Mules, Trains, Boats and Bears! Grand Adventures in the Grand Canyon

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Posted by: Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim on March 3, 2017

Visitors now can enjoy spectacular views from the back of a mule while riding alongside the canyon’s rim.

Whether you experience the Grand Canyon by train, raft, helicopter, bus — or even mule — there are multiple adventures for visitors looking to up the wow factor of this bucket-list destination, and spot some of the wildlife that call this area “home” along the way.

Here are five great adventures in and around the Grand Canyon:

Women riding a mule

Overnight Mule Ride to Phantom Ranch

Descend on a Grand Canyon mule 10 miles from the South Rim to the canyon floor on the famed Bright Angel Trail, built and named by Ralph Cameron and originally a toll trail. The trail is narrow, but mules have carried more than 600,000 visitors safely, the National Park Service says. About 5½ hours later, after a picnic lunch, arrive at Phantom Ranch in time to dig into a belt-busting dinner served family-style and sleep in a cabin on a bunk bed. The return trip is by a different trail, offering fresh scenery. Riders must weigh less than 200 pounds, fully dressed. These and other mule trips are so popular that savvy travelers often book a year in advance.

Canyon Vistas Mule Ride

Visitors now can enjoy spectacular views from the back of a mule while riding alongside the canyon’s rim. Guides leading the four-mile, three-hour trek on a new East Rim trail will share information about the canyon’s history, rock formations and more. Riders must weigh less than 225 pounds, fully dressed.

Kids watching cowboys from the train

The Grand Canyon Railway

This lovingly restored classic train is a treat itself, offering an incomparable historic ride to the canyon through ponderosa and piñon pine forests and wide-open prairies. There are multiple tours and packages available based on how much time you have and the experience you’re looking for.

Canyon Discovery Package

The two-night getaway starts and ends in at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, AZ, a town with classic Old West flavor. After checking into the gracious Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, enjoy dinner at the buffet-style Grand Depot Café. Following breakfast the next morning, you’ll be treated to a Wild West show at the historic Williams Depot, before boarding the train for the two-hour, 15-minute journey to the canyon with its head-snapping views.

The entertainment continues en route, as musicians stroll between the cars, and passenger service attendants offer insider info on the canyon.

After arriving at the South Rim’s 1910 train depot, passengers will enjoy a guide-narrated, hour-and-a-half motor-coach tour that takes in key sites along the South Rim. There’s also free time to explore, whether that means hiking along the rim, exploring historic buildings and shops, or simply savoring a leisurely lunch at a canyon-adjacent restaurant.

The train departs for the return trip to Williams in the afternoon, leaving time to relax at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel before dinner at the Grand Depot Café.

The package includes two nights lodging, round-trip train fare, motor-coach tour, two dinners and two breakfasts.

Canyon Discovery Plus Package

Want more time at the canyon? This deal includes all elements of the Canyon Discovery trip but adds an overnight stay in the national park at Maswik Lodge North. Set over several acres in a ponderosa pine forest, the two-story lodge buildings are within easy walking distance of the South Rim’s Historic Village and the canyon’s edge.

Railway Getaway Package

Those short on time can still enjoy savings when they book round-trip train fare in one of six classes of service — from Pullman Class to Luxury Parlor — along with a night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, with breakfast and dinner at the Grand Depot Café.

Inner-Canyon Coach Tour

This day-long tour starts and ends in Williams and takes visitors onto the Hualapai Indian Reservation. It travels along one of the last remaining stretches of the original Historic Route 66. Destined for a remote area of the canyon west of the national park boundaries, the vehicle descends 4,000 feet to the Colorado River as the massive canyon walls seem to rise higher and higher. The oversized vans have large windows and rugged suspension systems for maximum comfort. The tour, available seasonally, includes a box lunch to enjoy on the banks of the river.

Rafting the Colorado

Grand Canyon River Adventure

This one’s a day long, multi-adventure outing. Fly in a plane to Page, AZ enjoying more views of the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell than you see on a typical helicopter tour. See stunning Antelope Canyon with a Native American guide. Then take a 15-mile “smooth water” float trip, suitable for children. You’ll be driven back to the South Rim.

Black bear in front of two white cars

Bearizona Wildlife Park

It’s worth spending an extra day to visit this drive-through park in a wooded area of Williams, AZ, which houses wolves, bears, bison, and more in natural habitats. Bearizona is a 20-acre pedestrian area offers close encounters with beaver, otters, porcupines, and other creatures. Great for families, the programs include animal “meet-n-greets,” participatory animal feedings, and birds of prey shows. Visitors can self-drive the route or join a bus tour with an expert guide.

How to Explore

The Grand Canyon is on your bucket-list, it has been for years. Now you’re ready to experience this natural wonder of the world. Planning a trip to the Grand Canyon can be overwhelming, but there are companies and resources out there to make planning as easy as you want to make it.

If you have your itinerary in mind and a few of the experiences mentioned above are on it, a good place to start is by visiting grandcanyonlodges.com. From Mule Rides to River Adventures, you’ll easily find what you’re looking for. You can also call 888-297-2757 to speak to a reservations agent that can help answer questions.

For a grand entry into the park on The Grand Canyon Railway, visit thetrain.com or call 800-843-8724 to find the right tour or package for you. And don’t forget to make a stop at Bearizona when you’re in Williams to pay a visit to your furry friends. Buy tickets online or call 928-635-2289 for more information.

To make the Grand Canyon one of the stops along the way of a larger tour of multiple national parks, and you want expert guides to tell you where to see the best sights and stay in top accommodations inside the park, consider Holiday Vacations’ Bryce, Zion & the Grand Canyon 10-day tour. Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies. With over 44 years of experience featuring unique and popular rail, air, cruise, and motorcoach guided tours to 65+ destinations worldwide. For more information visit holidayvacations.com or talk to a friendly Tour Consultant by phone at 800-826-2266.

For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.


Written by: Jayne Clark

Washington, DC-based freelance travel writer Jayne Clark has been a travel reporter at USA TODAY and several other daily newspapers.

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SR Watchtower with Dead Tree and Canyon
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