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Grand Canyon trip in november

The wife and I are preparing for a trip in november to the grand canyon. We are preparing our backcountry permit applicatiot and it has 3 different trail options. We are pretty set on just doing the corridor trails, but if thats not possible what would be some good choices.

Our plan is to go down south kiabab and stay at the bright angel camp for the first night. The next day go to see the ribbons fall and stay the night at the cottonwood camp. From there back to bright angel camp for the third night. The fourth day we would go up the bright angel trail to the indian gardens camp. The next day we would exit the canyon.

Around here we hike/backpack 7 to 10 miles so would like to keep the miles 7 or under, moreso that we can enjoy our surroundings and rest for the next day.

I am very finish line oriented and have been tring to pace myself, more for my wifes enjoyment than anything.

Neither of us has ever been to the canyon so we dont know what to expect. Should we stick to our guns, and only chose the one plan, or are there other trails we should consider. Our backup plan currently is to rim hike a few days if we're denied a backcountry permit.The canyon is 1300 miles from home so we would like to make the most of the one chance we'll have to see it.

Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.



Definetely see Ribbon Falls  and if you have time after getting to Cottonwood Camp hike up to see Roaring Springs, where all the drinking water at the GC comes from. And when at Indian Gradens hike out to Plateau Point a short day hike to a place above the Colorado River to the NW of I.G camp.

Have fun out there. I can give you other ideas later, I am about to go on a long hike so I will be back out in a month.

Regardless what trails you end up walking, if you plan to be down in the canyon, trail for huge elevation changes.  Also check the NPS web site for reservation schedules.  If you can't get a reservation in advance, they do offer day of hike permits. 


Don't know much about hiking in the Grand Canyon only hiked a little ways into it because we went in the summer.  Here are a few links you might find useful:

I did a similar hike in the canyon last year in late summer. We didn’t want to go in late summer but were unable to get reservations for any other time. (We came from East Tennessee so we didn’t have time to hang out waiting for someone else to cancel.)

We submitted the application multiple times because of multiple rejections. So you might wind up doing whatever route gets approved.

BTW, it was an awesome hike and I followed Gary Palmers advice and was not disappointed!

Also, by sticking to the corridor you have that super nice trans-canyon water line carrying potable water all the way along your route (assuming it’s in working order of course).

Thanks for the new links. I thought I had read everything possible (not really).

I am interested in knowing more on the "trail for huge elevation changes". We are around 9-1200 ft in my area, so I know that even in the bottom of the canyon we'll be over a thousand ft higher than we are at home. So how is it possible to train for the higher alt.?

Also, I guess if we're blessed enough to actually get the permits, does that reserve our camp site?

The permits do in fact reserve your place but you pick your own camp site. Most have ammo cans for food storage and even picnic tables; very nice.

 Not to speak for Ed (really no mere mortal could ever do that) but I think he is referring to the level of physical exertion required to gain 4000 feet in a single segment of trail (for example) and not necessarily the altitude.

The highest point I encountered last year at the Grand Canyon was simply starting at the North Rim where the trail is at 8200 feet above sea level. I live in Knoxville TN where the average elevation is about 1000 feet. I noticed no altitude effects whatsoever. That being said I backpack in the Southern Appalachians pretty frequently and usually spend several days a month above 5000 feet (and sometimes over 6000) while doing so. I have no idea if that serves to help my acclimatization process. I’ve read differing opinions on when you have to really address issues of altitude acclimatization but don’t feel qualified to give counsel on the topic. There are many here who can however (and Ed is one, BillS, and Tom D are others just off the top of my head).

And BTW, if you aren’t used to tough climbs with a pack on, I wouldn’t take it lightly (obviously I have no idea if you are or not so no offence of course)….

I’m getting excited just thinking back about my experience there! Woo-Hoo!

I wouldn't worry so much about the altitude as I would about the climb out.  One option is spend the last night of your hike at or near Phantom Ranch and have a mule haul out your gear just keeping enough to day hike out.  It's expensive but it might be worth it.

Here's another web site.  It was the one I was looking for in the first place.  It has elevation maps and will give you a good idea of how tough the trail will be. They also have links where you can purchase topo maps.

For some reason this site takes forever to come up on my computer, so be patient.

This is a direct link to the elevation maps. It doesn't take long for them to come up.

Good Luck, I hope you get the permits you want.

Thanks guys.

The first site does load slow on my computer also.

As for what shape we're in, not so long ago I figured I was in shape, round is a shape, right?

Neither of us has the delusion that this will be easy and thats why we want to keep each day under 7 miles. I did have an older friend say "I thought you were smarter than that" my response was "guess I fooled you".


The hike down is easy, its the hike out from the bottom that can be more difficult if you are not used to elevation. When I hiked the canyon for 20 years from 1983-03 I could hike out in 5 hours from Phantom Ranch/BA Camp to the South Rim. The BA trail has water stops every mile and a half to Indian Gardens, then at the Colorado River you can get it from the river, filtered. Then its 2 miles to BA Camp. Oh, wait November the water at the 1 1/2 mile and 3 mile rest house's is turned of in October (April to October is its season) So firts water is at Indian Gardens but its an easy hike down the trail there. Be sure to check out Plateau Point just NE of I.G. Camp.

The South Kaibab has no water from top to bottom, but has a nice toilet at the Tonto Platform.

Thanks for the heads up on the water being shutoff that time of year. Guess I have read that 20 times and never made the connection.

What about bugs? I realize on top there wont be a problem, what about in the bottom? We have ticks,chiggers and mosquitos but come november they have done their damage and hopefully are frozen out. We dont want to carry repellent if we dont need it.

Training for altitude change is about getting your mountain legs ready. The altitude being higher than your used to may pose a slight issue but it is more about the fact those changes in altitude will require legs O power! If you cannot get out and climb soemthing steep every day, then the stairmaster is your friend. The more power your legs have, the more enjoyable the hike will be.

Also, some anecdotal advice. When dealing with altitudes and gains/losses of same, calculating your daily progress in miles is far different. A 7 mile, relatively flat hike at low altitude is not the same as a 7 mile hike that gains a lot of altitude or goes up and down severely over the course of the miles. So 7 miles up out of the cannon may be a far bigger haul than you are thinking it will be. That is why I advocate MOUNTAIN LEG O POWER TRAINING program. (I just did a hike that started at 9K feet and netted a gain of 8,500 feet over 8 days. Not a lot of miles, only about 38.5 miles over that time.) Two days were acclimatization hikes so we averaged under 6.5 miles a day and each day was really ALL DAY hiking.)

GOG thanks for the advice. That is exactly why we we want to stop at I.G. for the night. It should make that up hill climb a 4.5 mile hike, stop, rest, veiw sunset, sleep, then 4.5 mile hike out the next day.

November to Feburary bugs are not much of a problem. It is warm in the canyon to wear shorts and a tshirt, but too chilly I guess more than not for bugs. My favorite months are Dec/Jan. I spent from October 1983 to January 2003 hiking the canyon almost every winter. I spent a usual maximum of 4 weeks in the canyon on each of 3 months in the fall and 2 in the late spring every one of those 20 years hiking the canyon.

There may be snow and/or just be colder anytime after November 1st so take cold weather clothes for the rim. I usually start in warm clothing and take it off by the second rest house at mile 3 on the BA trail or Cedar Point on the South Kaibab. Then put it back on as I get closer to the rim as I am hiking out after my hikes.

The Tonto Platform is warmer out near the Inner Gorge rim and colder nearer the inner side canyons under the South Rim. Nights are about 20-30 F in November and days are 50-60, sometimes as high as the 70s. The temps in Phoenix on any given day are usually the same as at the Colorado River. Figure a gain of 10 degree's for each 1000 feet as you decend into the canyon and the other way around as you climb out. Temps near Cottonwood and Clear Creek on the north side of the Colorado but still below the North Rim will be warmer as the winter sun shines more there. The North Rim will be in snow most of the time after November 1st and is 1000 feet higher than the South Rim and is closed to traffic after Nov. 1st but not hiking to from the inner canyon or cross country skiing from the area of Jacob lake 40 miles north of the North Rim.

Near Cottonwood Camp if you have time there are many good day hikes. One is Wall Canyon which you will cross on the N Kaibab Trail before you get to C.C. It usually has water flowing acros the trail before it enters B.A. Creek. You can go quite a ways up this drainage easily. Another canyon to explore is the Trancept opposite from C.C. across B.A.Creek. It goes west/east and is right below the north rim area.

Another good hike is to go up the canyon to Roaring Springs, this is where all the water drank and used on both rims and the inner canyon areas comes from. Its a waterfall spring gushing 100s of gallons of water out from the Redwall layer. And you can continue up the N.KaibabTrail to the North Rim, tho as I said before all the facilities will be closed for the winter as the North Rim see's much more snow than the South Rim. The original BA Trail goes on up the canyon just before the bridge you'll cross to head up the North Kaibab Trail to Roaring Springs and the rim. Its is hard to follow but was used before the N.K was built.

Also back at Ribbon Falls there is a route'trail that goes to Upper Ribbon Falls and a ancient Indian Grain storage area. To get to the trail after crossing the lil bridge over the B.A. Trail, look to your right or NW and you may see a faint trail leading towards the talus slope and a trail that heads up to the SW above the lower Ribbon Falls alcove. Be sure to look down to the south below the cliff the trail follows as you are climbing/walking up the cliff top as there is a hidden falls above the lower one unseen from below. Then continue up the valley you come to and go about 2 miles to the Upper Falls. To the west/left of the upper falls there is a grain storage stone building in the cliff there. You can also go up the slope to the left of the falls and go up the creek to what's called Upper upper Ribbon Falls. In winter and spring when snow is melting off the North Rim the U.U. Falls are often running but dry in the summer. About a mile above the upper falls take the right fork in the drainage to get to U.U. Falls, the left fork leads to a dripping springs often thru scrub oak and other desert plants.

On your way up from Phantom Ranch and the BA camp, you will go up a canyon called The Box. About 2 miles (after the third bridge I think) north of Phantom look on the opposite side for Phantom Canyon. Story goes that when the canyon surveyers were looking at the canyon for trail making they went up thru the Box to the North Rim canyon area and returned. On the way back they saw the side canyon now called Phantom and swore it was not there on the way up. Cross the creek and hike up quite aways passing huge boulders, and many pools and cascades to climb up. In the upper reaches way up canyon is Haunted Canyon which has many Indian ruins, but it is a long roundtrip day hike to this side canyon. The lower Phantom canyon is nice too.

Also near the Phantom Ranch area about a 1/3 mile up before the beginning of the Box canyon is the Clear Creek TH. Even if you do not hike the 9 mile hike all the way to Clear Creek the hike to the North Tonto Platform is nice with splendid views of the upper and lower Colorado River below.

Gary, it sure sounds like you enjoyed all the time that you spent in the canyon.   Thanks for all the tips. I know, with the short amount of time we'll have, that we will not even scratch the surface of all the fantastic places to see in the canyon.

Your planned route is a good one.  There is a good chance when you wake in BA camp the first morning you are so sore you want to cry.  Have no fear, this is a common thing.

The hike to Cottonwood is maybe 1500' elevation gain over 7 miles, so a good way to work the lactic acid out of your muscles.  Ribbon Falls is a good aside, either on the route to Cottonwood, or on the route back. 

Would suggest you try to get a cabin or separate dorms your 2nd night.  Also dinner and the next morning breakfast at the ranch.  Nothing like a hot shower and bed when you are sore and tired.  And the meals at the ranch with community seating give you a chance to meet several others who will be on their first Grand Canyon experience.

On the hike out, book Indian Gardens.  You may or may not feel need to make the stop.  If you do stop, set camp and then hike out and back to Plateau Point.

When you finish, stop at the cafe' at the BA lodge and get yourselves a well deserved Ice Cream.  And if you want something special book yourselves (well in advance) a room in the El Tovar and celebrate your accomplishment.

I am a strong advocate of poles. Poles help. With knees, legs, hips. they help. And I found that the really do spread the effort out over more of your body.

The corridor trails are spectacular and a great way to visit the Canyon for the first time. IMO Plateau Point is not to be missed while at Indian Gardens. There is so much to see in the Grand Canyon you don't have to do lots of miles to be rewarded. If one was in less shape than more, I would be tempted to leave out Cottonwood Camp(as beautiful as it is) and see things closure but equally as beautiful. IMO people try and hit all the corridor camps without having much time to actually appreciate their surroundings just to say they "did it". The Canyon has hundreds of trail miles with-in it... Because your traveling in November you will also be dealing with less day light hours.


I second that poles are a must in the Canyon. Walmart sells cheap pairs if your looking for something simple but useful. Lowering pack weight is a great leg saver up & down. Don't under estimate the down. You will need decent calf muscles for this. Food has always been tricky for me. If you can carry as much as you need and not an ounce more you will save yourselves tons of unnecessary slogging = more enjoyment. Careful how much water you take too(Rangers will be able to give you a realistic estimate for time of year). Food(box lunch even)/snacks(bars & beer) can be bought at the Canteen in Phantom Ranch. Canteen hours in summer where 10am-4pm, 8pm-12am They may be different in November. The bagel, cream cheese and sausage where yummy and affordable. A steak dinner is about $65each or more.. that was too ouch for my budget. Breakfast can also be done as well. Good to book ahead at Xanterra Parks but it can be done from the bottom if you arrange it the day before and have luck. Bring a lighter tent if $$ allows. Tarptents rock IMO. I have the double rainbow(2.5lbs) and freestand it in the Canyon with my trekking poles cuz the ground is well... rockhard :P Forget the tent pegs use the rocks that are everywhere and buy the pole extensions that come with the tent. Aim for a tent less than 5lbs if you can.


I'm from sea level and about 2500km's away. The elevation always hit's me. A good training idea is to do HIIT(high intensity interval training) - It can be done in 5mins: 30secs/skipping, 30secs/rest or walking, repeat. Or Run 30sec walk 30sec. etc etc.. It trains the heart to recover faster. This will help with your V02max(oxygen intake) and get you used to working at a higher intensity(hi elevations & heart pumping faster). Don't worry too much about altitude since you will be going downhill. It's normal for me to get winded walking to Mather Point upon arrival. Just remember to take your time.


I don't believe November is HI season so your chances of getting a permit should be decent. If you haven't called the backcountry office yet, I would encourage you to do so. In my experience, they are super friendly and can give you more ideas on what to expect during your hike for that time of year. I advise you to put in a "couple" different permit-ing options.. You can even fax a second page with different permutations(ie more than 3) along with a simple paragraph outlining what your trying to do. I've heard the word is they like to see someone with a plan or at least trying. Ask for input.. If you have any flexibility in your dates at all, I would put those in. How many nights are you aiming for in the canyon? Start with your preferred choice and work backwards. 3 or 2 nights in the canyon is better than no nights IMHO and it could also work well in conjunction with Rim touring/hiking. If you have a chance to go 5 nights, I would.

Possibly snow/ice on the South Rim? Maybe some kind of extra traction for the way down/up near the tops?

There is also a bunch of info on the NPS site for grand canyon. The trip planner is great if you haven't found it yet.


Stairs, Lunges, Squats, Skipping Rope(calves for the downhill)... & any kind of cardio.

Going for day hikes with full or partial pack weight to prep your back/shoulder & feet muscles:) One could go heavier as well to compensate for lack of hills to train on.


Bright Angel, Cottonwood, Bright Angel, Indian Gardens

Indian Gardens, Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Indian Gardens

Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Indian Gardens, Indian Gardens

Cremation Creek, Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Indian Gardens

Indian Gardens, Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Cremation Creek*

Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Horn Creek*, Indian Gardens

Cremation Creek, Bright Angel, Horn Creek, Indian Gardens

Bright Angel, Cottonwood, Cottonwood, Bright Angel

Indian Gardens, Bright Angel, Cottonwood, Bright Angel

-You could then continue on with 3 night variations in the same way...

Cremation & Horn Creek would be like adding a bit of spice to your trip.

Cremation Creek would need water and a cathole for.... The use area starts at ~1.5-2mi off of South Kaibab/Tonto junction making a nice halfway point elevation wise between the top and bottom. It's not something other people would typically see. Setup camp and if extra time allows wander further into Cremation Use Area.

Horn Creek is on the Tonto off of Indian Gardens headed West. It's not far but it's great if you want to feel like it's just you two and the Canyon. There is a site allocated for tenting. It may or may not be a small 3 sided pit toilet there at that time. Check Backcountry. No water but it's not a long haul from Indian Gardens.


After November 15 you can camp up to 4 consecutive nights in corridor campgrounds(length of stay):

planyourvisit - backcountry-permit

So you could sort of Base Camp it:

Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Bright Angel, Indian Gardens

Indian Gardens, Indian Gardens, Bright Angel, Indian Gardens

Why do this? A rest day after your hike down(or any time during the trip) is spectacular. From Bright Angel you could day hike Ribbon Falls(yes, it would be a long day) and/or you could day hike Clear Creek Trail. It is beautiful walking there. This gives flexibility if your more sore than expected. Nice to come back to a camp already set up too. Phantom Ranch overlook is a great perspective not everyone gets to see.

From Indian Gardens there is Plateau Point. Also the Tonto goes East and West here. Can day hike either as much or as little as you like.


This is great for current/recent weather prior to trip:

noaa site KGCN(Grand Canyon Airport), AT688(Indian Gardens), AT680(Phantom Ranch)

Historical data can be found at Weather Underground.


Hike Arizona has a plethora of trail reports on the Grand Canyon corridors if you are wanting to know more about what to expect.

If your looking to lighten your pack any further a book that helped me out immensely is The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail by Andrew Skurka. Great recommendations for all hiking levels and pack weights. Ebook can be found on Amazon. The book itself is a pretty handy tool to have kicking around. I was able to exit the Canyon with a pack under 20lbs. For 4 nights in the Canyon you shouldn't need more than 40lbs of total weight on your back. Go for less if you can.


Be sure to find and follow the rules at Bright Angel Campground. They are located in the washrooms there. Have a nice sit & read before you accidentally do something wrong. :) Food & plastic in ammo cans at all times.


Headlamp & extra extra batteries.

-Happy Hiking!

ps I love the Grand Canyon

Must take for reading along the way...
"Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon"

WOW Nugget! You don't post often, but when you do....YOWZER! Good stuff!

Thanks Nugget. Its late I'll have to reread that a couple of times.

RE: over the edge:death in grand canyon

Yes.. I agree... great read. Read upon return of my first visit down. Lot's of what not to do's in it :)

One snake incident story haunted me last trip. What can I say, I'm just not a reptilian cuddler.

Don't read if you get the heebidee jeebbaddieees easily...

A better book for reading in the canyon is Colin Fletchers "The Man Who Walked Through Time" He hiked the canyon from Supai to Nakorweap in the early 1960s before Glen Canyon Dam was completed and the Colrado was still flowing normal. Or "The River" also by him about his one man solo trip from the Head waters of the Green River in Wyoming down into the Colorado River in Utah and all the way down to the Sea of Cortez.

Been pretty busy lately and havent had a chance to read everything here, but I will. Thanks for the input and keep it coming.

I got up at 3 am our time sunday to fax the backcountry permit form. Our 3 choices were the one in my original post. Our second choice is 2 nights at bright angel camp and 2 nights at indian gardens and our third choice is 1 night at bright angel and 1 night at indian gardens.

I guess we'll know something in 3 weeks.

Was so much easier in the 80s to get permits for the canyon. I stayed in the canyon a total of one month over three trips in October 1983. The GC is one of the most visited parks in the country now with a annual visitation of over 5 million people.

3 days.....That was quick. Tuesday we got an email that we have a backcountry permit.

Aerobic training and focus on quadraceps for climbing will help.  I agree with the posts above.  The Canyon is the land of steep sedimentary rocks that you should learn by heart as soon as possible.

I would have an itineray that is a little more flexible.  Seven miles of climbing can wear people out.  There is nothing like a rest day to goof off in a place like the Grand Canyon.  It will feel like the moon at first, so don't be too ambitious in your route planning.  Hydration is no joke even in Nov.

You will have a blast as long as you don't get too aggressive in your route planning.


November is a fun time to do that hike! When I did it it was a bit cold on top but perfect weather down lower. Scanning the posts above I saw some questions about elevation. Think of it as an upside down mountain. It isn't the thin air that gets people it is that going down is much easier than coming up. If I recall correctly, Indian Springs will get you about 1/3 of the way out. In November it won't be so hot so while you still need to be smart about water it won't be such a challenge to stay hydrated. In other words you won't have to lug as much... I don't think there was a water source from indian Springs to the top.

Enjoy and take lost if pics!


Hiking in November is good weather in the canyon. The north rim usually starts getting snow in November which makes a nice contrast to the south rims warmer temps.

Expect cold nights and warm days on the south rim , snow perhaps tho its been a dry summer. The inner canyon should be dry tho snow sometimes falls down to Indian Gardens and sometimes even to the bottom at Bright Angel/Phantom Ranch.

Temps at the bottom on the Colorado River and up the North Kaibab area towards Cottonwood can still be fairly warm. I have been in shorts by Indian gardens and all the way up to Cottonwood camp.

Water is plentiful in Bright Angel creek even in winter along the North Kaibab Trail from the Colorado to Roaring Springs just below the north rim.

Be sure to check out Plateau Point and Ribbon Falls if you get up that way. Plateau Point is 1.5 miles each way from Indian gardens and a easy day hike out and back with a 700 foot look down to the Colorado River.

I spent 20 years hiking in every month from October to April from 1983-2003. My longest trip in the canyon lasted 28 days below the south rim and covered 256 miles. I left four food and water caches along the way before doing the hike.

Be sure to get Colin Fletchers "The Man Who Walked Through Time" to read while in the canyon. In paperback its small and light but tells a lot about the canyon from one end to the other.

Congrats on getting your permit for your original itin! Sometimes it's a lot of fretting prior to the confirmation. Finally having the permit can be a huge weight off the shoulders. Wondering how your packing and continued prep is working out?

If you have the time, I would be curious to see what you've decided to take for November. A post trip feedback of what worked and didn't work is always a welcome sight. I have not been in November but thinking that it would be a great time to visit the Canyon.

If you are taking a GPS(not that it's needed), I have some helpful waypoints and tracks for those areas. I can post the co-ordinates if you'd like or send you a gpx file of them. Of course there are many tracks posted on-line at hikearizona as well.

A word of caution. Currently inputting coordinates into Google maps, via a web browser(like Firefox) or smart phone, appear to be offsetting. As a  result, waypoints are not getting placed in the proper location. Perhaps this is just a temporary glitch but one to be aware of.

Google Earth works fine as well as Garmin Basecamp. Both are free to download for either pc or mac. I use Basecamp and load tracks to peek at the elevation profile graph. Sometimes it's visually easier to spot a surprise elevation change that might not be noticed on a topo map.  If you need topos to help orient you in Basecamp, a nice source is GPSfiledepot. The editor's choice maps(like Arizonatopo) can be a helpful resource.



November's can be usually warm in the canyon. Whatever the temperture is in Phoenix is about the same as the inner canyon on any given day. Shorts and a tshirt can still be worn in November. December/January are the coolest two months below the rim. There could be snow on the south rim anytime from mid to late October to April/May.

gandrimp Hope your vacation is not so smoke filled. North Rim prescribed fires.


Smoke from the rim rarely makes it into the lower canyon.

August 11, 2020
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