Located only steps away from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, directly across Village Loop Drive from the elegant El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon Train Depot has been the jumping-off point for millions of visitors to Grand Canyon National Park for more than 100 years. The Grand Canyon Train Depot is an official National Historic Landmark, as it is one of only three train depots still standing in the United States that was built primarily out of wood. Visitors can explore its unique interior, as well as take an actual train journey to or from Grand Canyon Village on one of the depot’s historic trains.
Grand Canyon Train Depot History and Background
Grand Canyon Train Depot has played a long and crucial role in the modern development of the area around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Until 1901, those traveling to the Grand Canyon via train could come only as far as Williams, Arizona—some 65 miles away. There these travelers would get off their trains and transfer to stagecoaches for the remainder of the journey to the Grand Canyon. In 1901, though, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway constructed tracks from Williams to Grand Canyon Village, making it feasible for visitors to arrive at the South Rim directly via rail service.
Grand Canyon Train Depot was built in 1909 as the official terminus destination of this line between Williams and the South Rim. It was built next to the famous El Tovar Hotel—which opened in 1905—right in the heart of Grand Canyon Village. Train travel to the Grand Canyon remained popular throughout the first half of the 20th Century, waning only with the rise of the automobile. Passenger service was discontinued in 1968, only to be restarted again in 1989, in the wake of the Grand Canyon Train Depot being named a National Historic Landmark.
What’s at the Grand Canyon Train Depot
Grand Canyon Train Depot is built primarily of wood, a unique status it shares with only two other train stations in the entire United States. Its main central room is an imposing 2.5 stories high, while the wings are single-story in height. Inside, the building consists of four basic rooms: a train ticket agent’s office, a ticket office-waiting room, a baggage room, and a parcel storage room. Many of the Train Depot’s furnishings are original to the space; if you look closely, you should be able to see such items stamped with an identifying “GC.”
The Grand Canyon Train Depot is within easy access of some of the greatest number of amenities available along the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Since the Train Depot is part of Grand Canyon Village, extensive dining and/or picnic options exist in the area. Wi-Fi, ATMs, and assorted gift shops are also to be found here. Nearby you will have your choice of lodging accommodations such as Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, and Kachina Lodge. There is a lot of parking available in the area, and other famous attractions are quite close, too, including such sites as Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio, Hopi House, and even the Verkamp’s Visitor Center.
Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon Train Depot
- Grand Canyon Train Depot is a functioning train station. Its services vary according to daily/seasonal schedule, so if you are wanting to experience an actual train ride while in Grand Canyon National Park, you will need to purchase tickets (according to the most up-to-date schedule available) ahead of time from the Grand Canyon Railway. They offer day trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon and back to Williams. There is no train service originating at the Grand Canyon Village.
- Grand Canyon Train Depot is accessible via the free shuttle-bus service provided by the National Park Service. Just look for a westbound “Blue Route” shuttle bus, and you’ll have no trouble getting here . . . for free!
- If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon Train Depot via shuttle bus, do keep in mind that “Blue Route” buses do not stop here when headed east.
- The staff here at Grand Canyon Train Depot are known as some of the friendliest in the area, so if you find yourself with a question or two about anything pertaining to the National Park while exploring the Train Depot, do not hesitate to ask!
- It is not hard to get so caught up in all the glory of the natural wonders visible throughout Grand Canyon National Park that you lose all track of mind. However, if you are actually traveling on the train from Grand Canyon Train Depot, do keep in mind that despite its history, it does function like a regular train station—the train will leave from here without you if you are not on time, so plan accordingly.