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Grand Canyon Advice: North Rim to South Rim
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Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
Grand Canyon Advice: North Rim to South Rim on 02/11/2010 14:49:32 MST Print View

Ok, so my wife and I are contemplating a Grand Canyon North to South Hike this coming September. My initial investigation reveals the normal warnings, etc...we will take the advice stated in several books and websites suggesting sticking to the corridor trails on your first visit.

However, in an effort to somewhat remove ourselves from the crowds we were thinking about a north to south hike.

Rough Schedule.

Monday, Sept. 20
-fly into Las Vegas, mid day, drive to GC
-arrive at North camp ground
Tuesday, Sept. 21
Pick Up Backcountry Permit
-longer day hike (undecided, maybe Uncle Jim)
Wednesday, Sept 22
-hike to Cottonwood Campground
Thursday, Sept. 23
-hike to Bright Angel Campground
Friday, Sept. 24
-hike out on the Bright Angel Trail
-Shuttle back to North Rim
-Camp at North Campground
Saturday, Sept. 25
-return to Las Vegas
Sunday, Sept. 26
-Fly out

1) Should leave our car at the South Rim and shuttle back to North Pre-trip? or vice versa
2) Should we stay the 3rd night at Indian Garden Campground on the way out?
3) Should we forget the North/South route and doe the South trail to Bright Angel Trail as a 2 day trip? Being that this is our first visit...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
looks good on 02/11/2010 15:21:35 MST Print View

That's a very reasonable schedule. Plenty of time to enjoy the scenery without getting beaten up. A few thoughts:

-I'd absolutely stay with camping on the North Rim. It's very, very nice. The forest on the Kaibab Plateau is gorgeous, and the North Rim complex is so much less crowded and touristy than the south. At the North Rim lodge, you can take beers from the Teddy Roosevelt bar and enjoy them (and a pizza from the cafeteria) on the porch, which has the best view of any building on earth. On the way home stop and snag some excellent cookies at the Jacob's Lake lodge.

-If you can do without facilities, there is great free camping on the North Rim outside the park. Nice and quiet.

-Cottonwood is a great campground. As far as Bright Angel v. Indian Gardens, it's a toss up. You could go from Cottonwood to either easily.

-Going N-S you'll have a net elevation loss.

-Make permit reservations if you haven't already. All the three campgrounds you mentioned will likely be totally full.

Edited by DaveC on 02/11/2010 15:25:22 MST.

Robert Alston
Feedback on 02/11/2010 15:47:20 MST Print View

It looks to me like your Friday is going to be a looong day. If it were me, after climbing up to the South Rim, the last thing I would want would be to rush to meet a shuttle and then be stuck in a vehicle for 4.5 hours. Better yet, get a shower and watch the sun go down over a glass of wine and refect on your trip.

So I would drive to the South Rim on day one and take the 7 am shuttle to the North Rim on Tuesday which would still give you time to take a hike. Then you won't be rushed on Friday which will be your hardest day.

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
clarify on 02/11/2010 15:50:48 MST Print View

So stay on the South Rim day one, shuttle to North Rim and camp day 2, then backpack trip day 3-5 finishing again camping on the south rim?

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
campgrounds on 02/11/2010 15:54:04 MST Print View

Any further thoughts on Cottonwood to Bright Angel vs. Indian Garden? The mileage suggestions strike me as low, but I guess I am assuming you should heed their hiking time frames making big miles more difficult.

We hike around the Beartooths so elevation changes don't seem to terrible, but heat and elevation is another thing.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: clarify on 02/11/2010 18:20:19 MST Print View

I think what Robert meant was that hiking from Bright Angel CG to South Rim and trying to catch a bus all the way back to North Rim in one day is a big day.

Leaving your car on the South Rim before the hike and shuttling back to camp on the North Rim before the hike would give you more flexibility at the end of your hike and take the pressure off to summit the South Rim by a certain time. Then you can sit back drink your wine/beer at the South Rim after the hike and drive back to the north rim, or wherever you want to go, at your leisure.

Are you in good shape ?
Hiking from Bright Angel CG to South Rim is not a big deal. You don't need to camp at Indian Gardens unless you want to enjoy the scenery.
If its a choice between one night at Bright Angel or Indian Gardens ... I would pick Bright Angel

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
thanks on 02/11/2010 19:16:44 MST Print View

yea, i consider myself in fair shape. will run a marathon this fall. hike hundred or so miles each year. run roughly 25 miles a week. but i am a big guy 6'1 235 lbs. my wife runs as much as i do, etc...

hiking 7 miles with that ascent doesn't seem overwhelming, but then again i have never hiked in a dessert environment, though i grew up in the south. so heat doesn't bother me terribly. i know how to prevent heat exhaustion, etc...i tend to take the cautions seriously.

when i first moved to montana i believe i read every bear book known to man...ha. to date i have only seen one black bear in all my time in the Beartooths and Yellowstone.

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
side thought on 02/11/2010 19:20:14 MST Print View

are there short hikes near Cottonwood and Bright Angel? The morning from Cottonwood to Bright Angel doesn't seem that bad, was wondering if there were day trips near by, don't see many suggestions in the books I have...

thanks for all the info.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: side thought on 02/11/2010 19:55:57 MST Print View

Ribbon Falls is between Cottonwood and Bright Angel CGs.
Don't know how far off the main trail it is or how worthwhile it is.

Bright Angel CG is only 200yds from the River which is a great place to just hang out, maybe stroll a mile or so along the river trail.

From Indian Gardens there is a nice scenic side trail that goes a few miles up onto the Plateau overlooking the river.

It just all depends what you want out of the trip.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Grand Canyon advice on 02/11/2010 22:07:34 MST Print View

I'm with Robert; I always prefer hiking TO my car on a point-to-point trip, rather than AWAY from it. The trip ends when it should, rather than a big rush or hassle post-hike.

A big reason for the mileage suggestions is heat. You can pull big miles, but you have to be disciplined about your start times. I like hitting the trail by 4:00 am at the lastest, and I'm off the trail by noon unless my hike is shaded and near water. It's still pretty hot in the Grand in late September, and during midday you almost can't drink enough if you're out in the sun and not used to those conditions.

You may get some monsoon this time of year too. Best to stay with the Corridor trails if it's really raining; alot of the unmaintained trails have pretty dangerous footing in the rain.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
logistics on 02/14/2010 11:18:49 MST Print View

I don't think taking the shuttle after hiking will be a big deal. Take a nap once you leave the park, wake up in time to see the Vermillion Cliffs and the ascent back up onto the Kaibab in the last ~1 hour. The South Rim is like disneyland most of the year. I always try to spend as little time there as possible.

Ribbon Falls is within view of the trail. Worth a visit. You'll have time to do a side hike, and hiking above and beyond the lower falls to upper Ribbon is very nice. Info can be found in guidebooks. Side hiking up Phantom Creek is also really, really cool. You will get your feet wet.

Bring cash to buy Tecate at Phantom.

As for fitness, I wouldn't worry about the up so much as the down. There are very few places with as steep and sustained and rocky descending as in the GC. Take it easy going down to Cottonwood and you'll be just fine. Plenty to photograph on the way.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
views on 02/14/2010 11:22:24 MST Print View

"From Indian Gardens there is a nice scenic side trail that goes a few miles up onto the Plateau overlooking the river."

This is Plateau Point. 3 dead flat miles round trip from Indian Gardens. Emphatically worth the trip. Good chance of seeing Condors, good view of what you just hiked up, the river, geology, etc.

The monsoon does not so much happen in September. The Grand Canyon is worth respecting, but it isn't nearly as scary as the park service is legally obligated to make it out to be.

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
thanks on 02/14/2010 16:16:48 MST Print View

Well, I am leaning toward October now. With a stop at Cottonwood, Bright Angel and Indian Garden, but we may do Cottonwood to Indian Garden. Thanks for all the input.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
late Oct on 02/14/2010 16:48:17 MST Print View


If I were to pick one best time to hike in the Grand, it would be late October/early November. I think the rim-rim shuttle has stopped by then.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: late Oct on 02/14/2010 17:10:06 MST Print View

If you go in November, bear in mind that daylight hours are sparse. Camp chairs, books and whiskey are recommended.