Horses and Mules

You don't have to walk everywhere. Just as you carry your child on your back for no pay under hot conditions, even dumber animals are available to carry you on their backs for no pay under hot conditions. This is what evolution has been aiming at all these years.

Mules

You will hear about the mules. This is a semi-big deal, riding mules down into the Canyon. We didn't do it, but here are some things to know about this possibility:

The mule trips book up a year or more in advance. You can sign up online at www.grandcanyonlodges.com.

If you can't get reserved online, you can show up early at the mule starting point near Bright Angel and put your name on a last-minute cancellation list. We were told that the chances are poor in the summer months but you might get a chance otherwise.

But be sure to know that the mule ride lasts multiple hours, down the Bright Angel Trail, in the direct sun. For safety reasons the mules stop and rest but the riders (you) must stay onboard. The mules do smell mule-like and, as we observed, seem to do big potty No. 2 in a large, green fly-loving way about every seven steps. Your child will ride alone, either in front or behind you and is on his/her own, though you will get a sore neck from trying to turn around to check on his progress.

If you are not sure about mules, they are stabled between the Bright Angel and Maswick lodges, and you can get up pretty close to them. You might consider bringing the kids there first and checking their reaction before spending the money and enduring the saddle sores. They are easy to find-follow your nose.

Horses

Grand Canyon horses

We did find an alternative just outside the park entrance (and after my line about “following your nose” you can be glad I did not make a “horsing around” joke here). You'll need a car, but a few minutes outside the main entrance you'll see a sign on the west side of the road for Apache Stables (Highway 64, at the Moqui Lodge, just outside the south entrance station to Grand Canyon National Park).

We were able to get reservations for the late afternoon the day after we called, and that was in July when seats on the mule train were harder to come by than something lime green that didn't attract flies when it fell out of the back end of a mule.

Grand Canyon horses

They have really, really tame horses and offer trail rides as short as 60 minutes. The workers, um, cowboys, were very friendly and just grizzled enough to make it cool. They answered questions and showed the kids about the horses, and then spent some time matching up riders with the appropriate mount.

The one hour ride was through the scrubby Kaibab National Forest (no Grand Canyon views) and cost $30.50 per person plus tax in summer 2003, no kid discounts, VISA accepted. Restrictions are approx. weight limit 230 lbs. Children must be 8 years old and older and at least 48” tall. When we went, they did measure and weigh us.

Grand Canyon horses

The horses were very tame and well-trained, and clearly knew the path to take. Our kids, however, were fully enamored with the idea that they were controlling the horse. The ride was hot-mostly in the direct sun-so bring water, sun block and a hat. We had a great time, the kids had a great time, it only lasted 60 minutes, it was cheaper than the mules and it only lasted 60 minutes.

P.S. There are nothing but Port-O-Potties at the stables, so it is best to take care of toilet things before you leave the Canyon.

Call them at 928-638-2891 or 928-638-3105. You can also book online through Apache Stables.

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