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  • Writer's pictureBrian Childress

Phantom Ranch - Grand Canyon, Arizona

Phantom Ranch is a historic oasis nestled at the bottom of Grand Canyon. It is on the north side of the Colorado River tucked in beside Bright Angel Creek. Phantom Ranch is the only lodging below the canyon rim and can only be reached by mule, on foot, or by rafting the Colorado River.

In the 1920’s, the National Park Service selected the Fred Harvey Company to build a tourist facility within the canyon. Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was commissioned to draft the plans for the facility. She produced sketches for a series of cabins. Everyone was pleased and it was soon announced that the accommodations would be named Roosevelt’s Chalets. Upon which Colter snatched up her blueprints and declared, “Not if you are going to be using my work.” A consummate perfectionist, she had already chosen the name: Phantom Ranch. The rustic cabins and main lodge are built of wood and native stone blending with the natural beauty of the setting.

All Phantom Ranch reservations must be made in advance. Space is extremely limited. Additional individuals cannot stay under your reservation and guests are prohibited from doubling-up in the bunks or sleeping on the floors. Reservation information is listed below.

Dormitories & Cabins


These accommodations are available to hikers only. There are 2 male dorms and 2 female dorms. Each dorm has 5 bunk beds, a shower, and a shared restroom. Bedding and towels are provided for each guest occupying a dorm bed. Children must be at least 6 years old to stay in a dormitory.



These accommodations vary in size and accommodate from 2 to 10 guests. Cabins are equipped with bedding, cold water sink, toilet, liquid soap, and hand towels. Showers, bath towels, hot water sinks, and liquid soap-shampoo combination are provided at a central location. Pricing for cabins is based on double occupancy; additional guests may stay with an additional charge. If you are hiking the canyon or meeting/departing on a whitewater trip and wish to stay at Phantom Ranch in a cabin or a dorm, you must call the Central Reservations Office.





For overnight stays at Phantom Ranch, a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 20 Hikers is designated as a Group. For overnight mule rides, parties of 10 Mule Riders may book their reservation by calling our Central Reservations office at 888-297-2757, or by entering the lottery.

Mule Riders


One night or two night mule trips can be booked with the Central Reservations Office. These trips are sold as a package.



Hiking is one of the most rewarding ways to see the Grand Canyon and is also the most difficult. The walk to Phantom Ranch is approximately 7.5 miles down the South Kaibab Trail (average hiking time is 4-5 hours down) and 10 miles on the Bright Angel Trail (average hiking time down is 4-6 hours, average hiking time up is 6-10 hours). A good rule of thumb is for every hour it takes to hike down, it will take two to hike up. Summer temperatures can reach 120° F (49° C) while winter conditions can be icy and treacherous. Take a hike – but be prepared!

We hiked down the south rim and back up and down the north rim to the south rim. Both hikes are very difficult and you need to prepare for 24 to 30 mile hikes, depending on your hiking decision.

Here is the real trip distance based on our GPS:

  • South rim hike to Phantom Ranch and back up - 23 miles

  • North Rim hike to Phantom Ranch and up to the south rim - 30 miles

The slogan for the Grand Canyon is "down is optional, up is mandatory".

Bright Angel Creek


Colorado River


Contact Central Reservations

Hours of Operation

Daily – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Mountain Time (observing daylight savings time) Toll-free within the U.S. 888-29-PARKS (888-297-2757) Outside the U.S. 303-29-PARKS (303-297-2757)

There is plenty of access to water, food at the canteen for purchase, and bathrooms at the Phantom Ranch to everyone (campers, hikers, and mule-riders).

Wildlife to expect include desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, coyotes, gray fox, California Condors (and the inspiration for the name of our blog) and a large variety of reptiles, birds and rodents. (Note from Leigh: expect ring-tailed cats or ringtails to visit your campsite in the night. We did not see the desert bighorns or mountain lions or coyotes or fox! The condors are more likely to be found on the North Rim).

Our experience:

The best way to enjoy this ranch is to have plenty of time and preferably reservations. If you have reservations to stay at or near the ranch, there are three options; camping in tents at the Bright Angel Campground or Indian Gardens Campground, lodging in a ranch dormitory, or lodging in a cabin. All three options require you to apply and enter a lottery. If you are lucky to be selected, the fees are reasonable considering where you are staying. Try and stay more than one day because most will need a day to recover after the hike down.

If you do not have a reservation which means you do not have a permit, then be prepared to hike down and back out in one day which is mandatory. I have done this but a few warnings if you decide to take this on. One, some sites consider this the #2 hardest hike in the United States and regardless of what all websites tell you, the true round-trip distance is 23 miles from the top of the south rim, to the ranch, and back to the south rim. Second, bring plenty of water and do not bring items you will not need. Even a small backpack can get heavy after 10 miles. Third, do not try this if you have a heart issue, bad knees or joints, or other significant medical issues. The steps on both trails are steep and you will feel it. Fourth, leave early if you dare attempt this in one day. When I mean leave early, start the hike down at 6:00 am because this is a long hike down and even longer going back up.

As for the hike, I made it twice in 2019 and I plan to go back again but to stay a few days at the bottom via a ranch permit. The views are absolutely spectacular and this is a MUST on any hikers bucket list.

When at the ranch, there is a canteen, access to the Colorado River and a river beach, and you can continue to hike to the North Rim of the Canyon. The ranch also has an amphitheater and often have Ranger talks there at night. If you can bring a UV flashlight you may find scorpions at night. Scorpions fluoresce under UV light, something most people have never seen.

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