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Re: Phantom Ranch

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avatar Phantom Ranch
September 05, 2012 09:10AM
My brother and I got extremely lucky and snagged a reservation for a 4 person, private cabin at Phantom Ranch for Sunday night over this Labor Day weekend. Normally you have to make reservations a year in advance, but there was a cancellation right before he called the reservation # for another reason. Xanterra is the management company for a bunch of different parks. The agent mentioned it was available and he booked it on the spot.

We drove from the SF Bay Area to Laughlin, Nevada on Friday after the kids got out from school, arriving just after 1am. The next day it was only about 3.5 hours to the south rim of the Grand Canyon where we had a room reserved at the Thunderbird Lodge, only a few steps from the canyon rim next to the Bright Angel Lodge. Sunset that evening was amazing!

The next morning we caught the 6am hikers express bus to the South Kaibab trail head and began our 7 mile descent into the canyon. This trail is described as a ridge trail as it follows the ridge line contours with breathtaking views on the way down. We were hit with a light rainstorm for the first hour or so. It was a welcome relief from the heat. We made it to the bottom in roughly 3 hours.

My son enjoying the view from the overlook leading to the inner gorge! Phantom Ranch is in the tree filled canyon leading up the opposite side of the canyon.

If you have never been to Phantom Ranch before, I would compare it to the Yosemite High Sierra Camp layout, except it has power and running water and the store will be happy to run your credit card for a couple of beers or a carafe of wine. In addition, there are cute little cabins with private bathrooms and air conditioning, perfect for an early afternoon nap! We purchased a steak dinner, breakfast, and a sack lunch for the next day on our way up the Bright Angel Trail. Everything was wonderful. Not as gourmet as the HSC's but wonderful nonetheless.

The next morning it was up for breakfast at 6am and on the trail by 7:15am. We decided (as many recommended) to return via the Bright Angel Trail. This trail, by contrast, is a canyon trail. It follows the canyon bottom as it winds its way up from the river. It is 10 miles or so to the canyon rim but has a bit more of a gradual climb. Don't let my description fool you though. The last four miles of this trail climb nearly 3,000 ft in a series of incredible switchbacks that climb the canyon walls. Truly an amazing trail!

Suspension bridges over the Colorado River

Near the top of the trail looking down!

On Monday morning, we woke up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, climbed nearly 4,300 feet over 10 miles, drove 11.5 hours home, and somehow made it to work/school on Tuesday. The trip of a lifetime!

"It is all very beautiful and magical here - a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breath it., let the sun bake it into you" - Ansel Adams

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2012 09:39AM by Jayabrams.
avatar Re: Phantom Ranch
September 05, 2012 10:39AM

Thanks for posting. Either one of the 4,300' climb or the 11.5 hour drive would have done me in. Wow!
Re: Phantom Ranch
September 05, 2012 11:08AM
Great trip report! I am in the midst of planning a 2013 jaunt with my buddies to try and camp at and down in the GC (at either Bright Angel or Indian Garden, permit dependent). Did you get a chance to see the campgrounds and any thoughts on them? Also any other tips, suggestions about the place? I have never been and am getting psyched up to go even though I am going next Mayish.
avatar Re: Phantom Ranch
September 05, 2012 02:57PM
Thanks for your nice comments.

I saw the two main backpacker campgrounds on the southern trails and both looked pretty nice. The Bright Angel campground is at the bottom next to Phantom Ranch along the opposite side of the creek. You can see them in this photo along the right edge. There are sites along the creek and sites along the cliff wall with a trail that runs between them. It looked really nice!

This picture is taken from the upper bridge across Bright Angel Creek looking downstream.

The second campground we saw was at Indian Gardens. This is the little valley of trees you can see on the Tonto Plateau before the Inner Gorge. It has a beautiful creek that flows down to the river along the trail for the next 3 miles or so. Not sure if I would stop here though, the bottom is the real goal!

Some other suggestions:
You might consider looking into the duffel service. If you can time it right, you can pay about $60 (each way?) for the mule train to bring a bag of your equipment up and down for you. I can't imagine adding another 15lbs or more of equipment to my pack for that hike. It was difficult enough carrying just my water and snacks. I believe you can get the details from the website or by calling the Xanterra people. I think the tricky part was timing the trip to drop off and pick up your gear from their scheduled supply runs without having to add an extra day at the beginning or end of your trip up on the rim.

Try to get a room at the Thunderbird Lodge or the little cabins at the Bright Angel Lodge. I think we paid $160. We split the cost so it wasn't too bad. Really nice rooms just steps from the canyon edge. As a bonus your car will be right at the top of the trail when you are done.

I read a lot of advice on which trails to take and I agree with most. Take the South Kaibab Trail on the way down and come up the Bright Angel Trail. It's a great loop.

Train for your trip!!! I am in pretty good shape and I'll be walking funny for a few more days!

Have fun and happy planning!

"It is all very beautiful and magical here - a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breath it., let the sun bake it into you" - Ansel Adams

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2012 03:05PM by Jayabrams.
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