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Grand Canyon Paddle Trip (active) with hiking emphasis?

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I am helping a friend plan a 2012 Grand Canyon adventure. They want to do a trip where they actually paddle, and there is good hiking at the end of each day. I am thinking they would prefer rafts to dories, or at least she would. So far I have found Crate, Inc. and Canyon Explorations, both of which appear to offer this type of trip. Any recommendations on these or others?

Also, I assume that the trips with a hiking emphasis would be spring or fall, due to summer heat in the canyon. Are there differences between spring and fall in terms of the river---meaning, are the rapids more gnarly in spring than fall?

Thanks for your help.

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    The river is generally about the same. The flow depends mainly on the Dam Release. However, anything is possible. The water is cold, but in May the air temp can be cool as well. I think most of the trips run from May-Sept. Almost all of them(even a short easy trip that I took) have some hiking. I doubt that any of them do it at the end of the day. Generally you will stop at 4 or 5 in the afternoon and then set up camp and the guides begin cooking. So they really don't have time for hiking at the end of the day. I would imagine that the hiking would be more pleasant the earlier you went. We used Arizona River Runners and thought they were great. One of the guides makes about 4 or 5 trips a year and had been doing it for 25 years or so. He said he had worked for 3 different outfitters and each offered only slightly difference in the way they did things.
    Most of the companies offer a "hike in" or "hike out" option.

    The biggest question is how much time do they have or how much time do they want to spend in the canyon. Some of them are up to 15 or 16 days. Probably about the shortest time would be 6 or 7 in a non-moterized. I think that is the Upper portion ending at Phantom Ranch(which would be cool as well).

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    Thanks! I think they are looking at the trip from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash, so 12 to 14 days.

    So on your trip they didn't stop until 5 pm? How many hours were you on the water each day?

    I wonder when the trips that mention hiking the side canyons, and show photos of cool waterfalls, etc., actually do the hiking?

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    They want to do a trip where they actually paddle ... which appear to offer this type of trip

    AzRA offers all-paddle trips and also hybrid trips (one paddle boat, the rest oared rafts). They are an excellent company, I've done a couple of trips with them and been very pleased. If they want to be certain of paddling every day then they should probably do the all-paddle version. http://www.azraft.com/gc_allpaddletrips.cfm

    and there is good hiking at the end of each day.

    On the trips I did we would get up in the AM, eat and load the boat and hit the river for a while, then stop mid-morning at an enticing side-canyon or stream-side attraction like Vasey's Paradise or Redwall Cavern. Some of the guides would set up for lunch while 2-3 of the guides would take us on hikes, the length depending on how tough that canyon was. Some people just went part-way, others hit the hikes hard.

    Then after another 2-3 hours on the river ideally we'd do another hike in the afternoon, then finally set up camp for the night. So basically we did two longish hikes every day possible (some days the distances between side-canyons didn't allow this). You were free to hike at the camping area -- sometimes it was too steep, sometimes it was in a perfect area for hiking.

    Long side-canyon hikes I remember fondly include South canyon, the Anasazi granaries above Nankoweep delta (famous photos from this vantage spot), Little Colorado river (especially wonderful if the LC is flowing clear since it has that aqua blue color), Matkatkimba, the tight canyon at the top of Deer Creek falls, then for the stronger hikers even further up to a waterfall in Surprise valley, some tricky hiking on narrow shelves above Elves Chasm, and a full day hiking up Havasu creek. I'm probably forgetting a couple of big ones ... plus shorter ones which I don't remember the names.

    Still want to go to Shinumo Creek and Kanab creek and a couple of others that thus far we've skipped.

    These were not special hiking trips, just their normal rafting trips but with some strong hikers in the group.

    I assume that the trips with a hiking emphasis would be spring or fall, due to summer heat in the canyon.

    Late May is good, mid-Sept is good ... most of the side hikes were in shade and several had water nearby or, in some cases you were actually hiking thru water so you can handle *some* heat, but it's more comfy on the river when the temps are moderate.

    In the middle of summer there are more people on the river, another reason I liked Sept and May better.

    Are there differences between spring and fall in terms of the river---meaning, are the rapids more gnarly in spring than fall?

    First, except for side-canyon flows (especially Paria and Little Colorado), almost all the water comes from dam releases, and these are higher in the summer because the power is needed for the afternoon peak power loads. So it's a bit like a tide, with the water levels fluctuating each day, and summer levels are higher than spring.

    Second, some of the rapids are actually tougher in lower water, some in higher water, so it evens out. In other words don't worry about this, you'll get a wide variation either way.

    I think they are looking at the trip from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash, so 12 to 14 days.

    AZRA is one of those eco-friendly companies that is opposed to the helicopters in the canyon so they don't take out at Whitmore (mile 188 or so). Instead the full trip takes out at Diamond Creek, mile 226, and you are bussed back to Flagstaff.

    Also would point out a couple of things about Spiro's trip, which I think was on one big boat that started at Whitmore ... first, with several smaller rafts you have a lot more guides, so there are always a couple available to stay on the shore and start cooking or watch the boats while allowing other guides to lead people on hikes. Second, all the places I mentioned for great side-canyon hikes were many miles up-stream from where he started. So the lack of hikes his group did in 2 days isn't really comparable to what you'd find with more guides at all the great upstream side-canyons.

    How many hours were you on the water each day?

    Maybe four-five hours each day, 2 in the morning and then stop for hikes and lunch, then 2-3 in the afternoon before stopping for hikes and setting up camp.

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    On our short trip we stopped for a couple of hikes each day. The most memorable three stops were to a waterfall and indian ruins/area. Also stopped to jump off a 25 foot cliff into the river as many times as we wanted to. We had two J-rig boats. I think about 12-14 people on each boat and that included guides.
    There were a total of 6 boatmen/guides/specialist on our boat. One specialist was a geologist another was a native american. Those two would switch between each boat. The two of them still helped with all the cooking, etc. They were the two that generally did most of the hiking with us.

    I have only been once, while Bill has many trips both- hiking and various boats, etc. So, he is definately the person to talk to about this.

    BTW, our boat was motorized and then we transferred to a jet boat to go across Lake Mead/last portion of the canyon. So that really cuts down on the time in the boat.

    I certainly want to go back and do more. I think our 3 dayer was about the right time for my wife though. I know it is supposed to be more spectacular on the Upper, but I was plenty impressed with the area that we saw. I'm not sure I would want to do it rowing. Seems like a lot of work. maybe, i'm just lazy.
    I plan on doing Cateract Canyon around July 1, 2012(next year). Have you done that Bill? I will probably just do a 2 or 3 day on that one. I wonder how packed that would be the weekend before July 4? July 4 is on a Wednesday that year.
    Hiking down to Phantom and Havasu Falls are also on my list.

    Oh, I think we were probably on the water 6 hours or so each day. And as far as the hiking, we just stopped after we had been in the boat for a couple of hours. It might be a quick stop and then it might be for a couple of hours and include lunch. The meals were actually better than what I thought they would be. The toilet is very scenic and well out in the open(behind a bush). The way our company did it, was that they placed a seat cushion a hundred feet or so away from the toilet. If the cushion was gone, you knew someone was using the toilet. They encouraged the men urinate into the river. If you really need to stop while on the boat they will do so. My daughter is pretty tomboyish and there were a couple of boys her age on the trip, so that made it nice for her. They played frisbee or football,etc in the evening.

    It was really a memorable trip, even though only 3 or 4 days total. First day was spent on the rim at Bar 10 Ranch.

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    I loved your comment about the "scenic" toilet facilities! My 5 day oar powered raft trip on the Green years ago was fabulous, but one of the lasting impressions was the toilet. I'm backpacker, so no big deal to me. I just remember getting home after the trip, going into the bathroom, closing the door, and thinking, Wow, where's the VIEW? :-)

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    I plan on doing Cataract Canyon around July 1, 2012 (next year). Have you done that Bill?

    Hi Spiro, went right to the mouth of Cataract in a canoe (non-guided, just me and a girlfriend) on a seven-day 112 mile trip down the Green River to Spanish Bottom (where the Green meets the Colorado), then we were picked up by a jet-boat and taken back to Moab via Colorado river. Would have been suicide in a canoe for sure to go any further, there are several really nasty big rapids in there similar to the biggest ones on the GC.

    If you do it in a smaller raft (which gives you the most thrill) you typically are on the slow flat rivers for a few days (either Green starting at Mineral Bottom or Colorado starting at Potash), then there's only one or 1 1/2 days of the really good rapids, then you are in flat water at the head of Lake Powell. So some great stuff but a lot of flat water at the start and end that's better done in a canoe (upstream) or houseboat (downstream) ...

    I wonder how packed that would be the weekend before July 4?

    Pretty sure there's a strict permit system, with not many people allowed at any given time. Unlike the Grand Canyon this one is pretty much free-flowing (ie doesn't depend on release from a dam for the flow) so if there is a lot of snow in the mountains and it melts fast you can get some extreme water levels for a short time, then later in the summer there is relatively little flow. I'd guess earlier in June is the best chance for high water and more excitement, though early July is probably still good in many years, depending on the snow pack.

    I think more people on commercial trips have died in Cataract than in the Grand Canyon due to boating mishaps, in part because the CC guides only run it a few times and so don't know the nuances that well, while the GC guides sometimes have run the GC 150 times or more, and in part because the water levels fluctuate so much in CC, so you can get the really dangerous flows at flood stage.

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    Thank you so much! This is exactly the information I was seeking, especially as to how the hikes fit in to the schedule. I appreciate your taking the time to answer in detail. Wish I could go on the trip too, the hiking sounds amazing.

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    Hey Everyone,
    I am a guide for Wilderness River Adventures. I run Grand Canyon and Cataract Canyon for the company. We run trips I consider to be in contention for the best in Grand and Cat. The company has incredible history in Grand, in the late 60's early 70's our founding fathers designed some of the rigs that run the Colorado River (we've been doin' this for a while). We run a 12 day oar trip from Lee's Ferry to Whitmore Wash. On several of those trips we have a paddle raft along. On the website they are refered to as Hybrid trips (http://www.riveradventures.com/grand-canyon-special-hybrid-trips.aspx) copy and paste this URL it has all the dates and rates for the Hybrid trips. As for the hiking, we hike everyday, not necessarily just in the evenings but when it is most comfortable. The side canyons are a huge part of the beauty of Grand Canyon and we wouldn't want anyone to miss them. As a guide I hold great pride in the quality of trips we provide. Check out the website or call the gals in the reservations office and see for yourself. The phone number is 1-800-992-8022

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