hiking the Grand Canyon is EASY

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

The most popular overnight hikes in the Grand Canyon require a permit for the Bright Angel campground.

I didn’t have one. You need reserve 4 months in advance!

So first stop was the National Park South Rim Backcountry Office.

Rick at the Grand Canyon

Here I got a number (#4), some paperwork, and instructions to be standing in front of the door next morning when it opened at 8AM.

Happily that worked. I snagged a last-minute camping permit for departure the following day. Of the 3 buses to the Kaibab trailhead, I took the latest, 7AM.

My plan: descend the Kaibab Trail, camp one night, ascend the Bright Angel Trail. That would bring me back to my parked vehicle.

Here we are at the South Kaibab Rim Trailhead 7:30AM.

hiking the Grand Canyon

It’s a Switchback marathon, but worth it, I thought, as the trail follows a ridge crest right to the bottom. Great views!

hiking the Grand Canyon

I was there in early May, wildflowers a definite highlight.

hiking the Grand Canyon

hiking the Grand Canyon

It was an easy 2hr descent to the river. Why does my guidebook call it 5-6 1/2 hours?

hiking the Grand Canyon

By 11AM I was in my tent. Siesta time.

hiking the Grand Canyon

At Noon I headed over to the nearby Phantom Ranch. Ordered a coffee and read a picture book on the reintroduction of the California Condor. A success story, so far.

These locals didn’t have much to say. They stood in the sun, silent.

hiking the Grand Canyon

The most exciting animal I saw was a bushy tailed fox, slinking through Phantom Ranch at dusk. His regular route, I was told.

Already feeling some kind of a wimp, finished hiking so early in the day. I felt even worse after talking to this character.

hiking the Grand Canyon

On an 800mi Arizona Trail bike race, he’d been required to carry the bike through the National Park.

What to do with the rest of my afternoon? …

I was tempted to dash up to the North rim and back with just a day pack. But one toe had taken some damage, jammed into the front of my shoe on the descent.

Instead I did a short, intensely scenic day hike, a loop around the two bridges.

I had time to stop and smell the flowers.

hiking the Grand Canyon

hiking the Grand Canyon

I spent a fair bit of time waiting on one of the passing rafts to overturn.

hiking the Grand Canyon

No luck.

After having lunch with these Mulies, I entrusted them with a secret. …

hiking the Grand Canyon

It had amused me to place a Summit Stone conspicuously under the Bright Angel bridge. The anti-summit, the very lowest point on my rim-to-rim hike.

Next morning I left in no hurry. The Bright Angel Trail is much easier than Kaibab South, though longer.

hiking the Grand Canyon

It’s green. And lush, in the Spring. With plenty of shade and water.

hiking the Grand Canyon

Again I felt personally lazy … after watching these trail runners buzz by.

trail runners in the Grand Canyon

Marathon runner Margaret Bradley died doing exactly the same thing in 2004, but on a lesser used trail. It was July, not May.

In fact, a number of people die in the Grand Canyon every year. If worried, stay home, and read Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, instead.

Mine was a wonderful hike, my first in the Grand Canyon.

Next time I’ll do something much more challenging
. Perhaps rim-to-rim in one day, taking the shuttle back to my vehicle. No permit required.

But I won’t hike in Summer. No way. I don’t want to collapse like George Novak did. That would be embarrassing. My reputation as a best hiker would be ended.

See the rest of my photos from this 2-day hike.

10 Replies to “hiking the Grand Canyon is EASY”

  1. Ouch… Collapsed is such a harsh word. LOL. I quite enjoyed my rim to river and back run even in the sweltering heat of July. None of the wimpy spring hiking for me thank you…

  2. Excellent photos.

    I’m surprised you went to all that trouble for one night. It’s a common and moderate one day walk; instead of going to the BC Office, you could have just walked down right then, taken all the time you wanted, and been back up before you had to get back in line for the permit the next day.

    I met a fellow in his 70’s who had a 6-month seasonal job on the S Rim. Three times a week he would get off work, saunter down to Phantom, have dinner, enjoy conversation with tourists, then stroll back up by moonlight. No pack, only a canteen slung over his shoulder. Wearing loafers and slacks. He really had style.

  3. We normally go on our one-day rim-to-rim and rim-to-rim-to-rim (Rim Cubed) hikes during the first couple weeks in October. If we do these hikes in the summer, we wait for a full moon and make the journey at night.

  4. In response to most of the comments above, a hike from the rim to the river and back in one day should not be taken lightly. I did this hike by myself on October 17, 2012 and I was almost stranded around Indian Garden C.G. on the way back up, but I decided to push on and reached the rim about an hour after dark. At Inidian Gardens this changed from an enjoyable hike to an endurance test that I needed to finish quickly as I did not take a flashlight with me. After it became dark I restorted to using the LCD display on my digital camera to light the trail in front of me. Then about a half a mile from the rim I hiked with someone who had a headlamp. FYI: according to the shuttle bus driver on the trip back to the lot, they had to rescue someone that day, and the cost is $3000. One other word of advice for those who do this hike: be sure to invest in a good camel back. I also wonder if hiking boots would have saved my ankles a little better then the gym shoes that I wore, since my ankles hurt pretty bad when standing over the next 2 days.

  5. Wife and I are starting to plan a rim-river-rim day hike for May 10, 2014. We will do a lot of hiking here in Phoenix to prepare. 🙂 Would it be wise to wear ankle braces if I can’t find size 17 boots? I have decent hiking shoes I plan to wear. We are looking forward to our adventure (first time for both of us) and have some research to do to make sure we are prepared.

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