Rim-to-rim canyon hike a peak experience


Of all the ways one could see the Grand Canyon, one of the best is to hike across it, rim to rim. It is a tough physical hike, and the logistics are complicated, as you need to get camping permits in advance and arrange transportation from the destination rim back to the trailhead where you presumably left your vehicle.

But the payoff is one of the peak experiences of a lifetime.

I did this almost 24-mile hike for the first time a few weeks ago, starting on the North Rim and ending on the South Rim, camping two nights in the canyon. Of course, it can be done in either direction, but I preferred starting at the North Rim because it is less crowded. Once I reached the South Rim, I had reservations to take the five-hour-long Transcanyon Shuttle back to the North Rim.

If you are leaving from the North Rim, you will take the North Kaibab Trail about 14 miles down and lose about 4,480 feet in elevation to the Colorado River. Keep in mind this trail is easily accessible only in the warmer months before heavy snow hits there around mid-October. Along the way, there are some great short side trips including heading down to Roaring Springs and Ribbon Falls.

Hikers like me who had secured a camping permit stop for the night in Bright Angel Campground by the Colorado River. The campground is next to Phantom Ranch, where you can get some snacks and drinks at the cantina or even some excellent hot meals or a picnic lunch for the next day if you have reserved them well in advance.

The next morning, you cross over the narrow hiking bridge, called the silver bridge, and then head up to the South Rim along the 9.5-mile Bright Angel Trail. I had a camping permit for the Indian Garden Campground, which is about halfway up the trail, where I spent the afternoon taking in a ranger program and taking a few dips in the creek.

A great side trip from Indian Garden - if you have the energy - is hiking out to Plateau Point, an approximately three-mile round trip that is a great place to take in a sunset before settling into your campsite.

I started before dawn from Indian Garden to head up 4.8 miles farther, with a 3,060 feet in elevation gain, to reach the South Rim. This helped in avoiding the heat of midday. There is hardly any shade this leg of the trip, and it is strenuous, especially when you are carrying all your backpacking gear. In this final section, you will be sure to pass dozens of people taking a short day hike. Many people just hike down about one or two miles from the South Rim and return satisfied.

Once you've crossed the canyon, the easiest way of returning to the North Rim is to take the Transcanyon Shuttle, which leaves promptly at 1:30 p.m. from Bright Angel Lodge and arrives back at the North Rim around 6 p.m. Note this shuttle is by reservation only (928-638-2820) and runs from May 15 through Oct. 15.

For that matter, also make all other reservations necessary for this trip as far in advance as you can manage.

All information on obtaining backcountry permits, fees, details on the North Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail, and the campgrounds can be found at nps.gov/grca.

Deborah Wall is the author of "Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide" and "Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States," published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at deborabus@aol.com.

 

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