Hiking the Grand Canyon In January

7:15 p.m. on December 7, 2008 (EST)
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hello all,
I am interested in taking a youth group out for an adventure. We live in Maryland and I am considering taking 6-8 youth to the Grand C for a hike from the South Rim to the North Rim. I am concerned about the weather. The North Rim must be quite cold in January. If any knows about the weather down in the canyon this time of year I would appreciate any feedback.

11:32 p.m. on December 7, 2008 (EST)
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January is an excellent time to backpack in the grand canyon, however I would discourage a south rim to north rim hike at that time; primarily because the north rim is closed. There are absolutely no services available so the only option is an out and back, a tidy 43+ miles. Not to mention snow covered and icy trail conditions.

Temperature-wise expect winter conditions at the rims and possibly as low as the Tonto platform. Temps in inner canyon will generally be spring like. January is the "rainy" season so it is possible you will be hiking in snow and rain. The upper sections of trail will generally have ice, but after a storm could have 2-3 ft or more deep snow.

I've taken Boy Scouts into the canyon in both January and February. With a bit of info I'd be happy to recommend some trek options.

How many days hiking/nights camping?
Age group?
Backpacking experience?
Winter camping/backpacking experience?

Meanwhile make use of the national park website, and place a call to the backcountry office. Both will provide plenty of info advice. Here is the url to the backcountry planning brochure.
http://www.nps.gov/grca/parknews/upload/2009BCTripPlanner.pdf

6:45 a.m. on December 8, 2008 (EST)
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Hi Steve

I would be taking a group of young adults 18-22. Some backpacking experience, most have a more urban type of lifestyle. Possibly 4 days and 3 nights in the canyon. I appreciate your suggested trip ideas. I have done the South to North and spent a day or two on the Bright Angel trail.
Also, do you know how difficult it is to get park passes for such a trip and how much it would cost per hiker?
thanks much for your help

11:08 a.m. on December 8, 2008 (EST)
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Yes hiking in January is very nice. The midwinter crowds are gone. Most of the backcountry campgrounds tend to be less crowded When I hiked there from 1983-2003 every winter dec/jan were my favorite months. Especially on the north side of the canyon at Cottonwood, Clear Creek and the Little Colorado.
Permits are not one of my best knowledgable things. I used to go on standby and wait for a permit to open up so I could go in. I usually then would stay in the canyon for a few weeks at a time.

12:12 p.m. on December 8, 2008 (EST)
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Permits run $20 + $5 per person per night. Permits for groups (more than 6) are usually more difficult to obtain so you'll want to have a few options in hand. Also midweek is easier than weekends. Here are some trip options that work for 4 days/3 nights and don't involve too much difficulty:

Grandview to Bright Angel
Day 1: Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa (3mi); short, scenic hike. Leaves time to explore the mining ruins. Either carry all the water you'll need until mid morning Day 2, or collect it one mile down east side of Horseshoe Mesa at Page Spring.
Day 2: Tonto Trail to Lonetree Canyon; a long day (~15mi), but not too difficult as mostly contouring along the Tonto Trail (can stay night one at Cottowood Creek below Horseshoe Mesa and cut a couple miles off). Water available at several points along the way and at Lonetree.
Day 3: Tonto Trail to Indian Gardens. (10mi) (water)
Day 4: Bright Angel Trail out.

Clear Creek
Day 1: S. Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground (7mi); water
Day 2: Bright Angel Campground to Clear Creek (10mi); water
Day 3: Return to Bright Angel Campground; water
Day 4: Up the S. Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails and out

Cottowood Camp
Day 1: S. Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground; water
Day 2: Bright Angel Campground to Cottonwood Campground. Although about 7mi this is an easy hiking day. Side trip opportunity to Ribbon Falls (along the way) and/or up to Roaring Spring. Carry the water you'll need or collect and purify near Ribbon Falls and carry only the last 1.5 miles.
Day 3: Cottonwood to Indian Gardens (12mi); water
Day 4: Bright Angel Trail out.

8:11 p.m. on December 15, 2008 (EST)
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Hello Gregg. We hike and film the trails in the Grand Canyon. For your first time hikers I would stay to the corridor trails. The Cottonwood hike that Steve suggested would be a great hike for first time hikers. Also if the weather turns bad you are not far from Phantom Ranch. If you have time, go to upper Ribbon Falls. There are some Indian ruins next to the falls. It is only about 1.5 miles above ribbon falls. We just hiked R-R-R in November - fees were $10.00 for permit and $5.00 per person per night. Check out our web site as we have a lot of helpful links on the Grand Canyon. innercanyontrails.com Have a great hike.

5:56 p.m. on December 17, 2008 (EST)
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Thanks Steve, Gary and Mt Goat,

this info is very helpful. What temperature sleeping should I advise all to bring? A three season bag?
GJ

7:44 p.m. on December 17, 2008 (EST)
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Average Temperatures at Phantom Ranch
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
High(F) 56 62 71 82 92 101 106 103 97 84 68 57
Low(F) 36 42 48 56 63 72 78 75 69 58 46 37

We were just at Cottonwood camp in November and the lows were around 30*. Right now it is snowing at the Canyon and they will be getting more. Cottonwood is around 1500 feet higher than Phantom Ranch. So it will be at least 6* colder than Phantom Ranch. Cottonwood is closer to the North Rim so you may get snow. The water is off but Bright Angel Creek runs right next to the campground. Bring your water filter. I always take a three season tent to the Grand Canyon. Even in the summer months. Two years ago we left the South Rim in the morning - 35* Phantom Ranch was 95* and by the time we got into Clear Creek we were in a major down poor. Winds were about 50mph. The three season tent held up great. You can always sleep ontop of a warm sleeping bag. But if you are cold, you are cold.

Average Temperatures at the South Rim
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
High(F) 41 45 51 60 70 81 84 81 76 65 52 43
Low(F) 18 21 25 32 39 47 54 53 47 36 27 20

If you stay at Indian Garden you will be about 1300 feet higher than Phantom Ranch. Agian it will be colder than Phantom Ranch. If you camp on the South Rim before you go down, it will be coooold. Again check out our web site innercanyontrails.com and the "Canyon Links" has mileage charts, weather and a lot more. It also has the link to the Yavapai Cam. It shows the snow. I wish I was there.

9:47 a.m. on December 19, 2008 (EST)
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Great - I will look at innercanyontrails.com, thanks again

1:02 p.m. on December 20, 2008 (EST)
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January in the Grand Canyon is fantastic. The North Rim can be very cold and will probably have snow on it, however. In fact, it may be difficult finding a road that is plowed at that time, so you may have to turn around and head back to the South Rim.

-- Roger Roots

December 22, 2014
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