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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.



Getting there

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 route.

Mule train

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 year.

Walking tours

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.



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