Grand Canyon backpacking trip help needed

Old May 29th, 2008, 04:44 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 91
Grand Canyon backpacking trip help needed

Hi all - My brother and I want to do a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. We are runners, in good shape, and like to hike and to camp but don't have the equipment to hike in hike out ourselves. Which leads to my first question: anyone out there do a guided backpacking trip where they supply all the backpacking stuff? I am inclined to do that but is it a waste of $?

Also, any suggestions on particular routes/tours? I am thinking Rim to Rim since we have never been before and that seems like a good way to see a lot. We want to sleep under the stars, not with a lot of people and are able to go in fall or spring to cut down on crowds (though not sure if I want to go in winter just b/c I'd rather be hot than cold ) Any advice welcomed...please help. This is going to be a present for my brother's 40th B-day so I want it to be special.
kellymp is offline  
Old May 29th, 2008, 07:05 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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Hi there. REI does a trip with most gear provided, but not rim to rim. I've never done it, but the REI trips seem to be well respected. The most popular backpack trip is down the Kaibab trail, overnight at Phantom Ranch and up the Bright Angel trail. The campground at Phantom Ranch is very nice with big private spaces along a babbling creek. However, this is one of the busiest campgrounds in the canyon. The spaces are private as far as campgrounds go but you won't have total solitude. I think that the general store at the Grand Canyon rents backpack gear but I would call to be sure.

You need a permit to camp in the canyon and those are hard to come by for the most popular routes in spring and fall, which are the best and most crowded backpacking months. People are always getting heat stroke in the summer, and the north rim trails are snowed in during the winter. I think that if you are flexible you can usually get a permit to backpack somewhere in the canyon at most times of the year, even if it's not your first choice. The back country office staff are a great resource for this. Have fun!
OnVacation is offline  
Old May 29th, 2008, 07:36 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
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The Grand Canyon Field Institute leads guided hikes in the Grand Canyon. I've never gone with them but they're recommended in several guidebooks as well as NPS.

Also, if you just google "guided grand canyon hikes", you'll see some outfitters. The "full service" outfitters generally provide all the gear, food, etc.

It's also pretty easy to rent backpacking gear. REI rents equipment; check any local camping/outdoor stores you may have in your area.
sumi is offline  
Old May 29th, 2008, 07:38 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
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I haven't done much hiking in the GC. But I have rafted it.

For starters, you will probably need to get a reservation about a year in advance for Phantom Ranch.
There are cancellations from time to time if you are wanting to go sooner. I would do Phantom rather than camping, especially for my first rim to rim hike. Call on the 1st day of the month for the next year. For example, for any day in June of 09, call on June 1, 08. Call early morning when their office opens. By staying in Phantom it will lighten your load. I would even consider staying 2 nights. This way you could rest up and even do a couple of the side hikes that are located in the bottom.

I would also try for the somewhat cooler months. Maybe April or May. Maybe September. Double check to see what is open on those months. I am not certain if the north rims are open in April?

I would probably just go it on my own rather than with a guide.

Another option is to use the mule pack service. Your stuff will be waiting for you at the top or bottom of the canyon via a mule.

I would spend one night on the north rim and one night on the south rim. Another good perspective is to take a helicopter tour. A short ride gives you a really nice view.

You might also check out Havasu Falls hike into the canyon. I haven't done it, but it is high on my list. It is the Grand Canyon, but not what most people think of. You should see the north and south rim first.

I would do North Kaibab and then Bright Angel.

Sounds like a really good BD present.
spirobulldog is offline  
Old May 29th, 2008, 08:46 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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I have backpacked to the bottom of the canyon twice, and next I am hiking rim to rim with friends. I am happy to tell you what I know of arranging the trip.

First of all, if you wish to go on a guided trip with all gear and food provided, the Grand Canyon Field Institute, mentioned by Sumi, is a great suggestion. This is a non-profit educational institute, and their trips are well-priced. Here is a list of the trips they offer in 2008:

It is not at all a waste of money. One big advantage of going with them (apart from the fact that gear is provided) is that they already have the permits. Camping below the rim in the Grand Canyon is allowed only in designated campgrounds/campsites, and only by permit. These are not easy to obtain; it takes advance planning and a good bit of luck. You apply by fax on the first day of the month, 4 to 5 months ahead of your desired date. So, for example, on June 1 you can apply for a permit to camp below the rim anytime during the month of October, 2008.

There is heavy competition for the permits, especially to camp during spring and fall. We applied for one for September and failed to get one. (However, we also have reservations at Phantom Ranch for most of our group, so we are OK).

Permits to go rim to rim are the hardest to obtain. Since the North Rim road is only open May 15 to October 15, the rim to rim hiking is limited to the period between those dates. And there is heavy demand for the permits to camp at Cottonwood, halfway up the North Kaibab trail. Since this trail ascends 6400 feet over 14 miles, it is pretty hard to do in one day, at least with a backpack.

If you do wish to go on your own instead of with a guided trip, of course you will save money but you will have to get going on the planning. You can rent gear at an REI or at the general store at the Grand Canyon South Rim. (I know the REI gear is good; I don't know about the quality of the gear at the general store).

Spring and fall are actually the most popular times to go because the weather is best---not too hot or cold. So you won't escape crowds by going then. The campgrounds will be full. However, Bright Angel camp, at the bottom of the canyon, is clean and very pleasant, even when it is full.

I would suggest that you look over the list of trips offered by GCFI, and maybe others if people have specific recommendations. Read the trip description and see if it meets your expectations and goals for the trip. If you find one that does, and there is room on the trip, that is a good way to go, especially if you want to hike rim to rim. Their 5-day 4-night trips are just over $600, and it looks like there is still room on the September and October trips.

Most people would not attempt rim to rim on their first hike at the Grand Canyon, but if you are fit and go with a guided group you should be fine. However, hiking there is quite different from hiking in the mountains, so before attempting rim to rim on your own, you should consider doing a South Rim loop backpack to learn about desert and canyon hiking.

Once you decide on a trip, you will still need hotel reservations before and after your hike. Lodging within the national park is almost certainly booked up for this fall (up until mid-October), at least at the North Rim. You may have better luck finding something at the South Rim, or there may be cancellations that show up later. Just another thing to consider in your planning.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. I did my first hike into the canyon in 2006, and I'm already a canyon addict!
enzian is offline  
Old May 29th, 2008, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
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Post your question on Lonely Planet Thorn Tree website. There are several people there who live or work at the Grand Canyon.
Marginal is offline  
Old May 30th, 2008, 08:49 AM
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keep in mind that the bottom of the canyon is considerably hotter than the rim. I hiked Havasu Canyon years ago. We spent the night on the rim and were freezing. At the bottom it was warm enough to enjoyably swim.
bigtyke is offline  
Old May 30th, 2008, 11:32 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 91
Hi everyone - thanks so much for the great replies so clarify a few things...I am planning on booking it for next year so we should have enough time to get the reservations etc (but I know that I need to get that started now!) I haven't pulled up the REI suggestion yet but i took a look at the Field Institute and that looks right up our alley (I prefer low impact, not a lot of trip support or fancy food or anything )
Enzian - having done it several times do you recommend any particular month or time of year?
kellymp is offline  
Old May 30th, 2008, 11:42 AM
Join Date: May 2008
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I spent a summer at the Grand Canyon and the hiking is fabulous. Rim to Rim is nice, but takes a lot more planning (you need someone to drop you off and pick you up at the opposite sides which are several hours apart). Go from the north to the south as you'll have less hiking uphill

Hiking down and up from the south rim is the easiest. The South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails are good. I'd recommend taking one down and the other out. The South Kaibab is shorter and has better views, but steeper and doesn't have water. The Bright Angel has a great stream running by it at the bottom and has water fountains every couple miles.

For gear, you really don't need much. I took a backpack (school size, not a big backpacking one), small sleeping bag, sheet, water bottles, and food. You can sleep under the stars at the bottom and don't need a tent. You need to get a permit ahead of time for the campsite.
EmmaLeeEm is offline  
Old May 31st, 2008, 10:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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keyymp---so far we have only gone in April, so I can't compare it to other times of the year. Most people agree that spring and fall are the best for the most moderate temperatures---not too cold at the top, not too hot at the bottom.

In April, we have seen both 70 degree days, and snowfall at the rim. At the bottom of the canyon, it was 90 degrees at mid-day one year, high 70's the next. I liked April because many of the cacti and other plants are blooming, and the canyon has many shades of green.

I have talked to employees living there who say they like October hiking the best.

So those two months would be my first-choice recommendations. October is probably less crowded, because in April you have lots of people there on spring break. But crowds are only a factor at the rim level; not many people venture more than a mile or so down into the canyon itself. Once beyond the major turnaround point (Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab trail), we had the trail to ourselves.
enzian is offline  
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