The Grand Canyon South Rim: Phantom Ranch and Back to the Top.


Phantom Ranch is remarkable. A small group of cabins and a dining hall at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Totally isolated, supplied by mule train and yet they have electricity, running water and a phone (although be warned there is NO wifi!)

The common room at Phantom Ranch
The common room at Phantom Ranch

There are private cabins and dorms. We were in the dorms which are not coed so my husband and I parted ways for the night. The dorms sleep 10 in bunk beds. When we arrived all the lower bunks were taken so I had to take a top one (if you get a chance take the bottom- more places to put your stuff and you don’t have to worry about your belongings falling off the bed in the middle of the night).

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Other Phantom Ranch residents.
Other Phantom Ranch residents.

We encountered the very enthusiastic volunteer park ranger who was giving a talk about Condors. Which are endangered but making a comeback. We were actually lucky enough to see them in Zion (but that is a story for another post).

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The mail box. All mail is carried up by mule.
The mail box. All mail is carried up by mule.

For a fee you can eat dinner and breakfast at Phantom Ranch. There are two sittings and you must book in advance but what a treat! The food is basic but good and they just keep bringing it! (we should have brought our 20 year old son!). Seating is at long tables and it is determined by the staff. We ended up at a table with a couple from Thunder Bay which we found very funny. There we were thousands of miles away from home and the people we meet live in the same part of Canada as we do.

Most of the people at the bottom of the Grand Canyon were like us. Definitely the kind of people I would invite for dinner.

Mules tucked in for the night.
Mules tucked in for the night.

In the summer temperatures reach 120 on a regular basis, we were there in fall so it was cooler but daylight was pretty limited. It was dark by 5pm. Bring a headlamp. We walked along the River Trail before supper. It connects the South Kibab and Bright Angel trails at the bottom of the canyon and it was literally blasted out of the canyon wall in places. When it was built the plan was to name it after the first worker who died building it. They all lived so it became the River Trail. There is a tunnel at the entrance to the black bridge and when I stood in the entrance I was buzzed by bats. Bats have echolocation so they never run into you but they sure do come close!

The view from the River Trail.
The view from the River Trail.
Dodging bats!
Dodging bats!

After supper the park ranger told us stories about the history of Phantom Ranch including the story of the Civilian Conservation Corps a group of young men who worked to build trails and facilities at the bottom of the canyon during the depression. Their achievements included the phone line and a swimming pool which was later filled in. Ledgend has it that there is a piano in the fill. She finished the evening with a scorpion hunt.

The early morning sky.
The early morning sky.

An additional service provided by the staff at phantom ranch is a 4:30am wake up call. We had breakfast at 5:00am and were on bright Angel trail before 6:00am. We started in the dark and we saw a bit of a sunrise as we started up the Canyon.

The sunrise as we climbed out of the canyon.
The sunrise as we climbed out of the canyon.

Bright Angel is the recommended route up to the top of the Canyon. It’s longer than South Kibab so it’s not as steep. There is more shade, more water and as a result more vegetation. Like South Kibab the trail is well maintained and easy to follow. Indian garden campground is part way up. It’s almost an oasis. Unlike South Kaibab trail which is very dry, there were places where we had to step on rocks to keep our feet dry. Bright Angel was also more crowded. We were never really alone but it’s a beautiful trail.

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

Bright Angel trail ends at Grand Canyon Village so we finished the hike with ice cream. The park shuttle bus passes through the village so you can hop on for a ride back to your car.

 

Published by judyapiel

Runner, triathlete and coach. Owner of RunK2J, Community Events at Bushtukah. Always looking for a new travel adventure.

One thought on “The Grand Canyon South Rim: Phantom Ranch and Back to the Top.

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