Grand Canyon tour ideas

I just received a nice compliment and an email from Louise:

I love the variety of issue you get into on your blog. I have a question for you – my husband and I would like to visit the Grand Canyon this fall. We live in Michigan, so we prefer to fly somewhere and then rent a car or connect with a tour – do you have any ideas?

I have some research on the Grand Canyon somewhere. I read that most tourists go to either the south or north but for some reason I wanted to go to the other side. I’ll hvae to look for my notes to figure out if it was north or south. Also, I remember reading about different kinds of tours: you can ride a mule down, raft for a few days, take a bus that stops at a few scenic overlooks, etc.

I’ll ask Louise to talk about what kind of tour would be best but if anyone has some ideas, please share.

Edit: Louise told me this…

My husband is handicapped and cannot do a lot of walking, so we were thinking of a tour that would take us on a driving tour around the sights of the park. Is that feasible? Should we fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix? Should we rent a car and drive to the park and then stay there a few nights? Recommendations of places to stay would be helpful, too.

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  1. Sharon says:

    I have written several articles on the Grand Canyon, so have covered a number of things. Need a few more specifics though to narrow it down for Louise. Here’s something on mule rides, however… 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.

    I have some info too on a jeep safari type thing, rafting, and a train day trip, which sounded like fun.

  2. Sharon says:

    Here are a few ideas for lodging:

    The upscale El Tovar has been a favorite of many well-known people including Einstein, Zane Grey, and Teddy Roosevelt. Guests of this national historic site will appreciate the fine dining, concierge services, self-parking, a gift shop, lounge, and a choice of rooms or suites.

    The Bright Angel on the South Rim attracts travelers for its rustic charm and reasonable rates. Built by Mary Colter, renowned architect for other Canyon properties, the lodge and cabins are ideal for families or groups. In addition to a restaurant, lounge, gift shop, history room, and an ice cream soda fountain open during the summer, this is a great location to arrange tours or activities, such as the Grand Canyon Mule Rides. Cabins are equipped with phones, TVs, and private bath.

    Travelers will enjoy the atmosphere of the Maswik Lodge, set amid the Ponderosa Pines. Only ¼ mile from the Canyon rim, the Lodge features a sports bar, cafeteria, small shop, and an activities and tour desk. Rooms vary from simple motel style to spacious and up to date. Cabins on the grounds are also available for summer months, and rates are less expensive than some of the other accommodations

    The large Yavapai Lodge is situated in the pinyon and juniper woods about ½ mile from the Canyon. Many of the 198 rooms have air conditioning, while others feature ceiling fans and vaulted ceilings. Conveniently located to the Market Plaza and the National Park Service Visitor Center, this lodge also has onsite dining at the Canyon Café, an activities desk, and souvenir shop.

  3. Sharon says:

    Here’s the info on the train. Not sure what all you see, but there’s a number to call for more info….For some, the train is still the only way to travel, and riding in the lavish comfort of a fully restored Pullman car certainly has great appeal. The Grand Canyon trains leave daily from Williams, AZ, for a 2 hour, 15 minute leisurely ride north through the Kaibab Forest. There is a great deal of history associated with the different cars on the train, with ownership changing hands numerous times through the years. All the cars are climate controlled; many are individually named and retain much of the vintage décor. Four classes of service are available, ranging from $70 per person in coach to $190 for the very exclusive parlor seating (these rates may have changed). The Grand View Dome car provides forward seating and full observation views, and passengers in first class have reclining seats, large picture windows, and personal service. Parlor class is plush with carpeting, paneling, private bar, window shades, and spacious seating. Here, passengers can go out on the open rear platform to take pictures of the desert wildlife and the ever-changing scenery. Complimentary breakfast, champagne, and appetizers are included in the fare.(Note: A 2009 special promotion package is being offered, as the railway reaches its 50th birthday. Call 1-800-843-8724 for details on this and other available packages.)

  4. Jim says:

    I was a tour guide from Sedona, AZ for several years. Many of the above comments are very good, but here are some more things to consider. The best tours are conducted with a limited number of people, a maximum of 10. Your guide will talk about all that you see going and returning from the canyon. By the way, you cannot see the canyon from the train, it is several hundred yards away and up hill. Your tours may originate fram Flagstaff. Sedona or Pheonix. They make pick-ups at all major hotels and resorts. I would sigest staying in Sedona and take the tour from there.

  5. JinPA says:

    For first-time visitors, the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is recommended. There are free shuttle buses to many of the most scenic points on the South Rim. The shuttles do not go all the way to the east entrance. You can drive there, however. You can also take a guided coach tour from inside the park. If I recall correctly the guided coach does go to the east entrance.

    Information is available on the National Park website about the guided coach tours, lodging and dining inside the park, as well as park maps and information on ranger programs.

    It is also recommended that you stay inside the park for easiest access to all the sites, without needing to drive into the park each day during your visit. It is a several-hour drive from Sedona or Flagstaff. While the small tour from Sedona would offer some advantages, it also limits your time in the park.

    It is a 5-hr drive from Las Vegas. Airfares and rental cars are usually less expensive there, so many visitors fly into / out of Las Vegas. Phoenix would be another nice option, and you would then be able to stop in Sedona, which is also a beautiful area.

    One final note – beware of tours visiting “Grand Canyon West” (sometimes called the “West Rim”) or the “Grand Canyon Skywalk”. Neither of those are in the National Park. They are on tribal lands many miles west of the National Park, and are generally not recommended by most reviewers.

    IT is a bit confusing, as the Hermit’s Rest area in the western portion of the South Rim of the National Park is also known as “West Rim Drive”!

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