Soaring views seldom seen of the Grand Canyon fill the Canyon Vistas Mule Ride — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
When miners realized there was more money to be made taking tourists into the Grand Canyon via their mules than mining itself in 1897, the tradition of mule tours at the Grand Canyon was born.
Today, two mule adventures are available: the overnight trip to stay at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and the new Canyon Vistas Mule Ride that opened in August 2013.
The 3-hour-long Xanterra-operated Canyon Vistas tour takes up to 20 riders on a four-mile ride from historic Yaki Barn along the East Rim Trail, built by the National Park Service. This new trail affords sweeping views and vantage points not easily accessed before.
A wrangler leads a tour on the new Canyon Vistas Mule Ride — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Riders check in at Bright Angel Lodge’s transportation desk and take a van to the stables. Here, they receive a goatskin water bag that’s theirs to keep and "listen up" instruction on mule riding and safety. They then set off single-file through woods until the plummeting view of the Grand Canyon is reached.
Riders follow the trail, never out of sight of the Canyon, but with enough of a buffer to reassure those not comfortable with heights. Mules, the infertile offspring of horses and donkeys, are prized for their surefootedness, stamina and intelligence. Six stops are made along the way during which guides point out geologic formations and interesting historical information.
The Canyon Vista Mule Ride replaces the Abyss Overlook Mule Ride that traveled primarily through woods. That ride began in 2011 after the long-standing half-day ride into the Grand Canyon to Plateau Point was discontinued due to erosion and increased traffic concerns.
Two tours are offered March 15th through October 31st at 9 am and 1 pm, and one tour departs at 10 am, November 1st through March 14th. Cost is $114 per rider, who must understand English for safety instructions, weigh no more than 225 pounds and be at least 4’11” tall. Closed-toe footwear, long-sleeved shirts and long pants are required.