last year

Grand Canyon Mule Rides

Who in their right mind would spend good money to take part in an activity that left them tired, dirty, and sweaty afterward, with back and leg muscles so sore, that they walked like John Wayne even weeks later? You, that’s who – we’re talking about the Grand Canyon Mule Ride here! Grand Canyon Mule Rides are the quintessential Grand Canyon tour, where folks like you can get their cowboy on and get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the most classic, time-honored fashion there is.

The Grand Canyon is huge: over 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. Back in the 19th century, early developers of the area soon discovered that getting to the bottom and back under one’s own steam was hard. Mules, a hybrid animal born of a female horse and fathered by a male donkey, had demonstrated their prowess as sure-footed, intelligent pack animals in other parts of the country. They took to the rugged terrain of the Grand Canyon like fish to water.

First offered to paying guests in 1887, Grand Canyon Mule Rides have become the most famous trail ride in the world. People from all walks of life have enjoyed it, from working-class Americans to international royalty. Today, a lucky 10 people per day get the privilege of riding from the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and staying overnight at historic Phantom Ranch. Those without sufficient time or inclination can enjoy the Canyon Vistas tour, a rimside ride that goes to a canyon overlook through the Kaibab National Forest. From the North Rim, riders can venture to Supai Tunnel, 2 miles down the North Kaibab Trail. On the Havasupai Indian Reservation, West of Grand Canyon National Park, guests use both mules and pack horses to travel down the 10-mile trail to Supai Village from Hualapai Hilltop, and then on to the beautiful waterfalls this area is renowned for.

Grand Canyon Mule Trips

Grand Canyon visitors generally express interest in the mule rides for two reasons: 1) they want to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and 2) they don’t want to hike it. If reason #2 is a real concern for you, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is not significantly easier than hiking. The author herself, who has experienced both the mule ride and Grand Canyon hiking, was always wiped out after the mule ride, more so than she was after “hoofing it.”

Grand Canyon mule ride can be a tough, hard trip, but an amazing one! Best of all, prior horseback riding experience isn’t required. Still, it’s not for everybody. There are some very strict rules that each rider must comply with, or they will not ride. They are:

  • No rider may weigh more than 200 lbs. or 91 kilos (you will be weighed at check-in)
  • All riders must be at least 4’7” or 139 cm tall (children will be measured at check-in)
  • All riders must speak and understand fluent English (English fluency will be evaluated at check-in if necessary)
  • Women who are pregnant may not ride – no exceptions!

People who are afraid of heights or large animals probably shouldn’t take this trip, nor should individuals in less than robust health. Regulations vary slightly for North Rim or Havasu Canyon rides, so make sure you are fully aware of those before you commit your time and money.

Grand Canyon Mule Ride Trail

Even if you are in compliance with all of the above guidelines, though, the biggest obstacle you’re bound to encounter when planning a Grand Canyon Mule Ride is availability. Or lack thereof, to be precise. Grand Canyon Mule Rides, particularly the South Rim ride to Phantom Ranch, tend to sell out one year in advance. With only 10 riders per day allowed on the trip, it’s no wonder! At the present time, Xanterra South Rim, the tours, food and lodging concessionaire, only takes reservations for Grand Canyon mule rides by phone. They open up reservations for Grand Canyon mule rides on the first day of each month for the corresponding month of the following year, spaces are typically booked out within minutes. Mule and horseback rides at Havasupai are also booked by phone only, and are equally difficult to come by. North Rim mule rides, offered by Canyon Trail Rides, are not as full, and online reservations are available. They can sometimes be reserved mere days ahead or even on the same day. This is partly due to the fact that the North Rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th, and is harder to get to from most major cities in the Western U.S.

One noteworthy exception to the “booked one year in advance” rule at Grand Canyon South Rim is that during the winter months, visitation tapers off significantly due to colder temperatures and occasional heavy snow. If you’re ready and willing to deal with these conditions, it can work to your advantage. Grand Canyon Mule Rides have more late-notice availability during the months of November through March, and what’s more, you can take part in a trip that gives you not one, but two wonderful nights at Phantom Ranch!

If your trip is less than one year out and you still want to try your luck at getting on a Grand Canyon Mule Ride, cancellations do occur, but lucking into them takes some work. Again, reservations for this activity are only taken by phone, so you have to keep calling. Xanterra’s corporate offices are located in DenverColorado, so they operate on Mountain Time. International callers especially will have to keep the time difference in mind. If you still haven’t been able to pick up a cancellation by the time your trip begins, waiting lists are taken at the Bright Angel Transportation Desk the day prior to each ride. Contact information for all concessionaires is provided at the end of this article, as well as other good sources of information such as travel forums, the National Park Service website, etc.

If, by this point in time, you’re thinking that a Grand Canyon Mule Ride is not in the cards for you, there are 2 Easier ways to getting to the bottom of the Grand Canyon - The Inner Canyon Tour - OR - The 1-day White Water Rafting Tour.

Grand Canyon Mule Rides - Contact Information

South Rim Mule Rides

Please Call:
1-800-297-2757 or 1-303-297-2757

North Rim Mule Rides

Please Call: 

Havasupai Mule Rides

Please Call:

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