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Grand Canyon Mule Rides

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  • Grand Canyon Mule Rides

    (Yay! My username still works!)
    I hope this is the right forum -- it's been awhile.

    An acquaintance on a non-horse related BB is considering a trip to the Grand Canyon and I suggested he look into the mule rides down into the canyon. Another member stated that the mules were severely mistreated and in poor condition. A third member countered his claim, stating that he is familiar with the people who conduct the rides and that the mules are well treated and in excellent condition. This agrees with what I can gather from watching the Go-Pro videos of the rides on YouTube.

    Does anyone have experience with these rides and the condition of the stock? Any other comments reguarding the rides would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,
    Frank B
    The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
    Winston Churchill

  • #2
    I’ve never heard anything but good things about the mule rides, and every picture I’ve ever seen they are in good flesh and super-shiny. Granted, most of the pictures I’ve seen are likely planned, and therefore potentially staged to some extent, but you just don’t get that kind of bloom on an equine coat without good conscientious care. I confess I am not sure how they train them; my understanding is that they are clearly and explicitly trained to completely and utterly ignore any and all attempts at rider control, and riders caught trying to direct the mules are told to dismount and walk their own behind back out. I can see the *potential* for that training process to be aversive, but with the reputation of mules just not tolerating much in the way of aversive training methods, I can’t imagine it’s anything like abusive.

    Comment


    • #3
      I took one of the short mule rides with my 76 yr old mom about 10 years ago. The mules back then were in fine shape. It's such a touristy place, if there was abuse, it would be all over the internet. We were on the north rim and had a great time. I think the ride was about an hour. Stunning views. Guide was great.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by jherold View Post
        I took one of the short mule rides with my 76 yr old mom about 10 years ago. The mules back then were in fine shape. It's such a touristy place, if there was abuse, it would be all over the internet. We were on the north rim and had a great time. I think the ride was about an hour. Stunning views. Guide was great.
        Thank you, and it's good to hear that! The person who defended the rides was talking mainly about the South rim.

        The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
        Winston Churchill

        Comment


        • #5
          I've read a few articles about the mules and outfitter for the Grand Canyon mule rides to Phantom Ranch and it sounds like they run a good outfit and the mules are well cared for and well trained.

          However, I have read major concerns about the condition and care of horses and mules used for rides and packing at Havasu Falls. Totally different outfitter, totally different location in the Grand Canyon. A quick google search for trail rides at that location turned up some pretty awful photos.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thanks all of you for your information. I'll pass this along to the interested party and let him search out the info to make his decision.

            I found very few videos taken by Havasu Falls clients, just a MSM newscast and something by an advocacy group.

            The Phantom Ranch client videos were very enticing, if a bit high on the pucker factor at times. It looks like it would be a fun trip, one I'd liked to have taken 30 years ago before the ol' bod started showing wear and tear.

            These forums have changed a lot in the past several years. Looks like a fun place to hang out.

            Again, thank you.
            Last edited by Frank B; May. 19, 2019, 04:29 PM.
            The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
            Winston Churchill

            Comment


            • #7
              The mule ride goes from the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, down to Phantom Ranch, and back.

              The mules are well taken care of. Plenty of videos on youtube of the ride. They don't want to send riders down those trails (and up the trails) if the mules are not in tip top health.

              Your friend could address his concerns here: TripAdvisor Grand Canyon Forum. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForu...k_Arizona.html

              Old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGYsYYep2OQ

              NO WAY!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq9onSkroHc

              Comment


              • #8
                The way I understand it is that the mules pack supplies first, until they know the drill, and then the ones that are suitable go on to pack tourists. I've also been told by those who have done the ride that the only control the rider has over the mule is that it's their responsibility to use the whip/crop they're given to make sure their mule keeps up with the mule in front of him. IOW, the rider has a gas pedal, but no steering and no brakes because each mule just follows the one in front of him.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Joanne View Post
                  The mule ride goes from the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, down to Phantom Ranch, and back.

                  The mules are well taken care of. Plenty of videos on youtube of the ride. They don't want to send riders down those trails (and up the trails) if the mules are not in tip top health.

                  Your friend could address his concerns here: TripAdvisor Grand Canyon Forum. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForu...k_Arizona.html

                  Old video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGYsYYep2OQ

                  NO WAY!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq9onSkroHc
                  I appreciate the “NO WAY” video! We’ll do the Grand Canyon one of these days and I’ve always wondered if I’m up for the mule ride. I’m scared of heights, but it doesn’t bother me if I feel secure. Look like nice wide maintained trails and the mules take the tricky bits nice and easy. That one switchback I was thinking “slowly I turned, step by step....”

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've ridden the north rim but never the south, however I've seen the mules on the south rim. I was there in March and the looked well cared for then and all the other times I've been there over the years.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Toblersmom View Post

                      I appreciate the “NO WAY” video! We’ll do the Grand Canyon one of these days and I’ve always wondered if I’m up for the mule ride. I’m scared of heights, but it doesn’t bother me if I feel secure. Look like nice wide maintained trails and the mules take the tricky bits nice and easy. That one switchback I was thinking “slowly I turned, step by step....”
                      I loved Lucy!
                      Rack on!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I did the trip to Phantom Ranch many years ago, and the mules were gorgeous and very well trained.

                        I can’t imagine it being very different now- the concession is far too visible, and has far too much at stake, to not have excellent stock.

                        It was an amazing experience which I still remember very well. I rode a young gray molly named Pesky and still have the certificate the wrangler gave me, saying I was now an official Grand Canyon muleskinner.

                        Back in the day, the Grand Canyon mules worked the winter months at the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley... I had the pleasure of riding Pesky again a year or two later on an Eastertime trip to Death Valley.

                        Having ridden the trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I am frankly amazed that they still have the mules. As an experienced rider at the time (although much younger!) I would never have attempted it on any horse I’d ever ridden. The mules were amazing... a bucket list trip, for sure.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I hiked the Grand Canyon mule trail a few years ago, and saw the mules. They looked to be very healthy and in fine flesh. A friend who did do the mule ride said the riders were given explicit instructions not to "ride" the mule, just to sit there quietly. The guide actually asked who knew how to ride, and said, "OK, I am talking to you riders. Do not try to ride, do not try to steer, the mule knows what to do." They also have a weight restriction for the rider, not sure what it is. 200 lbs? 250? Something like that. Friend said coming up they stopped regularly to let the mules catch a breather.

                          Regarding Havasu, my husband and I hiked into the falls a few years ago, and stayed in the village. Saw a lot of horses and mules that were being used to pack in supplies in very poor condition.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Joanne View Post
                            CAUTION: Don't click on these links if you're afraid of heights!
                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INbKYq0G9nU
                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlJzcwlthog
                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fhskvloj1gE
                            (But you know you're gonna do it anyway!)

                            So far the interested party hasn't responded to the ride info. I think we may have scared him off!
                            The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
                            Winston Churchill

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Don't know that I could manage that ride with my lifelong mild fear of heights.
                              A friend - lifetime rider & horsecamper, accustomed to 8h+ trail rides - did the Red Rock Ride.
                              She & DH are big people (tall & otherwise) & were given Draft Mules to ride.
                              She is also mildly acrophobic & used Rescue Remedy herbal to get her through the experience.
                              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My husband and I did this years ago. I loved it, and the mules were amazing....except for the one a poor lady was on who decided to go down for a roll as we were on approach to one of the switchback turns in the trail. She stepped off its back and started screaming bloody murder, and one of the wranglers got off his mule and inched his way down to her, got the mule up and told her to get back on. She refused, and they ended up switching mounts. The remaining hours of the ride were uneventful, but she cried the rest of the ride. Can't say I blamed her, either.

                                The scenes in the movie "Unbranded" where they're going through the Grand Canyon gave me sweaty palms. It's definitely not for anyone who is afraid of heights.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                                  Don't know that I could manage that ride with my lifelong mild fear of heights.
                                  A friend - lifetime rider & horsecamper, accustomed to 8h+ trail rides - did the Red Rock Ride.
                                  She & DH are big people (tall & otherwise) & were given Draft Mules to ride.
                                  She is also mildly acrophobic & used Rescue Remedy herbal to get her through the experience.
                                  I'm also afraid of heights--more than just mildly, but I did the RRR in 2001. I talked to the head wrangler about the GC ride beforehand. He said if you get nervous just look at the wall. One of the wranglers rode in front of me and tried to make sure I didn't have to stop anywhere really scary--most of the time. I did fine.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I hiked South Kaibab to the river and back up Bright Angel trail in a day a few years ago. I passed many mule trains on my way down, some were supply mules, some had riders. All looked to be in excellent health. Then 2 years ago my dad and I did the North Rim mule ride, and they were also in excellent condition. I was given one of the greenies since I had a lot of riding experience and none of the riders in our group were given a crop or whip. The only issue most people had was trying to keep the mules from stopping to grab snacks along the way, lol. I believe it's the same outfitters for North and South rim, and then different ones for Havasu as someone else stated. I would not hesitate to do it again, and I'm pretty picky about guided trail rides due to the often ragged condition of the horses.

                                    Comment

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