Grand Canyon Hike Planning

9:04 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Hello people,

I came to this site with this post:

Thanks to the advice from Gary Palmer and Bill S, the trip is now ON! I applied for and received the permits for October 9th and 10th. I will be doing the hermit trail as Gary had initially recommended.

In the meantime, I hiked Yosemite, after which I switched to lightweight and did two rather grueling 46 mile Rae Lakes loop in Kings canyon with very experienced hikers. Now I think I am at least partly ready for leading the Grand Canyon hike. Since I am the trip leader, and unfortunately all the planning and logistics work has fallen on me.I have a few question and would appreciate your input.

1. Is it wise to drive 13 miles to the south rim village before the hike. We will have all our gear and I do not want them to mess with my equipment in a flight.

2. I know the temperature ranges from 85 to 60, but what are the chances of rain? It seems like October receives 4 cm of rain. How probable is it?

3. Is am altimeter important for navigation? I have a high res map and I can navigate reasonable well without the altimeter.

4. How is the water availability? Right now I am planning to carry a 3L camelback.

5. Are there any Grand Canyon specific emergency or safety equipment that I have to carry?

Thank you for your responses.


10:56 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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1. 13 miles from where?

2. 85-60 degrees F or C? It can still be over 100 F in October.

3. An Altimeter for navagation? Do you plan to hike off trail? The trails are easily followed. I can not say how probable the rian will be this year.

4. You said you are going down the Hermit. There is a places called Santa Maria Spring about halfway down. Then at Hermit Creek there is usually water also. You can also get potable water from the Colorado River downstream from Hermit.

Then if you are coming back along the Tonto Trail to Indian Gardens and out? If you hike down Monument Canyon to the colorado, again that is a water source. From there east there is no potable water. Horn Creek does have water, but as it is draining a old aspestos and Uranium Mine, the water is not drinkable. There is water at Indian Gardens.

Then if you are hiking out the Bright Angel there will be a water rest stop every mile and a half all the way to the top.

5. I do not think there is any emergency or specific emergency items. Call the NPS Back country office. For this info just look up Grand Canyon then look for the NPS link.

10:57 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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well I'm in phoenix right now for school, and it was 107 today, so I'd count on the canyon being pretty warm.

3:09 p.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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1. Sorry, I mean a 13 hour drive from the Bay Area. Its a long drive before a trip.

2. Yeah the 85 to 60 F are average temperatures. I will plan accordingly.

3. No off trail hiking. So just the map is probably good enough.

4. The information is helpful, marked on the map!

5. Turns out there is nothing.

Thank you! :)

3:20 p.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes I am a 4 months a year for 20 years veteran of hiking the Grand Canyon, 1983-2003. My longest hike was 256 miles over 28 days in the canyon in January 1999.

10:12 p.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Wow. That's quite a bit or hiking! Thank you Gary, this trip has been possible only with your help. Always quick and accurate! If you ever come to San Francisco area, I owe you dinner and a few beers! :)

12:59 a.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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My first hike in the canyon was the whole month of October in 1983. First I went down for an overnighter, then a week, then two weeks coming out on Halloween. I went back every year after that and stayed from November to Feburary.

My 256 miler was in 1999, I went down three places prior and put in food and water caches about a week apart, so I would not have to carry it all or have to hike out to resupply.

I went down the South Bass trail in the west and came out the Tanner Trail.

Click on the image above for a better view. The red line shows my approx routes.

I went down the South Bass in the upper left and followed the Tonto Trail across to the Bright Angel Trail in lower right. Then went down to the river and up the North Kaibab to the North Rim. Then returned almost to Phantom Ranch and took the Clear Creek Trail to Clear Creek and back to Phantom Ranch.

This map shows my route to the North Rim and to Clear Creek and back to the Tonto after the South Kaibab. Then I continued the Tonto Trail to the Tanner Rapids area and took the Beamer Trail to the Little Colorado River and back to the Tanner Trail and out to Lipan Point on the Southeast Rim near Desert View. Click on the above map for a better view.

I actually did have to hike out to resupply on Horseshoe Mesa as someone had found and taken my last food cache. On the way out I met a guy who gave me a ride to the Grand Canyon Village ,waited while I bout 7 days of food and gave me a ride back to the Grandview Trailhead. I was back in the canyon within 3 hours of leaving it.

For a good book to read while in the canyon, get Colin Fletchers "The Man Who Walked Through Time" In about 1963 before the Glen Canyon Dam had been completed, he walked from Havasupai in the extreme western end of the canyon to the north rim on the eastern end near Marble Canyon, north of Desert View over 3 months. It is a very interesting read. He had to have 3 parachuted food caches dropped in as in the western section west of the South Bass there is few ways to get in bewteen Havasu and the Royal Arch Trails.

And/or else read at sometime, George Steck's books about hiking the canyon from 1945 to the 80s. He was a Math Professor at NAU (northern arizona university) here in Flagstaff and spent many summers,spring and fall breaks in the canyon. He is known as the father of the Grand Canyon.

Also read John Wesley Powells accounts of the canyon, he and his men went down the entire Colorado River in the late 1800s twice from Green River Utah to the mouth near present day Lake Havasu. He was a one armed General who lost his arm in the Civil War.

If you have time, stop into the Kolb Brothers photo studio on the South Rim near the Bright Angel Trail. They were the first two to make a lifetime of photographing the Colorado River starting in the early 1900s.

Personally I studied the Flora and Fauna and the Geology of the canyon during my 20 years from 1983 to 2003. I first saw the canyon in September 1983 while on a 8000 mile hitchhike around the USA at age 21. I vowed to myself that I would return ASAP to see the canyon, never knowing it would take me 20 years to continue exploring the canyon.

December and January are my favorite months in the canyon. When on the south rim its about 10-20 degrees and snowing and the inner canyon is 40-60 degrees, shorts and Tshirt weather after 30 summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. An average day along the Colorado any day of the year, is about the same as it is in Phoenix. In October 1983 I was still swimming in the Bright Angel Creek which flows off the North Rim.

I once went down in mid-July 1986, when my nephew came to visit while in Tucson and wanted to go in mid-summer. It was 119 degrees at the Bright Angel Camp and we and everyone else spent the day sitting in the Bright Angel Creek, then all day hiking out. I would never do that again!

Another great place to visit is Havasupai in the west. There the water is 70 degree's year round and has two beautiful high water falls.

Havasu Falls

Mooney Falls

And while you are in the canyon in October,I suggest hiking up fom the Bright Angel and Phantom Ranch to Ribbon Falls about 7 miles towards the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail. See it below.

Notice the person just left of the falls for perspective of height?

11:50 a.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Ask the rangers about water location; it will determine where you camp. IF you are using a water filter, bring chemical purification too, since some of the water sources are pretty cloudy and may clog your filter. I found half a gallon of water was necessary for my hike down Hermit's Rest. (it was very warm). Bring along a wide brim hat, the sun is a killer.

12:30 p.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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The park recommends drinking a quart of water/fluids a hour as one can sweat out as much in that amount of time. For every 1000 feet you descend the temp can rise 5 degree's. An average day on the rim in October is 70, so the bottom can still around 100 or more degree's.

A Hermit you can walk down to the colorado and have plenty of drinkable water. Also for an alternate hike, go down the Hermit to the Dripping Springs trail just above the redwall and take the Boucher Trail to Boucher Rapids and camp on sand dunes along the river. Watch the rafters go by. Then follow the Tonto Trail over to Hermit Canyon and hike down to Hermit Rapids and back to Hermit Camp.

Watch along the Hermit Trail just below the rim about a half hour for Dinosaur Tracks of Turtles,chicken sized lizards,an alligator like track and some bird prints in the tilted sandstone. Its along the section with the sandstone brickwork trail.

Santa Maria Spring and resthouse is just below the redwall formation below where the Boucher/Dripping Springs trail spurs off to the west. Its an old packanimal stop from the tourist days of the late 1800s and early 1900s when William Boucher a french miner who rode a white mule had his early mining operations and later as many miners did a tourist camp. Near Dripping Springs he planted peach and apple tree's and baked pies and cobblers for his guests down at Hermit Camp. His lil stone house is still down there minor its roof. And in the cliff above is an old seep cave Indians used to camp in.

The walk down to Hermit Rapids is about a mile thru the Tapeats Sandstone, the black igneous Vishnu Shist and pink Zorastor Granite. The Colorado should be quite green and clear, tho after rains in the high plateaus running side creeks into it, it can be a dark brown mix.

And a day hike up the main Hermit canyon just below the side canyon that his Hermit Camp is in, is an interesting area with small high walled narrows and ends at a high 3000 foot wall leading up to the West Rim above.

Look for Big Horn Sheep, Mule Deer and California Condors in the whole canyon of Hermit.

3:26 a.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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SS: You will do no better from a travel agent than what has been shared here first hand. Good luck.

Hey Gary:  Thanks for your inner canyon insights.  I have been researching the inner canyon for a future hike.  Rim to rim both directions has been crossed off my life list and I'm looking forward to a quiet time inside the canyon.


2:09 p.m. on November 23, 2010 (EST)
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Check out the west and east side of the Tonto Trail. Between the South Bass and the South Bright Angel Trail is remote and very quiet as far as meeting not many others. The trail on the Tonto Platform between the South Kaibab and the Tanner Trail is also a quiet area. Also the Cear Creek area on the north Tonto Platform which is gotten to by heading a mile north of Phantom Ranch and then up the trail to the Tonto and 12 miles over to Clear Creek. And last but not least the Little Colorado gotten to by following the Beamer Trail from Tanner Rapids below Desert View is also  very nice.

Along the rims, check out the route from Desert View to Cape Solitude above the Little Colorado's Confluence with the main Colorado River. It follows the east rim.

Another more solitude area is the Little Colorado River Canyon which begins at Cameron AZ on 89 and ends at the Confluence with the main Colorado River. This can also be done as a way to get to the South Rim near Desert View  by following the Beamer Trail to Tanner Rapids, then up the Tanner Trail to Lipon Point near Desert View.

See maps below about different hikes I have suggested above.


East Rim trail to Cape Solitude


Tanner Trail off south rim near Lipon Point to Tanner Rapids, then north along Beamer Trail to Confluence of the Little Colorado and the main Colorado.


South Kaibab Trail down to Phantom Ranch then up the north Tonto Trail to Clear Creek.


The South Bass trail on the upper left down to the Tonto then southeast to Hermit Creek and out the Hermits Rest Trail.


Lower section of the Little Colorado River Canyon


Middle section of the Little Colorado River Canyon


Eastern section of the Little Colorado River Canyon and Cameron AZ. The distance down the L.C. from Cameron to the Confluence is about 60miles. The canyon starts wide at Cameron and becomes a narrow deep walled canyon after about 13 miles. Except when the L.C. is flowing during spring months and when the snow is melting, the only water source begins about 35 miles from the Confluence at Blue Springs. The water flow is steady after the spring but the mineral content can be heavy. The color of the water is blue/green and is about 50-70 degrees year round.

The South Bass to the Hermit Trail and the Little Colorado Canyon will be the most remote areas in the park with the greatest degree of solitude. Permits for the L.C. are obtained thru the Navaho Tribal Council near Cameron. All other permits are obtained at the BCO at the South Rim near the Maswik Lodge.

9:03 p.m. on January 13, 2011 (EST)
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Do you think you could get from South Bass Trailhead to Confluence with only one resupply in 18 days? How far is the Confluence from Cameron?

10:46 p.m. on January 13, 2011 (EST)
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Oh yes, You could get from the South Bass to the Confluence easily in less than 18 days and one resupply. If I remember right the distance from the Confluence to Cameron is about 56 miles. I went from the South Bass to the Confluence once in 28 days but I made a couple side trips, one to the North Rim via the North Kaibab Trail and also over to Clear Creek and back from above Phantom Ranch along the North Tonto Trail.

From The South Bass to the Hermit Trail would take about 4-6 days with sightseeing. From the Hermit Canyon to the Confluence would take another 4-5 days. And out the Little Colorado to Cameron would be another 3-5 days. The routes and trails are easy to follow and fairly level except when traversing the multitude of side canyons. The Tonto Platform runs most of the way along cutting across the heads or near the heads of most of the side canyons along the way.

Are you considering doing this entire route? It sounds like a great trip! Someday I would like to redo Colin Fletcher's route starting in Supai and go all the way to the Confluence and out to Cameron. He crossed the river near the Confluence and went out the north rim trail called the Nakorweap (not sure the spelling is correct) He describes his route with a story in his book called "The Man Who Walked Through Time". If you do do the route above get a copy of his book and read it while hiking the canyon.

And please take pictures, write some sort of journal and tell us all about it here at Trailspace Trip Reports.

Also if you do want to do this do the whole thing in the Spring or Fall when the tempertures are best. Summer is way to hot unless you are from Phoenix or Tucson. The inner reaches of the canyon is a huge Desert-like place, few large trees except along the side canyons with mostly scrubs and Cacti. Water is another issue. There are many side canyons with year round water and some with only seasonal water. Some are Spring fed, while others only run during Spring and Winter snow melts off the rim and seasonal rains. Summer temps reach around 120 degree's, not including how hot it seems with the heat of the reflected rays of the sun.

Read as much about the canyon as you can find. Go to the NPS website for the Gand Canyon and research the best times to do your hike.  I did my 28 day hike in January when the inner temps were very mild, warmer than the freezing South Rim. I cached 4 food resupply station along my routes and walked 256 miles all together. If you want to do one cache maybe put it at either Indian Gardens with the Ranger Station there or down on Horseshoe Mesa below Grand View Point, but hide it well so no one can see or find it or you may have to doas I did and hike out to go back to Grand Canyon Village to resupply and have to deal with the sounds of humans. Someone had found and removed my cache even tho I had labeled it saying I would be coming by to retrieve it while on a intercanyon trip. I had slid it down into a old mine shaft and thought it was well hidden, even the rope with held it so I could pull it back up when I got there three weeks later. I left my other two caches at Phantom Ranch and Skeleton Point (on the middle South Kaibab Trail).

If you have more questions ask here or go to my member name to the left of this reply post and clickon my name, my email address is there. Put Trailspace Grand Canyon Hike Info in the subject line.

I hiked the GC every year during the months of October to March from 1983-2003, during my winters vacations. And I live in Flagstaff,AZ  now 80 miles from the South Rim.

8:27 p.m. on January 14, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks for the info. We are planning to do the whole thing. Start at South Bass, and spend the first night at the river on that trail. Next day back up to the Tonto and all the way over to the confluence. We had planned on having a friend resupply us at Phantom. With this info about the Little Colorado Canyon tho my eyes are getting big. You seem super experienced and very free with info so I am going to pick your brain.

First off there will be three of us. I have worked and hiked the North Rim for 3 summers doing some of the big river routes. North Bass, Thunder River/Deer Creek, Nankoweap as well as tons of the little trails and Old Bright Angel. The only trail I have done on the South rim is BA on a straight shot Rim to Rim. One person with me has done all the North trails with me and has guided for the last year in GC and Yosemite. Just wanted you to know we have a Canyon experience and your not helping SAR teams get experience.

So at least one person in the group has done the entire route except the 30 miles from South Bass trail to Hermit Rapids and the Confluence to Cameron. Can you tell me about water on both those sections. Also can you describe or tell me what book describes the little colorado canyon. We will be dropping in around Feb. 10. We have at least 18 days and can certainly do more if we need to. Sounds like 18 should be enough with time to play and explore.

Second, if we decide to go to Cameron we will have to cache food at the confluence or close to it. I have never done that and would like to know how you packaged your caches so animals can't get to them. I have heard people using a five gallon bucket but I am not to keen on hiking one of those in or out of the canyon.

I am currently in Flag taking a WFR course. Will be living here permanantly in early feb. I am very excited to get into the South side of the GC and think this is the very best way to get started on this side. Thanks for your help.

9:56 p.m. on January 14, 2011 (EST)
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Do you have a place to live here in Flagstaff already or are you looking? I have a space that rents for $200 a month, includes all utilities, Cable TV, WiFi, Washer/Dryer, all electric kitchen and bath with shower/tub. I just recently had a roommate move out after a few months. The room/shared space is close to downtown and NAU. Plus we could talk about your hike in more detail and more about my 20 years of hiking experience there. Plus there are many other places around Flagstaff in all direction to hike and bike. This is what the space lookslike below.


Okay, getting back to the water question, there is a small book at the librarythat tell all about hiking the canyon but short of going to the library and looking for it in the Arizona collection I do not know the title. I can go look tomorrow and tell you what book it is. The only book/author that I know of about the Little Colorado River is the author Micheal Kelsey. He has written many fine descriptive books on hiking in the southwest.

I am what you could call super experienced as I spent 20 years hiking the GC from between October to March 1983-2003. And when I say Oct-March I mean the whole time. I also worked on the South Rim many times during my fall, winter and sprng there mainly during the Thanksgiving to New Years periods when business was highest and I could make a lil more money to fund my hikes. I tried working on the North Rim one year but then the forest service started a forest fire and afterwards closed the rim trails I had planned to hike so I left.

I used plastic pails for my food caches because to me they are the easiest way to keep my foods safe from the rodents and Ravens. I generally cached beneath cliffs and in areas where sunlight and heat would be the least. I also use thses same pails for bicycle touring modified to go on my bike racks.


The only way you could get your cache down to the Confluence would be to hike down the Tanner Trail from Lipon Point west of Desert View. The trail goes to Tanner Rapids then you take the Beamer Trail to the Confluence. It would be at least a two day hike one way unless you started very early in the morning and hiked all day to try to return either to back to Tanner Rapids and then hike out, or make your way back tothe rim in the dark?

When I did my 256 mile hike there in 1999, I went down the South Bass to the Tonto then east along the Tonto to Hermit where my first Cache was. Then on east on the Tonto stopping at Boucher,Hermit and Monument Rapids. Then on east to the South Bright Angel down to cross the Colorado to stay at BA camp, pick up my second cache at the ranger station, then hike up to Cottonwood Camp, then to the North Rim (closed in mid winter/January) back to Cottonwood down to Ribbon and upper Ribbon Falls, then back towards Phanton Ranch and took the Clear Creek Trail to Clear Creek, staying in C.C. for 3 nights hiking down to the Colorado and up to the base of Cheveya Falls. Then back to the BA camp and up to the  Tonto on the South Kaibab where my 3rd cache was in Cremation Canyon. then east again on the Tonto to Horseshoe Mesa where my 4th and last cache was, tho it was gone and I hiked out and caught a ride to the village store and back with a helpful driver. I was back in the canyon within 3 hours, resupplied and headed to Tanner Rapids on east. I then hiked to the Little Colorado and stay a couple nights swimming in the bluegreen waters and hiking up to the Sipapo (place where the Hopi's believe their ancestors came into this world) actually a mound spring a few miles upstream from the Confluence.

I then returned to the South Rim via the Tanner Trail. It took me 28 days, my longest permit and longest continuous hike anywhere in North America.

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