Mule Rides, Grand Canyon National Park
There are only three ways to get a look at the bottom of the canyon at the National Park:
A. Raft or kayak trip
B. Organized mule trips or private stock animal
C. Your own two feet
Mules are the more popular option for non-hikers, and are not without controversy among certain factions but I’ll avoid stepping in that (yep, there's a pun here that every mule-traveled corridor hiker will get) to avoid the inevitable scrapping between pros and cons. Here’s a little background, some top-line info and necessary links:
Sturdy, sure-footed, mules have been hauling tourists around since 1887, and the Kolb brother's photos of some of the those early riders - stiffly attired in Sunday suits and long white dresses - are a howl: look a few of those up. While attire has evolved, the method has not so sightseeing by saddle is pretty much the same experience as it was over a century ago.
Tours are operated by private concessionaires and not the Park Service, and range from leisurely one-hour rim rides to 1 or 2-night stays at the only inner-canyon lodge, rustic Phantom Ranch. Things you need to know if you’re interested in any of these:
• Overnight trips to Phantom reserve up to 13 months in advance, and usually sell out very quickly so plan ahead. You can get on a waiting list in case of a cancellation but those are rare.
• Different tours have different age, weight and/or size restrictions - no exceptions - so read the requirements carefully before booking
• Different rides also have individual restrictions regarding attire and what you’re allowed to bring along so read those carefully as well
• All riders must be fluent in English. This is a safety precaution should the wrangler's instructions need to be issued and understood very quickly.
• You do not have to have prior riding experience but you do need to be a reasonably good physical condition, and not afraid of heights for rides under the rim. Just because you're not making the trek on your feet doesn’t mean it’s easy: a day - or even a few hours - in the saddle can make you very stiff and sore if you’re unused to it.
For complete information and contacts, see these websites:
North Rim rides:
Reference also “Questions” and “Fine Print” by clicking on the blue “Book this ride now” boxes
South Rim rides:
Reference also “Rider qualifications”,”Things to Know” and “Suggested Wear” (left side of page)
For anyone not feeling like hiking into the canyon it is possible to book a mule ride. The ride will take you to Plateau Point on a day trip or all the way to the river on a two day trip. If interested book early as these rides are very popular.
Two ways to see the canyon - from the edge, and from inside. Easier to ride a mule than walk!
We used Canyon Trail Rides on the North Rim - I'm not sure if there were any other choices. The half-day ride is down the North Kaibab Trail to the Supai Tunnel, and costs $55 per person (min. age 10 years to go into the canyon). The rides leave at either 7:30 am or 12:30 pm - a bus picks you up in front of the Grand Canyon Lodge and delivers you to the paddock where you're matched with your mule.
My mule was named Redwall, and hubby's was Elvis. At the end of the ride, you're presented with a "Master Muleteer" certificate to have and hold forever and always (which is how I remember the mules' names) as a souvenir of your trip, but the better souvenirs are the pictures and memories of the great Grand Canyon.
A mule trip is another alternative way of getting to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The truth is not everyone can do it under their own power. Some could do it but couldn't be bothered. Of course, until you do it, you really don't know for sure that you can but no matter the reason, a mule trip will get you to to the bottom and provide a great group experience of staying down there. It will be at considerable cost.
It generally runs around $500 per person for a one night trip. Second nights are obviously less and I would say if you are going to do this, stay an extra day as there is an amazing day hike to Ribbon Falls that is well worth doing it. If you're going to spend $500, what's another $300? With the mule trip, you will get your room at Phantom Ranch and all your meals. Everything you need will be carted down for you and you'll get to sit a few feet higher than all the mule poop when coming down Bright Angel Trail too. That's probably the biggest advantage of the whole thing!
I really wanted to take a One-Day Trip to the bottom of the canyon and back on the mules. But my husband did not really want to go and my children were too young. I didn't feel I could go by myself and leave everyone at the top, so we didn't do it.
Current restrictions are:
"Each rider must not weigh more than 200 lbs. (91 kilograms) fully dressed. Yes, we do weigh everyone. Each rider must be at least 4 feet, 7 inches (55 total inches or 1.38 meters) in height, regardless of previous riding experience. Each rider must be able to speak and understand fluent English. Each rider must be in good physical condition. Riders should not be afraid of heights or large animals. Rider cannot be pregnant."
The one day (7 hour) trip is now as follows:
".. Water and restroom facilities are available at Indian Garden, about 2.5 hours down the trail. Following a 15-20 minute rest stop at Indian Garden, the trip proceeds across the Tonto Plateau to Plateau Point, offering riders a dramatic and panoramic view of the Canyon and the Colorado River 1,300 feet below. .. A box lunch is included. $136.35 including tax, per person. "
Some people will always take the easy way. I wouldn't get on one of those things if you paid me. Not that they would let me on a mule anyhow--I'm a good 40 lbs over the 200 lb weight limit for riding the darn things. Any trip that I ever make to the Colorado River and the Phantom Ranch is going to be accomplished on my own two feet.
Check with the Visitor Center for activities such as mule trips which leave at the Phantom Ranch, raft trips through the canyon & flights that are based at the Grand Canyon Airport.