You can stay in a tipi and eat a traditional Navajo breakfast, go on a buffalo safari at a dude ranch or search for ghosts in a historic hotel. Here are our top eight places to stay in the Grand Canyon area, if you are seeking unforgettable, adventurous experiences.
1. Sleep in a Railcar
If you are up for an adventure, spend the night in a refurbished railcar at the Canyon Motel And RV Park in Williams, Arizona. The 1950s Pullman classic is equipped with WiFi, a refrigerator and “color” cable TV, which gives you an idea of how long this motel has been around. There are an assortment of beds in each of the three railcars, so choose the railcar that fits your needs. Best to reserve your spot in advance, as they are popular with visitors! The railcars are not available during the winter.
2. Watch the Stars through the Roof of a Tipi
Called “an extraordinary experience” by many travelers, don’t miss the opportunity to sleep in a tipi (also spelled teepee) at Monument Valley Tipi Village in Monument Valley, Utah. Its website says, “It is a Navajo experience that will linger with you a lifetime” and the place lives up to its name. Equipped with sleeping cots, camp chairs, blankets and one electrical outlet, you can watch the sunrise over Monument Valley from your east-facing tipi. Every site has a private shade ramada, with picnic table, mounted BBQ grill, electricity, light and running water. Restrooms with flush toilets, sinks and showers are steps away.
It’s well worth it to do a backcountry day tour of the area as the Monument Valley Tipi Village guides give you a real sense of place from sharing Navajo stories to showing you hidden trails.
3. See a Ghost (Or At Least Look for One)
While Hotel Monte Vista has housed plenty of Hollywood stars in its 90 years, it also allegedly is home to a few ghosts. Just off of historic Route 66 in the heart of Flagstaff’s downtown, this historic hotel was built with money raised by novelist Zane Grey and local citizens, opening on New Year’s Day 1927.
Stay in room 305 to see if you can catch sight of an old woman in her rocking chair sitting by the window. Or ask for room 220, haunted allegedly by a former lodger known for hanging raw meat on the chandelier. People have reported the TV turning on or off or feeling cold male hands touching their faces at night.
Coming by train? The hotel is just one block from the train station. The hotel is a popular downtown nightlife gathering spot, so if you are looking for peace and quiet, this may not be the place for you.
4. Hike, Raft or Take a Mule Ride to Sleep at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon
The best part about Phantom Ranch accessed by the South or North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is you can only get there by hiking, rafting or take a mule ride. Designed by famed architect Mary Jane Colter in the 1920s, it’s the only lodging below the canyon’s rim. It sits about a quarter of a mile from the Colorado River, nestled in a tree-shaded oasis.
From the South Rim, get ready for a workout as the South Kaibab Trail is a 3-4-hour, 7.3-mile trek down to the lodge. You can also take the Bright Angel Trail, which takes 4-6 hours, covering 10.3 miles of trail. While the Bright Angle route is slightly longer, there is a big advantage to hiking it. Unlike the South Kaibab Trail, the Bright Angel Trail offers multiple places, including Indian Garden, where you can refill your water bottle. It also offers Indian Garden Campground, which makes for a great overnight stay for backpackers going down to Phantom Ranch and back up. Advanced reservations by a permit system is required.
Along Bright Angel Trail, some water pumps are seasonal, so check in with a ranger to find out what the water availability is before you head down into the canyon.
What goes down must come up, so plan on the return hike up the canyon taking at least an additional several hours.
Rest your legs and dine at the main lodge before spending the night in one of the male or female dorms. You also can rent a cabin that accommodates 2-10 people. However, you must have advanced reservations to stay and eat at this popular lodge.
The South Kaibab Trail is located near Yaki Point near Grand Canyon Village, Ariz. Because of the popularity of this area and extremely limited space, you are not allowed to park at the trailhead. Hikers must use the park's free shuttle bus system to reach the trailhead. Every morning, several hiker express buses leave from the Bright Angel Lodge and then from the Backcountry Information Center (times vary depending on the month). Otherwise, hikers will need to take the village bus (Blue Line) to Canyon View Information Plaza and transfer to the Green Line. South Kaibab trailhead is the first stop on the Green Line.
From U.S.: 888-29-PARKS (888-297-2757); International: 303-29-PARKS (303-297-2757)
5. Experience the Old West on a Dude Ranch
From singing cowboys to buffalo safaris, don’t miss the Grand Canyon Western Ranch on your trip to the Grand Canyon’s western rim. Go on a guided horseback ride and buffalo safari designed for beginners ages 9 and older. Or go for a wagon ride pulled by two Belgium draft horses and view buffalo from the wagon. At night, you’ll find cowboys leading sing-alongs around the campfire and free S’mores fixings. Heehaw! Does life get any better?
6. Experience Native American Life in a Navajo Hogan
With a dirt floor and no electricity or running water, spending a night in a Navajo Hogan at the Shash Diné Eco-Retreat is an unforgettable cultural experience. Hosts Paul and Baya Meehan take pride in hosting guests from all over the world, sharing their way of life. Facing east like all traditional Navajo homes, the Hogan includes cots, padding, linens, fresh drinking water, towels/soap, books and games. Wake up to a traditional Navajo breakfast of blue corn hot cereal with seasonal fruit and coffee and Navajo tea.
7. The Caverns' Inn Underground Cavern Suite
Calling all cave enthusiasts! If you are game for sleeping 220-feet below ground in a cave, this could be the place for you. Take an elevator 22 stories down to a room that sleeps six. Equipped with two double beds, a living room and a queen foldout sofa, there is nothing living down in the cavern but you. Hotel staff will give you a walkie-talkie in case you need them since cell phone and Wi-Fi service aren’t available.
If sleeping that far below the Earth’s surface is not for you, take a 45-minute guided cave tour during the day instead.
8. Stay on a Houseboat on Lake Powell
On the east side the Grand Canyon is Lake Powell with 2,000 miles of shoreline to explore. Being on a houseboat allows you to set off on an outdoor adventure with the comforts of home at hand. There are several marinas to launch from depending on which location is most convenient to your travels. The two most popular are Wahweap Marina in Page, Ariz. and Bullfrog Marina located at the northern part of Lake Powell in Bullfrog, Utah.
Learn more about Lake Powell houseboating.
For More Information:
Antelope Point Marina
537 Marina Parkway N-22-B MP 4, Page, AZ 86040
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas
100 Lakeshore Drive, Page, AZ 86040
9. Stay in a Rustic Cabin and Use a Real Outhouse
Head north of the Grand Canyon to settle into a beautiful rustic-style cabin and experience a modern outhouse in Bryce Canyon, Utah. At Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground, you can catch a rodeo, go on a guided ATV tour, have Old West photos taken or go for a horseback ride. At night, sleep on classic log bunk beds. While the cabins have electricity, they do not have TVs, so play board games or cards on the cabin’s picnic-style table. In the morning, enjoy modern amenities like the inn’s hot tub and heated swimming pool. Ruby’s also has tipis you can stay in, but you need to bring sleeping pads, sleeping bags since the tipis do not have any furniture inside.