Thinking of hiking in the Grand Canyon?
Looking for some outdoor adventure, spectacular scenery and fantastic vistas?
In this guest post, Alan, recounts his recent backpacking trip on the South Kaibab trail to Bright Angel Creek campground and then up the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens and beyond in the Grand Canyon National Park.
Over to Alan and his trip report:
Frank has asked me to contribute a piece to the blog about my recent 5 day, 4 night backpacking trip in Grand Canyon National Park.
I think that only Frank and Sue’s enthusiasm for The Overland Track matches mine for Grand Canyon.
Make no mistake about it, Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Most visitors only stand at the rim of this vast canyon – over 200 miles long, over 15 miles across and 1 mile deep. Formed over the last 6-7 million years by the mighty Colorado River, it is a walk through geologic time. Rock walls at the bottom of the canyon are over 1.3 billion years old.
I have visited the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona (about an 8 hour drive east from Los Angeles or a 4 hour drive north from Phoenix (Arizona’s capital) several times, always for great day hikes but until this recent trip had never hiked to the bottom and back out.
This is an effort that needs to be treated with respect. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that hiking in the canyon is serious business. With summer temperatures often reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit and little shade, one has to really prepare. It is strongly advised to avoid the hottest months. Water is scarce at times and being rescued is not always possible.
My friend Roger and I planned our early November trip (late autumn in the US) so as to avoid hot weather. We arrived at the south rim of the canyon in time for a 7 am shuttle bus to the trailhead for the South Kaibab trail. Early morning greeted us with very cold weather, however, on that day, it warmed up quickly. Deserts are known for their big temperature swings. We hiked down the South Kaibab trail for about 7 hours, frequently pausing to admire the amazing scenery that seems to change by the minute depending upon how the sunlight hits the canyon walls.
During the 7 hours on the trail we descended from 7000 feet above sea level to about 2400 feet. Plant life and rock formations continue to change throughout our descent. At the bottom we finally reached the Colorado River, having seen it from afar and heard the sound of its rapids as we approached. Our destination was Bright Angel Campground along the Bright Angel Creek near Phantom ranch. (Yes, there is actually a ranch with lodging and food at the very bottom).
Here we spent 2 nights in our tents along with the constant, pleasant sound of the creek just meters from us. On our 2nd day we went on a great day hike along the river and across 2 suspension bridges
(I also tried to heal – with the help of ice from the park ranger and a bandage – my badly twisted ankle)After our 2nd night we began a several hour hike up the Bright Angel Trail to our next destination – Indian Gardens. About half-way up we spent 2 nights at this desert oasis with water and Cottonwood trees managing a great day hike to an area overlooking the river called Plateau Point from where we experienced unbelievably awesome views of this spectacular place.
After two nights at Indian Gardens (weathering a hail storm during the second night) we began our final several hour hike out. Miles of switchbacks, no reliable water sources, and relentless uphill hiking finally led us back to the canyon’s south rim.
It is nearly impossible to describe the beauty of the Grand Canyon. Photographs hardly do it justice. The vastness is difficult to imagine.
Visitors must be prepared for all extremes of weather, food and water. Water was available at our camping areas and river water can be used if purified, however, we often carried 5-7 liters. Fires are not permitted and backcountry permits are required for any overnight camping – they should be arranged months in advance.
I could go on forever about the beauty, the hazards, the poisonous scorpions (but in Australia you aren’t too intimidated by these things), the mule trains and more.
If you are tempted to plan a trip, feel free to contact me via the blog and I’ll gladly give you more information.
Many thanks to Alan for his great trip report, it certainly has inspired us to think about a trip to the States to do some hiking in the Grand Canyon.
Side Note: Alan and Frank met via Our Hiking Blog a couple of years ago when Alan contacted us about hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania. We struck up a great friendship (you know, one of those internet relationships!) and Frank decided to join Alan on the trip to Tasmania.
Of course we blogged about it, here are the two posts: