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Theodore Roosevelt once said that the Grand Canyon was “the one great sight which every American should see”. The Grand Canyon is just that. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, it’s one of the neatest things to see if you’re in Arizona. It’s hard to put into words what exactly the Canyon is; it’s just so magnificent, you have to see it to fully appreciate it. The way you get to the Canyon can also be pretty important, which is why, on this trip, we decided to take the historic Grand Canyon Railway to it. In addition to being way more fun than driving, you can buy a very reasonably priced package which will include a hotel, food, train ride and more! We highly recommend this way of traveling, and this entire trip!
You’ll want to start off by heading north out of Phoenix. Cordes Junction is a good place to stop for lunch, if it’s that time. We decided to take a side trip to Jerome and then follow the 89A up through Sedona, through Oak Creek Canyon and into Flagstaff. This way was a lot more scenic and if you have a full day to spare, consider taking it. If you buy one of the Grand Canyon Railway’s Packages, you’ll check into your hotel any time after 3, which means you have nearly all day to get to Williams, Arizona. The drive time to Williams from Phoenix (via Jerome/Sedona) is about three and a half hours, so allow for most of the day.
When we got to the hotel, we were immediately amazed at the size of the hotel; it was much bigger than what we expected. When we walked into the lobby to check-in, we were again amazed. The lobby is very cozy and has a big fireplace, leather seating, and a big chandelier. The rooms themselves are also great! All of the amenities near the hotel are all wonderful. There’s gift shops, an all-you-can-eat restaurant, the hotel, and the depot just to name a few of them. With the one of the package deals, you get to experience all of this for a great price.
After a good’s night rest, we headed to the buffet breakfast, where outlaw’s roamed around. Soon after, the train pulled into the historic depot. At about 9:00, there was quite the hilarious Wild West Show, that resulted in a few outlaw’s getting shot. At 9:30 you board the train and head out for the Grand Canyon!
The train pulls out of Williams, where everyone is waving goodbye, and slowly heads northbound to the canyon. The train picks up speed as it passes through high-desert, reaching a maximum speed of 40 m.p.h. After passing three large ranches, the largest being 400,000 acres, you climb a bit more into the cool ponderosa pines. You’ll pass remnants at Apex and Imbleau, and the train slows as it curves through the forest. This part of the ride is very scenic and at the same time, you’ll have some in-car entertainment. Musicians dressed in the 1800’s fashion roam the cars, playing tunes of the past. At about 11:45, and 65 miles later, the train rolls into the depot, giving you only a quick glance at what you came here for. After stopping, you de-board the train and have the next 3 ½ hours to explore.
There are several options of things to do during your 3 ½ hours including booking a scheduled tour. If you do this, you’ll be taken all around the canyon, you just have to make sure you don’t miss the train at 3:30. Another option is to take free shuttles to different points along the south rim. If you do neither of these, there is still plenty to see. The Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar, Hopi House, Kolb Brothers Studios are all places you can see within the three hours if you decide to walk. This is what we decided to do, stopping for lunch at the Bright Angel Restaurant. Before you know it, it’s time to head back to the train. Another one of the package deals give you the chance to stay the night at the canyon, taking the train back the next day; consider this if you want more time to visit the Grand Canyon.
At 3:30, the train departs the Grand Canyon, and begins the 65 mile journey back to Williams, Arizona. Musicians again roam around the train and the Passenger Attendants tell you a lot of the neat history of the Canyon, and of the train itself. Along the way, the train even gets held up, which is pretty neat. We won’t ruin the surprise and tell you all of the details! Once again, you get to see the beautiful forests, high-desert prairies, San Francisco Peaks and other features on the way back. And once again, the ride goes fast. Before you know it, you’re pulling into the depot in Williams at 5:45. Depending on your package, you may stay another night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. If not, maybe have dinner at the Pine Country Restaurant (which claims to have some of the best pies). We decided to do this, staying the night near Flagstaff, that way in the morning we can just take the quick 2 hour drive back to Phoenix.
This trip is definitely an unforgettable trip and was sure a lot of fun. We look forward to doing it again! Overall, your drive time will be about 7 hours. If you decide not to take the train, you can still do almost the same thing, just taking the quick 45 minute drive to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff. No matter which way you take, what package you choose, or what day you do it, it will be fun no matter what. For more information on the Grand Canyon Railway, visit www.thetrain.com or call 1-800-THE-TRAIN. This trip offers great sights, great history and so much more. We highly recommend it, because, after all, Arizona is called “The Grand Canyon State”!
An average room at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel The lobby at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel
The train as it winds it's way to the Grand Canyon The Grand Canyon Railway at the depot at the Grand Canyon
One of the cowboy's you'll meet on the trip!
The Grand Canyon!