Behind you is the Bright Angel mule corral, where each morning mules greet riders and another adventure begins. Mules have carried people into Grand Canyon since sightseeers first visited here in the 1890s. For many people - including those who cannot hike - mules provide access to the inner canyon.
What is a mule?
Mules are hybrids, a cross between a male burro and a female horse.
How long do mules live? How old are the ones visitors ride?
Mules live about 30-35 years. The ones visitors ride are between 6-25 years old (10 years average).
Can I pet or feed the mules?
No, please. It is dangerous
Will the mules bite?
Yes, they might. They are not aggessive, but if someone reaches out with hands that smell like food, they will bite.
Why mules? Why not horses
Mules carry more weight, are less temperamental, and are more economical. And, as one wrangler said, "The difference between riding a mule and riding a horse is like the difference between riding in a Cadillac and riding in a washing machine. Mules are just a whole lot smoother."
Where do Grand Canyon's passenger mules come from?
Mostly from Tennessee. Often used for tobacco cultivation, mules are generally sold wherever tobacco is grown. The Fred Harvey Company, which operates the mule rides, buys about 15-20 each year.
Where do I get information about taking a mule ride?
Information is available at all park hotel desks. Reservations are made through the Bright Angel Transportation Desk in the lobby of Bright Angel Lodge.
Must I make reservations?
Absolutely! A year in advance is recommended.
How long do mule rides take? Where do they go?
There are two different trips: a day trip and an overnight trip.
The day trip takes about 8 hours. Starting here at 8:00 a.m., it goes to Plateau Point about half way into the canyon, then returns here by about 4:00 p.m.
The overnight trip leaves here around 7:00 a.m. (8:00 a.m. in Winter) and descends to Phantom Ranch in the canyon bottom, where riders spend the night. The trip out is via Kaibab Trail, 5 miles east of here, and ends by about 4:00 p.m.
What should hikers do when mules are passing?
Stand quietly to the inside of the trail and follow instructions from the wrangler. Mules have the right-of-way.
Do the mules ever fall? Have there been accidents?
Almost never. There has never been a human death associated with passenger mules. Occasionally pack mules have fallen. Passenger mules are chosen carefully. They must not be easily excited. The greatest hazards involve heat and interaction with hikers.
"If the mule should slip, all would be over. BUT - the mule doesn't slip. The trail is never as narrow or as steep as you will describe it when you get back home. If it were, no living animal could possibly make the trip safely."
Fred Harvey publication, 1909