South Rim to North Rim - Grand Canyon :-D

9:15 a.m. on August 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi everyone,

I am Julie and am trying to plan a hike in the Grand Canyon, the famous rim to rim. I thought of going from south to north and would like some advice :

- First day : I will arrive in Grand Canyon by shuttle from Flagstaff in the afternoon, where i pay the park entrance and thought of staying at Mather campground, in case i bought my backcountry permit in advance do i still have to go to backcountry information center ?

- Day 2 : then start hiking the next day taking a shuttle to south kaibab trailhead and go till bright angels campground or phantom ranch (if i make a reservation to phantom, do i need a backcountry permit for the others campgrounds ? i asked them but still no answer)

- Day 3 : hike to cottonwood campground

- Day 4 : hike to north rim : north kaibab trailhead then maybe stay at north rim campground and take a shuttle to go back south

what do you think ?

thank a lot!!


11:49 a.m. on August 10, 2013 (EDT)
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It is a great but ambitious hike. Most people under-estimate the aridity and lack of water. The climb out is steep. Plan your water carefully and don't hurry. You will have a wonderful time if you are in shape.

6:41 a.m. on August 11, 2013 (EDT)
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HI, i still have time to change, what would you recommend, do I need an additional stop ? if yes where ?

thanks so much!

5:28 p.m. on August 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm a little confused because the reservation system typically requires you to identify each nights camp before park service approval.

I went a couple years ago but had to make several application attempts before getting one approved. Each application required a listing of each nights camp while giving two alternate variations to a primary plan.

If you stay on the main corridor trails there is actually a piped water system (the trans-canyon pipeline) of potable water. There are spigots at Indian Garden, Phantom Ranch, on the way to Plateau Point, a mid point Ranger Station (between Phantom and Cottonwood) and at Cottonwood camp area.

I think your plan is good; be sure to stop and see Ribbon Falls before camping at Cottonwood.

I went in August (don't ask....) and it was killer-hot down in the bottom of the canyon. Most days reached 110F well before noon. Hopefully you can go in fall, otherwise you'll want to most of the hiking early or late.


As ppine says, be sure to stay well hydrated; I was amazed at how fast the sweat evaporated.


7:12 a.m. on August 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi Patman,

Thanks for your reactivity I really appreciate !
I sent a fax yesterday with my computer don't know if it worked, waiting for them to confirm, if it didn't work I need to do it again as soon as possible. I put the address of a friend in Phoenix where I will be just before going to Grand Canyon, so they can mail the permit if the request is approved.
As there were only 2 sites available in North Rim campground I booked one for September 7th.
--> What could be my second choice is a campsite near Bright Angel where I can put my tent on September 5th and a campsite near Cottonwood where I can put my tent on September 6th in order to be in North Rim on September 7th.
Here is what I booked :

September 4th : Transfer from Phoenix to Flagstaff
September 4th : Transfer from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon
September 4th : Night at Mather campground
September 7th : Night at North Rim Campground
September 8th : Trans-Canyon from North Rim to South Rim
September 8th : Transfer from Grand Canyon to Flagstaff

Unfortunately I am not flexible as I have to take a plane.
I really hope the permit request will be accepted as it is a dream for me to hike in the Grand Canyon. If not I will have to ask a refund here and there, I had no idea it was that complicated, you need to book certain campgrounds but at the same time you need to wait for the permit.... I really really hope with all my heart it will be aproved or that I can find an alternative to Bright angel and cottonwood.

Thank you very much.
Have a very happy day!

12:38 a.m. on August 15, 2013 (EDT)
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I am a 20 year hiking veteran of the GC. I hiked it every year from October to April 1983-2003. My longest hike was 28 days/256 miles in the canyon before returning to the south rim. I literally stayed at the GC from Oct to April doing nothing but hikes over a few days to 4 weeks at a time. I have been from Supai on the Havasupai Reservation at the west end to the Sipapo along the Little Colorado River to the east and many,many points in between.

September is still going to be hot, maybe 100 degrees in the shade at the bottom.

Hike down the Bright Angel Trail as it has water stops every 1 1/2 miles for the first 5 miles to Indian Gardens, then its 4 miles to the Colorado River and two more to the Bright Angel Camp and 1/4 more to Phantom Ranch. You may be able to make reservations for P.R. but if you are camping anyway stay in the BA Camp (it has flush toilets and water piped by the camping sites.

For a more enjoyable trip, stay at Indian Gardens and then day hike out to Plateau Point a 3 mile round trip hike on almost level ground. Plateau Point is perched 700 feet above the Colorado River and you can see BA Camp,Phantom Ranch and the two bridges for hikers over the river.


View from Plateau Point

The next day hike the 9 miles to Cottonwood Camp a easy but sun exposed trail with almost no elevation gain till just before C.W. Camp. Be sure to take the spur trail to Ribbon Falls, there will be a sign and its about 1/4 mile one way.


Ribbon Falls

Then hike to Roaring Springs ( the water source for both rims) take a break and then hike the last few miles to the North Rim


Roaring Springs

Drink and carry as much water (1 gallon is best) as you can. Drink often. 

If you take a water purifier you can filter Bright Angel Creek that flows near the N.Kaibab Trail from Phantom Ranch to just past C.W.Camp. There is safe water piped to Indian Gardens, BA  Camp/Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Camp as well as a water fountain at the Roaring Springs area.

The drop into the canyon is about 5000 feet from the south rim to the Colorado and 6000 feet elevation gain to the North Rim. But as I said before the first 9 miles is easy with about a 2000 foot gain in those 9 miles, then the trail starts to climb in switchbacks and thru the Redwall Formation to the N.Rim.


Looking down Pipe Creek Canyon from the South Rim, the long blue horizon line is the North Rim 10 miles away straight


View from the North Rim down Bright Angel Canyon. Click the image and then look closely above the red and grey point just left of upper center and you can see the San Francisco Peak near Flagstaff on the distant horizon of the South Rim

I have done many R2R hikes my first in 1999 in 7 hours. After that I did them in a few over nighters at the campgrounds listed above making it much more relaxing.

October to April is the cooler months inside the canyon. I like December and January the best. Pretty cold on the south rim but decently warmer at the bottom in midwinter.

It will take you about 2-3 hours to hike all the way down to BA Camp/Phantom Ranch whether you do it all in one morning or over two days as I said above. And expect it to take about 2-5 hours with the Ribbon Falls side trip from BA camp/P.R. to Cottonwood Camp and another 4-5 hours to make it to the North Rim.

Its 1000 feet higher at the North Rim than the south side and much cooler with Aspens and tall Pines. The south rim has pines, junipers,cedars and pinyon pines. And while the south rim area is like a mini city (3000 residents and 1000s more tourists) the north rim has but one lodge (south has 5 lodges)

And you will need to make reservations I believe for the shuttle back. Its 40 miles from the N.R. to Jacob Lake and about 250 miles back around the the south rim and Grand Canyon Village.

I hope you have a fun safe trip, take lots of pictures to share with us here at TS and stay hydrated!

6:55 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Great photos. Thanks for chiming in. You are the man when it comes to the Grand. Since the NPS wants specific camp sites, can you add a couple extra ones just in case along the proposed route?

I floated the river from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead in 2003 with a bunch of old friends. They still call late at night and want to know if we are going again.

10:01 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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The canyon area along whats called the Main Corridor is limited by three camping areas, Indian Gardens,Bright Angel and Cottonwood  Campgrounds. Unless she goes either east or west on the South Tonto Platforms there are no extra camping zones. There is the Clear Creek Camp 12 miles east along the North Tonto Platform or to go west along the South Tonto Platform from Indian Gardens and stay in Horn Creek which has on campsite or east along the platform and stay in Cremation Creek Canyon.

I would draw a route/hiking line on a map but my Google Chrome doe not do Java downloads which has the application for doing so. But I can load the topo's for the area.


This map shows the entire area between the South Rim at Grand Canyon Village lower left to the North Rim at the Bright Angel Lodge. The Main Corridor is the diagonal section of canyon in between.


This map shows Grand Canyon Village in the lower area and the Bright Angel Trail running diagonally across and down to Indian Gardens upper middle of map. This is the first 4.5 miles of the hike I described in my first post above ppines. There are 2 Rest Houses along the way the first 1.5 miles down the trail from the rim and the second another 1.5 miles farther or at the 3 mile marker of the BA Trail, then its another 1.5 miles down to Indian Gardens. The "Rest Houses" are small 8 x 5 foot stone and wood structures where piped water from Roaring Springs  allows hikers to get a drink and rest in the shade.


1.5 mile rest house along the BA Trail. The two RH are just off the trail.


Lower section of the BA Trail from Indian Gardens (edge of map lower left with camp symbol) to the BA Camp and Phantom Ranch in the upper right corner. The Tonto Platform is the lower left to right area where the contour lines are farthest apart. The Inner Gorge area where the lines are close together is where the BA Trail cuts thru the Tapeats Sandstone and the Vishnu Shist stone and rock forms down to the Colorado River and crosses the same on a hikers bridge  just below the BA Camp symbol upper right.


One of many Indian Garden Camps camping sites complete with a roofed picnic building to get out of the sun. This is looking south and the South Rim is in the tree canopy above the tent site where cliff meets sky.


Trail section from BA Camp/Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River up to the Box section of the North Kaibab Trail.


Bright Angel Campground along BA Creek


Typical BA Camp site with entrance foot bridge on back left center


Phantom Ranch with two of 5 cabin accommodations 1/4 miles north of BA Camp. There are also bunk houses where one can rent a bed in a youth hostel style room, reservations being made prior to hike at the south rim.



The  Box section of the N Kaibab Trail cuts thru Vishnu Shist rock formations for about 2 miles before opening up in to the middle Kaibab canyon of BA Creek Canyon.


Lower middle section of the 14 mile hike from BA Camp/Phantom Ranch to the North Rim, this is just northeast of The Box area. The canyon opens up with beaver dams and swampy looking areas of reeds and Cattails. Ribbon Falls is just on the left upper right corner.


Cooling of under Ribbon Falls. Looking west back to BA Creek Canyon.


Lower mid section between Cottonwood Camp lower left center and Roaring Springs Canyon upper center.


Typical Cottonwood Camp site


Roaring Springs Canyon section of the upper North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim


Looking down Roaring Springs Canyon with N Kaibab Trail and foot bridge across creek bed below right.

Below are side hikes from the main BA and N. Kaibab Trails.


From Phantom Ranch going NE along the N Kaibab after crossing the second foot bridge look left for a easily un-noticed side canyon (Phantom Canyon) coming into BA Creek. Legend has it that when the first USGS trail survey was mapping the Box and the area for the N Kaibab Trail to the North rim they passed the side canyon without even seeing it? On their return trip down to the Colorado they saw it and so it became Phantom Canyon as they swore it had not been there on the way north.

A side trip can be taken up Phantom Creek Canyon with water falls and cascades that can be climbed with a little effort. About 3 miles up a side canyon called Haunted Canyon comes in from the north. In Haunted are Indian ruins.


Phantom and Huanted Canyons go NW from The Box right of center of map.


Y Confluence of Phantom and Haunted Canyons. The Indian Ruins are in the first left/north side canyon off Haunted in the Camels Hump area just left of the H in Haunted above right. First discovered in 1928, I read a book by the Archaeologist that found it and later went up Phantom and Haunted in 1986 and found it myself. Images in the old 1928 book showed pot shards on a rock and when I went there in 86 they were still in the same postions left by the discovering Archaeologist.


Trails to Plateau Point and Horn Canyon. The PP trail is 3 miles round trip from Indian Gardens and Horn Creek Camp in the second of the the upper Y canyon sections direct left center is about 2.5 miles one way.


The campsite (one) is at the jct of the second canyon west/left. The water here is contaminated by Uranium mining above on the rim, but being Indian Gardens is only 2.5 miles away east it is easy to carry water there. If one hikes down the left canyon where the trail crosses the creek and then up the right side canyon there is a place where a fallen boulder has completely blocked the small canyon.

There are many places to see in the Grand Canyon, I spent 20 years with 10 of them in the GC depths 6 months a year October to April 1983-03. 

After doing this research (from my 20 years of memories hiking the canyon) for this reply I am now considering returning to GCNP and spending the winter there, maybe even getting a job for the winter so I have a warm place on the South Rim to live and have a income while hiking on my days off. I have worked various lodges on the rims before in the past winters since 1983.

I hope my maps and photos above help anyone who wants to see the canyon...

7:15 a.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi everyone, thanks a lot for your answers this is amazing, exciting but surely very kind of you. My permit has been denied, my fault didn't know till recently that I had to ask 4 months earlier. Couldn't have booked anything 4 months ago anyway so what I did is: I booked the transport to GC for september the 4th and the I booked two nights in Mather campground so I can do day hike for the 5th and half day the 6th and then on the 6th I booked the shuttle to go to the north, and two night at north rim campground so I can do day hike on the 7th and I take the shuttle again on the 8 th . It will be short but as I have a plane I can't stay long plus I am by foot so I can't go to south and expect a last minute walk in permit because very time they will tell me to come back the next day I doubt I can book a last minute seat in south campground so I thought that it was wiser to book everything and do it in another way...I am still very excited to go and hope to be amazed. Thanks again, so much!

10:41 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Actually like a plane flight you can still go and try to get a stand by permit. When you get to the GC go at 7 am to the BCO (back country office) and get a number and then wait for a bit. If someone else who has a reservation does not show up for their hiking slot/permit and your number is called you can still get a permit. But if your number is not called that morning by 8 -9 am , wait till the following day and then your number from the previous day will still be in line and you just might get a permit for your itinerary.

I have done this many times in the past as being a bicycle tourist and going to the canyon without a time schedule or trying to meet one I go on stand by for a permit.

Or if you don't want to try that do these day hikes:

1: Go down the Bright Angel Trail to the 3 mile rest house and back to the rim, start as early as possible because it will be hot in the canyon. Return to the rim.

2: Take the Yaki Point free shuttle and go down the South Kaibab trail to Cedar Ridge, an easy day hike with plenty of great views of the inner canyon.

3: Take the west rim free shuttle to Hermits Rest on the sunrise shuttle. Then stop at Hopi Point and watch the sun rise at one of the few places where you can see the Colorado River from the south rim.

4: Go all the way to Hermits Rest on the above Sun rise shuttle and then after viewing the canyon at Hermits Rest, do a 8 mile day hike back to Grand Canyon Village along the west rim. If you get to where you don't want to hike all the way back, catch the free shuttle from one of the various points along the way.

5: Rent a bicycle and ride along the South Rim Bike Path from Grand Canyon Village as far east as you want, the route (paved) goes all the way to Desert View 30 miles one way.

6: Go to Yaki Point on the South Rim Shuttle and day hie a mile or two to Shoshoni Point and walk out to Duck Point.

7: Feeling really like a good day hike?  Starting early as possible hike down the BA Trail to Indian Gardens and then Plateau Point. Its a 6 mile one way hike to the point, with a 3000 foot drop into the GC along the most popular trails in the canyon.

Take at least 2 liters of water or whatever you like to drink. There will be a water stop every 1.5 miles for the first 4.5 miles, then a gap of 3 miles round trip to Plateau Point and back of water. Carry a couple extra empty water bottles from the rim to fill and have for the 3 mile round trip to the point and back to Indian Gardens.

On your return hike out to the south rim, take your time if you are not used to hiking up hill as its a 3000 foot hike back out in 4.5 miles with easier switchbacks. than the Indians and Miners Mules had when the trail was built in the late 1800s.

These are my best choices of things to do on the south rim. If you have time take the shuttle around the the north rim and do some days hikes from it also.


Grand Canyon sun rise along the west rim


Sun rise on Mather Point, Richard King photo.

1:20 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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BTW winter in December and January are the best times to get a permit to hike the GCNP area. Seems like its a cold time? Its only cold on the rim(s) the inner canyon is comfortable days of 40-60 and 20 degree nights. 

I once hiked for 28 days in the canyon from early January to late January, one of the coldest months on the south rim yet wam enough for shorts and a Tshirt backpacking. I hiked 256 miles in those 28 days, I went in at three places prior to the hike and left food and water caches along my route/trail. Then started at Bass Point and hiked up the river along the Tonto Platform and went to many side canyons and remote camps. 

The canyon is broken up into camping/hiking sections or area's as you know when you applied for your permit.

Next time be sure to make a reservation in June for September. On stand by I mentioned above I don't make reservations I just go to the canyon, wait on a stand by permit or just do many,many,many day hikes while staying just outside the park on the Arizona Trail so as not to pay a NPS camping spot in Mather. 

I am going back myself in October to stay the late fall, then cycle down to Sedona AZ to spend the winter. then Maybe to Alaska in the later part of spring. I may hitchbike to Seattle instead of biking the whole way at about 2500 miles.


7:08 a.m. on August 21, 2013 (EDT)
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PI can't allow myself to hope for a permit at the last minute, mostly because if I don't get one and the campground is full what do I do ? I can't put my tent wherever I want I can't move far as I am by foot it is not like I have a car, plus I am a foreigner, I had to organize all that in a very short time from my computer : not to bad at the end eheheh I was thinking doing the bright angel trail and the south kaibab trail in south and for the north not. Sure yet. Thank you so much for your advices I really appreciate and will ollow them. Can't wait to tell you!

12:49 p.m. on August 21, 2013 (EDT)
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If you are a good strong hiker you could hike across the canyon in one day from early morning to early evening. I did it in 7 hours my first time. I started at 6 am and hiked down from the north rim and was on the south rim at 1 pm. 

But try for a stand by permit, if you have the time. All you have to do is go to the BCO before they open, so to be in line and get a number, then wit for them to call it or wait another day with the same number, you may just get a permit!

I hiked the canyon every year for 20 years on stand by permits, and never had to wait more than a couple days.

 Where do you live? If you cannot get a permit and may plan to try again next year maybe I can help you, as I go to the parks all the time.

12:53 a.m. on August 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Eheh I am from France, I think you don't realize how many buses and shuttles I need to get there I can't just wait one day for the next day... I mean if they say yes. I already booked the campground so I don't want to spent hours waiting for a number and then waiting somewhere else to cancel a reservation ahah I got a big backpack with Tent sleeping bag mattress etc I can't move here there and then hike I will be dead in 2 days ahahahahahalba maybe when I get there I will realize it is ok but seriously campground were full so I needed to book in advance ( I even booked a campground for several tents at there were not anymore for one tent only) so now I am not going to cancel all that and I want to spend time taking photos, and walking and enjoying the views not queuing ahahahahahalba I promise I will let you know how I did once there but I think I will follow my plan, not sure if I can hike it in one day as I don't really realize the condition, I am spending one week in the desert before at burning man so maybe I will be exhausted ahah I can't wait to be here and do what you told me to hike ( day hike) thanks again so happy to see you are so reactive and nice!

7:48 a.m. on August 23, 2013 (EDT)
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I have been a backpacker for nearly 40 years since leaving home and I live in the outdoors 90% of the year. Hiking for me is not just a passion its a lifestyle. I work a few months a year so I can live outdoors whether hiking and camping or bicycle touring and camping. I travel in the USA 6-9 months a year all the time during those months not just weekends but 24/7 for months on end. Lucky some would say but I have lived this way since I was 21 in 1977 when I hitchhiked 10,000 miles around the USA, I am 57 now and will/plan to live this way till my dying day.

I have spent many months a year hiking the Grand Canyon from 1983 to 2003 when I spent every year from October to April hiking miles and miles in the canyon.

I too plan to go back to the Grand Canyon in October after I finish another summer season where I am now. I have lived and worked in more than 60 different places since 1977. And hiked and bike toured to about 10 times that many. My plan this fall is to spend as many months this year and into next to see the canyon again after a 10 year absence. I want to take thousands of pictures and video's and explore the rim mainly. But I will be living on my bike and staying primarily outside the parks borders as my budget does not allow spending a lot on camping fee's, just for food and other minor expenses. 

There is a free, actually two free shuttles in the park on the south rim. One the main park shuttle will take you anywhere along the rim you care to go from sunrise to sunset. The other is called the West Rim Shuttle going from just west of the Bright Angel Lodge to Hermits Rest 8 miles away. This shuttle is probably the best one as it stays on the rim all the way and stops at 9 different overlooks with views of the river below and all the sights of the canyon possible. You can get on and off at all the stops back and forth all day as much as you want.

Camp at Mather and then walk or take the shuttles, check out the historic old hotels and shops. The oldest ones have been there since the early 1900's which in America is old. There is also a train that during warm months is an old steam powered locomotive and runs for 80 miles from the Grand Canyon Village to Williams AZ down on Interstate 40.

The is an interpretive visitor center with everything there is to know about the Grand Canyon, how it was discovered and the people who made it possible. You can rent a bike and cruise along up to 40 miles one way on the south rim bike trail system from Hermits Rest to Desert View.

You can day hike for free without a permit and enter the inner canyon along many trails. There are mule rides into the canyon some for a morning partway down and others for more with an overnight into the canyon.

There are helicopter and airplane tours over the canyon and many places to eat and a grocery store to buy your own food.

Mather like most NP campgrounds has laundry and shower area's. The campground is quite large allowing one to stay in densely populated sites area's or away from the crowds in more secluded sites.

I know you will enjoy yours stay. I always do.


2:49 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Awesome information Gary. Like you I plan on backpacking as a lifestyle once I graduate college but that's s good ways off. Anyways, I was wondering what kind of temperatures to expect late November? I'm planning on being in the Grand Canyon from Nov 22-30. Any help is greatly appreciated!

10:03 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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South Rim (North Rim is closed after Nov 1st) temps can be in the below zero to 30s above late November. But inner canyon temps can be about 50-60 or higher depending on if you go down just onto the Tonto Platform about 2/3's the way in or down to Bright Angel Camp,Phantom Ranch or Cottonwood Camp. 

I have started in with all my winter wool clothing and stripped down to shorts and a Tshirt at the bottom during the days, nights can get to freezing anywhere in the inner canyon, but I have done well with just a 20 degree sleeping bag either in a tent or just sleeping on a tarp.

The snows can get a few feet deep but average just a few inches on the South Rim, sometimes the snow makes it down to the Colorado River but briefly during a night snowfall. Usually if its snowing on the rim its a cold rain inside the canyon.

Expect packed snow and ice on the trails leading into the canyon until you get about 500 feet down in, then the trail will be muddy for a while then turn to dirt and dust.

December and January were my favorite months in the canyon during my October to April stays at the canyon hiking it every year from 1983-03. The inner canyon is generally more empty of hikers in winter, tho many go around Thanksgiving week and Christmas to New Years time.

I did a 256 mile backpacking trip over the first 28 days of January in the canyon in 1999, hiking down the South Bass in the west and coming out the Tanner Trail to the east near Desert View. I cached my food in 5 day's worth caches of food and left them at year round water sources at 4 places along my route. I even hiked up to the North Rim and back from my one nights stay at Cottonwood Camp on the middle upper N.Kaibab Trail and went up onto,across and back to Clear Creek along the North Tonto Platform and up the Beamer Trail from Tanner Rapids to the Little Colorado's Sipapo (where the Hopi Indians believe their ancestors the Anasazi emerged into the Fourth World from) Its a hot spring dome along the L.C. River.

Good Luck on your hike(s) in the canyon and hope to see a trip Report here with pictures to bring back memories since I have not been in the canyon since 2003. I did a short day hike on the North Rims Ken Fitzpatrick Trail in 2005 or 06. 

I worked a few winters on the South Rim during Thanksgiving to early January a few times in the 20 years I hiked the canyon usually to save more for longer and better food and other supplies during my Labor Day to Memorial Day vacations each year.

12:04 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Have you ever considered writing a book about hiking and backpacking in Grand Canyon? You have good writing skills and know more about the area than the people who have already written about it. It might give you some income during the winter time.

3:58 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I have been told I should write a book on my 36 years on the road and trail many times. Maybe someday?

4:01 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Gary: If you do it now, you may ahve to work less over the next years, allowing you more time for fun!

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