Millions of visitors enjoy the awesome natural sites at Grand Canyon National Park every year. However, they probably do not enjoy the long lines at the park’s entrance gates, which often stretch for a mile or more. To avoid these irritating waits, visitors can choose to get into the park via train or jeep tour.
The Grand Canyon Railway, operated by a company called Xanterra, typically carries as many as 1,800 visitors to and from Grand Canyon National Park every day. Xanterra regional sales director Bruce Brossman notes that the train offers visitors a unique, educational, and fun trip to the Grand Canyon, as well as an excellent way to avoid the traffic jams at the South Rim entrance. He says, “We’re certainly contributing to keeping congestion, pollution and irritation less for the guests and for the park service. It’s just a totally different experience and way to go to the Grand Canyon. It allows people to relax and enjoy the journey not just getting to the rim of the Canyon and looking in.”
The train ride from the depot in Williams to the depot in Grand Canyon Village usually takes a little more than two hours, compared with a minimum drive time of about an hour and 15 minutes from Williams to the canyon visitor center. On a particularly busy day, this drive can take longer than the train ride. During peak season—from Memorial Day through Labor Day—two trains run every day.
Another advantage of taking the train is that passengers have the option of bundling their train tickets with a motor coach tour. These tours leave the train depot and make several scenic stops along the South Rim. Some tours also include lunch. The bus tours are especially popular with senior citizens and children. Also available are bundled packages that include an overnight stay at Maswick Lodge on the South Rim. The cost of the train rides themselves begin at under $200 for a family of four, in Pullman-Class cars. Luxury-Class cars are more expensive.
Jeep and van tours to the South Rim are available through the services of various operators. For example, Pink Jeep operates tours that leave the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and hotels in the town of Tusayan. An IMAX movie is included with all Pink Jeep tours. There are also Pink Jeep tours that travel to the South Rim from other outside locations, including Sedona, Scottsdale, and Las Vegas.
Although the jeep tours must wait in the same lines as visitors’ automobiles, the jeep wait is not so boring or irritating because the tour guides use the time to talk with the passengers and to educate them on the park’s history and wildlife. The jeep tours give visitors the additional advantage of not needing to look for a parking space. Furthermore, these tours often take visitors to lesser-known spots that they would not normally be aware of.
Once inside the park, visitors may choose to travel to different canyon sites on bicycles, which can be rented from an operator called Bright Angel Bicycles. Bike riders can travel around independently, they can take a shuttle to carry their bike to the top of the Hermit Rest route (and later get picked up), or they can take part in a fully guided group tour.