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National park tips: Is this the year you finally ride a Grand Canyon mule?

A mule string heads down the Bright Angel Trail from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a thrill to savor, but not that many travelers these days get to take the classic mule ride at Grand Canyon National Park.

Instead, meandering on the trail for a few hours as most tourists do, you ride down to the canyon bottom, spend the night and ride back up the next day.

More than 600,000 people have done this since the 1880s. But because the park service has cut back on mule access to the canyon bottom, it’s become a rare opportunity.

Every day, no more than 10 riders join guides on this five- to six-hour journey down 10 narrow miles of the Bright Angel Trail to the canyon floor, about 4,400 feet below.

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Usually, the group sleeps at Phantom Ranch and ascends the next day on South Kaibab Trail.

The rides sometimes book up 13 months ahead. The 2016 price is $551.62 per person or $961.24 per couple.

Oh, but there is one catch: Riders to Phantom Ranch must weigh less than 200 pounds when fully dressed.

In honor of this year’s National Park Service centennial, the Travel section is posting 100 park travel ideas and tips based on trips staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds has taken, along with photo-op advice from Times photographer Mark Boster. We’ll post one per day through Dec. 31.

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Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

See travel videos by Reynolds from around the world.

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