Take a Mule Tour Down the Grand Canyon
As one of the seven wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is the sort of place where you can get a good view from just about anywhere. The place is beyond huge, and will strike awe into anyone who sees it. There are many ways to enjoy the sites at the Grand Canyon, and I do think that the most "up close and personal" must be by mule-back.
You can take a tour right down to the base of the canyon, along narrow trails and tight switch-backs, all on the back of a trusty mule.
Basic Mule Tours
Each tour group will have their own tours and schedules, but there are a few basic routes that a mule trip will take. A one-day trip that takes a total of 6-7 hours will take you down along the Bright Angel trail as far as Plateau Point, which is about 1,300 feet above the Colorado river. After resting at the Plateau and enjoying the view, the tour will take you back up the trail to the Stone Corral. These one-day trips cost around $150.
If you want to go right to the bottom of the canyon, that will require an overnight trip. Ironically, it's actually less strenuous because you get to sleep before having to ride the trip back up. You will stay at Phantom Ranch, in a rustic cabin with basic amenities. The tour will continue along the river, and the return trip back up is by a different route, providing a whole new set of views for the trip. An overnight trip will run you around $400 per person.
If climbing right into the canyon is not your style, shorter 1-hour tours can give you a mule ride along the rim of the canyon.
Where to Book Your Tour
As far as I can tell, mule tours are only operated by one company, Xanterra Parks and Resorts. You can book a tour from their webpage, but be aware that the waiting list can be months long.
A Mule Tour is not for Everyone
A Grand Canyon trip on a mule isn't the same as a ride at a petting zoo. It's a rigorous trip, and ideal for anyone up for a little adventure travel. The trails are high, which provides a spectacular view but can also be upsetting to anyone afraid of heights. Previous riding experience isn't required, as there is a bit of training provided before you head off. If you are not familiar with riding, you will likely be pretty sore when you reach the end of the tour.
Tour operators will not accept any riders who are over 200lbs or shorter than 4'7. All children must be accompanied by an adult, and pregnant women are also disallowed. All riders must be able to speak English, which may seem like an odd rule. But in an emergency, all riders must be able to quickly follow the guide's instructions.
One other point, mules are not donkeys. Mules are as large as a grown horse, which can be intimidating if you are expecting a pony-sized donkey.
The Grand Canyon is located in the US state of Arizona, and is 277 miles long. The South Rim of the Canyon park is about 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff, and there is shuttle service available. A short flight can also be taken from Las Vegas directly to Grand Canyon Airport.
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