“There are no suicidal mules,” our guide and wrangler, Don, assured us before we mounted our mules at Grand Canyon National Park. “We do two of these rides a day, and no mule has ever fallen.”
Inspired by that confidence, my mom and I saddled up to embark on a four-mile ride along the canyon’s East Rim. Our tour started at the +100-year-old livery barn in Grand Canyon Village. We took a motorcoach ride out to Yaki Corral, then received an orientation which prepared us for our upcoming adventure.
For centuries, traders and cowboys have ridden along the Grand Canyon on mules, yet the particular route we’re on has only recently been opened up. Grand Canyon National Park offers a famous mule ride to the base of the Canyon, complete with an overnight stay at legendary Phantom Ranch. The classic adventure is on many people’s bucket list, but to partake requires two days, one night and absolutely no fear of heights––or mistrust of mules.
About a year ago, Xanterra Parks & Resorts––the hospitality company that manages the park’s lodges and activities––began offering a more moderate option: the Canyon Vista Mule Ride. This three-hour mule ride along the rim of the canyon is an ideal choice for people who either don’t have two days built into their trip to devote to the ride, or who get squeamish at the thought of hanging over the edge of the canyon on the back of a mule.
For my mom and me, it was perfect. We loved every minute of the three-hour experience, which brought us through Ponderosa Pine forests, a Pinyon Pine Juniper Woodland and canyon views like the ones below.
Don was an outstanding wrangler and guide. The former firefighter and medic is a great storyteller with an obvious passion for what he does. He’s seen a lot––he rode in Yosemite as a wrangerl, and as a firefighter was called into duty to help with search and rescue after both the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11. He also admitted it was an old girlfriend, decades ago, who first sparked his interest in riding.
During our ride, we spotted an elk, fox and coyote. It was our mules who tipped us off to the latter. “You can tell when wildlife is around by watching the mules’ ears,” Don explained. “They always sense other animals and they go on high alert (with perked up ears), but mules don’t spook as much as horses.”
Riding the mules along the canyon’s edge did feel a bit like going back in time. And indeed, the sights we saw––spectacular vistas of the 277-mile long canyon––are as timeless as they come.
For more information on mule rides, other Grand Canyon activities or lodging within Grand Canyon National Park, visit GrandCanyonLodges.com.