Historic Red Horse Cabin At Grand Canyon National Park Reopens For Guests

After considerable renovation, the two-bedroom Red Horse Cabin has been reopened for guests at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Top photo NPS, bottom photo Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

An historic two-bedroom cabin that dates to 1890 and is considered the oldest structure on the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park has been fully restored and is being rented out by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Xanterra, the lodging concessionaire for the South Rim, in mid-December began renting the Red Horse Cabin. The cabin’s name derives from its original location near the head of Red Horse Wash, approximately 35 miles east of Bright Angel.

The cabin has seen a variety of uses before and after being moved to the South Rim. Built in the latter 1800s as a ranch house, it subsequently served as a stage relay station on the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon route. The cabin was moved in 1902 to the South Rim by entrepreneur Ralph Cameron, who held a mining claim near the head of Bright Angel Trail.

Here, Mr. Cameron added a veranda and second story (since removed) and converted the structure to a tourist hotel.

The building was subsequently acquired and rehabilitated by the U.S. government in 1910, and for 25 years utilized as a post office with living quarters for the postmaster. During planning for the redevelopment of the Bright Angel complex in the early 1930s, consideration was given to demolishing and removing the cabin. However, the structure was saved and, in 1935, sold to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway that had it restored as part of architect Mary Jane Colter’s new Bright Angel complex.

Utilized as guest accommodations for several years, the cabin was relegated to use as a storage building until the current renovation.

Xanterra’s engineering department, along with DL Norton Construction, faced considerable challenges in updating the cabin to today’s standards of building and comfort while maintaining historical integrity. The National Park Service and the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office provided oversight for the project. For example, the roof was replaced by new cedar shingles that matched the existing materials, and flashing was treated to create a weathered look. The crew paid special attention to the foundations and exterior hewn log walls by replacing and repairing mortar and chinking.

Architectural features such as the fireplace stone and brick work were kept as much intact as possible, and some plumbing fixtures were resurfaced. Existing light fixtures were cleaned and rewired to meet all current codes. The crew also worked on windows, flooring, painting, heating, interior walls, insulation, fire suppression/detection, case goods and soft goods.

The two-room cabin is owned by Xanterra and will rent for $340 per night. This compares with Bright Angel’s Historic Cabins and Rim Cabins that rent for $117 and $150, respectively. Park officials say the nightly rate for the Red Horse Cabin was reached by comparing similar accommodations in the area.

"Rates are set by comparability studies. We look at what is charged for similar rooms, amenities etc, at similar properties outside of the park," said Mark Rose, a concessions analyst at the park. "Red Horse is considered to be a two room suite with a fireplace, etc. Very nice."

Red Horse Cabin adds an additional suite to the two already available in the Bright Angel complex. The best-known is the historic Buckey O’Neill Cabin that was constructed in 1897. Twelve suites in Xanterra’s flagship South Rim lodge, the El Tovar, rent in a range of $345 to $440 per night.

Red Horse Cabin measures approximately 750 square feet (25’ x 30’) and is not directly on the canyon rim. The interior renovation, which cost in the neighborhood of $100,000-$110,000, was paid for by Xanterra.