Bright Angel Creek on the north side of the Colorado River and the only lodging facility below the Canyon rim, Phantom Ranch can only be reached by mule, foot or raft.
The two dormitories – one for women and one for men – offer 10 sets of bunk beds each, a shower and restroom. Phantom Ranch also offers 11 rustic cabins, some of which are reserved for mule riders. Dormitory lodging is available for backpackers and typically fills up the first day of the month 13 months in advance. Cabin accommodations at Phantom Ranch, however, are included with the overnight mule trips and do not typically fill up immediately.
“The strong demand for hiker accommodations has resulted in the misconception that day trips and all Phantom Ranch lodging sell out 13 months in advance,” said Nora Berry, director of transportation for Xanterra South Rim. “The hiker accommodations always go first, but overnight mule rides, which used to sell out nine to 12 months in advance now stay available much longer, especially during November through March, excluding the holiday periods. Some of the cabins hold up to 10 people, so a large group can reserve a cabin that would not be available to an individual or couple.”
An overnight mule ride costs $420.09 for one person, $743.03 for two and $335.77 for each additional person including lunch, dinner, breakfast and taxes. Costs for a mule ride and two nights at Phantom Ranch are $592.83 for one person, $991.38 for two and $424.19 for each additional person including accommodations, breakfast, lunch, steak dinner on the first night and stew dinner on the second night and taxes. An all day mule ride to Plateau Point costs $153.95, including a box lunch and tax.
Mule riders must weigh less than 200 pounds, be at least 4’7″ tall, be able to speak and understand fluent English, be in good physical condition and must not be afraid of heights or large animals. Riders cannot be pregnant.
“For many people, the Grand Canyon mule ride is the trip of a lifetime,” said Berry. “But times have changed, and that trip is now more within their reach than they realize.”
Mule rides can be reserved by calling toll-free 1-888-297-2757 or 1-303-297-2757. Visitors can book their rooms online and learn more about park accommodations by visiting www.grandcanyonlodges.com or by calling toll-free 1-888-297-2757 or 1-303-297-2757. More information about Grand Canyon National Park can be obtained at www.nps.gov/grca or