Desert Adventure in the Grand Canyon

Ever since my husband and I took our first backpacking trip in the magical Grand Canyon nine years ago, we have hoped to return and hike rim to rim. We planned a challenging and rewarding backpacking trip with enough creature comforts before and after to make it a vacation.


Desert Adventure in the Grand Canyon

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on September 30, 2000

My highlights were:

- Seeing the variety of wildlife on both rims and the inner canyon. The desert is surprisingly full of life!

- Having a cold beer at the bottom of the canyon at Phantom Ranch.

- Flushing the toilets and using the telephone in the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

- Dinner at El Tovar on the South Rim.

- Stargazing at the unbelievably starry sky.

- Sunset at Cape Royal Point on the North Rim.

- Side trip to Zion National Park.

${QuickSuggestions} Make reservations early for accommodations! The most popular lodges are full 1 year or more in advance.

However, cancellations may allow you to reserve at the last minute.

Reservations for back-country camping are also required.

Reservations are issued on a lottery basis approximately 5 months in advance.

There is no way that you can truly appreciate the Grand Canyon by looking over the rim. Even a short hike down one of the main trails will give you a better appreciation of the enormous scale of this Wonder of the World.

For non-hikers in good health, mule trips can take you into the Grand Canyon for day or overnight trips from both rims.

If you do venture into the canyon, take plenty of food and water, even for day trips.

A vacation to the Grand Canyon puts you in the vicinity of a number of other vacation-worthy destinations. On this trip, we spent some time in Las Vegas and Zion National Park. Other options include artsy Flagstaff, Sunset Crater, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, Lake Mead, and the newly anointed Escalante/Grand Staircase National Monument. ${BestWay} A car is required to get to the North or South Rims. A shuttle service called Trans Canyon Shuttle is available for $60 one way from one rim to the other. Trips from North to South run at 7:00 AM daily. Trips from South to North run at 12:00 PM daily. A bus system has been implemented on the South Rim from spring through fall to minimize traffic. This is a huge improvement, and the lack of a car on the South Rim was not a problem for us at all.


Maswik Lodge

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on September 30, 2000

The Maswik Lodge provides good basic accommodations in a convenient location. Our room had two queen-sized beds, which was nice for spreading out. The lodge is within easy walking distance of the attractions on the rim, and it is convenient to the shuttle system.
Maswik Lodge
Canyon Drive
Grand Canyon, Arizona

Flanigan's Inn

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on September 30, 2000

We reserved the two bedroom suite at this charming inn for only $150/night. The suite included a vaulted great room with leather furniture, TV/VCR, mini-fridge, microwave, wet bar, two bedrooms with king sized beds, and one bathroom. This was just what the doctor ordered after a grueling hiking trip! A very good continental breakfast was included with the room rate. Do-it-yourself fresh-squeezed OJ was a unique touch. This inn also has a pool, hot tub, and a very good restaurant. Regular rooms looked very nice, but were possibly on the small side.
Flannigan's Inn
Zion Park Drive
Grand Canyon, Arizona

Harrah's Hotel and Casino

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on September 30, 2000

When we arrived at Harrah's, a very personable clerk upgraded us to a suite in the Mardi Gras Tower at no additional charge. The suite was incredible! Our room overlooked the Mirage Hotel on the Strip. The suite featured 1 and 1/2 baths, a full living room, wet bar, king-sized bed, and spa tub. And in case you forgot for a moment that you were in Vegas, you only had to look up at the mirror on the ceiling above the bed to remember!
Harrah's Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas Blvd.
Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon Lodge

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on September 30, 2000

Location, location, location! Since there is nowhere else to stay on the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge is the place to be. The common areas are rustic-gorgeous. Be sure and have coffee or drinks on the patio at sunrise or sunset. Our room in the motel portion of the lodge was clean and adequate, although the bathroom was tiny. The cabins are really cute, and if one is available, I would definitely choose it over the motel room. Don't plan on keeping up with your soaps, because there are no TV's.
Grand Canyon Lodge
On The Rim
Grand Canyon, Arizona

Bright Angel Campground

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on February 21, 2001

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this campground given the huge amount of use it gets. The park service has done a great job keeping people on the trails so that the vegetation can flourish. There are also numerous mule deer and ringtail cats who may pay you a visit. The campsites are fairly private, and they are equipped with a pole for hanging your pack, boxes for storing your food, and a picnic table. There is potable water for replenishing your supply, and the flush toilets were a very pleasant surprise.

A couple of tips for first-timers:
1. Make reservations well in advance of your trip through the Grand Canyon Backcountry Office.
2. Attend the ranger talks in the afternoon.
3. Visit the canteen of nearby Phantom Ranch for snacks, a beer or wine, first aid supplies, etc. You can even reserve a meal here in advance.

Bright Angel Campground

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Hiking Tips

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on February 15, 2001

There are some basic things you need to know about hiking in the Grand Canyon. First of all, for anything more than a day hike, you must make advance reservations for camping sites through the Backcountry Office. (Go to their website for details: ) Second of all, for all hikes regardless of length, bring water and food. The desert environment will dehydrate you and sap your energy before you know it. People die in the Grand Canyon every year from dehydration.

Also remember that Grand Canyon hiking is the opposite of mountain hiking. You hike downhill first and have to hike uphill when you are tired and have already committed yourself to the distance of your hike. Hiking downhill, while easier aerobically, is hard on your knees and feet. Hiking poles help your knees, and well-fitting hiking boots will prevent your toes from bumping the front of your shoes.

We met several people who hiked across the canyon in one day. I think they are nuts! The park service strongly discourages this, and they are right. No matter how early you start this hike, you will be hiking uphill during the heat of the day. It is much better to plan a reasonable day hike or an overnight hike to the river. What's the point in torturing yourself and risking death?


Hiking Rim to Rim (with a grueling side trip)

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Hey, Jude on February 15, 2001

The moral of this story is not to let your husband plan your hiking trip without input from the voice of sanity (me!)

Day 1: Hike from South Rim to Bright Angel Campground on the South Kaibab Trail. We took a bus from our motel to the trailhead and began our hike at daybreak. This is a STEEP trail. My heart and lungs were glad we were going downhill, but my knees and toes took a beating! I wish I had refreshed my memory about Grand Canyon geology before the hike, because the different layers of rock unfold before you as you hike deeper into the canyon. The highlight of the hike in is catching your first glimpse of the Colorado River below. We arrived at Bright Angel Campground just before noon. The temperature was 100 degrees in the September shade. We immediately immersed ourselves in Bright Angel Creek - instant relief! Then we stashed our packs at a shady campsite and made a beeline to Phantom Ranch for a beer! A little civilization can be a good thing! Later that evening after eating some rehydrated food, we listened to a ranger talk about the history of Phantom Ranch. The talk was very informative, but we were somewhat distracted by the ringtail cat that appeared at the edge of the clearing. What a cute, strange beast!

Day 2: Hike to Phantom Creek Use Area. We had reserved breakfast at Phantom Ranch that morning which in retrospect was a bad idea. We were running a few minutes late to our seating and got the evil eye from the servers. The meal is served family style, and we were seated with a hungry bunch who had nearly cleaned all the plates before we arrived. We did get to eat, but it put us further behind schedule than was wise. We were to start our side trip to Phantom Creek today. My crazy husband had picked our campsites in advance, and did not bother to find out how we were supposed to get there. After some research on the web and talking to rangers after we got there, we found out that we had to scramble up the nearly vertical canyon wall next to Bright Angel campground to get to our destination. This was no easy task, but we finally made it to the top of the plateau. There are no trails in this part of the canyon. You can occasionally make out a route that has been taken before, but you have to have good map skills and a fair amount of luck to find your way. Somehow we managed to make it to our campsite before dark after a crying fit from me, a boot blow-out for my husband, a scramble down a slippery talus slope, and running out of water.

Day 3: Phantom Creek Use Area. We spent the day trying to figure out how in the world we were going to hike out of here the next day with my husband's bum boot. We also had trouble with our water filter (maiden voyage - bad idea), and we had to drink iodine water until the filter magically started working again.

Day 4: Hike from Phantom Creek Use Area to Cottonwood Camp. We awoke before daybreak to attempt our hike out of this remote area. My husband tied his boot together with nylon cord, and we decided to hike out a different way than we came in. I had found a route up out of the canyon, and we had gotten information about a route that would intersect the North Kaibab trail just south of Cottonwood Campground, our next destination. This was a brutal hike. On paper, it looks like you just follow an elevation around the contours of the canyon. In reality, boulders and rock slides in drainage areas force you to go out of your way on a regular basis. We were lucky that the heat had subsided some, but it was replaced with gale force gusts that nearly knocked us down. Did I mention the thorns yet? Nearly every plant in this part of the canyon has some kind of thorn. Walking around them got old, so we were soon plowing through them in our shorts, and our legs were cut to ribbons. About three hours into the hike, my husband's other boot blew out. He had enough string to tie this one up as well, but we were getting pretty nervous about whether they were going to last the day. Finally, out of water (again) and exhausted, we reached the point where we were to hike down to Bright Angel creek. When we caught sight of the creek, we were horrified when it looked like it was at least a thousand feet below us. This couldn't be right! We continued hiking, but we became more unsure of where we were supposed to be. There was only one way down to the creek according to the map - there were cliffs every where else. Finally we stopped and examined the map and the world around us. Looking back where we had hiked, we saw a possible route down. When we got there, we saw a cairn marking the trail, and it was like we had been given our lives back. If we had not found the route down, we would have been in real danger. Getting down was no picnic, but we made it, and we got much-needed water from the creek. After a quick stop for food as the sun was setting, we crossed the river and joined the North Kaibab trail to hike (trudge) to camp in the dark. By the time we made it to camp, we had been hiking for 15 hours, and my husband's boots were toast. He paid a fellow camper $100 for a pair of Tevas so he could hike out the next day, and they were well worth it!

Day 5: Hike from Cottonwood Camp to North Rim via North Kaibab Trail. We could barely move when we finally woke up at about 9:00. We needed to get going, because we had 7.5 miles and 4500 feet to climb to the North Rim, but our bodies were rebelling. I would have paid large sums of money to ride a donkey out, but we made it under our own steam. The North Kaibab has less dramatic scenery than the South Kaibab, but there was a beautiful waterfall and interesting geology that made up for not having the wide open vistas of the South Rim. When we finally reached our car, we were ready for a place to sit down, some real food, a beer, and a shower.

Summary: I would not attempt this trip again in a million years, but I'm glad we did it, and I am proud that we lived to tell about it. I do highly recommend anyone in good shape to hike across the Grand Canyon. It is a worthy challenge!


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