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Which one should I hike?! Grand Canyon - Yosemite or Yellowstone?

Which one should I hike?! Grand Canyon - Yosemite or Yellowstone?

Old Aug 1st, 2022, 11:53 PM
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Which one should I hike?! Grand Canyon - Yosemite or Yellowstone?

Hi Team,

I am travelling to the USA next May (2023) and want to do a 4 day hike (with a trekking company in a small group) at one of the famous spots. I've never been to the USA and these three are all on my wish list. (I am travelling rest of country with a friend but doing my hike before she arrives).

I'm 35 female, fairly fit, love to hike. Looking for: a challenging hike with beautiful, once-in- a- life time surroundings with an AMAZING view of night sky and stars. Would love to see native animals if around as well.

I CANNOT decide which place to choose.. Do I complete a 4 day hike through Yosemite, down into the Canyon or through Yellowstone?.. would love to hear your recommendations! Again, I will be choosing a small hiking tour group- not doing it alone.

Thank you
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 02:42 AM
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I've hiked many miles in each of those parks and would say Yosemite is the best choice, with GC #2 (maybe even #1 depending on the hikes your trek co has planned).

There are many different hikes at Yosemite each with excellent, unique viewing. With 4 days you have time for 2 more strenuous hikes. Ten, 15, maybe even 20 miles if you wish, with up to 2000 or 3000' elevation gain. One day could be up the north side of the valley, up to the top of Yosemite Falls, or even up around to the top of El Capitan. The other could be on the south side of the valley. Mist Trail, or 4mile Trail up to Glacier Point and back down Panorama Trail, or some combination of those.

The benefit of Yosemite is that each night you can return to the same comfortable lodging in the valley. Unless your trek includes back country camping which would open up a whole new perspective.

If you go to GC, you would have time for one or two overnights below the rim. From the South Rim you could hike the S. Kaibab trail on day 1 down to Phantom Ranch on the river - it's a ~5000' (`1500+ meter) descenent., stay there for a night or 2, then hike back up Bright Angel Trail and camp at Indian Garden. If the trek company you were looking at departed from the North Rim and hiked to Deer Creek and Thunder River, then I'd say I would recommend that even over Yosemite as you'd see a part of the GC that very few people ever get to see. Those overnights at GC below the rim require permits which sell out a year in advance.

If you point us to info about the different treks I can refine my inputs. Yosemite you can always visit on your own and do any of those hikes a day hikes even as a solo hiker. A well planned trek at the GC back country needs the services of a guide but would be a bucket list trip for me. Yosemite I would (and have) hiked many trails alone, but you cannot/would not do that at GC.

May is a good time to visit the GC, but by mid to late May temps well down below the rim can reach 30 or even 35C during the day, so you need to factor in heat and water carefully. Yosemite in the spring has great water flow over all of the waterfalls and the temperatures are ideal for long hikes.

May is not the ideal time to visit Yellowstone due to its elevation and lingering winter.

The other park I love for hiking is Zion. Like Yosemite you can stay in the valley floor (in park, or just as good is right outside the park in Springdale UT). There too are many varied hikes, many short, but also many long and strenuous hikes. I could recommend at least 3 long hikes there, for another visit to the US....


Last edited by J62; Aug 2nd, 2022 at 02:56 AM.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 04:31 AM
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Strange question because these three parks are nowhere near each other and the hiking is very different at each place. I've hiked at all three considerably so it's just a matter of what you are looking for.
1) Yosemite: Epic hikes like Half Dome and the John Muir trail. Lots of waterfalls, lakes, and great scenery. Not as many animals as Yellowstone and there are a lot of people in the valley. Once you start down a trail the crowds begin to disappear. Also fires have been a problem recently so you might take that into consideration as some areas are closed and smoke will hinder visibility and air quality.
2) Yellowstone: Hikes here tend to be shorter for the average visitor (a couple miles round trip) and most center around thermal features. The are a couple relatively easy mountain hikes in Mt Washburn and Bunsen Peak. There are some epically long wilderness hikes that will truly take you off the grid and into places where there are more grizzlies than people. You'll need more preparation to consider these hikes and bear spray.
3) Grand Canyon. The Bright Angel Trail is the marquee hike and with 4 days you have time to go all the way to the river and back (or cross to the other rim if someone is there to drive you back). Heat and water are the big challenges along with the steepness of the hike. This also requires a lot of preparation to have food, water, and the ability to tolerate heat (usually over 100F in the summer).

I don't know how experienced you are and what your goals are. ABsed on your question it sounds like you are a novice just wanting some adventure. Good luck and do your research.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 07:28 AM
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Not a strange question at all--she's looking for advice from the experience people have in each so she can make a decision on one of them.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 09:34 AM
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Welcome to Fodors. I don't think jeffaguillar actually read your full OP, because his comments re Yosemite aren't really relevant to a May visit. Never once have I been in Yosemite in May when there were fires or smoke. One thing about Yosemite though - the back country will most likely be closed in May -- it doesn't usually open up until mid May or early June.

And the Grand Canyon seldom reaches 100F in May though it can happen, especially late in the month.

My choices would be #1 Yosemite Valley - Hiking would be limited to the Valley and trails up from the valley floor - but the place is GLORIOUS in May.

#2 Grand Canyon

#3 Yellowstone - much of the park, including some that jeff recommended, is still snow bound in May

Another place one might put on a wish list at that time of year is Zion National Park
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
And the Grand Canyon seldom reaches 100F in May though it can happen, especially late in the month.
100F in down in the Grand Canyon is NOT a seldom occurence. Any assumption to the contrary is dangerous. 2022 info is pasted below. Prior years are similar.
The OP has specifically talked about doing 4 days of hiking, and at the GC that includes well below the rim...


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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 11:29 AM
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Sorry -- I meant at the rim -- it definitely is hotter down at the bottom -- In fact in May instead of hiking, I'd want to do a float trip
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 02:12 PM
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If you can book into a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim guided hike, that is what I'd choose. Do it now while your knees are still good, LOL.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 04:57 PM
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It's not something that many think about when doing hiking trips, but the more fragile the ecosystem, the better to see now. Consequently I would narrow your choices to either Yellowstone or Yosemite. The GC will always be there if you ever come back, but what Yellowstone and Yosemite will look like is anyone's guess.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 06:08 PM
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Early May: Grand Canyon

Later May: Grand Canyon or Yosemite

Much too early for Yellowstone.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 02:45 AM
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Awesome guys thank you for all your answers.. really appreciate you taking the time to help me.

.. so full disclosure, I don't know how to use this forum and reply back to everybody's comments separately but in one email so Ill just try and reply best I can.

So to give more context @jeffaguilar7308, I haven't chosen my entry point into the USA yet; I will fly in to whatever State/City that is closest to the area I choose to hike in, which is why the options are so diverse and far apart... : )

Whilst I have experience hiking in Aus, I don't want to assume I understand the landscape, terrain and natural challenges unique to USA and the places Im interested in seeing. So Im happy to hear about these challenges just as much as the good parts!

I'm planning on starting hike around 15th of May, give or take a couple days.

So far I feel like I will cross Yellowstone off due to weather- Fair?

So more about me- I live in a very hot part of Aus and hike frequently here, but the heat is steamy and more rain forest environment (its considered the tropics) and I've never really even seen desert! Desert in Australia is hours away by plane..and more just a sandy expanse, not for hiking.. which is why I feel so drawn to Grand Canyon, it feels like a whole new experience for me. The tours are well established and we cook all food at camp that night and have water and water filters etc. Does the temperature drop substantially at night? and are you allowed to have camp fires?

J62 If the trek company you were looking at departed from the North Rim and hiked to Deer Creek and Thunder River, then I'd say I would recommend that even over Yosemite as you'd see a part of the GC that very few people ever get to see. - Awesome- thats the kind of info I want! there are many hikes and they all start to look the same, but I did see one offer North rim to Thunder River, so knowing that would be something special makes me excited to explore that option more. : D

Yosemite just sounds brilliant... Im planning on backpacking and camping in a tent overnight on the trail (with my tour guide/group) so Id like to do a 4 day continuous hike, not going back to base. Im basically looking for completely different environment than Im used to hiking in, guessing Yosemite should provide that as well.

Thanks again!

Kristen

Last edited by kristeng2341; Aug 3rd, 2022 at 03:14 AM. Reason: grammar
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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 02:50 AM
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Good point!

Last edited by kristeng2341; Aug 3rd, 2022 at 02:53 AM. Reason: trying to delete
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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 03:35 AM
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Re the Yosemite option "Yosemite just sounds brilliant... Im planning on backpacking and camping in a tent overnight on the trail (with my tour guide/group) so Id like to do a 4 day continuous hike, not going back to base. Im basically looking for completely different environment then Im used to hiking in, guessing Yosemite should provide that as well."

I honestly don't see how that is possible in May. Could be possible in late May - but only some years. Tioga Pass/Tuolomne Meadows and the high country is closed most years from early-ish November though at least Mid May. look at this table that shows Tioga Pass historical opening dates by year. Only 13 times since 1980 has Tioga Pass been open by May 15. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/seasonal.htm

And the some of the back country camp grounds open even later than the road. Often not til July or sometimes even August

Yosemite is fabulous in the Spring, but it is really Yosemite Valley that is mostly accessible at that time of year.


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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 04:32 AM
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No worries about the forum - posting your comments in a single post is fine....

At each of the parks there are large "campgrounds" accessible by car where you can put up a tent, have a bbq, etc. There are several in Yosemite Valley, and they have water, bathroom/shower facilities, and a place to buy provisions. It sounds like those are not what you are looking for.

Back country camping that is) in any of the National Parks is highly regulated due to the fragile nature of the enviroment, & impact of human presence on the landscape and wildlife. A limited number of required permits are issued, and there is a long list of precautions you'd need to follow - where you can camp, what kind of fire, how to safely store food (to keep away from bears (@ Yosemite that is, not GC), etc... A trek company would be the best way for you to navigate the rules and regs. There may be camp sites accessible from the valley floor with a long hike up, but as Janis noted most of the back country is accessed from the Tioga pass road which does not get cleared of snow until they can get to it. Snowfall totals along that road can be 3-6 meters deep.... A trek company could tell you about options in your time frame, with the caveat from us that any given trek may depend on the timing of roads being open....

Likewise at the GC, back country camping is also highly regulated. The desert is a fragile environment, in a different way, and you can't just put up a tent anywhere. You don't have the issue of bears searching for food like at Yosemite, but you do have the issue of water....and the trek company would know where the water sources are. Of course there is the Colorado river at the bottom but you only access the CO river at select points.

As for the desert, the south side of the GC is mostly desert. The rim itself is in the middle of a dense pine forest, but once you get below the rim it is quite barren. The two main trails from the south rim down to the river - Bright Angel and S. Kaibab trail are both viewable on google maps street view if you want to get a feel for the landscape, and I'm sure you can find youtube videos of those hikes. The Bright Angel trail has water (piped in from the north rim) at several points along the trail. The S. Kaibab trail has no water.

The north rim side of the canyon gets more moisture and much of the landscape is lush forest, at least along the creeks, and water sources are plentiful for filtering.

If you are going to the GC from the north rim, then Las Vegas is a good arrival airport. With a rental car (or trek company van), you could also visit several parks in Utah - Zion, Bryce, and GC north rim make for a good 3 park trip.


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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 11:56 AM
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Grand Canyon is the only realistic option out of the 3 for mid-May.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 06:09 PM
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Yes. definitely Grand Canyon in May 15. I just Googled and came up with this outfitter, who does a trek called the Grandtview trek. I have never used this company so can't comment, but I have backpacked in the Grandview area. Slightly different route than theirs, but it is AMAZING. Rim-to-rim backpack is also amazing, but Grandview adds a bit of an edge to it.

They have several trips scheduled for May, '23.
https://wildlandtrekking.com/trips/g...kpacking-trip/

Again, not necessarily recommending this outfitter, but I think you should zoom in on the Grand Canyon.

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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 01:10 AM
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Thanks Team.. this makes it a lot easier for me to decide!

I will focus on Grand Canyon, and trying to find the best trek.. Nelson Yes! I was looking at trips through Wildland trekking.. Just had to choose the best one.. Im going to look now at the routes and post here, to hear what ya'll recommend.. J62 I like the idea of the different ecosystems and getting to see them all in one trek, sounds very special. Also regarding permits; If I book something now, I save a lot as it is pre-permit allocation- however if the hiking group don't win permits, (they apparently have good record of winning the permits) they will refund/ find another option.

Will add some routes now for you to help me choose : )

Cheers,

Kristen
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 01:23 AM
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Okay,

This is my shortlist- what say you? : ). (Sorry wouldn't let me link, got this message: You are not allowed to post URLs until you have at least 10 posts )

wildlandtrekking.com/trips/grand-canyon-rim-to-rim-hike/ - RIM TO RIM

wildlandtrekking.com/trips/hermit-trail-backpacking-trip-grand-canyon/ - HERMIT LOOP

wildlandtrekking.com/trips/new-hance-backpacking-trip/ - NEW HANCE LOOP

wildlandtrekking.com/trips/grandview-trek-backpacking-trip/ - GRANDVIEW TREK


Last edited by kristeng2341; Aug 4th, 2022 at 01:25 AM. Reason: adding info
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 06:13 AM
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Althought I would be delighted to take any of those 4 treks, of the 4, my own preference would be for either Hermit or Rim to Rim. I have not done any of these treks myself, but I have done a 2 week rafting trip along the river and hiked parts of many of the trails at the GC.

New Hance and Grandview both stay primarily on the Grandview trail/Tonto Plateau. Yes, the views are stunning, but the terrain is not as varied as you'd get in the other two. And these 2 treks are 100% arid. You won't get the enjoyment of seeing any of the side creeks that flow into the Colorado river.

Rim to Rim - that trek down one side and up the other is one of THE iconic hikes anywhere, and you'll be able to say for the rest of your life "I hiked Rim to Rim". You'll have the benefit of seeing some of the less arid terrain as you hike down from the North Rim, stay at Phantom Ranch, be able to cross one or both of the bridges across the river as you explore that area. One downside of the R2R is that day one includes a 4 hr van or bus ride from Flagstaff AZ.

Hermit. (5d trek). This would also give you some access to water along the way - I'm not sure exactly what you'd see, but it's supposed to be a very nice trail.

Reading my own post, I'd vote for the R2R hike, for the reasons I've stated. But that's just my own opinion....

My own bucket list hike is a same day R2R. Travel light, and travel fast...My own experience is that trail running with just food, water, and emergency supplies is actually far easier than hiking slowly with a full (heavy) backpack of gear (plus food and water)...
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 08:17 AM
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In reading J62’s post above, I will concur that R2R is the best for the reason he stated, proximity to water. (My trip out by Grandview was actually called the Escalante Route, we spent 4 nights camped right next the river. Kind of this trip in reverse: https://fsguides.com/destinations/gr...-to-new-hance/. Very highly recommended, but it is tough.)

However, a caveat on the R2R trip offered by Wildland: it’s a bit too rushed for my taste. This would be much better, If you can find someone offering it:

Night 1 - North Rim
2 - Cottonwood
3 & 4 - Phantom
5 - Indian Garden
6 - South Rim

This elimates those long drives on the same days you are hiking, and gives you a chance to explore several side trails without the heavy pack.

If you can find someone offering this thst would be fabulous. If not, you’ll still enjoy R2R. Good luck!
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