I have an affinity for adventure, if you’ve ever read “Captivated” you understand it’s ingrained in me from my creator. I love trips that make me feel like I’m on top of the World, and at the same time a very small blip on the map. My dad taught me to take every adventure head on and if I complained… I wouldn’t be invited back. I try to look for the best in every situation and enjoy seeing another sunrise from a new vantage point.
When Lance and I planned our first away vacation together we knew we wanted to do something fairly inexpensive and adventurous; we landed on hiking The Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon sounds easy enough, thousands of people do it every year, old folks, children, everyone, should be simple, right? Not so much, planning a trip to a National Park from states away, kind of felt like a shot in the dark and for much of the trip our plan was to just show up and figure it out once we got there. I read lots of things online, read through people’s personal blogs and with no real geographic perspective of the area I was lost.
We had a fairly simple plan, Lance, Lauren (Lance’s Sister), and myself planned to hike to the bottom, sleep at the campground there and hike out. If you’re planning your own trip to The Grand Canyon, there’s a few things you should be aware of.
- There are two entries, the North Rim and the South Rim. The North rim stays closed during the winter months due to snow and the south rim is open year round. As a girl from Southeast Texas I assumed all snow is gone by June, I was wrong. When we visited people commented that the North Rim had just opened up a few weeks prior and there was still snow on the ground. The south rim is more commercialized and the most easily accessible point of entry. We chose the South Rim for our hike.
- You have to book your stay at these campgrounds and get a backcountry hiking permit ahead of time. Like months ahead of time. We requested a stay 2 months ahead of time and did not get our first choice selections. BE AWARE- what you request may not be what you get. Here is the link to mail in your request. They have reccomended time frames to turn in your paperwork. They will mail you your permits back along with some general information.
- When you get there: We chose to stay a night the top in a campground, because we had been driving for hours and wanted to get an early start the next day after a good night’s rest. We stayed at the Desert View Campground (about 25 minutes outside of The Grand Canyon Village ie: where we started hiking) This camp ground has great views, clean bathrooms, and nice campsites, but it is first come first serve and we did receive the absolutely last campsite of the day. We arrived around 1pm, better early than homeless. Since we were only staying in a tent we really selected price over amenities. The next morning we woke up, had a small breakfast, packed up camp and drove to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
- You have to check in and let them know that you’re really hiking. I thought this was kind of a joke, but the canyon is definitely more dangerous than I expected. If you forgot anything, don’t panic there is a store (along with free transportation) that you can find food, camping supplies, and souvenir’s. Maybe wait and buy the souvenir’s on the way out, but a great spot to find them. We bought a little cooker there, probably severely overpriced, but it was needed and small enough to fit in our stuffed bags.
- Which trail do I take? We picked this on the fly, someone on the bus suggested we take the South Kaibab because there are less water stops and we thought the way down would be easier than the way up. For the record, down versus up is debatable, but we found we had plenty of water and there were great spots for us to fill our water bottles along the way. South Kaibab is shorter in distance, but offers great open views for most of the trip. If you’re worried about how long a hike will take you, we averaged about an hour a mile. We were a little faster on the way down and slower on the way up, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
Bright Angel Trail is longer, a slower incline, and has many shaded areas along the way. If we did it all over again, we would have planned to go down the South Kaibab, sleep one night at Bright Angel Campground, hike a half day to Indian Garden Campground and spend a night there, before hiking the rest of the way up.
I would strongly recommend NOT going down one day and back up the next day. Plan ahead, spend two days at the bottom, there are bathrooms, a bar (limited menu, but hey, a beer after hiking for 7 hours tastes pretty dang good!) the river, and Indian artifacts. Try to book your second night on the way up at the Indian Garden Campground, just try to give your body a break before heading all the way out. If you can’t break it up, consider sending your pack up on a mule and hiking up weight free. It costs $70 and you can reserve it at the bar at Bright Angel Campground. $70 may seem steep, but when we visited a tropical storm blew over and it rained all night and all morning on our way out. Our gear was soaked, we felt totally unprepared and my now sister-in-law didn’t understand the “no complaining rule”. I would have paid $100, but unfortunately all the mules were booked before we found the bar.
If you would have asked Lance and I immediately after our hike if we would ever do the Grand Canyon again, we would have said absolutely NO. But now being home, and knowing what we learned the first go round, we would love to go back. Next time we might take friends and raft in, but the views are unbelievable and you get a great sense of history!
Get outside, go see what this beautiful country has to offer, go exploring!
P.S. Let me know if y’all are interested to see what I packed for our trip!