Grand Canyon Mule Trip Report

Mar 27th, 2006, 08:42 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,169
Question on wine at Phanton Ranch: Yes, there is wine. The white is chablis.
Tips for people taking the mule trip: Bring cash and/or a credit card for purchases at Phantom Ranch -- T-shirts, postcards, drinks, etc. If you bring a videocamera, bring your charger, as there is an electrical outlet in the room. Also, the guides expect a tip at the end of the ride.
It is an awesome trip!
bakerstreet is offline  
Sep 12th, 2006, 05:13 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 26
Hi Gilbert-

After reading your post I called on the off chance that there was availability for a one night at Phantom in 2/07...and there was!! My girls haven't stopped squealing yet. They will be 12 & 14-any tips you can pass along concerning the mule ride or Phantom would be greatly appreciated. We'll be staying at Thunderbird the night before. Thanks for a wonderful post!!
kargirls is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 01:12 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 103
Hi Kargirls,

Sorry I haven't replied earlier - computer is at work, and I've been home sick. YUK.

I am sure you will have a great time.
If you can get a copy of a DVD called "Ron Clayton's Grand Canyon - Mule Skinners Journal", please do!
It's $19.95 available from the Grand Canyon Association and I highly recommend watching it.
There's also another DVD about the mule trip narrated by Wilford Brimley (can't think of the name), that one gives more history about Phantom Ranch and the Grand Canyon.
Definitely try and get the Ron Clayton one.

The weather in February will probably be on the cold side.
This will be our 4th trip to the GC in 3 years - and our 3rd time in December.
The mule trip last December we had exceptional weather - no snow, cool overnight 30s and down at Phantom Ranch it got up to the mid 60s (t-shirt weather).

When we were there in March it had snowed the day before and looked absolutely gorgeous!
We watched the mule riders leave the next morning - it was cold, overcast and windy - they looked cold.

The best advice is to be prepared for anything and dress in layers. We wore silk long underwear under our jeans. And on top I had on a t-shirt, fleece top and a water/wind proof coat.

I would certainly be prepared for cold, wintry weather. Don't forget a hat and gloves too - you may not need them, but you can always stuff them in your pockets.

Take a small flashlight with you - no lights at the bottom of the GC. Take "travel size" toiletries.

When you get to P.R. make sure you walk around for an hour or so. Walk back to the Anasazi Ruins or back to the suspension bridge for some photos, or you can head up Bright Angel Creek. It really helps.

The meals at P.R. are great - you won't go hungry. After the 2nd sitting, they close for cleaning up, and then the canteen will re-open at 8pm - there are board games, cards or it's just fun talking to the other riders and hikers.
They sell t-shirts and caps that you can't get anywhere else - a little spendy, but worth it in my opinion.

The mule skinners will tell you all the rules & do's and dont's beforehand. And one they really stress if using the "motivator" (riding crop). And you will probably need to use it at least a couple of times on the way down. Don't be afraid of using it either, you won't be hurting the mules.

If you can change your plans, I would definitely spend the night after the mule trip at the Grand Canyon or Cameron Trading Post. Personally, I wouldn't want to drive all the way to Monument Valley.

We will be heading to Monument Valley after our next mule trip too.

Also, we will probably bring extra apples for the mules!
Take lots and lots and lots of pictures!
Sit back, relax and have a great time!

I will ask DH tonite if he can think of anything else.

But do try and get the DVD.
Hope some of this helps. I will post another trip report when I get back, so maybe I will have some more hints for you then.

Gilbert is offline  
Sep 15th, 2006, 02:57 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 154
Reminds me of my own excursion on a mule into the Grand canyon; twenty six years ago. I signed a standby list at Bright Angel Lodge and showed up the next morning and there were enough no shows I was able to join the trip. The only option offered was the one day roundtrip to Plateau Point (Phantom Ranch was closed for remodeling). We were pointedly instructed by the wrangler to always have the mule's head pointed out toward the canyon in order for the mule to see how far down the mule was going to drop if it went over the edge. Accidents happen when the rider lets the mule enjoy the grass on the canyon wall and accidently back off the edge of the trail.
I will always be happy I went; great memories but the drawback at the time was there was pain involved. One uses one set of muscles going down, a different set going up and at the end of the day they all ache. By the last water stop on the way back out of the canyon I just might have gotten off and walked, if I had thought I still could walk. I don't say that to discourage anyone, just cautioning that they understand some pain may be involved but it is a great experience one will always remember and if one has the chance to make the trip I would urge going for it.
floydvic is offline  
Sep 19th, 2006, 01:11 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks so much for the added info!! I saw the info about the mule DVD on the Xanterra site but couldn't find a price & haven't heard back from them. Santa will be leaving that for us.

My next question concerns the steepness of the trail. From other posts this trip sounds very unnerving. But the pictures on Xanterra's site & others don't appear that bad. I'm afraid we'll either be overly calm or terrified. None of us have fear of heights/large animals but should I be a little nervous? Thanks again for everyone's help!
kargirls is offline  
Sep 19th, 2006, 01:39 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 103

I only think it's steep if one is walking back up !! LOL

But seriously - it can be steep in some places, and I think one notices it more because your're sitting 5 feet up off terra firma.

There is one section just after Indian Gardens called the Devils Corkscrew. Our guide said that he thinks God lives nearby, because he often hears the comment "Oh my God".

And there's another section further down the trail when you get your first glimpse of the Colorado River. I turned around and asked my DH "How far down is that?" and he said he didn't know, but you'd be dead if you fell!! Gee, thanks honey!!

If you don't have any problem with heights, then I'm pretty sure you won't have any problems.
I don't have a fear of heights, but I don't like standing too close to the rim of the GC and I would never EVER walk out on any rock ledges, but when I started down that trail on Caesar, I had a smile on my face almost as big as the canyon itself.

Here are 2 web sites that have some good pictures.

The first one also gives the name of the other DVD narrated by Wilford Brimley (you should get this one too).

If the second one has no pictures to start with just click on "continue gallery".

Gilbert is offline  
Sep 19th, 2006, 01:42 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 103

PS - I would definitely take along Advil or Tylenol - just in case!

Gilbert is offline  
Sep 19th, 2006, 06:15 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks Gilbert!! This is exactly what I was looking for and I'll be sure to get both DVDs. Still a bit nervous, but I've wanted to do this since I was a little girl and saw the Brady Bunch riding the mules to the bottom of the canyon.
kargirls is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 08:28 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 26
Hi Gilbert-

Another question... One of our daughters, the youngest of course, would race the mules down. The other (13 y/o)I think will do fine but if the two spots you mention are too much for her, will the wranglers let her walk any or part as long as one of us is with her? I'm planning on giving all of us a few riding lessons for Christmas and I ordered both videos you mentioned as well.

Thanks again!
kargirls is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 08:40 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 17,226
No lessons are necessary. You just get in the saddle and ride. The mules do the rest.

You are not allowed to get off and walk.
starrsville is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2006, 07:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 103

I agree with Starrsville.
The mules are smarter that a lot of people I know (what does that say about me !! LOL). You just get on and they do the rest - the only things you have to do is keep your mule 3 - 5 feet behind the mule in front and don't let them eat the vegetation along the trail.

Although you don't really need riding lessons, I think that's a good idea anyway. It will give you a feel of what you will experience - I think the mules are a bit wider than the average horse though.

And, no they won't let you get off and walk.

Actually the 2 places that I mentioned aren't really that bad. The Devil's Corkscrew is right after Indian Gardens which is relatively flat, the trail skirts the creek, with lots of vegetation (look for deer here), then all of a sudden, you're out in the open again on switchbacks - it's just such a dramatic change in scenery - it's really awe inspiring!!

I am excited for all of you - I know you will have a wonderful time. What an experience for your 2 girls. ENJOY.


Gilbert is offline  
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