Camping in Grand Canyon from South Rim in January

10:39 a.m. on November 28, 2012 (EST)
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Hi, All

This seems like a great site with a lot of helpful tips from a lot of helpful people. I've never visited the Grand Canyon before, and I'm planning on stopping by in January. I have a 2 day window (during the weekdays) to hike down, make camp for the night, and hike back up all on the south rim.  I'm wondering if anyone has any comments and /or suggestions. Where is the best place to hike down from the south rim? I'm looking for a somewhat easy to moderate trail. How cold can I expect it to be? What's the level of danger / risk? I've done primitive camping before along a 4.5 mile moderate trail in the Allegheny Forest in PA (I highly recommend it). Are there any common mistakes that ppl make camping in the GC in January for the first time? Lessons learned? I'm trying to prepared myself as much as possible and reduce the number of surprises. Are fires allowed while camping in the GC?  I do have to obtain a permit, correct? Any answers, suggestions, and comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks, guys. Happy trails! 

12:39 p.m. on November 28, 2012 (EST)
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4,349 forum posts

James213 asked:

I'm wondering if anyone has any comments and /or suggestions. Where is the best place to hike down from the south rim?

If you can get a permit by making your reservation now, I would hike down the South Kaibab. See my other reply to a post below about hiking the canyon that someone else asked about.

I'm looking for a somewhat easy to moderate trail.  All the trails "into the canyon" are easy to moderate, its just when you are hiking out that they all become hard and require good uphill conditioning. Its a 5000 foot elevation drop into the canyon from the south rim and a hike down will take about 2-4 hours depending on how many times you stop to take pictures. The hike out on the other hand could take anywhere from 5 hours to all day depending again on your hiking uphill condition.

How cold can I expect it to be? Daytime temps on the rim will be around 0-30 degree's F depends on the winter season this January. Inner canyon temps on the same day will change about 10 degree's warmer as you descend for every 1000 feet in elevation. If you go down the S. Kaibab by the time you reach the halfway point down the inner canyon temp could be say 40 degrees if the rim temps are as above. Then after you reach the Colorado River and the campground or Phantom Ranch the temp could be about 50-60+ in the midafternoon. The winter sun being lower only reaches the bottom in January at about 11 am and is back in the shade by 3 pm. Tempertures at night at the B.A. and Phantom Ranch area could get to below freezing or around 32F.

What's the level of danger / risk? I've done primitive camping before along a 4.5 mile moderate trail in the Allegheny Forest in PA (I highly recommend it). Are there any common mistakes that ppl make camping in the GC in January for the first time? Lessons learned?

Only danger risk is being out of shape to hike 5000 feet into and out of the canyons depths. In winter I prefer the Dec/Jan months. Summer is the time  people who hike the canyon  can get into the worst trouble because they don't eat and drink enough. Even in winter drink at least 1 gallon of water a day! It is a desert down there and except for rare springs and side canyons with water, there is very little of it. B.A. Camp and Phantom Ranch are on Bright Angel Creek which flows very well all year. But the S.K. has no water along it till you cross the Colorado River at the bottom.

Just be sure to have plenty of water, take a warm sleeping bag, maybe stay on the rims hotels or outside the park the night before. Flagstaff has two great cheap hostels (The Du Beau and the Grand Canyon Hostel) Both are downtown on the south side of the railroad tracks. One is on South San Francisco Street one half block south of downtown and Route 66, the other the Du Beau is off South Beaver on the corner of Phoenix Ave by the tracks.

I'm trying to prepared myself as much as possible and reduce the number of surprises. Are fires allowed while camping in the GC?  I do have to obtain a permit, correct?

No fire are allowed below the rim neither in winter or summer. There just isn't any wood for fires. 

And yes you have to have a permit and now is the latest time to get a reservation. look up the National Park website for the GC and call the Backcountry Office now.  It used to be easy to just get to the BCO and stand in line and get a Standby number and then wait a day or two till someone didn't show for their reservation permit and get yours. I did this for 20 years between October and April every year from 1983-2003.

I have hiked the canyon about 10 years worth of days ( 3650) in the last 30 years. I have hiked every major trail from the south rim and a few on the north (closed in winter from Nov 1st to April 1st) rim, due to snow. Send me a PM by going to my profile and following the link there. (Click on my name above left in Blue above my picture if you have any other questions about the canyon.)

December 22, 2014
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