Tuesday, April 24, 2018

All Aboard the Grand Canyon Railway

We are back in Arizona camping in Williams on old Route 66.
The Grand Canyon is calling us to the South Rim and Williams is the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon".
Railside RV Ranch will be our home for the next few days. Railside is very near the train tracks and station as you might have guessed from the name. The park is not a luxury resort, the long pull through sites are quite close to each other but it does have a lot of conveniences. There is a hot tub, a dog park and Cable TV and decent WiFi are included in the nightly fee. You can get complimentary continental breakfast in the office each morning as well. The RV park acts as a concierge service for the Grand Canyon Railway. We were able to book our tickets through them with senior and military discounts, arrange pet sitting for Rascal and get a complimentary ride to and from the station.

The Grand Canyon Railway runs twice daily to the South Rim. The 65 mile journey takes 2 hours and 15 min each way and provides expansive views of the Colorado Plateau. There are several classes of travel ranging from non air conditioned coach coach to luxury parlor car. We chose the observation deck experience in order to see more of the landscape.

While we were waiting at the station to board there was a wild west show featuring some rather inept robbers and the marshall. It ended with a shoot out and we heeded the call to board.

It was great riding on the second deck and watching the long train snake on ahead of our car which was 4th from the end. Ticket prices included complimentary coffee, juice and pastries. A variety of cocktails were available for purchase. Our personal travel assistant Christina kept everyone supplied with beverages all the making sure we were comfortable and that our questions were answered. She provided each of us with a pocket map and spent time with each cgroup helping us plan our 4 hour visit to the canyon. We were entertained by a wandering guitarist and the engineer occasionally announced points of interest along the route.

The train passed the station and then backed up using a maneuver they called the Santa Fe split to get us into position. Once in the station we headed straight for the rim trail and our first view of southern portion the vast space that is the Grand Canyon. The colors and shadows were magnificent, changing around each turn in the trail as we made our way to the Verkamp's Visitor Center. You know I had to put the stamp on the passport book.

From the Visitor Center we headed back east along the rim trail past the Hopi House and El Tovar Hotel and down to Bright Angel Lodge for what we thought was going to be a quick lunch. The long lines made it a 45 minute wait but it was the fastest option. Note to self: Pack sandwiches and lots of water for a future trip, the lines are crazy and crowded.

Once fueled we continued to the end of the Rim Trail at Kolb Studio and walked to the first stop on the Hermit Road Loop which is called Trailview Overlook. 

The overlook is on a promontory out into the canyon so once you are out on the point you can look back at the Rim Trail down into the canyon at the folks hiking the Bright Angel Trail and a glimpse of the Colorado River at the end of that trail. We were also lucky enough to spot a mountain goat jumping on the rocks across from us.

There are Buses that run all along this route and beyond but we decided to spend our time looking at the canyon rather that queing for the bus. On a return visit we will plan to stay at the lodge and do further exploring but this time we had the dog to consider.

With an hour left we headed back toward the train station. Fred wanted to walk part of the Bright Angel Trail and I was interested in the Hopi House exhibits. We split up at met later as the train backed in to pick us up. Christina had snacks and beverages waiting for us and we were happen to get to our seats. The ride home was eventful. we saw antelope, mule deer, traveling musicians and the train was boarded by bandits who overcame the Marshall. The sun was setting as we pulled into the Williams station.

Our ride was waiting and we got home to find a happy Rascal, who had been walked and fed in our absence.
If you only have a day to see the Grand Canyon the Grand Canyon Railway is a great experience. The town of Williams on old Route 66 is fun to experience. There are a number of restaurants to choose from, Brewed Awakenings Coffee Co, and the Historic Barrel + Brew Bottlehouse to enjoy.
We didn't try it but folks we met on the train raved about Rod's Steak House.

Grand Canyon Railway
235 N Grand Canyon Blvd
Williams, AZ

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