Special Merit Classification IV

cabins at phantom ranch

Cabins at Phantom Ranch, photo courtesy Xanterra

Phantom Ranch Grand Canyon NP, 1922
Special Merit Classification IV
Site of former Roosevelt Camp in The Box section of Bright Angel Canyon.
Theme: National Park Rustic -- native masonry for lower wall sections, structural native masonry pillars or full wall sections, with the balance constructed of wood frame. Phantom Ranch is a cabin camp, with dining hall and other service buildings.
Architect Mary Jane Colter
Constructed Fred Harvey Co. for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad
Known Timeline:
1st wood suspension bridge on Kaibab Trail, 1921
Roosevelt Camp concession awarded to Fred Harvey Company, 1921
Camp designed and renamed Phantom Ranch by Mary Jane Colter, 1922
Construction of cabins and dining hall, 1922
Open to public, 1922
Rebuilt Kaibab Trail suspension bridge, 1928
Recreation Hall, more cabins, and Bath house added prior to 1930
Bed and meal rate $6 in 1930
CCC improvements, including mule corral and bridges, 1933-1936
Swimming pool constructed by CCC, 1935
Bed and meal rate $6 in 1946
Mule transport, bed and meal $18 in 1946
Facilities sold to Fred Harvey Co., 1954
Mule transport, bed and meal $32.75 in 1955
Permit system instituted for dorm lodging, 1964
Swimming pool closed, 1972
Pricing repositioned, ca. 1976
Present lodging: 11 cabins (sleep 4 or 10 depending on cabin), plus separate dormitories for 20 men, 20 women, 2008


The Ultimate "Sleepaway Camp"

Like a kid at summer camp, a stay at Phantom Ranch can be the best of times, it can be the worst of times.

The Best: Moderate temperatures, a well-prepared hiker or mule rider, a robust meal in a lively dining hall followed by an evening of fun and fellowship, and a restful night, miles from the trappings of civilization.

The Worst: Unbearable heat, a meal in a noisy dining hall followed by an evening spent feeling quite sick, a sleep constantly interrupted by sickness, followed by a nasty uphill climb the next day.

In other words, some people find Phantom Ranch to be a wonderful experience; others -- not so much. The camp is located in the heart of a small section of Bright Angel Canyon called "The Box." In the summer months it seems as if the walls of The Box channel the heat of the sun straight into the bottom, as if a giant magnifying glass were focusing a killer beam right on Phantom Ranch. Hikers and riders who may be fighting off a stomach bug, or perhaps under-prepared or didn't consume enough water tend to become rather ill during their time at the bottom of the canyon. In these circumstances, the journey is an ordeal.

the canteen is the Main building at Phantom Ranch

above, the central building known as "The Canteen."

For the majority of visitors, however, Phantom Ranch is nothing less than fantastic. It is possibly the ultimate overnight camp experience, with the luxury of well-prepared meals, visually stunning surroundings, and comfortable beds in Mary Jane Colter's incredible cabins.

Phantom Ranch is comprised of dormitories and eleven rustic cabins. The dorms are gender specific, and each dorm has ten bunk beds, a shower, and a restroom. Two different cabin sizes are offered; large cabins sleep ten, small cabins sleep four. All are bunk beds. Cabins have bedding with linens, a cold water sink, toilet, liquid soap/shampoo, and towels. Cabin guests use shower facilities in a central shower building.

interior of one of the small cabins at Phantom Ranch

above, interior of one of the small cabins. Photo courtesy Xanterra.

The Canteen is the hub of the facilities. Here you'll find meals, beverages, and sundries. According to Xanterra, the current concessionaire, Mule trips include a lunch on the way down, steak dinner that night and a breakfast the next morning at the Canteen. Hikers are welcom to eat at the Canteen, but must reserve meals well in advance.

Like her other Canyon buildings, Colter drew her inspiration from the immediate locale, with a few other imaginative story lines thrown in. She concocted an architectural vision based on a hodge-podge of local traditions derived from ranchers, miners, Spanish explorers, and Pueblo Indians. The result is a quasi-ranch with Spanish-mission influenced miner's cabins, designed from local materials in the tradition of natives. Sounds zany, but the combination is spectacular in its design, simplicity, and how seamlessly Phantom Ranch blends with the landscape. It is truly the ultimate sleepaway camp.

Phantom Ranch blends well with the surrounding landscape

above, the approach to the cabins fits naturally into the canyon landscape.

The Experience

It's not for everyone...

Phantom Ranch requires significant effort to get to; the only access is a long trek via mule or on foot. Sleeping quarters can be oppressively hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's not for fussy folks. If you are the outdoorsy type, and you aren't on a strict budget, Phantom Ranch provides a rustic lodge experience right in the heart of a beautiful national park unit.


Special Merit Classification IV

Phantom Ranch provides design, decor, ambiance and historic value that will enhance a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. With the cautionary statement that it may not be suitable for guests who expect certain comforts and amenities, Phantom Ranch is classified in the fourth tier by the National Park Lodge Architecture Society.

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current sign

Colter's vision of an abandoned ranch still rings true today.

The Swimming Pool

Above and below, a couple of late 1950s/1960s era photos of the Phantom Ranch swimming pool that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. The pool was closed in 1972 and eventually removed.

Grand Canyon NP Lodges

Phantom Ranch Resources

Vintage Image

1920s image of Phantom Ranch, "oasis in the desert", from a stereoscope view.

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