last minute grand canyon planning

Jun 10th, 2006, 12:01 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2006
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last minute grand canyon planning

We are getting excited about our trip next week to Las Vegas/Grand Canyon/San Diego! Our group consists of two thirty-three year olds (myself and hubby), our four-year-old son, and my parents, ages 54 and 63. We are driving from LV to GC on Tues. and have reservation in Williams. Hubby wants to "hike" in the GC, but I am worried about this because I don't anticipate any of us being able to join him. Tips on shorter, safer hikes? We will have a car but are concerned about parking. Also, looking for tips on what is fun, scenic, not-to-miss, cheap, or delicious!
bethmac is offline  
Jun 10th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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Lots of great info on this site. Happy researching!

Just one tip about the "hiking in the canyon". If you have to be helicoptered out for any reason, YOU pay the tab! Make sure hubby is in shape and doesn't overestimate his abilities during a very hot time of year.

When we took the mule trip several years ago, they completed soaked us to the bone with a water hose at our lunch stop before we headed back up. All the water was evaporated in 15 minutes. We passed a few hikers in pain (one woman in tears). If you go down, you must come back up. And if you can't make it back up, it's a VERY expensive ride back to the rim via helicopter.

If he's in great shape and used to hiking in extreme heat, disregard this post.
starrsville is offline  
Jun 10th, 2006, 01:11 PM
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Assuming he's in decent shape, properly shod and clothed, and carries lots of water (2 liters), he could safely hike a few miles down the Bright Angel trail by himself. He won't be alone---there are tons of people, although they become fewer the farther you go. Indian Gardens makes a good turnaround point for day hikers; there is water there, and shade, and even restrooms. You can see Indian Gardens from the rim, looking down from the area by the Bright Angel Lodge.

You, your parents, and your son could stroll along the rim trail in either direction---to the east it is paved for quite a distance. Or you could ride the free shuttle bus out to any of the overlooks and walk around there.
enzian is offline  
Jun 10th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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Hi bethmac

I don't know if it still exists but several years ago when we stayed in Williams on the way to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at a deer park in Williams. It was very small and we did not spend much time there but it was the highligth of the trip for my kids.
roadlesstraveled is offline  
Jun 10th, 2006, 01:51 PM
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While it has been done, one can not expect to hike to bottom of GC and back in one day - and reservations for stay at Phantom Ranch (at bottom) would not be available at this point. While your husband could probably hike INTO the GC, it is unlikely he could hike OUT unless he has conditioned himself to do so - even in 2 days.

So, if he insists on doing this, do not go with h im and make sure you have enough life insurance before he goes. If all else fails, buy him book Over the Rim: Death in the Grand Canyon - details death by various means over the past century or so in GC - actually an interesting read.

From Bright Angel there is a trail that gives you option of going either 1 or 2 miles below rim. Just be aware that up is a lot harder than down.

And while we are at it with safety concerns, watch, hold hand of, etc. your son carefully. He is old enough to safely follow directions - toddlers scare me more - but it is possible to fall into the GC.

A nice half-day trip is to take shuttle bus from parking lot near Bright Angel along rim. It stops at about 10 lookouts, you hop on/hop off, and in some places can walk from stop to stop and then rejoin a shuttle. Even in middle of summer the various stops were quiet and without crowds.

Have a good trip.
gail is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 05:01 AM
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People of even less-than-average hiking ability can safely hike down the Bright Angel Trail *IF* they are humble enough to turn back up when they *START* to get tired or sore. Even a few days of prepping by walking up and down stairs will help. As noted above, carry (and drink!) lots of water, as well as wear a hat, long sleeved cotton shirt, and lots of sunscreen. If you hike just twenty minutes down the BA, you'll experience the Canyon in a way that 90% of visitors choose not to.
PaulRabe is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 05:53 AM
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I agree Paul. It gives an entirely different perspective.

Oh...we were in our mid 50s when we hiked the first time and have done it twice since. For lack of time, our first was only to the 2nd trail pit stop before we turned around, the 2nd to Indian Gardens, and the 3rd to Plateau Point. One of these days there will be enough time and we'll do the entire thing. Don't necessarily count your parents down and out--they might surprise you.
Malesherbes is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 07:46 AM
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Parking----there is a large lot at Bright Angel Lodge; it is not limited to lodge guests. The lodge has a "fountain" with ice cream, lemonade, etc. (and a long line at times). You can enjoy your ice cream cone sitting on the rock wall on the edge of the canyon, looking down at Indian Gardens and maybe the soaring condors.

Kolb Studio, with a display of historic photographs, is a "not-to-miss."
enzian is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 10:42 AM
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Check out the Grand Canyon web site. What I have been told and read is that hiking down to the bottom of the Canyon and back in the same day is NOT possible or advisable UNLESS you are an elite world class iron man triathelete. To quote from the Grand Canyon magazine, "NEVER TRY TO HIKE FROM THE RIM TO THE COLORADO RIVER AND BACK IN ONE DAY. Remember that trails descend more than 4,000 feet and that you must climb uphill at the end of the day, when you are most tired. Every year, at least 300 indidents occur on the Bright Angel and Kaibab trails, where scores of unprepared hikers experience severe illnuess or injury in returning to the rim." It is worse in warm weather, because temperatures at the bottom at alot higher than temps at the rim.
Braunsky is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 10:50 AM
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Beth, You can walk for miles and miles along the rim trail. And it's completely flat.

We stayed in Williams too. Don't miss the Mexican restaurant on the corner of Main St. I'm sorry, I forgot what it was called but it was really good. Great margaritas!
Catbert is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 05:46 PM
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I don't see anywhere that bethmac said her husband wanted to hike all the way down and back; just that he wanted to hike "in" the canyon. As several of us have stated, it is perfectly safe to hike partway down the Bright Angel Trail, provided you are properly dressed (sun protection), wearing good shoes or boots, and carrying enough water. And you know when to turn back, with enough energy left to hike back up. The different perspective one gets by dropping even a few hundred vertical feet down through the rock layers is well worth it. You don't really see how beautiful it is from the top.

The stern Park Service warnings about trying to hike down and back in one day are very necessary and wise, because a lot of naive, inexperienced, or unprepared people try it, and some have to be rescued. But it does not take a "world class ironman triathlete" to do it. I know a number of people who have done it, including both my sons. And when we were having dinner at Phantom Ranch last April, we met a gentleman in his 60's who said he and his friend hike rim-to-rim in a day when the North Rim opens up in May---it's their annual reunion. And although I wouldn't have wanted to turn around and go back up after hiking down with a 35-pound backpack, that was mainly 'cuz my feet were sore. Had I not carried a pack down, I would have had no difficulty hiking back up the same day.

But we are fit, experienced hikers, and I'm certainly NOT recommending anyone try the whole down-and-back without adequate preparation. My point for bethmac is that it's a reasonable plan for her husband to hike down the trail a couple of miles to see the beauty of the canyon walls up close. The key is plenty of water, proper clothing, and preparation.
enzian is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 06:04 PM
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I think the most reasonable plan for your husband is to hike the Bright Angel trail by himself, and the rest of you can do the rim trail. As for distance into the canyon, forget about that and decide based on time. If he wants to (and is capable of) hiking for 3 hours, he can hike down 1/3rd of that (1 hour) and plan on the return trip taking 2 hours. Setting a goal of X miles is only setting him up to overextend himself.
Jun 11th, 2006, 06:17 PM
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Beth was clear that her hubby wanted to do "shorter, safter hikes".

What goes down, must come up.

My caution is based on the very possible chance that a hiker can misjudge their abilities in the GC.

I regularly "rescue" hikers in a temperate rain forest, in the midst of lots of shade and possible water sources who collapse along the side of the road where the trail crosses. One hiker usually attempts to hike up via road to the trailhead - but the road route is as strenuous, if not more, than the trail they just hiked down.

I don't charge a fee to ferry exhausted hikers back to their cars. In the GC, you will pay to be carried out.

I "thought" I knew how hot, dry and dehydrating the canyon could be. I was still surprised. As others have said, if you are in good shape and prepared with plenty of water and CORRECT clothing, you should be fine.
starrsville is offline  
Jun 14th, 2006, 10:07 PM
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I understand that Bethmac did not specifically mention plans to go down and back in one day, and agree completely that an hour or so on the Bright Angel trail is safe and time well spent. I exagerated the fitness level required to make a point. There's a big difference between a spur of the moment "let's go down to the river and back today!" when you don't do much hiking, and planning that hike when you have experience, appropriate shoes and clothes, and know your limits. Also a big difference doing a down and back, or rim to rim (which I've read is a 12 hour hike) in April or May, and in late June or anytime during the summer. I used to think nothing of 8 hours of hiking, 12 hours of biking, with whatever I could carry, wherever I felt like going. Age and general wear and tear have made me more cautious, perhaps annoyingly so!
Braunsky is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 08:06 AM
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Bethmac - there are plenty of other trails besides Bright Angel. Also, there are guided hikes you can take. Check the schedule, but I did one a few years ago that started around 7:30 in the morning. We hiked down for a little over an hour, spent some time at a beautiful overlook, and then hiked back up. The guide tells you all about the canyon and points out things in the rocks, flora and fauna. It was very interesting.

kaudrey is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 11:13 AM
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Yes, take plenty of water. You also can't count on finding water in the canyon due to occassional breakdowns. And even for a rim walk, take water. At 7,000' elevation at the south rim (higher at the north), the air is extremely dry, even when it's not hot! But 2 caveats: Don't forget to drink the water! Don't wait until you're thirsty, often that is too late. The other, take along salty snacks and munch as you go. You don't want to drink all of that water without replacing salt too. You don't want to experience hyponatremia.

Are you driving LV to GC, then going to Williams after GC? You'll miss both sunrise, and sunset, unless you don't mind driving the 60 miles to Williams after dark. You also won't have enough time or be at the canyon early enough to really hike into the canyon in June heat. Maybe just down to the first tunnel and back. Even that will give you some of that different perspective.

You can check out day hikes and safety info at the nps website They also have the current Ranger Program schedule. I'd say pick at least two that sound interesting to you and fit your short schedule. Be sure to stop at the Canyon View Visitor Center when you get to the park (park the car at Mather pt and walk across the street). There you'll find which specific programs are happening that day. Since they don't always go 100% of the time, with a couple of choices you'll have a better chance of getting one.
gcmaven is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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I was at the Canyon in mid May and hiked down the South Kaibab trail to the Colorado River and back up the Bright Angel the same day. It took 9 hours. Let me just say this, everyone talks about having enough water (which I always did) but I didnt even think about food and took hardly any with me. You must take plenty of food with you if you are going to attempt this!! I'd recommend protein bars and beef jerky etc.

At about 1 mile to the top of Bright Angel my body was pretty much close to shutting down due to lack of energy. Luckily a couple of guys gave me 3 protein bars which immediately gave me energy to make it to the top.

I would definitely not try this hike in the middle of summer. I consider myself a beginner hiker. I quit smoking 2 months before the trip and worked out a couple times a week for 1 1/2 months before the trip as well and lost about 15 pounds pre-vacation.

I'd definitely say Indian Gardens is as far as he'd want to go in the middle of summer. But still take plenty of food with you because you cant get that on the trail.

If you are interested in reading about my trip out west, I have a blog at
the_dude07 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 10:05 PM
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Thanks for all the great insight. It is correct that my husband doesn't intend to hike all the way into the gc and back out, he just insn't content to only walk along rim, either. My main concern was that he'd be alone, but sounds like he really won't because it will be busy. Thanks for the long sleeve white shirt tip, wouldn't have packed that and now there's still time. The poster who asked about sunrise/ it not safe to drive back to Williams from gc after dark? I would like to see sunset (not morning people so sunrise unlikely even if we slept in a sleeping back on the edge) but don't want to do something dangerous.
bethmac is offline  
Jun 15th, 2006, 11:17 PM
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Hi bethmac---I was afraid you'd gone already and didn't see these suggestions. But here you are, so you can see your husband can do his hike and he'll be fine. As for driving back to Williams after dark, I don't think that is a problem at all. We drove in well after dark ourselves; the road is wide and straight, and there isn't a lot of traffic. Just be sure and watch for deer/elk.

Have a wonderful time.
enzian is offline  
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