Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Phantom Ranch: Behind the Name

October 3, 2008, 9:37 am

Over millions of years, the Colorado River carved a mile deep, 277 mile-long chasm through terrain that geological forces concurrently shaped into a plateau of unparalleled beauty. The Grand Canyon attracts visitors from around the world to see this feat of nature unequalled in its vastness; however, few realize the rich history that has unfolded on the canyon floor.

Phantom Ranch, named after a pleasantly haunting Native American legend, offers backpackers and mule riders a unique opportunity to stay overnight in the depths of the canyon. Today, visitors enjoy rustic accommodations where societies once dwelled for over a thousand years.

Located on the canyon floor, Phantom Ranch is the site of ceremonial and societal Native American history dating back to about 1050 AD. In the mid-1800s, European prospectors noticed potential in the site, which quickly transformed from ore mines to a tourist destination. By the turn of the century, a Grand Canyon Transportation Company crew was blazing a trail for tourists between the valley floor and the north rim. The spot would soon be called Roosevelt Camp in honor of a visit by the president. Yet, when Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter began designing its rustic cabins, she decided to rename it in honor of a Havasupai legend. According to the tale, this place was visited by a phantom who emerged from an underworld society through the canyon floor and was pleased with what he found.

Visitors backpacking or riding mules along Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails will likely feel just like the phantom upon encountering this place.And those who make lodging and food reservations will find convenience, pleasant accommodations and delicious meals before and after a long day on the trails. Consider ranch accommodations to help you plan your trip appropriately. The ranch is only accessible by mule, foot or river raft. Cabin accommodations are included with the two-day mule trips, while dormitory-style lodging is available to backpackers (a campground is also located nearby). The ranch's friendly staff provides adventurers with outstanding meals (reservations only) before and after a long day on the trails. Our favorite is the famed Phantom Ranch Stew. The staff will also send you off each day with a delicious sack lunch (lodging rates do not include meals). And a canteen sells a limited variety of items, including snacks, beer and wine, stamps, T-shirts, postcards, first-aid supplies and souvenirs.

For an inside peek at what it's like to hike down to Phantom Ranch, listen to this podcast by NPS Park Ranger Chris Carroll, who tell the story of his first hike down into the Grand Canyon.

Visitors planning an overnight stay at Phantom Ranch are encouraged to make reservations--up to two years in advance--through Xanterra. Call 888-29-PARKS (297-2757) within the U.S., or 303-29-PARKS (297-2757) internationally.