Riding a mule down to the bottom of the breathtaking Grand Canyon is a fantastic one-of-a-kind experience to discover the truly spectacular views of the Grand Canyon National Park in a different way. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, this activity is for you!
Did you know that the first known use of an expert mule guide, called a mule skinner, dates back to 1870 and was used to describe a muleteer? The origins of the word came from the fact that those professional mule riders spent so much time with their mules pulling barges and hauling mining materials that they became extremely skilled at picking flies off the mule's skin with their long whip without hitting the mule. Of course the mule skinner’s job was to keep the mules moving but the latter usually knew the route and needed little coaxing.
Take your pick between a multitude of 2 or 3-hour mule trips, day trips with an overnight stop at Phantom Ranch, or deep into the canyon following the South or North Kaibab Trail, the options are endless! Horses can also be used instead of mule and other activities such as twilight campfire and wagon rides can be included to make it an unforgettable experience.
Name: Mule Rides
Location: from the mule barn down the canyon to Phantom Ranch and/or the other way round
Duration: from a couple hours to a couple days with an overnight stay
Difficulty: medium to difficult
What to take: A long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a hat are recommended
Why is it for you: If you’re interested in the cultural aspect of the Grand Canyon, you will enjoy learning about the area’s native people, the flora and fauna, the geologic formations and the evolution of the landscape during your trip
Price: from $45 (for 1 hour) to $152 (for 2 or more hours)
Sherpa Sam's recommendation: prepare yourself and get fit(ter) before the ride. Because the terrain is very precipitous in parts, the ride can sometimes be a little scary as the mule picks its way over the rocks. However, the mules have done this every day of their lives so just trust them and enjoy the ride!
Most companies offer group trips with a number of riders varying between 10 and 20 riders and always accompanied by an experienced guide, but all of them have similar restrictions and rules, such as:
Children must usually be 7 to 9 years or older to ride a mule
Riders must usually weigh less than 220 lbs (or 100kg)
Riders must be in good physical condition, all-levels welcome - so beginner riders rest easy
Riders must be able to understand and speak English fluently
Here’s a few companies that will take you on a fun and exciting mule ride. Saddle up!
I should warn you, riding a mule down the Grand Canyon is not that easy! The ride down and up is hard on the body, jostling it back and forth so if you are thinking of riding the mule, work hard to get in shape before your trip. Riding a mule along the ridge of the canyon can also be scary, but the mules are very sure-footed and safe. If you’d rather hike down, mules can easily be arranged to carry your pack from the mule barn or from Phantom Ranch. The price can vary but it is usually less than $100.
Sherpa Sam says...
Did you know that a mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse? The opposite, a cross between a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion) is called a hinny, not a mule. Horses and donkeys are actually two different species, with different numbers of chromosomes and because of that, their offspring is usually sterile.