Good morning travelers. Well, it’s been almost 25 years since the Grand Canyon Train (formally known as the Grand Canyon Railway) rebounded from a 20-year dormancy. I was there to witness its rebirth, but that’s a story for another time. Today, in this age of hybrid cars and phones that fire up with a click instead of a crank, a mystique still surrounds the Grand Canyon’s old iron horse. Every year, passengers of all ages line up by the thousands to experience this fascinating piece of Grand Canyon history. Of those thousands, unfortunately a small percentage of them come back a bit disappointed. For us here at GrandCanyon.com, even a small percentage is too big a percentage.
So why would this happen? It all comes down to one word: “misinformation.” A lot of it still pervades the public image of Grand Canyon Train Tours. We’re talking about it on TripAdvisor.com right now.
Original Poster “Carol P” states:
“I am told the Grand Canyon Train also has activities on the train along with a guide explaining what to look for and see. And if we upgrade we can get a glass dome enclosure where we can see all the way around for pictures. It also stops at the rim of the Grand Canyon where I believe I would head for anyway.”
To which Destination Expert “RedRox” replies:
“You are being subjected to aggressive marketing by the Grand Canyon Train. The views you’ll have from the train will be the same boring high desert views that you’ll get from the car, except the train will take 3 hours whereas your car will only take an hour. That’s time that you could better spend at Grand Canyon National Park on the rim, exeriencing the canyon.”
It’s readily apparent to the TripAdvisor panel that Carol P is under the impression that she’ll see the Grand Canyon from the train. The truth: that is NOT the case. The Grand Canyon Railway departs daily from Williams, Arizona, which is 60 miles due South of Grand Canyon Village.
Therefore you do not see the Grand Canyon while riding the Grand Canyon Train. You will not see the Grand Canyon at all, until you get to the park and get off the train. You then have the option of exploring the Grand Canyon Village Historic District and Rim Trail on your own, or taking part in a 90-minute guided motorcoach tour.
Another potential disadvantage to using the Grand Canyon Train to get to the South Rim is time: the Grand Canyon Railway is pulled by an antique diesel engine, so it takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to make a journey that would take you just 1 hour by car. Once at the park, you only have 3 hours or so to explore the Grand Canyon before you have to re-board the train for the trip back to Williams. So it gives you enough time to get a small sampling of the views that await you at the Grand Canyon, but you only touch the “tip of the iceberg.” There are even more beautiful Grand Canyon views on the East Rim drive, but the layover provided by the Grand Canyon Train doesn’t give you enough time to get there. And forget about trying to squeeze in another activity such as a Grand Canyon helicopter flight or airplane tour. The logistics of getting out to the airport and back will not only eat up your time on the rim, it may even risk delaying your arrival back in the park for the departure of the train. If you’re late, it will cost you a very expensive taxi ride. Don’t try it!
Whether or not to make the Grand Canyon Train a part of your Grand Canyon vacation is a question that has been asked and answered many times here at GrandCanyon.com. So, we made a video about it! Watch it for more detailed answers to the “train vs. drive” debate.