Going Green in the Grand Canyon
By Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel
Hoards of people visit the Grand Canyon each year.
They arrive by automobile and every other type of motorized vehicle.
More than 100 years ago, they arrived a little worse for wear in a
jarring, back-breaking stagecoach. But that wagon didn't pollute the
air. If we travel there in a mass transit vehicle, we can pollute it
less. We can go green to and inside the park.
First, park your car in Williams, Arizona, a small
mountain town that's home to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, a
Xanterra Parks and Resorts property. The hotel features standard,
deluxe and handicap-access rooms and offers numerous amenities,
including a cafeteria. Consider booking one of Xanterra's tour
packages that contain roundtrip transportation, lodging in Williams
and inside the park, meals and park tours.
Your worry-free trip to the Grand Canyon begins at
the historic Williams Depot where you board a vintage, refurbished
passenger train that was installed over 100 years ago. Today, Xanterra
Parks and Resorts operates the Grand Canyon Railway. (Xanterra also
operates the lodges, restaurants, tours and activities inside the
Grand Canyon.) Sit back and relax for two hours and 15 minutes with
freshly-made drinks and complimentary appetizers as the train chugs
through the North Arizona countryside, filled with ponderosa pines,
desert scenery, hills and valleys. Strolling musicians entertain the
riders while an old-fashioned train robbery shakes them up. You may
step out on the back platform for fresh air and perhaps catch a
glimpse of a herd of buffalo and other wild life.
Motor coach tour tutorials
For a quick and comprehensive overview of the park,
join a motor coach tour. Xanterra offers trips to important sites
along the East and West Rims and unforgettable sunrise and sunset
tours. Because your focus won't be on your driving, you'll be able to
relax and take in Nature's splendor. During the tour, the drivers
relay interpretive information and stop at scenic overlooks along the
Climb on the Abyss Overlook Mule Ride for an
adventurous three-hour tour that culminates atop a cliff with a
3,000-foot vertical drop. To get there, the mules lead you through
woodlands filled with pinyon and juniper trees and ponderosa pines.
You'll receive a Bota bag, snacks and water. The tour happens twice
daily from mid-March through October, and once a day the rest of the
If you prefer to hike by day, there's an endless
selection of trails available. The most popular is the Bright Angel
Trail that begins near the Bright Angel Lodge and ends at the bottom
of the canyon at the Phantom Ranch. The National Park Service advises
hikers to go no farther safely, because this is a one-day hike. For a
shorter hike, go only one or two miles down, rest and hike back.
Always take along lots of water, and check beforehand for conditions.
On nights lit by the full moon, the National Park
Service conducts a one-hour night walk of three-quarters of a mile
along the Rim Trail from Mathers Point to the Pipe Creek panorama.
They depart an hour after sunset. And don't forget your flashlight!
It's not a bad idea to create your own walk
according to your time and ability. Gather information at one of the
National Park Service Visitor Centers. There are three at the South
Rim where you can find up-to-date park information, exhibits,
interpretive films and ranger talks. Rangers are also on-site to
answer questions. Have a soda, a snack and sit on a rocky wall or
bench and simply absorb the beauty of the multi-colored boulders.
If you haven't checked into one of the many types
of lodgings available in the park, board the Grand Canyon Railway's
afternoon train back to Williams.