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Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

Indianapolis...
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Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

My boys (16 & 18) & I are heading to The Grand Canyon on vacation next month. They are a little "leery" about having enough to do? Would you recommend the train ride in or a guided tour? What suggestions do you have to engage two teens who are history buffs?

Evanston, Wyoming
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1. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon Railway might engage them seeing as though they're history buffs, but be aware of the following:

1. It departs from Williams AZ which is 60 miles due South of the Grand Canyon. You do NOT see the Grand Canyon from the train; you don't see it until you get off the train at the park, where you have approximately a 3.5 hour layover in the GC Village Historic District before heading back to Williams.

2. It is pulled by an antique diesel engine, so it takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to make a trip that would take you 1 hour by car. But the staff on-board do a really good job of keeping people entertained. There are cowboy poets, singers on the individual cars plus a (shhh!) mock train robbery on the return trip to Williams.

However, if you have a car, you would definitely have more freedom and flexibility by driving yourself to the park. The majority of in-park roads are open to private/rental vehicles. Those that aren't are served by a free shuttle service that goes round to all the viewpoints every 10-15 minutes. Here's a video that addresses this dilemma (train vs. drive) in more detail ->: http://youtu.be/xysC8k6JIEs

As for having enough to do, it won't be a problem. If you do decide against the Grand Canyon Railway, there are airplane and helicopter flights, rafting (both smooth water and white water), safari jeep tours (including some that go down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon), the IMAX Movie, ranger programs, hiking (as easy or hard as you want), and a brand new activity that literally just opened its doors, the Grand Canyon Dinner Theatre (in Tusayan) ->: http://bit.ly/L3qzOb

BTW, hope you have a hotel booked. Summer is busy up here. I take it since you posted in the Flagstaff forum that you're staying there? If so, it's about 1 90 minute drive to the park from there.

Indianapolis...
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2. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

We have the hotels lined up - we are flying into Vegas for a day & 1/2 then driving to Flaggstaff - staying at Drury Inn for 3 days & back to Vegas to fly back to Indy. I'm debating about the guided tours into the Grand Canyon - and which would be better - 1 full day white water rafting or seeing more of the GC / Sedona area? We definately have Lowell Observatory on our list. Boys love white water rafting, we have done some in Colorado & Smoky mountains - but not other water agendas. Not "giant' hikers either - but will be up for some hiking.

Also - is it best to rent a car from the airport or save a couple days' rental & rent from the Strip?

Thank you!!

Evanston, Wyoming
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3. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

If you're going to have a car, I'd recommend touring Grand Canyon National Park by yourself. Take the long way in via Highway 89 North to Cameron then West on Highway 64 along the Desert View East Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon. There are over half a dozen viewpoints you can stop at on this route. Guided tours won't do this for you, so that's why recommend using your rental car since you'll have one.

For 1-day white water rafting, there is a local tour company that would pick you up and drop you off at the Drury Inn (info ->: http://bit.ly/M9J0SJ ) Otherwise you would have to drive up to Peach Springs AZ for a 7 AM check-in which is about 2 hours drive from Flagstaff.

Sedona is ~1 hour drive from Flagstaff, so would recommend spending a day exploring this area, but you'll probably wish you had more time. RedRox will probably opine on this subject shortly, but popular activities in Sedona are the Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour, hiking the West Fork of Oak Creek, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Airport Mesa, just to name a few.

tucson az
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4. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

Don't take the railroad. It's not going to be entertaining for boys that age.

The 1-day white water rafting itself is a lot of fun, but it is quite distant from Flagstaff. It starts as above at Peach Springs which is 110 miles from Flagstaff. You go downstream through some minor rapids to Lake Mead. From there you are taken by helicopter up to Grand Canyon West where you get a bus through the tribal lands (rough unpaved roads) back to Peach Springs. This takes an entire day 7 AM to 7 PM. A lot of that time is spent traveling back and forth. And remember too that you're 2 hours from the start and finish of the trip.

A guided tour "into" GC means hiking down, and most are most of a day. It doesn't sound like that's what you want. There are tours in the park, but they are unnecessary. Look into ranger activities. You will get very complete information at the park, but it's also all online on the park web site.

nps.gov/grca

West Yellowstone...
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5. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

Your boys might enjoy Slide Rock State Park at the north end of Sedona. http://azstateparks.com/Parks/SLRO/index.html

Not sure what you meant by "not other water agendas" - was that to say they enjoy river rafting, but not swimming? Look at the video at the link and see if it appeals to them.

In Flagstaff, also check out Walnut Canyon National Monument. At their age, they will likely enjoy the hike in and out - it's a challenge! And a treasure for anyone interested in Native American history. www.nps.gov/waca

Depending on the days of the week you are in Flagstaff, you might also catch some local free entertainment on Heritage Square downtown. When you arrive, look for the weekly arts & entertainment publication Flagstaff Live! for options.

Downtown Flagstaff is also a hotbed of history. If your timing is right, you might be able to catch a guided walking tour, but if not, check out the placards on buildings throughout the area for insight into the town's past. Also check out Riordan Mansion - http://azstateparks.com/Parks/RIMA/index.html

Oregon
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6. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

If they are history buffs, several early American Indian home sites near Flagstaff. Walnut Canyon and Wupatki, but some more near Sedona Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot. Jerome also interesting town for history.

I sure agree drive along east rim to Village gets some really good views of GC without a tour or hike

Want a train ride Verde Canyon RR very good. You ride down canyon and back. I have not taken train from Williams to GC, so can not compare

Edited: 22 June 2012, 05:39
Sedona, AZ
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7. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

As noted, lots of historic sites and ruins all over northern AZ. With a base in Flagstaff, I'd spend one day self touring the GCNP. Forget about the train. It's all about the train and nothing about the Grand Canyon.

There is no white water rafting near Flagstaff. The closest would be over two hours away and not a high energy type of experience. A long day of driving to and from a minimally rewarding destination activity IMO.

Ruins sites and attractions close to Flagstaff include, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki/Sunset Crater, Lowell Observatory, Museum of Northern AZ and Riordan Mansion. Plenty more, plus a college town and amenities.

Sedona is also loaded with activity options including swimming and hiking and jeep touring, biking and more. Commuting there from Flagstaff via Oak Creek Canyon is a beautiful but time consuming drive. Allow about 45-60 minutes. Don't do it in the dark if you can avoid it. You'll wish you had more time there.

Indianapolis...
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8. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

These are great thougths! My boys tend to like to "do" vs relax - we took a cruise to the Bahamas - & they loved the swimming w/the dolphins - but laying out at a pool - no way. They tend to enjoy more "city" / historical places - like DC & NYC - Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Times Square, vs a beach park - aside from white water rafting, just not real fans. Will be in AZ on Thurs leaving Sun back to Vegas.

Indianapolis...
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9. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

Also - looking at the Pink Jeep tours - Broken Arrow looks to be the biggest draw - how does that compare to the Ancient Ruins tour? My gut tells me with boy my boys being more history buffs than nature lovers the Ancient Ruins might be better? Is there an economical way to experience both?

THANK YOU!!

West Yellowstone...
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10. Re: Railroad or guided tour into Grand Canyon?

Do check out Jerome (at least online) as phirl mentioned above. It's a great old ghost town with lots of fun history (and some say haunted spots, as well).

tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g31253-Jerome_Arizon…