Phantom of the Canyon

Want to really go grand in Grand Canyon National Park? Stay at historic Phantom Ranch! A clutch of…

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Want to really go grand in Grand Canyon National Park? Stay at historic Phantom Ranch! A clutch of simple, private bunk-bed-filled cabins along with dorm-style lodging  are available for a comfy night’s stay at the very bottom of the world’s most famous canyon. The only way to reach this riverside escape is by hiking down to it, or taking the Grand Canyon’s sure-footed “long-eared taxi,” otherwise known as the mule! Either way you get there, Phantom Ranch is a welcome sight after descending from the South Rim to the Colorado River: Cottonwood trees shade the cabins, and Bright Angel Creek gurgles nearby (this oasis is the perfect place to chill—and to cool your feet—after the long hike).

The Phantom Ranch Canteen is open for food and souvenir provisions (you can buy and mail postcards from here) and probably has the most refreshing beer in the entire national park system! At dinner, overnight guests gather at communal tables for family-style meat-and-potato type meals (these must be booked as part of your stay; otherwise, you can bring down your own food and enjoy it outside your cabin at a picnic table). It’s hard not to feel like an Old West cowboy by the end of your stay. At night, join in on a ranger talk, or walk down to the beach along the very cold Colorado River. Watching the sunset tinge the canyon walls all shades of orange and pink is one of the grandest magic tricks of all!

TIP: Most people hike out of Phantom Ranch via Bright Angel Trail (9.3 miles, one-way), where Indian Garden presents a popular break spot, with a campground and shaded picnic area and water. This is also where strong and fit hikers can add a 3-mile (round-trip) side hike on Plateau Point Trail to Plateau Point, offering arguably the best complete panorama of the canyon, without crowds! Or do the Plateau Point hike as a separate, and challenging, day hike from the South Rim.

Phantom Ranch books out very fast, so you have to plan ahead. You can reserve a cabin by phone (888) 297-2757 on the first day of each month for a one-year-in-advance booking (cancellations do happen, including same-day ones, so persistence may pay off if you try to go sooner than later). Be sure to indicate if you want meals included, as that must be reserved at the same time. Most people hike down to Phantom Ranch via the South Kaibab Trail and hike out via the Bright Angel Trail. There is an option for hikers to port their extra gear and food to Phantom Ranch via a mule. In addition to Phantom Ranch, the Bright Angel Campground is also in this area, with sites right alongside its namesake creek. Note: Even if you’re a strong hiker, be very careful in planning this journey or any hikes in Grand Canyon National Park during the dead of summer, as the exposed trails can be firecracker hot. Spring and fall are best bets for visiting, and always find information about what water sources are available on trails before setting out. No dogs.

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