Hiking the Grand Canyon?
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John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/07/2011 07:51:22 MST Print View

Has anyone on BPL done the canyon?

What were some of your trip preparations? Did you use a guide service? Was it an organized group trek?

What is the water availability?

Did you do it in a single day or did you hike in, camp and hike out?

Please share your experiences and pictures if possible.

Party On,

Newton

Charles G.
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/07/2011 08:39:25 MST Print View

I hike in the Grand Canyon at least twice a year typically for 3-4 nights each trip. My preference is to go solo in the less visited parts of The Canyon; I wouldn't know how to locate a guide and I don't like large groups. The best preparation is to spend some time deciding where you want to go and then make your plans accordingly; I would recommend one of the "Corridor" trails as a first endeavor rather than one of the less traveled routes.

Water availability varies a lot from place to place and it is seldom conveniently located. On the Bright Angel trail water is pretty generally available during most of the year. Other routes such as the Red Canyon (New Hance) trail have little reliable water until you reach the river, especially in summer.

A lot of inexperienced hikers get in trouble in the canyon. Heat, dehydration and fatigue are the major problems but exposure (fall danger) and loosing one's way are also problems. The typical trouble-prone hiker is a fit male between 16 and 30 years of age with some prior experience backpacking but not in the Grand Canyon.

Start here http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm to begin researching the art of hiking the Grand Canyon backcountry.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/07/2011 09:01:32 MST Print View

Charles,

Thank you very much. Your input and the FAQ page on the link that you provided are just what the doctor ordered.

I also found this thread on BPL that helps with travel plans to the canyon. Do you have any additional input regarding travel to the canyon?

Thanks again,

Newton

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Grand Canyon planning on 03/07/2011 09:13:07 MST Print View

Just my experiences for what they are worth.

Trip prep: Our group always hit March for backpacking from the South Rim. Great month to do it - not too hot, not too cold (in the canyon itself - the Rim is usually a bit colder, requiring a heavier sleeping bag if car camping). ADD: Not sure if a soloist would get first dibs on permits, or even an outfitter/guide as it is really first-come/first-serve. I sent a permit for Spring Break in a few hours after midnight, when permitting for my desired month opened, and my requested itinerary and secondary itinerary was already full, maybe Jan or Feb would be less crowded.

Trip length: We always spent several days in the Canyon to make the drive worthwhile. Also hiking out will take at least 4+ hrs from the main campsite (Cottonwood) with a dawn start, just winding up the wall of the canyon. If going into the canyon on the dayhike, there are signs posted for turnaround times.

Edited by hknewman on 03/07/2011 09:16:26 MST.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Grand Canyon planning on 03/07/2011 09:20:32 MST Print View

HK,

"...hit March for backpacking from the South Rim. Great month to do it - not too hot, not too cold (in the canyon itself - the Rim is usually a bit colder, requiring a heavier sleeping bag..."

What kind of temperatures are we speaking about?

Thanks for the input.

Party On,

Newton

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: Grand Canyon planning on 03/07/2011 09:37:29 MST Print View

see this: http://www.hitthetrail.com/index.php
click here (upper right corner of every page is weather forecast): http://hikearizona.com/interestDEX.php?SHOW=YES&ID=34&SUB_ID=21&WID=15&STx=3

youre welcome. mike

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Re: Grand Canyon planning on 03/07/2011 09:48:34 MST Print View

All depends on weather: some years a 15F bag was needed in March as we got some minor snow drifts on the Tonto Tr., though in one hot year I successfully took a chance in bringing a 45F bag and was OK, .... a little chilly in the pre-dawn but we had to be up anyways to make our next camp.

Even in March, the afternoon sun and heat forced us to hit the next camp a little after lunch 1-2 p.m., finding some shade behind boulders, and taking a siesta before setting up our tents around 4 p.m. ,when the shadows and shade grew longer (also: my old group were all seasoned desert hikers - got too be too old though ... or seasoned). Water was critical and once we took a morning "off" to hike to the Colorado to fill up our hydration bladders from the Tonto Tr. Remember they can grow fruit down by Phantom Ranch year-round, as it's very warm down towards the bottom.

The Corridor is a little more civilized and the ranger talks are great.

Edited by hknewman on 03/07/2011 09:53:14 MST.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/07/2011 09:48:50 MST Print View

Has anyone on BPL done the canyon?
I have.

What were some of your trip preparations? Did you use a guide service? Was it an organized group trek?
No unique preparations for the canyon vs other hikes. I didn't use a guide service, but have multiple friends who guide there if you want recommendations. I hike independently generally, or I'm the organizer.

What is the water availability?
It depends on the trail. Sounds like you'd be a candidate for the main corridor. Plenty of known water sources from water fountains and the like.

Did you do it in a single day or did you hike in, camp and hike out?
I've done all sorts of things in the canyon.


---
You're referring to the grand canyon by alluding to the well trodden main corridor trail. It's actually a huge wilderness with epic potential and variety.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/07/2011 10:28:25 MST Print View

"...the well trodden main corridor trail..."

"Sounds like you'd be a candidate for the main corridor."

Is this the Bright Angel Trail?

I've experienced wet, cold and dehydration on different trips since I started hiking.

This may seem obvious but it seems like the canyon is at the opposite end of the spectrum, mostly hot and dry.

From what I have gathered so far the heat and water sources are the biggest priorities in the canyon.

I use a tarp, Meteor bivy, Ridgerest pad and top quilt as my sleep system on the AT. It is good down to 35 degrees using my base layer and clothes. How should I adjust my gear to accommodate the conditions that I'll see at the rim and in the canyon?

Thanks.

Party On,

Newton

@ Mike and Jack

What is up with your avatars? Every time I look at this thread they keep changing.

:O

Edited by Newton on 03/07/2011 10:33:39 MST.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Hiking the Grand Canyon on 03/07/2011 11:35:38 MST Print View

Our one trip to the Grand Canyon was perfect.

We got permits for early to mid-November. Night before in Mather Campground on the South Rim (empty), down the South Kaibab Trail, two nights in Bright Angel campground (almost full), up the Bright Angel trail with an overnight at Indian Gardens campground (mostly empty), then out.

Weather was cold at the top (daytime 20 F), mild at the bottom (60 F day, 35 F night). Easy to carry more than enough water. No water down the South Kaibab trail, plenty at the bottom and on the way up (from streams and at Indian Gardens, no water at the 3 Mile and 1 Mile rests). We used a RayWay tarp, two-person quilt, and a Caldera Cone.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Grand Canyon hiking on 03/07/2011 11:57:44 MST Print View

When I lived two hours away I hiked and backpacked a bunch in the GC. I've done several full Double Crossings (in a day), other dayhikes, and quite a few multi-day trips, both on and off trail.

Seasonal weather stats can be found on the NPS website. The South Rim is around 7000', the North Rim around 8000' or more, and the bottom around 2500'. Plan your sleep system around the elevation of where you'll be camping.

The NPS BC office gives pretty good, conservative beta on water sources. The Steck and Butchart books are invaluable resources for those venturing off the Kaibab/Bright Angel superhighway.

Other than doing homework about temps and water sources, my #1 recommendation for GC backpackers is to get into good shape. Bring your trip pack with a trip load and go hike up and down the hillest, rockiest terrain you can find. Folks underestimate how hard going down can be, roast their quads on the first day, and struggle for the rest of the trip. Going light obviously helps here.

Rob Wolfenden
(wolverine) - F

Locale: North East
Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/09/2011 13:54:25 MST Print View

I hiked in the Grand Canyon when I was 17 and have been dreaming of returning ever since. Looks like late 2011/early 2012 my dream will finally come to fruition. My brother and I are planning a 3-4 night trip. It's been 11 years since I've been there and it was on a guided hike so I'm glad to stumble upon this post as I have a few questions myself:

- What is the average time needed to apply for a permit?
- What are the reccomendations for water purification? I currently use tabs but with the length required to disinfect vs. the availability of water, would a steripen be a better option?
- Would a bivy be more advisedable vs. a tarp? I'd like to go as light as possible but I don't know what the wildlife situation is like during the winter season (ex: insects, rattlers, scorpions)?
- Any food storage issues regarding coyotes? Hiking mostly on the east coast I'm used to having to hang my bear cannister in the woods. What's the typical procedure in the canyon?

Edited by wolverine on 03/09/2011 13:56:36 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: hiking the GC on 03/09/2011 15:19:55 MST Print View

- What is the average time needed to apply for a permit?

Depends on when you go and what you want. The CGs in the main corridor fill up, totally, during the busy season of March-October. Do in January and you can have your pick. Zone further afield usually have enough space to give you plenty of options.

- What are the reccomendations for water purification? I currently use tabs but with the length required to disinfect vs. the availability of water, would a steripen be a better option?

You'll be filtering many liters at a time. The steripen might be tiresome. I always used tabs.

- Would a bivy be more advisedable vs. a tarp? I'd like to go as light as possible but I don't know what the wildlife situation is like during the winter season (ex: insects, rattlers, scorpions)?

I always brought a tarp, and almost always just slept out under the stars. The super scorpion paranoid might want a net tent or the like. Rattlers aren't going to come find you in the night. ;)

- Any food storage issues regarding coyotes? Hiking mostly on the east coast I'm used to having to hang my bear cannister in the woods. What's the typical procedure in the canyon?

Ravens and mice are the things to worry about. Some of the more popular CGs and sites have rodent problems. Lots of folks use an Ursack for this, or hang it from a tree of bush with a bit of tin on the line to keep rodents from crawling down it. When I backpacked I always camped in lesser used areas, and just laided my food bag by my head (or under it as a pillow). Never had a problem.

Rob Wolfenden
(wolverine) - F

Locale: North East
Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/09/2011 16:25:19 MST Print View

Thanks David! Yeah we're looking at a Nov-Feb timeframe so that's awesome. Regarding the tarp: I was really looking forward to sleeping under the stars so again great news. In your opinion; How would a 30deg bag fare for Nov-Feb with a tarp?

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/09/2011 17:42:23 MST Print View

Rob, winter in the GC can be COLD. There is lot of temp data available on the web. Temperatures in the GC are determined largely by altitude. So will you be at the river (warmer), on the Tonto (cool), or the rim (FREEZIN')? Also that time of year tends to be dry. If you do get rain and wind you want to be sure to have a reliable way to pitch a dry shelter. Tarp and a bivy are probably fine you just want to be well practiced at pitching.

Rob Wolfenden
(wolverine) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/09/2011 21:07:26 MST Print View

Thanks for the input Phil. Yeah I experienced New Mexico's nightfall in February a few years back and it dropped to the low 30's. I expected it to be very similar if not colder in the GC around that time of year. I've also read that it's pretty dry then, so I was planning on going with a tarp, bag and pad combo, no bivy. Do you find there's a lot of condensation in your bivy come sunrise with the drastic temp changes in the GC?

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/09/2011 22:05:01 MST Print View

@John, i dunno. i went to look at my profile and the avatar changed when i went back to it, only several seconds later. must be a BPL bug. maybe they just dont like my sly smirk.

an easy comparison of GC temps at the river: see Phoenix temps. In July, it can be 110 plus. On the Rim(s) however, you'll enjoy 70's.
that's Arizona for you. ;)

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/09/2011 22:33:15 MST Print View

My 2 cents for what they're worth...

- What is the average time needed to apply for a permit?

Permit requests are accepted on the first day of each month 4 months prior. So, for an April hike, you apply December 1st. Check the GC NPS site for backcountry permit request form and details. I recommend faxing it in on the 1st. They "shuffle" all the requests received on the first, so there's no advantage in faxing it in right at midnight.

- What are the reccomendations for water purification?

Just use what you normally use. Just be aware that the Colorado River can be very turbid.

- Would a bivy be more advisedable vs. a tarp?

I hike in the GC in the spring and fall and have rarely needed a shelter. I take a tarp just in case but have actually only slept under it twice.

- Any food storage issues regarding coyotes?

Culprits are mice, ringtails and ravens. I carry a metal mesh foodsack (like Outsak). I never hang it. I just leave it 15-20 feet away from where I'm sleeping. I've never had any food taken. They provide ammo boxes in the corridor campgrounds for food storage. Rattlers are shy and will generally stay out of your way. Shake out boots in the morning to avoid scorpions. Insects, in general, aren't an issue.

Newbies are generally steered toward the classic rim-to-river hike on the corridor trails and Phantom Ranch can be fun but there are much better itineraries that are doable if you have backpacking experience. I usually recommend the Hermit loop. Water management is pretty straight forward and you get the quintessential Canyon experiences -- side canyons to explore, a Colorado River camp, a bit of the Tonto trail. You can even take a "detour" with an extra night at Bright Angel Campground for the Phantom Ranch experience. Ron Adkinson's "Grand Canyon Hiking" is a good guide for first hikes in the Canyon.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Re: Re: Hiking the Grand Canyon? on 03/10/2011 07:26:44 MST Print View

Rob, the humidity in most of the GC is very low. You might get some minor condensation at the foot of your sleeping bag in a bivy. There shouldn't be any problem at all in drying out. Have a great time!

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Grand Canyon planning on 03/10/2011 07:32:14 MST Print View

If I had it all over to do again, I'd go with a good bivy (waterproof - probably eVent or just use a water-resistant one, keeping a tarp handy just in case). Even in the primitive camps, space is often at a premium and staking in the hardpan can be a challenge.

The rangers have ticketed my buddies for planting stakes outside the designated hardpan, and the rangers look at your permit, making sure your stuff (even stakes and lines) are in your exact campsite, especially in the Corridor.

I used an MSR Zoid 1 that goes up with only 2 stakes and was still looking for rocks to tie off on.

Edited by hknewman on 03/10/2011 07:54:18 MST.