Forum Index » Pre-Trip Planning » Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced


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Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced on 01/06/2012 18:21:54 MST Print View

Planning a r2r for the week of May 13th and I have a couple of questions regarding the campgrounds. The plan is to leave the south rim (where we are staying for the week) on the 16th and hike down to Bright Angel. Overnight at BA, hike to Cottonwood on the 17th, overnight there and hike out on the 18th. My wife will pick us up on the 18th at the North Rim. I am purposely setting a conservative pace because my 11 year old son will be doing the trip with me.

I have submitted (today) for reservations at Bright Angel and Cottonwood (I gave them start dates between the 13th and the 16th). My fear is that since the May window opened Jan. 1, I am probably out of luck... I have heard about the walk ups and wait list. I will do that if I need to, but I would really like to have a little more certainty since this will be a big highlight of the vacation for us Floridians.

So my questions are; What is the capacity of the individual campsites below the rim? Is more than 1 tent per site allowed? If so, I wonder if someone with a permit would be allowed to add two more persons to their site? And if allowed, do you think anyone would be willing to share their sites?

I am also curious about the walk up/wait list. If you are persistent, does this have a good chance of paying off? Do people camp out like black Friday trying to get permits? It sounds like if you are willing to show up early a few days in a row, you would have a pretty good shot.

Any help or suggestions would really be appreciated.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Earth (mostly)
Re: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced on 01/06/2012 20:21:02 MST Print View

Yes more than 1 tent per site is allowed and you have to have the permit holder with the permit. In the corridor, 4 of us male solo backpackers were able to fit each of our individual 1-2 person tents into each site, and still had plenty of room. Some sites might be smaller but we had absolutely no problems in 2007. Along the Tonto and going up we just wanted water and shade at hikes end. The corridor sites tend to be flat and well packed (hard to stake), and rangers visited everyday at dinnertime, checking permits, making sure gear and lines were inside the outlines of the pad. They are serious about it, correcting one of our party, and, in the past, ticketed one of my backpacker acquaintances for staking in the softer surrounding areas. The outlying primitive areas on the other hand did not have well defined pads, usually a numbered stake, and we didn't meet any rangers, so it's possible the first camp had unauthorized campers (not that I really cared - again we had trouble fitting our party on any bit of flat ground after the first tent sometimes).

Regardless of where the site was we quickly learned to depart early to secure the next campsite, not to mention avoid the sun (harsh even in March).

Next time I'm thinking of a bivy to avoid the staking issues but leaving one out while exploring side hikes may not be a good option. Anyways get there early to claim your site is my advice.

Add: I've heard the walk up list can work as hikers are always canceling it but with the drive, we never chanced it. The biggest problem is spring breakers trying to sneak in according to the rangers we spoke with (and you will have daily interactions with rangers in the corridor) but in May you shouldn't have that issue.

Edited by hknewman on 01/06/2012 20:29:51 MST.

Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
reservations on 01/14/2012 08:32:31 MST Print View

I spoke to the BCO and they said that another hiker with an existing reservation could come back and add another hiker or two. That was good news. So if anyone has reservations at Bright Angel, Cottonwood or Indian Gardens the week of May 13th, please contact me. I promise my son and I will be low maintenance guests :).

any other recommendations from the pros? I am planning on using the waitlist/ walkup process if nothing materializes.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced on 01/15/2012 19:14:54 MST Print View

Regular GC permits are limited to 6 people, regardless of which camp or use area. (There are larger group permits but they're limited.) I obviously don't know exactly what the ranger said to you but if you're hoping to "build" an itinerary by staying with different permit holders each night, I would discourage you from using that strategy. Let's say you got to Bright Angel Campground and were expecting to meet someone with a Cottonwood permit hiking the other way. If, when you get to Cottonwood, they don't show up for some reason, you and your son will be facing an additional 7 mile hike. Rangers are not sympathetic to hikers who try to "get around" the system, so don't assume that you'll be allowed to stay at Cottonwood.

Statistically, the most difficult permits to get in the GC are the corridor permits in May. This is in terms of the percentage of requests that are denied. You basically had no chance for a permit since you didn't apply on Jan. 1st and, even then, you will have needed to be lucky.

I'm told that "a few" permits for each of the corridor campgrounds are held back each day. Your chances for a walk-up for BA Campground is probably much better than Cottonwood. Cottonwood is usually the limiting factor because it's smaller and because very few doing a R2R wants to hike the entire 14 miles of N Kaibab in one day. I think your chances for Cottonwood are very low.

In your shoes, I would try to have a backup permit for a different hike before you arrive in the Canyon. I've done quite a few hikes in the Canyon and my son has done 3 of them with me. I personally don't understand the "need" to do a R2R; imo, there are much better hikes. The corridor in late May just sounds way too crowded and hot for my taste.

Edited by DetroitTigerFan on 01/15/2012 19:24:06 MST.

Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
Thanks Sumi on 01/15/2012 19:59:08 MST Print View

Thanks for the insight Sumi. I appreciate the advice from someone who has spent time in the canyon. Living 2000 miles away makes you thankful for the internet and the first hand accounts of others.

I do have a follow up question. My intent is not to "get around the system". If the campsites have a limit of 6 people, a permit holder is only using a portion of their site, they volunteer to share the site, I pay the applicable fees, register on the permit with the BCO and then stay at the site, it seems to me that it would be using the system efficiently. But you made me think of a question. If I were on the permit and had a copy of it with me but the primary permit holder had not shown up yet, would that be a problem for the Ranger?

As far as why the r2r, that goes back to living 2000 miles away and it possibly being our only chance to hike it. But, I would be interested in any suggestions anyone has for a three day hike starting or ending near the south rim village.

Thanks again for the advice.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Thanks Sumi on 01/15/2012 21:22:35 MST Print View

Well, the GC system works differently that what you're picturing. The backcountry management strategy, to minimize impact, is based on limiting it to small groups of hikers and limiting the number of these groups. A permit is issued to the group leader and that's the only name on the permit, and the permit is not valid without the permit holder. The permit lists each camp or use area in the itinerary and doesn't allow for deviation.

So, while it may seem like it would be more "efficient" to be able to mix-and-match to maximize the campsite limit, it's really not the site that has the limit, it's the group size, and only so many groups are allowed in one camp/use area on any given night. The management plan doesn't expect or want to maximize the group size. If every permit was for 6 people, the number of people in the use area would far exceed what it could absorb, in terms of impact.

I hope that made some sense.

That said, if you are able to find permitted hikers who are willing to share their site with you, I'm guessing that *most* rangers would let you stay, even if they weren't happy about it. But, personally, as a parent hiking with a child, it's not something I'd want to count on, especially in summer hiking conditions. I hope you're aware that anytime between mid-May and mid-Sept is potential for very hot conditions below the rim, with temperatures above 100. Be prepared!

Btw, there is no way to "register" two extra people for just one night on a permit, so you would have to pay for two extra people for the entire itinerary. In other words, if you found 3 groups with 4-night itineraries, each willing to add you to their permit and share one night's camp with you, it will cost you $40 for *each* night.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Dry side of the Eastern Sierra's
Grand Canyon/Clear Creek on 01/15/2012 21:32:00 MST Print View

Without knowing you and your sons previous experience and fitness levels it's a little difficult to give suggestions. It is possible to leave the south rim via the kaibab (fewer miles but steeper) and camp at the first boundary toward Cleer Creek.. This is a lesser used area that is easily accessed from the main corridor trails after spending the night at Phantom Ranch. It would be a difficult/demanding first day for most, and would require dry camping at the first legal spot on the Clear Creek trail. Hiking out would again require higher milages to either Cottonwood toward the north rim or Indian Garden going back to the south rim. If you were to attempt this route and not make it the rangers would not let you camp elsewhere and require you to either push on to your destination or return back to the rim.

Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
Re: Re: Thanks Sumi on 01/15/2012 22:09:42 MST Print View

Thanks again Sumi for your input. The statement that the permit holder has to be present was helpful.

I would like to say again that I'm not looking to go outside the system. I would not take my son, or myself for that matter, below the rim unless I had a valid, legal, permitted place to camp. I would not rely on the grace of the ranger to allow us to stay. I would either have the right to be there or I would not go. Now knowing that the original permit holder has to be there is something I was not aware of.

My original post was based on what a ranger at the back country office said could be done. My original thought with posting was that there might be a person who was travelling the same route and didn't mind having two people share their sites for the 2 nights. That really was all. I probably should have posted under the hiking partner/ group forum.

Yes, I am aware that the temperatures and conditions in the canyon are extreme and can be life threatening if you are not prepared. That is why I am asking, planning, training in January for the May hike :).

Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
Re: Grand Canyon/Clear Creek on 01/15/2012 22:14:24 MST Print View

Thanks Eric! I'll take a look at Clear Creek as an alternative.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Re: Re: Thanks Sumi on 01/15/2012 22:53:16 MST Print View

Robert, your idea for finding someone traveling the same itinerary with room to add 2 people to their permit is fine and I would certainly encourage you to post for that. My comments are only if you wanted to piecemeal an itinerary together.

We did a 3-day rim-to-river hike in November of 2010 where I had to change the dates at the last minute and BA Campground wasn't available, so we spend the first night in the Clear Creek use area. From Phantom Ranch, it's maybe 1/3 mile up N. Kaibab to the Clear Creek trail junction and then another 2 miles to the at-large use area where you can camp anywhere. It took us 3 hours to hike to PR, where we spent the afternoon, then left PR late afternoon and found a nice spot just past the boundary. It's about a 1,000ft climb above PR. It took us about 1.5 hours. Carried extra water for dinner and breakfast.

Only drawback is that Clear Creek is a really hot trail; no shade in the afternoon at all.

Picture of camp on a ledge above Sumner Wash; can't argue with the view:
Clear Creek Trail, GC

Edited by DetroitTigerFan on 01/15/2012 22:54:46 MST.

C Nugget
(nuggetwn)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Grand Canyon Permit on 01/15/2012 23:18:46 MST Print View

Nothing wrong with a rim to rim in my mind.. but there are other options.

Last May it appeared that over half the campsite's at BA (on the 12th) where empty on our first overnight. If people bail on their permit but do not call in to cancel, I guess the site is still considered taken?? Not sure.. Cottonwood was quiet because the North Rim wasn't open yet and not full either. If you get on the wait list before the long weekend you might have a shot?? I'd call the experts for that info(backcountry).

I did apply for a permit for this May on Jan 1st and have had no response for a permit with specific dates as of yet. Still keeping my fingers crossed though.

In case your looking for alternate ideas:

1 night Bright Angel, 1 night Indian Garden (South Kaibab & Bright Angel) or vica-verca.
2 nights at Indian Garden (day trip to Phantom Ranch & Plateau Point)
2 nights at Bright Angel (day trip to Clear Creek or Ribbon Falls) SK and BA trails
1 or 2 nights on the Horseshoe Mesa(Grandview Trail)
1 night Horseshoe Mesa, 1 night Cottonwood Creek(Grandview Trail) or vica-verca.
1 overnight on the Horseshoe Mesa(Grandview) & 1 overnight at Indian Garden(Bright Angel)
1 night Horn Creek(Tonto), 1 night Indian Garden
1 night Bright Angel, 1 night Horn Creek
2 nights Hermit Creek (day trip to Hermit Rapid)
If the North Rim is open go the other way.. Cottonwood Camp then Bright Angel.

Horseshoe is a dry camp...
Hermit Creek is close to the airplane traffic area but it's still really beautiful..

Not sure about the exposure on Grandview but Hermit Trail was not scarey. It's a ways down but 2 nights at the same camp would give down time before going back out or time to explore.

Much luck,
-christy

James Clark
(jclark50) - F
Re: Grand Canyon Permit on 01/20/2012 21:18:57 MST Print View

Christy,
I also sent my corridor permit in on 1 Jan and haven't heard anything yet. I got a permit in 2009. I checked my credit card record from back in 2009 and I was already billed by Grand Canyon NP by 9 Jan. I posted on another forum to see if anyone has recieved their permit or been charged. Not sure if it is true, but someone told me that they are trying a new system and still haven't processed the permits. I am sort of kicking myself in the butt because I only submitted one itinerary. Mistake! Still got my fingers crossed.

Anyways, let me know if you get a permit.

James Clark
(jclark50) - F
Re: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced on 01/20/2012 21:40:18 MST Print View

Hello Robert,
I created an account here to offer my experience on waiting for a permit. Please be advised that I have only been to the Grand Canyon once, so take it how you want to take it. I'm sure things are different every year.

My dates, times, and numbers are pretty accurate because I video taped much of the events and just watched part of it now. I arrived to the Grand Canyon on 22 May 2010 (Saturday), but the Back Country Office was closed. I showed up on Sunday 45 minutes before they opened and was the second person in line. They gave me #7 because there must have been 5 people in front of me from the day before. On this first day I moved from #7 to #3. I showed up the next morning and made it to the window. They offered me the 1st night at Indian Gardens and the 2nd night at Bright Angel. I turned this down since I wanted to stay 2 nights a Bright Angel. The next day I was #1 and got my permit.

I was hiking solo and I let a lady with her teenage son and his girlfriend jump on my permit. They just paid me. Honestly this part I do not remember how this went down exactly except that they asked me. I'm sure this type of stuff could be tricky though because you could be potentially cutting in line of other people. I don't remember all the rules, but it had something to do with I was taking up the campground by myself and it helped to have more in my group.

I'm trying R2R2R myself and still have my fingers crossed for a permit. I submitted for Cottonwood, another night in Cottonwood, and then Indian Springs.

James

James Clark
(jclark50) - F
Re: Re: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced on 01/20/2012 21:49:04 MST Print View

Robert
I just read my post. To clarify. These individuals paid me prior to me getting the permit and then I added them to the permit. So we all had a legitimate permit. One problem you would have with doing this is finding someone that has the same itinerary.


Grand Canyon Veteran's,
Please offer some advice. Robert is planning his trip on 13 May. Is it a guarantee that the North Rim will be open at this time for a return trip?

Also, I submitted for Cottonwood in early May. My thinking was that it would be easier to get Cottonwood than Bright Angel because the North Rim would be shut and Bright Angel is more popular. After reading some posts, was my thinking incorrect? If so, I guess it is a learning experience.

Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
Re on 01/20/2012 22:29:23 MST Print View

Thanks James. That is encouraging that you were able to work up in line by being persistent in coming to the BCO several mornings. Still a gamble but at least there is hope.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Re: Re: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim- Campground Reservation Questions for the Experienced on 01/22/2012 12:43:19 MST Print View

>> Please offer some advice. Robert is planning his trip on 13 May. Is it a guarantee that the North Rim will be open at this time for a return trip?

The OP's post indicates that he'd like to this hike on "the week of May 13" but the specific dates are after May 15th when the North Rim opens. Btw, by "open", it just means that services like the Lodge, restaurants, shops, etc. are open. The gates should be open before that, so you can access the North Rim and camping is allowed.

>> I submitted for Cottonwood in early May. My thinking was that it would be easier to get Cottonwood than Bright Angel because the North Rim would be shut and Bright Angel is more popular. After reading some posts, was my thinking incorrect?

Well, I don't know that it would be "easier" exactly. Bright Angel campground has about 30 sites, while Cottonwood only has maybe 6 or 7. Indian Garden has about 15. Statistically, they issue about the same number of Cottonwood permit in May as they do in June.

Diane Zumwalt
(zumwald1) - F
Has anyone received their permit yet on 01/26/2012 23:18:08 MST Print View

I applied on Jan 1st for May 25 and 26th camping at Bright Angel and haven't heard anything as of yet and see no charges on my credit card... I was wondering if anyone else had heard anything.... Crap, I don't know what we'll do if we can't do the hiking/camping trip.. Do you think any of the other camps might still be open or are we out of luck completely... Would it be worthwhile to go to the North Rim?

C Nugget
(nuggetwn)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Has anyone received their permit yet on 01/27/2012 03:22:58 MST Print View

I have not officially received my permit in hand but got a verbal yes when I called. My credit card was not charged either. I strongly recommend you call to find out your status. It sounds like they had troubles with the system for this month. Keep hope. If you have a more aggressive mileage they may ask you to sign off on it before they charge your card. They had mentioned the letter had just been sent out on Monday.

best of luck,
Christy

James Clark
(jclark50) - F
Re: Re: Has anyone received their permit yet on 01/27/2012 17:36:08 MST Print View

Christy,
Cool that you got your permit. I will try to call now, but I am not too hopeful since I should have expanded my itinerary more. I wonder what they consider an aggresive mileage?

C Nugget
(nuggetwn)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Has anyone received their permit yet on 01/27/2012 20:42:17 MST Print View

I'm doing Cremation Creek Use Area to Clear Creek use area. That could be a little or a lot of miles depending on where you position yourself in each designated area. In my case, it could be as little as ~6.1miles or in excess of 18.5miles!!! (according to sky terrain map and some guess-timation). Also consider the elevation involved. It is Tonto-River-Tonto and could potentially include navigating cremation creek. Approximate elevation changes could be ~3000ft not including all the little ups and downs. From what I understand they want to see that you understand the potential extremes and consequences of your chosen route before they give you the go ahead. I believe they want to see you are prepared and aware of worst case scenario.

So you will have to use your judgement on what might get flagged as potentially "extreme". I base this on the idea that most ordinary people(not typically regular hikers or runners) would no longer "enjoy" this trip. I would consider going from the bottom(phantom ranch) to the North Rim in a day potentially "extreme". That's 14miles & 5,760feet elevation. Doable, but not something I'd sign up for lightheartedly.

--------------warning serious RAMBLING/RANTING directed at the uninformed who don't attempt to get informed.------------------------------
Many many many people do this itin because they want to do Rim-Rim. Many many many people go into the canyon each year & bite off more than they can chew. Trust me you'll see plenty of them. All it takes is one glance at their facial expression. Last year we saw a guy struggling sadly slogging/crawling out of the canyon via North Rim with a so-called friend(permit holder). He had no idea what he had gotten himself into. We saw him at Cottonwood later that evening and he still had most of the hard part to do... He would be hiking in darkness in short order... We felt bad but couldn't do much about it. Permit for 3 is a permit for 3. The Rangers also have absolutely no pity on people in this predicament. Should, coulda, woulda. His pack at +60lbs was ridiculous to make things even more exciting. And where was his brilliant hiking partner who got the permit in the first place??? Way ahead and no where to be seen. Would you do this to your friend??

If I saw someone like that again at phantom ranch/bright angel so burnt out from climbing down, I would DEFINITELY advise them not to hike out the north rim in one day. It would be better to go out the South Rim and pay for the shuttle to get you to the North Rim. It might cost a few extra dollars but it could save you from a seriously painful grind with a negative experience and the possible cost of your friendship with the permit holder. Unless, of course, you like punishment & bragging rights("i did rim-rim") this is not a little walk in the park.. People under-estimate how hard going down is on the body... then you have to go out on those same fried legs. Bottom to North Rim IMHO is about 2x's as hard to exit than the South... The extra distance and elevation compounds..

Backcountry does due diligence by at least making the permit holder aware and responsible of the route and group they take.. Permit holders should be passing that knowledge on to the other team members in a real way. Do that Math now. Weather, pace, hours of walkable day light, elevation, elevation, elevation and everyone's ability to execute the route. If they aren't ready beforehand, they shouldn't be on the permit or... a good Plan B should be in place. Sadly, this isn't always the case...
People also need to be responsible for their own butts too. Just cuz someone got the permit doesn't mean they know what they are doing, even if they like hiking.

-christy

Edited by nuggetwn on 01/28/2012 17:31:59 MST.