Some of the Grand Canyon’s best experiences can be found using two-legged, four-legged or wheeled modes of transportation. And concessioner Xanterra South Rim thinks it is time for Grand Canyon travelers to take a serious look at experiencing the Grand Canyon without their cars. “While most of the Grand Canyon’s four million visitors will arrive in their personal cars and drive them around the park, there are many reasons to either ditch the car entirely and arrive at the park by train or park the car once you get here and use other modes of transportation to explore,” said Jon Streit, general manager of Xanterra South Rim. “Car-free vacationing can be surprisingly easy. Our car-less visitors are free to sit back and enjoy the scenery.”
There is also a compelling environmental argument in favor of leaving the car behind. As a strong proponent of minimizing impact on the environment, Xanterra also advocates visitors use mass transportation or walk whenever possible to reduce air pollution as well as congestion on the roads.
Streit said that once travelers arrive at the Grand Canyon they don’t have to get back into their cars until they leave. Guests can park for free in a variety of parking lots around the South Rim, including lots in theGrand CanyonVillage and satellite parking lots. The National Park Service provides a free shuttle system that picks up every 15 minutes and will deliver guests to a variety of destinations along the South Rim and to the town of Tusayan. Convenient stops are located near all in-park lodges.
Grand Canyon Railway
A fun and popular way to arrive at the Grand Canyon is by train. The Grand Canyon Railway makes daily round-trip excursions from Williams, Ariz. some 60 miles south to the Grand Canyon Depot in the heart of the village. And visitors with an appreciation of history will enjoy learning that their arrival at Grand Canyon National Park is similar to the experience that visitors had 100 years ago, when construction of the Grand Canyon Depot – one of only 14 log depots ever constructed in the U.S. and one of only three remaining log depots – was completed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
Train passengers bypass the park entrance and proceed directly to the depot, situated near El Tovar. National Park fees are paid in advance.
Vacationers taking the Grand Canyon Railway arrive at the South Rim around noon. Some travelers opt to spend a few hours in the park, often having lunch at El Tovar Hotel and exploring Grand Canyon Village, before re-boarding the train for the return to Williams in the late afternoon. Many vacationers choose to purchase a Grand Canyon Railway package that includes one or more nights at a lodge in the Grand Canyon.
Travelers can also choose the Railroad Express Tour. This trip includes a one-way van trip in the morning to Williams, Ariz., a Wild West shootout at the historic Grand Canyon Railway Depot and a return trip to the park aboard the Grand Canyon Railway. The trip aboard the train includes strolling musicians who entertain in each car. The Grand Canyon Railway arrives back in the park at around lunchtime.
For more information visit http://www.xanterra.net/.
Did you know?: Traveling via the Grand Canyon Railway relieves the Grand Canyon of some 50,000 cars annually.
Amtrak offers train service from Union Station in Los Angeles to Williams, Ariz., where passengers are met by a Grand Canyon Railway bus for the 10-minute bus ride to the Williams Depot. From there, passengers can catch the Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon. The nine-hour and 35-minute trip departs Los Angeles daily at 6:55 p.m. and arrives in Williams at 4:30 a.m. The return trip departs Williams at 9:33 p.m. and arrives at Union Station at 8:15 a.m. Prices vary depending on class of service. From there, Amtrak passengers can catch the Grand Canyon Railway at 9:30 a.m. One way to spend some of the time between trains is to have breakfast at the Grand Dept Café. The restaurant opens for breakfast at 6:30 a.m.
Another way to see the Canyon is by mule, sometimes called “long-eared taxis.” Last year Xanterra South Rim introduced a mule ride that is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among riders whose fear of heights kept them from taking the two-day mule ride that travels into the Canyon. Called the Abyss Overlook Mule Ride, these trips last approximately three hours and depart from the historic Grand Canyon Livery Barn in Grand Canyon Village twice-daily – at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – from March 15 through Oct. 31, and once each day departing at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 through March 14. There are a maximum of 20 riders per tour. Cost of the ride is $110 plus tax. Water, snacks, bota bags and rain jackets are provided.
Riders must weigh less than 225 pounds fully dressed, be at least 4 feet 7 inches tall, understand English, be in good physical condition, and not be afraid of heights or large animals. Riders cannot be pregnant.
The ride follows a trail that heads along a section of the historic Grand Canyon Railway tracks and then through the largest ponderosa pine forest in North America. The ride is approximately one hour and 15 minutes each way with a half-hour stop at the Abyss where riders can dismount to stretch their legs and shoot photos. This is the riders’ first and only opportunity to see the Canyon during the ride. The Abyss features a 3,000-foot vertical drop and views of many of the Grand Canyon’s colorful pinnacles, buttes and mesas. The rides return on the same trail.
Xanterra also offers two-day mule rides to the bottom of the Canyon with overnight accommodations at Phantom Ranch. Two-day mule tours are typically booked many months in advance so Xanterra advises travelers to plan ahead.
Did you know?: Mules have been a mode of tourist transportation in the Grand Canyon for more than a century.
A new concession operated by Bright Angel Bicycles offers rentals by the hour, and for half, full and multiple days. Rates begin at $10 for a one-hour rental. Travelers can ride on portions of the park’s greenway trail system and on park roads. Bicyclists can take self-guided tours directly from the rental kiosk or take a free NPS shuttle to any drop-off. Shuttles can accommodate a maximum of three bicycles. The bicycle rental kiosk is located at the National Park Service Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Did you know?: Even a leisurely bike ride at a slow pace burns calories – as many as 250 calories per hour for the average adult male.
There are also a variety of tours and activities in Grand Canyon Village. For example, visitors to theGrand Canyoncan take a self-guided walking tour of the historic district ofGrand CanyonVillage. Brochures providing interesting information about each of the stops are available at no charge from the front desk of each lodging facility. Interesting and historic sites within walking distance of Grand Canyon Village are the famed El Tovar Hotel, the Bright Angel History Room, Hopi House, Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio.
Tip: Don’t miss the Bright Angel History Room in Bright Angel Lodge where Harvey Girl uniforms, early El Tovar china, historic photos and other artifacts are on display. The Bright Angel History Room may be closed briefly this summer due to ongoing renovations at Bright Angel Lodge.
Visitors can book their rooms online by visiting http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/ or by calling toll-free 1-888-297-2757 or 1-303-297-2757 from outside the United States. More information about Grand Canyon National Park can be obtained at http://www.xanterra.net/ or 1-928-638-7888.