How to book a night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at Phantom Ranch


I think most travelers end up collecting a few special destinations that we hold close to our hearts for a myriad of incalculable reasons which might not translate to others. Grand Canyon has been one of those destinations for me and various members of my family for a long time. We’ve rafted it, hiked it several different ways, and are always eager to go back for more.

But booking an overnight in the Grand Canyon is a bit more complicated than just booking a regular hotel reservation.

North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

Where can you stay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?

Phantom Ranch is the only lodge in the National Park that’s below the rim, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. (If you’re interested in the Havasupai Reservation portion of the Grand Canyon to see the Havasu Falls, then there’s another option, which I’ll save for another post.)

While the Phantom Ranch cabins are pretty minimalistic, it’s the only non-camping option for overnight hikers of the North Kaibab, South Kaibab, and Bright Angel trails.

Camping is an option too, but requires a similar lottery booking process and then additionally requires a back country permit, and requires you to pack your gear down by mule or by yourself.

About Phantom Ranch

Phantom Ranch used to include dorm-style cabins which were more bare-bones with a community bath-house and otherwise just beds inside 4 walls…but those have never opened back up after Covid. Instead, you’ll find 4-person group cabins with beds, linens, and a private toilet with cold-water sink. For showers, you’ll still need to go to the community bath-house. (There’s also a large-group 10-person cabin as well, but that is not part of the lottery system and is booked years in advance. I’d call their reservation line (888-297-2757) to find out more about that.)

You’ll also find the Phantom Ranch Canteen where meals are served to campers and cabin-ers alike. There are two meals served, with two seating times each (so that us late-risers can sleep in until 7 am)! For dinner, you’ll have to start your downward hike in time to make the 6:30pm seating, which is the last seating of the evening.

The cabin prices below show a 2-person option, but note that currently 4-person cabins are the only option available in the lottery process.

Phantom Ranch Options

Booking Phantom Ranch via Lottery

Phantom Ranch primarily uses a lottery booking system. Keep in mind that a lottery submission today will put you in the running for booking dates no sooner than 15 months from now. (Or as they put it: “Lottery submissions are accepted beginning the 15th month prior to the stay month.”) So for example our booking for this June came about when my sister entered lottery submissions last March.

  • During the 1st-25th of any month, visit this link and click “Enter Phantom Ranch Lottery”. (The form is only enabled from the 1st-25th of each month.)
  • Once you get access to the form, you’ll be prompted to enter group details.
  • After entering group details, you’ll be prompted to submit up to 3 choices for preferred booking ranges, (at least 15 months out). You can cover a wide range here, because they let you submit a date range as well as the number of nights you’re looking for within that date range. (For example you could cover the whole month by selecting 3, 10 day ranges, each with “1 night” as your booking selection. I went with 7 day stretches for some reason.)
    Phantom Ranch Arrival Date Choices
  • Then you’ll be prompted to create an account and submit contact details. (If you’re selected for the lottery, you’ll be contacted with the email you provide.)

Booking Phantom Ranch through “General Availability”

Believe it or not, there also is a general calendar of availability that you can check and simply click a date to book…it’s just such a competitive booking that the rates tend to go moments after they appear. But if you time it right, you may be able to snag a cabin this way instead.

Tip 1: Check the calendar at midnight mountain time on the first of the month (looking for dates 15 months later).

The trick to this is knowing that they release unclaimed lottery spots (which are typically a year out) at midnight mountain time on the first of the month. If you aim for these releases, you may be fast enough to get one.

Tip 2: Pre-fill the “details of your stay” section.

The second trick is to know that you will have to click through a few booking details before you’re able to see the calendar. It may sound silly, but practice clicking through these details a few times before the release time so you can fly through it as quickly as possible (and maybe enter this portion a few minutes ahead so you can simply refresh the calendar page at midnight.) Yes it is that competitive.

General Availability for Phantom Ranch

Tip 3: Don’t worry about meals until you’ve got a booking in the bag. You can book meals at any time.

Apparently meals run out sometimes as well, but this is the much less competitive piece, so don’t worry about this until after the booking piece is taken care of.

What if you do both lottery and general booking?

We were working at this for several months before it produced any bookings. This means, every month my sister filled out a new lottery request for 15 months in the future, and also stayed up until 2 am to check the “General Availability” calendar in case any of the unclaimed lottery wins were re-released to the general calendar.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, once it worked, it worked for both strategies at once (but not the same dates). Just a week or so after snagging a booking through the general calendar, Annie received an email with an invitation to book one of her lottery slots.

Since cancelations are refundable, this gave us flexibility to pick the dates that worked best. (And afterwards we found out that we could have apparently changed the name on one of the reservations if we wanted to gift it onward to someone else.)

Watch how my sister got (2!) Phantom Ranch bookings

Annie and I are not podcast veterans like Greg and Nick, so this may be a bit on the rambly side, but if you prefer to learn via watching, I had Annie talk me through her process. You can watch the video below, or use the timestamps to navigate directly to a piece of the video in YouTube.

(01:39) – Annie tells the story of how she stayed up until 2 am to catch an unclaimed lottery pick as it was re-released into the calendar…

(04:03) – Annie and I walk through the Phantom Ranch booking process online.

(05:59) – We demonstrate how to select preferred booking choices for the lottery.

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Is this really midnight Mountain Time or midnight Arizona Time? There’s a daylight savings difference…

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt

the Phantom Ranch lottery page says 12:01 AM MT so I’m going to assume that is accurate


More Carrie articles please!!

I don’t know if it is still true, but at one point there was a chance of getting walk-up bookings. About 25 years ago we were hiking to the bottom and staying in the campground. Some family members who were with us didn’t have reservations and were going to stay on the rim, but they lucked into grabbing a walk-up slot from a last minute cancellation and were able to take the mules to Phantom Ranch the next day. I don’t know if this is still possible or if you have to grab these online now.


Only when the Government is involved does it get this difficult!! ANd our taxes are paying for all of this.


All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?


Yeah, shame it couldn’t have the excellent user experience of Ticketmaster, Marriott Bonvoy, or Hertz.


Aside from Phantom Ranch being managed by a private contractor and the Grand Canyon being the second most popular national park in the country, you’re spot on, dee. SMDH


“for example our booking for this June came about when my sister entered lottery submissions last May.”

Do you mean 13 months?


Will keep this in mind in the future! I did the full South Kaibab/Bright Angel loop in a day 2 years ago and would have loved to stay at Phantom Ranch


While I love most info that is shared, I can’t help but think I’ll have more competition for Friday’s lottery…

Last edited 1 month ago by Tina

Although obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, if you backpack down prepared to camp, there is walk up availability most nights due to cancellations. I spent a night there last year with zero prior planning aside from getting a camping permit at a site farther up the trail


Thanks for posting. We love visiting national parks which doesn’t lend itself to outsized point values that are usually discussed.