Are you ready to visit Grand Canyon National Park but want to avoid the likely traffic jams near the south rim of the Grand Canyon? Consider riding the rails from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon Village on the Grand Canyon Railway!
Riding a train to the Grand Canyon is like combining two adventures into exciting trip. Visit one of most iconic National Parks as well as one of the seven natural wonders of the world and take an entertaining train ride.
It comes with bonus excitement as well. Watch a Wild West Shootout before the train leaves the Williams Depot in the morning. On the return trip from the Grand Canyon, a mock train robbery occurs.
Grand Canyon Railway Adventure
We took a passenger train ride on the historic Grand Canyon Railway last month. It was my kids’ first trip to Grand Canyon National Park and we brought my dad along making it a multigenerational trip.
There are six classes of service including coach, first class, and luxury parlor class. We experienced two different classes of services. We took coach class riding up to the Grand Canyon Depot and then first class back to historic Williams Depot. Both rides were great.
The train travels north and takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes to the Grand Canyon Railway Depot. You can bring your own food on the train or visit the cafe car to buy snacks.
Grand Canyon Railway Train Cars
Coach class was great with surprisingly comfortable seating and great views out of large windows. Each train car has a bathroom and train attendant to answer questions and provide information about the historic route up to the rim.
First class offers much cushier seats and a box snacks and complimentary non alcoholic drink service. You can also purchase alcohol from your train attendant. For even better views consider the observatory car.
Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon you take a 5 minute walk up to the rim and start exploring the historic structures including gift shops, a visitor center and the famous El Tovar Hotel.
Elliot and I came across a mule deer just hanging out in the trees between the parking lot and rim trail. Everyone walking along the rim stopped to take pictures.
During the holidays, the Grand Canyon Railway offers rides aboard the Polar Express. The train travels to the ‘North Pole’ where Santa Claus boards the train and visits with with each family. The ride includes listening to the Polar Express book, singing Christmas carol, and enjoying hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.
Grand Canyon Railway Hotel
Staying at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel before and after your rail travel to Grand Canyon’s South Rim makes things much easier. The hotel is located just steps away from the Williams Depot making it easy to pick up your train tickets, visit the gift shop and board the train.
The hotel offers a variety of amenities including an indoor pool and spa, dining, fitness center, playground and sports ball courts. The Fred Harvey Restaurant is right next to the train depot and offers all you can eat breakfast and dinner, convenient for guests to dine before and after their train rides.
Grand Canyon Railway RV Park and Pet Resort
If you prefer the comfort of you own motorhome or travel trailer, consider staying at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. The RV park offers wireless internet, DirecTV, shower facilities, coin operated laundry, a picnic area with grills and fire pit, playground and access to the pool and spa the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.
The Grand Canyon Railway Pet Resort allows guests to board their pets while visiting the grand canyon’s south rim. No animals are allowed to ride the train. We did see people walking their leashed dogs along the trails at the rim but you’ll have to stick to automobile travel if you want to bring you pet up to the canyon.
Grand Canyon Lodges
Most Grand Canyon Railway guests ride the morning train up to the Grand Canyon South Rim, spend a few hours exploring the natural beauty and spectacular views of the canyon, then take the return train trip later that afternoon. There are Grand Canyon Railway packages that include an overnight stay at the Maswik Lodge in the Grand Canyon Village.
Maswik Lodge at the Grand Canyon
We chose the Grand Canyon Wonder 3-night vacation package that includes 1 night in the park at the Maswik Lodge. The Maswik consists of the main lodge building with a gift shop, registration and dining along with a dozen 2-story buildings with basic hotel rooms.
The location of the hotel is the draw. Staying overnight in the canyon allows a lot more time to explore historic village and Grand Canyon’s south rim options. The hotel is surrounded by Ponderosa pine trees and a 1/4 mile walk to the rim.
Our hotel room had 2 queen rooms, a mini fridge and balcony with chairs. Unfortunately there was limited services during our stay as the health restrictions from COVID19 was still in place. We had limited dining options and there was no shuttle service which impacted our stay, we still thought staying a night at the Grand Canyon was worth it.
There is parking outside the hotel buildings but there is no dedicated hotel parking for guests and we noticed the parking filling up fairly early in the morning with Grand Canyon visitors.
If you are headed to Northern Arizona, consider exploring more of Williams, Arizona and the the surrounding area. Williams is a small town located on the historic route 66. Route 66 is a few minutes away, just cross the train tracks beyond the train station and you will see the main drag.
We found a yummy restaurant with a fun retro vibe right on Route 66. Cruiser’s Route 66 Cafe had great outdoor seating and live music. The portions were huge and everyone was happy with their meals.
There are lots of little shops you can explore along the strip as well as more dining options. The boys and I got our kicks on the Route 66 zipline. It’s a seated zip line that gives you a great view of Williams at the very top.
Road Trip to Grand Canyon
Williams, Arizona is considered the Gateway to the Grand Canyon and is located approximately 1 hour from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim by car. The train ride is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Williams is 40 minutes from Flagstaff, approximately 2 1/2 hours from Phoenix and 4 hours from Tucson. If you are road tripping from Las Vegas, it’s approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes to Williams, Arizona.