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“To Phantom Ranch & back”

Grand Canyon Mule Tours by Xanterra
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed 5 August 2014

This had been a long held dream. No way could I ever hike to the bottom of the canyon and get back out, but as a horseriding family a mule trip to the bottom seemed well within reach. 13 months before departure I booked this trip of a lifetime - getting through to do the booking was time consuming and non-too-cheep when calling from the uk.
We read the literature and brought the appropriate clothes. In addition we took neck scarves that are pre-soaked in water; these stay damp all day and do give some relief from the heat.
On checking in AND just before the trip departs you are given dire warnings about the difficulty. Well my husband does not have vertigo (he went up the Eiffel Tower), but neither is he fond of heights. Although I am a rider, the joints are getting a bit stiff and I can't hop on & off a horse as readily as I used to. So the warnings were scary & it did cross my mind to withdraw. I am so glad we did not, what an experience.
On the way down I did find my joints aching. I was very glad that I was used to being on horses and trusting them. We did not get saddle sore. Western saddles are more comfortable that European saddles. The mules are steady sensible animals and I fell in love with mine (Susie Q). At the lunch stop (Indian Gardens) we all took advantage of the water hose and literally soaked ourselves. This certainly helped us through the hottest part of the journey at the bottom.
Unless you go to the bottom you can have no concept of how deep it is. So often as we came off a plateau to a cliff edge I thought now we will see the bottom, just to see another plateau below. When we got to the bottom we were tired, but also elated.
Phantom Ranch was a welcome spot. Our own cabin with a small river/big stream behind. We cooled off in the water & had a beer/lemonade in the Ranch. There were deer on the lawn; they were guarding the fig trees! An early Steak dinner and a great breakfast were provided. My only complaints would be: (a) I would have liked the option to have the stew instead of the steak dinner (b) The meals were served & cleared very quickly, I like to linger a little more. These are very small niggles and do not detract from this fantastic experience.
The return journey started early to avoid the heat of the day. Going up was much more comfortable on the joints. My husband thought it was more scary on the way up, but everyone coped easily and without complaint. There was a family in our group who had never ridden before, but they did really well under the expert guidance of our guides (Jack & Ed). The guides were really caring, careful and informative.

6  Thank MestaChios
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 2 August 2014 via mobile

I did the Canyon Vista Tour, which is the mule tour on the South Rim of the canyon, with two of my children (ages 13 and 11). I was really nervous about being on a mule close to the edge of the canyon, but the trip was wonderful and so glad we did it! The mules used for this tour are those that have been "retired" from making the trip to the bottom of the canyon, so they are very experienced. You start by taking a bus that takes you to the mule barn. There you have a brief orientation and they tell you all the basics; how to "steer" the mule, keep it going if it's slow, and how to be safe (ie, never dismount mule under any circumstance!) Then, they line you up and match you to a mule. I told the handler I was nervous, and he gave me a mule they typically give children (although all the mules were very well trained and well behaved). The mules travel in a line, face to tail, as they take comfort in being in a train formation. The ride starts through some woods, then you are on the canyon rim. The scariest part for me was when you make the first overlook stop, and the handler had all the mules face forward toward the canyon. I couldn't look, kept thinking my mule was going to walk a few steps and go over with me on his back! Once we made the second overlook stop, I felt really comfortable and trusted my mule. Our handler, Allison, was fabulous. Really calm, fun and energetic. She also took photos of us on our mule with our own cameras. At the end, I was definitely sore, which surprised me because I'm in pretty good physical shape. I'm really glad we did it, and my kids keep saying it was the best part of the GC visit. By the way, we did the 12 pm tour and heat was not an issue, even with the required long pants and long sleeves.

2  Thank LovetoGetAway5555
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 July 2014

The mule ride to Plateau Point took us half the day. The view overlooking the Colorado River was breathtaking! BUT, the mule ride was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life but so glad I did it!! The mules are sure-footed, for sure! A couple of times I had my doubts!! The paths are narrow and I don't know how we didn't slip, but we didn't. The guides were very knowledgeable about the trails, weather AND the mules. There is a weight limit of 200 lbs and you will have to sign a waiver you won't sue if something should happen. I took my camera hoping to take some awesome pictures but the ride was a little rough & I lost my lens cap off my camera. We stopped midway & lunch was served. This allowed us to cool off & give the mules a rest before making the trip back up the mountain. Temp was about 105 degrees! If you're afraid of heights and clueless about how to ride...find something else to do that's less challenging. If you're looking for an exciting adventure that is a challenge, exhilarating & fun...go for it. You won't regret it! I made this trip in July a few years ago so Oct is incorrect.

3  Thank Sandy M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 July 2014

This updated mule ride is really great. You walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon for 2 hours. The mule handlers and guides are great. We had 2 that had not ridden before and were pro's after the handlers instructions. I really wanted to do the overnight but after the 2 hour ride i was glad i didn't. I still think it would be cool to spend the night but i was really tired of riding the mule when the ride was over.

3  Thank knighttd
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 July 2014

Ten years ago, for our 50th birthday, my sister-in-law and I took the mule ride 1/2 way down into the Grand Canyon to Indian Gardens. After completing that ride, we made a pact to do the tour to the bottom to Phantom Ranch for our 60th. Ten years passed quickly, and we have just completed the trek to the bottom. AWESOME!! The wranglers, Jack and Ed, were very kind and patient (despite an abundance of good-natured ribbing from Jack), and our safety was priority- and a good thing too, because some of the turns (the "Oh Jesus" turn in particular!) were heart stopping! (WHY the mules feel the need to put their heads out over the rim during turns I will never understand!) After spending the night at Phantom Ranch, I went out to Bright Angel Creek at 5 am, and had the entire area to myself- something that won't happen on the rim! This is not an easy ride, especially during the heat of the summer, and it certainly isn't for anyone afraid of heights or large animals. And tho our knees and bottoms were sore when we got to Phantom Ranch, we recovered quickly and the ride out the next day was a piece of cake!! Ed did a wonderful job of telling us of the history of the canyon and pointing out areas of interest. We are so fortunate to have men and women willing to lead these mule rides into the Canyon, and our guides were very knowledgeable and professional.. Yes, the mules do soil the trail at times, and I'm not sure why they don't wear bags to collect the stool. But surely the trails of the canyon are vast enough for everyone to share. And I think it's wonderful that the 100 year history of mule rides into the canyon continues.

1  Thank Jean G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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