Grand Canyon in May? - First time

9:35 p.m. on January 9, 2012 (EST)
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Hi

I am new here in this forum and need some advice!!! :) :)

Me and my husband are thinking of visiting the grand canyon in late May. We have never been to Arizona and we are wondering how the weather and how busy the trails for backpacking in the south and north rim get. We've hiked mainly here in Florida and the Smokey Mountains, and we would like to know the things to be aware of at that time of the year. It'll probably be a 5 to 9 day backpacking so that we can visit south/north rim. I've never seen snow so I really am not sure what I should take as far as clothing and such. I know from my scuba diving trips that I tend to loose body heat very fast in cold environments so I need to know if temps tend to drop a lot during May. I would also like to know what are some of the best hiking trails in both north and south rim..... 

Look foward to getting a response soon!!!

Yoanna

11:35 p.m. on January 9, 2012 (EST)
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Welcome to trailspace Yoanna,

You are like me except 20 years younger, I've never seen snow either. Are you a native Floridian?

My family went to the Grand Canyon in late July 2010. It was in the 60's on the rim.  When you go down into the canyon it warms quickly. Can't offer much more than that on weather.

I do know that you want to get your permits as soon as you can.  I assume that you do want to stay in one of the hotels in the park.  If you are not picky about which one you stay in you can make your reservations fairly close to the time you want to stay there.  There are always cancellations. I think we made our reservations about 2 weeks prior.  All you have to do is call everyday and check.

1:07 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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May is starting to be late for going into the canyon. It is hotter  as you go on down there. Search the websites from the park service to get advisories etc. If you do go in late May, take more water than you ever think you'll need and drink it! No Snow to worry about in May. You will be looking at lows in the low 60's and highs in the low 90's. That is if it is an Average May....by June it jumps to triple digits. So do plan for hot weather, dry air hiking. What I have noticed about people coming from non-desert areas is they just do not fathom how much the dry air requires you to drink so much more. And because you lose so much hydration that dries as it hits the air, you aren't noticing because you are not sweating. But don't worry! People are hiking the popular trails and if you get your permits and have your plan and LET PEOPLE KNOW YOUR ROUTE if something goes bad, you have a good chance of help. Welcome to Trail Space!

5:18 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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My last trip just before Memorial Day it was 85° in the day time on the South Rim and high 90s on the Tonto Plateau.  Night time temps were low 60s and low 70s respectively.  The North Rim was probably 6 degrees cooler than the South Rim.

You biggest concern for this venue isn’t cold, it is staying cool and protected from the sun!  You will need a hat to protect from sun, but I suggest also bringing a small umbrella, so you can take off that hat and get more air circulation. It sounds dumb, but everyone on the trail envied my portable shade.

You second biggest concern is physical conditioning.  GC is the biggest vertical most hikers ever walk in a single day.  It is hard on the legs both going up and down.  Do as much leg conditioning as possible; very few people ever said they over trained for GC.

Your third concern is securing a trail permit.  I believe you must submit a request in February if you want to consider a trip in May.  Permits are awarded by lottery.  You can also attempt to obtain a permit the day of the hike, but you must do so in person at the ranger station. 

Eat your Wheaties, and good luck!

Ed

9:45 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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thanks for the quick replies!

Would it be better for us to go at the beginning of may? Personally I prefer hiking in temps where its not too hot or too cold... Would you guys suggest for us to rent a car or stick with plain old taxi since we will be hiking most of the time? I'm a little undecided because me and my husband have a trip planned for Maine in Sept or oct and one to Cuba in April so I really wanted to squeeze in the grand canyon in a month where it wouldn't be too hot and uncomfortable.... Also we will definitely be backpacking throughout our vacation. I'm not sure if we should split 4 days in the south rim and four in the north and have a one day at a hotel to recoup in between.... Do permits have to be booked separate for south and north rim?

We will for sure try to get our permit apps this week! 

thanks again!

yoanna

10:24 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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I don't know where you are from...but most of my Ffriends who come to visit me here are from the Pacific Northwest and when they come here they are shocked at the heat. Even when the air is not hot, the sun is a smoldering ball of heat that pierces the cool air. Clearly the earlier you come the cooler it will be, but many a story surfaces of the odd heat wave. As my father always says: Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

10:43 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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What are you crazy? Forgive me but May will be very hot, especially down in the canyon. Well over 100 degree's in the shade! Stay on the rim, for that matter go to the north rim not the south one. The north rim is 1000 feet higher and much cooler.

If you do go into the canyon start as early as possible before sunrise and get to your designated camspot and sit in the shade by the creek. Don't venture to far from water and carry and drink at least a gallon every couple hours. When you are ready to hike out start as early as possible. It used to take me an average of 5 hours to hike out when I lived in the canyon during the winters from 1983-2003 and I was in tip top shape. Its a 5000 foot elevation change between the bottom and the rim. It takes less than a couple hours to hike down, but for every foot in its harder to hike back out.

Best months to hike the Grand Canyon are from late October to early April. I spent much of my time there in November to March below the rim. I only went back to the rim to resupply once a month.

Mid April to late October the inner canyon temps can be well over 100 degree's, not counting passive solar temps(reflected and stored heat of and in the rocks).

If you must go down be sure that you head my warnings, the canyon is not the place for the un-informed. Many people succome to heat stroke and death in the canyon every year.

5-9 days? I would not recommend going into the canyon, where as Florida has what 90% humidity, the inner canyon has about 10%. Stay along the rims. There is plenty to see between Hermits Rest on the west rim to Desert View on the east rim on the south side. One the North Rim there is also lots to see and do without the long hike to the bottom in 100 degree heat.

 From the South Rim its 9 miles and 5000 feet down to Bright Angel and Phantom Ranch on either the South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails. The B.A. Trail has a water stops every 1 1/2 miles from the rim to Indian Gardens but no water except a small creek you have to purify and then the Colorado for the about 5 miles from I.G. to BA Camp and Phantom Ranch.

From the North Rim to the Colorado River is 14 miles with a 6000 foot drop in elevation. There are places to stop for water (Roaring Springs, Cottonwood Camp, Ribbon Falls, Phanton Canyon and the whole Bright Angel Creek from Cottonwood camp to the Colorado,BA Camp and Phantom Ranch).

Water along the other trails in the inner canyon is sparse in some side canyons with seasonal water flow, sometimes you may find water right where the trail crosses a side canyon, in others you may have to walk up or downstream a long way to find water on the surface.

Maybe if you can afford it and theres space, take a mule ride down and back. They leave the rims early in the mornings. There may not be any open permits in late May for either hiking/camping or taking the mules. Its usually a 3-4 month waiting period to get a permit. If you have'nt gotten one yet, go to the Grand Canyon NPS site www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm  and look for the permits reservation information. Now is the time to apply for any permits. Sometimes if you have the time to wait you can get standby permits but summer (April to October) is the busiest time of the year and its harder to get them. In winter I have waited as much as 4 days for a standby permit. Hiking/camping fee's are about $10 per permit and $5 a night in the canyon. It costs about $20 a night to stay in a rim campground (2003 prices). Cheaper if you have a car and can drive outside the park entrances from either rim and camp free in the Nat forest.

One the South rim for you being frist timesr, I would recommend the BA Trail as it has theeasiest places to get water. The South Kaibab has no water from the rim to the BA Camp. In fact none of the many south rim trails have much water along them at all. The only north rim trail that does is the North Kaibab mentioned above.

Be sure to take some method of water purification to use the natural water sources in the inner canyon if you do manage to get permits. Drink often and use of electrolites is best. I like instant gatorade and use 2 three liter Camelbaks plus two one liter water bottles.

Wildlife to see is Big Horn Sheep, Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, Ravens,Deer, Spotted Skunks, Ringtailed Cats, Ground Squirrels and Chipmonks and the occasional long distance hiker.

Tempertures rise about 10-20 degrees per 1000 feet into the canyon, depending on the time of day. There is little shade in the inner canyon. Indian Gardens, BA, Phantom and Cottonwood Camp have planted Cottonwoods. Otherwise the only shade comes from big stones. The inner canyon is a desert. Tempertures are simular to what the daily temps are in Phoenix and Tucson on any given day. Right now its 43 here in Tucson, so its at least that in the canyon at the Colorado River area.

And you are coming from Florida, elevation could be a factor for oxygen content compared to what your'e used to. At the South Rim its about 7500-8000 feet above sea level and about 9000 feet on the North Rim. There will be no snow anywhere but compared to Florida it will probably seem colder especially at night when it drops to the 40s on the north rim and 50-60s on the south rim.

 

 

10:19 a.m. on January 11, 2012 (EST)
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GOOD stuff Gary!

1:51 p.m. on January 11, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks, 20 years of 4-6 months of total hiking there was great, But I would never hike it in summer from April to October.


127-degree-in-inner-canyon-GC.jpg

127 degrees in Grand Canyon near Phantom Ranch

5:54 p.m. on January 11, 2012 (EST)
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Hi

Yea. I think that maybe Grand Canyon is not so good an idea around that time.... we are thinking of maybe going instead to Yellowstone :)..... Thanks for all the advice. I think we will leave GC for winter or fall 2013 lol. Do you guys know where I can get cheap tickets to Yellowstone? Ive already tried all the major ones online... From  orlando all the ones ive found are around $500...seems like a lot for May.....

Thanks

Yoanna

10:30 p.m. on January 11, 2012 (EST)
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I would definitely keep the Tetons and Jackson hole on your list. You could always fly into JAC and then drive up to Yellowstone from there, which is under an hour north.

The flights to JAC aren't cheap either. My flight last year was a little over $400, but most of the time they are pushing $500 as well. 

6:59 a.m. on January 12, 2012 (EST)
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How about Yosemite?  Lots trails there. You can fly into San Francisco, Oakland or Vegas.  I think you can catch a shuttle from San Francisco or Oakland.  You probably need to rent a car from Vegas.

9:46 a.m. on January 12, 2012 (EST)
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Its 480 mile from Vegas...so about 8.5 hours drive. Only 210 miles from Fisco.....

11:25 a.m. on January 12, 2012 (EST)
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How much to fly to SLC Utah? From there you can catch a shuttle to Jackson WY and then use the shuttles there to get to Teton and Yellowstone. This is a much better idea as it will be more enjoyable, tho the elevation is still much higher (6000 feet in Jackson Hole), but I guess living in Florida most of the western US is going to be much higher.

Looking at cheap airlines , this one listed from Miami to Jackson WY for about $375 www.CheapOair.com

I take it you don't want to or have the time to drive? How about Greyhound?

9:12 a.m. on January 13, 2012 (EST)
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we were considering Yosemite but my husband wants to do it when we have time to climb mt.Whitney .... So I'd rather leave that for another year. We are not opposed to driving but if were going to spend 500 on tickets I'd rather not rent a car lol. I know it would be less of a pain but comparing that we paid 587 for hotel/flight to Mexico last year for nine days each, 500 to go to Montana seems too much already. But I definitely want to fly in as close to Yellowstone as I possibly can.... I'm going to check out cheapoair.com for sure, haven't tried that one... Anyone know if we will need snow boots for Yellowstone in late may, early June? Thanks!

10:13 a.m. on January 13, 2012 (EST)
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The winter there has been rather dry , not much snow at Old faithful or Mammoth now. Check out this weblink:   www.yellowstone-natl-park.com

Its called the Total Yellowstone Page, has lots of information about the park.

3:48 p.m. on January 13, 2012 (EST)
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Here's an idea.

Fly into the nearest large city. It should be cheaper to fly there.  Then take a road trip and hike along the way.  National car rental allows one way rentals. 

6:58 a.m. on January 14, 2012 (EST)
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Ok, these are not name dropping destinations, but given your transportation limitations the following locations deserve serious consideration.  You will not be disappointed; these are all impressive outdoor destinations.

  • Fly into San Francisco; take the bus to Santa Cruz.  Several redwood parks in the area you can travel to by public transportation.  Cool destinations, good enough for this well traveled pack rat to chose as our honeymoon destination.     
  • Might try looking into this:  Fly to Reno, Nevada, it is just a short hop into the mountains of near by Lake Tahoe.  Lots of nice camping options in the region.  A little research should turn up cheap ground transportation options.
  • Another is fly to Seattle, take the ferry across the sound and you will be at the gateway to the Olympic National Park.  This is a way cool destination.  Again some research necessary to get ground transportation to get to the ferry, and from the ferry to the park.
  • Another good venue is fly to Vancouver, then take the bus to Whistler.  Several great hiking opportunities there and en route along the way.  The route passes through lots of mountainous park land.  The only research necessary is finding out mid route bus stops, and other considerations needed to get you on trail.  You may also be able take a siliar appraoch bussing into the coastal park lands north of Vancouver.

Ed

 

9:19 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Hi Guys

We have finally decided to go to Yellowstone for sure!! We will be flying into Bozeman or Cody because its the cheapest yet... I caved in and we are going to rent a car. its way cheaper than a shuttle and will not give us problems during the vaca.... We are going to see if we can go to the Tentons, but so far we are sent on the Northern part of Yellowstone and a last day hike to the geysers so we don't freeze our butts in the south.... Do you guys have any suggestions on what to take as far as clothing? The coldest weather we've been to is probably high 30's F.....

Also If anyone been to Yellowstone, what are the best camp sites away from the crouds or most of the "crowds"anyways? lol. We will be there for 9 days backpacking. 

Thanks

Yoanna

9:58 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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The wife and I are planning to do the R2R on the 15th of October.  I have reservations for the North Rim Lodge for one night and we'll take the shuttle back the next day to the South.  I have everything set up except for the airfare.  The cheapest ticket was $455 from Dallas to Flagstaff!  Waiting to see if I can get a cheaper fare.

10:55 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Now thats more like it. It will be nice in midoctober and the R2R is a great way to see the GC! Glad you changed your minds. I did my first R2R in 1999 with a gentleman who was 79 at the time. He went on to doing 106 R2Rs in 2006 in his 86th year. He was only going to do 86 to commemorate his birthday, but in early October he had already done the 86. So he decided to do as many as he could that year and stopped on Christmas eve at 106 R2Rs. His name was Maverick, he died in the spring (January) 2009. He had never hiked much in his life before he first came to the GC in 1999. I met him as we both worked at the Maswik Lodge on the south rim, we did many hikes together. I miss him very much.

My first visit to the GC was in September 1977 when I had hitchhiked 8000 miles around the USA at age 21. I only spent 3 hours on the rim. I spent my first time hiking in the GC in October 1983. I spent a month doing three trips. I stayed below the rim a total of 28 nights. It was 2 years later before I returned and began staying in the canyon from October to March. Some winters I worked at the south rim others I just hiked. My longest hike was 256 miles in 28 days.

So if you have questions about the canyon, please feel free to ask.

11:31 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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What is the weather like in the canyon during October to March?

1:33 p.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Mild to a little cold. My favorite two months are Dec/Jan. When on the south rim (the north rim is closed, Novemeber 1st to April/May depending on the snow) the tempertures on the south rim are in the 0-30 degree range and whatever snow they recieve, while the inner canyon temperture rises about 10 degrees per 1000 feet as one decends into the canyon. I stayed most of my time along the Tonto Platform which is about 3000 feet below the south rim and about 1000 feet above the Colorado River. It extends from east to west and is a relatively flat area only dropping down and up when you cross the side canyons.

Temps in the inner canyon range from 40-65 in the day time to 20-40 at night. I used a 20 degree sleeping bag and always was warm enough at night.

You can start out in all your cold weather clothing on the south rim and by the time you get to Indian Gardens Camp 4.5 miles down inside you can usually disrobe down to shorts and a Tshirt. Farther down at the river it is about 10 degrees warmer yet. So unless you are from Hawaii or the southwest like Phoenix or Tucson it feels fairly warm. I spent my summers in Jackson Hole WY then my winters in the GC for 30 years, so winter in the canyon felt like summer in JH. Just as the winter down here in Tucson has since I have been here from October last.

Water in the side canyons is usually more reliable in the winter with snow melting off the rim. Of the many side canyons on the south rim alone about 50% have year round water, in winter this increases to 80%. You may have to either hike upstream or downstream in any side canyon to find water caught in sandstone basins (potholes) or even dig a few inches to a foot or more in the gravel and then let the water fill the hole.

And the water from the Colorado River is very clean despite the fact that so many side streams run into it. The Little Colorado is full of travertine minerals and is not drinkable. But as a destination to hike to it is very nice because the water stays around 60-70 degrees year round except during spring and fall run-offs. While the Colorado is not swimable at all because its is too cold.

2:26 p.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Gary said:

So unless you are from Hawaii or the southwest like Phoenix or Tucson

Or just north of Orlando, FL where it is currently a balmy 75 degrees, with an expected low of 52 tonight.

4:22 p.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Yeah, Thats what I mean. Then you would like the GC in winter. If you ever get a permit and have to stay on the rim the first night it shall be cold, but once below the rim its great!


Grand-Canyon-after-a-winters-storm.jpg

The south rim after a winters storm, the snow made it about 600 feet into the canyon. The north rim is visable covered in snow on the other side.


Indian-Gardens-Campground-in-winter-in-t

Indian Gardens camp is in the green trees below. The trail visable to its left goes out to Plateau Point, the trail to the bottom goes down the narrow canyon to its right. The Redwall cliffs are 500 feet thick.


Phantom-Ranch-at-the-bottom-of-the-GC-in

Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon from the Tonto Platform nearly 1000 feet above.


Big-falls-at-Havasupai-Canyon-in-western

Havasu Falls in the western Grand Canyon on the Havasuapi Indian reservation. The water is blue from the Travertine minerals in the water. The travertine is the reddishbrown rock on the right of the falls. The minerals left behind as the water falls solidifys. The red color comes from Iron Oxide.

Havasupai is accessable from Hualipai Hilltop north of Peach Springs AZ. Its a 10 mile hike to Havasupai Canyon and 3 more to the falls, there is another falls like it father downstream and the Colorado River is 10 miles further.





 

7:33 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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WOW! I gotta GO THERE!

8:17 p.m. on February 11, 2012 (EST)
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You haven't been there and you live in Vegas?

10:44 a.m. on February 13, 2012 (EST)
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Have you been to Zion yet, Giftogab? Thats just up the road.

6:23 p.m. on February 13, 2012 (EST)
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No. Just ahven't done it. Right when I started all this my father also became ill so all of my hiking has been day trips here in Red Rock, The McCollughs, Mt. Charleston areas.

6:26 p.m. on February 13, 2012 (EST)
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Yeah, Ocala....my metamorphasis from couch to Summit started after law school in 2006. I was so fat and in such bad shape I started with 5.k walks once a month on flat streets and they nearly killed me. I worked up to 10k and started kayaking and climbing and golfing and riding again. I had spent the previous 20 year5s working and sitting. I was an athlete growing up but once out of college in teh 80's just plain stopped doing anything for my and all my social stuff was camping without hikes, resteraunts, bbq's. Food and Drink were the focus and moving around much stopped. So once I was doing all of this stuff, I started venturing out bigger and longer so Everest prep became a two year plan. Now I can do whatever I set my mind to!

8:53 p.m. on February 13, 2012 (EST)
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I still can't believe you haven't been.  Even if you just hiked around the rim. It's beautiful and you if you can summit black mountain you could hike down to the first campground, spend the night and come back up.

10:52 a.m. on February 14, 2012 (EST)
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Ocala..I have been TO the Grand Canyon....both the South Rim and the West. Went to the Huallipai reservations Sky Walk for my 50 and do want to go down in the canyon. I do realize that I am capable at this point of the hike in and out. That is the nice thing....I KNOW I can do it now...just gotta plan the time and get dog sitters!

11:13 a.m. on February 14, 2012 (EST)
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After doing the Himalaya's the Grand Canyon will be just the opposite. You do the easy part first going down, then have the long trek back to the rim. Be usre to do the Bright Angel Trail first, or at least come up that way and go down the South Kaibab Trail. The BA has water all along the way. The first couple places from the bottom like the Colorado River and Pipe Creek you have to filter and then at Indian Gardens there is prefiltered water in the waterpipes and then every 1 1/2 miles going up the trail to the South Rim. The water comes from Roaring Springs just below the North Rim along the North Kaibab Trail. Theres a pipeline that runs from Roaring Springs to the south rim and all the ca,pgrounds and Phantom Ranch along the way. Then it tops out on the South Rim and feeds all the water needs for the entire south side. Its was once estimated that about 700 gallons of water comes out of Roaring Springs. And its called that because it does make quite a noise as the spring gushes out like a waterfalls from the red sandstone cliff. As I said it feeds Cotoonwood Camp, Phantom Ranch, BA Camp, the mule corrals, Indian Gardens, the 3 Mile Rest House, 1 1/2 Mile Rest house and the South Rim lodges and eating places and campgrounds.

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