Travelers visiting the Grand Canyon will find various types of recreation and countless ways to have fun. Native plants and wildlife offer an interesting contrast to the rich and dramatic colors of the panorama around you. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, there are endless opportunities for some great shots of the big and the small wonders of the Grand Canyon.
The more venturesome may choose the experience of a mule ride into the Canyon, a diversion that demands a bit more endurance, but one worth considering. The plateau ride leaves from the Stone Corral at the top of the Bright Angel Trail. This 7-hour ride challenges even the more experienced riders, with only brief stops in the first 2 ½ hours on the trail to rest the mules and take photos. Upon reaching Indian Gardens, about halfway down, riders will find restrooms, drinking water, and a box lunch are provided. After a 15 – 20 minute break, the journey continues across the Tonto Plateau to Plateau Point, where riders have a great view from 1300 feet above the Canyon and the river. The return trip to the Corral takes another 2 to 3 hours, arriving by mid afternoon.
Rates: $100 and up per rider.
Phantom Ranch offers an overnight package, year round, that includes a 10-hour mule ride, private cabin, lunch, dinner, and breakfast before the ride back up to the Bright Angel Lodge. Another excursion, available from November 15 through the end of March, includes accommodations for 2 nights, breakfast and dinner at the Ranch, and lunch at Indian Gardens. Mule rides are carefully planned and guided by experienced trail riders. There are, of course, very specific restrictions and guidelines for travelers to follow when thinking about this type of recreation. Riders must be at least 4’ 7” in height, English speaking, in good physical condition, and weigh in at less than 200 lbs including clothing and gear. Children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult, and riders should keep in mind the high elevation of the ride at 7,000 feet above sea level.
Another thing to consider before going on the ride is the size of the mules, much larger than donkeys. Mules are strong, hardy animals and quite accustomed to the steep trails carved from canyon walls. If you’re afraid of heights, or the possibility of encountering wildlife along the trail, however, these rides might not be considered fun. Riders must wear a broad brimmed hat, long denim or wool pants, long sleeved shirt, closed toe shoes, and gloves and boots in the winter. Canteens are provided at the Bright Angel check-in. A few other items can be carried on the ride such as rain gear, a camera or binoculars (no large VCR cameras or extra camera equipment), scarf or bandanna, a flashlight, and depending on the weather, additional clothing. Be sure to keep in mind the weight restrictions, however, as all items are included when you weigh in.
Rates (will vary): $350 – single rider; $600+ – two riders. Includes meals.
Reservations: 303-297-2757. E-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
Experience the thrill of a helicopter ride high above or into the Canyon. The view from the air as the setting sun splashes light over the rough ridges and crevices of the Canyon walls is simply spectacular. These 30-minute to 1-hour rides can be arranged either from airfields in Arizona or booked in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Rates: From $100 – $200/per person
If you’re ready for more excitement, the Colorado River offers some of the best in rafting through miles of quiet water and areas of whitewater. Rubber rafts, holding up to 7 people, are steered by expert oarsmen. Rafting the entire 277 miles of this river takes approximately two weeks, but shorter trips of 5 to 9 days, one day, and half day can be arranged, as well. A small caravan will include rafts carrying camping supplies, tents, and food for the nightly stopovers beside the river. For travelers who prefer a more leisurely ride down the river, there are dories available for one to two week trips. These small boats offer some protection from the water and the elements, while providing passengers with the same spectacular views of the Canyon and the opportunity for overnight camping on the banks of the river. The ultimate adventure, of course, is to go it alone in a kayak down the Colorado. This not only takes courage and stamina, it requires considerable skill to manage the river’s currents and freezing temperature. As might be expected, permits to kayak as an individual or in a private group are on a 20-year waiting list, so rafting and tour companies are your best bet to arrange a kayaking journey.
Whatever type of recreation or fun you are looking for, there is something for every traveler to enjoy in a visit to the Grand Canyon.
~ by Sharon Slayton, LASR.net contributer