If you love hiking, then you would love to visit the Grand Canyon. Each year there are millions of travelers coming here to stand at the edge of a spectacular natural wonder of the globe. They want to gaze out at the large space and to feel awed and humbled.
There is another way to experience the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon boasts hundreds of miles of hiking trails that can take you on a variety of adventures, ranging from one-day dips beneath the rim to seven-day adventures that take you to the Colorado River and back and everything in between. Planning though is key because the Grand Canyon averages more annual helicopter rescues than any other national park in the world. Planning is also important because it’s a competitive game trying to get permits.
So here are some guidelines:
First decide which trail(s) you would like to hike. If you’re new to the Grand Canyon I recommend staying on the corridor trails for your first round; that means the South Kaibab, North Kaibab, and Bright Angel Trails. If you’re feeling more adventurous the Hermit, New Hance, Grandview, Tonto and Tanner Trails are all excellent tastes of the wilder side of the Canyon.
Second decide when you want to hike the Canyon. The best times, because of winter storms and scorching summer temperatures, are from mid March to mid May, and from mid September to mid November. Summer temperatures can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and winter storms can drop a foot or more of snow at the rims.
Third secure your permits. Permits become available four months in advance on the first of the month. For example, if you want April permits they become available on December first. You secure permits through the Backcountry Office at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Their phone number is 928-638-7875, but you’ll have to fax your permit request in to the office. Their fax number is 928-638-2125.
You’ll find out about ten days later if you received your desired permits.
Once you have your permits it’s time to plan the specifics. First you have to get yourself to the Grand Canyon. The best way to do that is to fly into Phoenix or Flagstaff and rent a car. The best place to stay before your trip is in the small town of Tusayan, a short five minute drive from the South Rim Village. The hotels in Tusayan are more affordable than the hotels at the South Rim and often have more availability.
For gear, you’ll need backpacks with a minimum of 4,000 square inches of packing space, a sleeping bag rated at a maximum of 30 degrees, sleeping pads, tents, cooking stoves, cooking pots and pans, food, water containers, first-aid kits, extra clothes, blister precautions, and possibly a satellite phone.
If you’re an experienced backpacker, this is a pretty common list and won’t be a problem. If you’re not, you may consider going on a guided tour where they take care of the permits, supply all the gear and food, and equip you with a professional Grand Canyon hiking guide. Either way, it’s a peak experience and the adventure of a lifetime!