In Grand Canyon’s inner gorge, on the north side of the Colorado River, sits the only place in Grand Canyon National Park where lodging is available below the rim of the canyon. This lodge is called Phantom Ranch. It’s a small and rustic historic lodge on the north side of the Colorado River near the mouth of Bright Angel creek, nestled among lush towering cottonwood trees. Phantom Ranch hiking tours are one of the best ways to experience the wonder of the Grand Canyon.
Phantom Ranch is the only lodge in the bottom of Grand Canyon and therefore is the only way to stay overnight inside Grand Canyon National Park without embarking on a self-sufficient backpacking trip (where you would carry all of your own gear including tent, sleeping bag, food, and water). Any visitor to Grand Canyon can make a reservation to stay at Phantom Ranch but the reservations are very hard to get and they are required. Additionally, the hike into Phantom Ranch is not for the faint of heart. If you’re hoping to plan your own Phantom Ranch hiking tour you will need to start planning your trip more than a year in advance to get reservations and train adequately.
Making Reservations: You will need to get reservations at Phantom Ranch well in advance of your planned hiking trip. The Grand Canyon concessionaire that manages Phantom Ranch, takes reservations for the lodge in a lottery system that begins 15 months in advance of your desired travel dates.
What to Reserve: When you make a reservation, you’ll have to decide whether you hope to sleep in the dormitory or get a private cabin (much more competitive), which meals you’d like to eat at the Phantom Ranch canteen, and whether you need a sack lunch prepared. If you don’t plan for all of these details well in advance, it’s unlikely you’ll have the chance to add them on later.
Staying at Phantom Ranch: This remote outpost offers two accommodation options for visitors to the inner canyon. You can either attempt to reserve a private cabin or you can stay in the cozy gender-segregated Phantom Ranch dormitories. Each dormitory room has 10 beds (5 bunks), a bathroom in the dormitory, and bedding and a towel for your stay. The meals you can reserve are hearty and delicious and all the ingredients are brought in by mule train! If you don’t reserve meals, you can still buy a candy bar, lemonade, beer, coffee, or tea in the canteen.
There are only a few route options for your Phantom Ranch hiking tour. All three of the canyon’s “corridor trails” lead to this spot in the inner canyon. Most hikers either plan their trip as a loop hike beginning and ending on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon or hike across the canyon from rim to rim. The most popular rim to rim hike is beginning on the north rim and finishing on the south rim. This is only an option in the summer however, because the north rim closes in the winter months due to snowfall.