My husband and I just got back from a bucket list backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon for 3 nights. I will share some highlights and hopefully some info that may help my readers who want to plan their own Grand Canyon adventure. The First thing I would like to mention is that to secure a permit for overnight backpacking in Grand Canyon national park it is a lottery system where you must apply on the 1st of the month 5 months in advance of the month you wish to start your trip. We started our trip on March 31, 2017 so we applied for November 1, 2016. We could fax our written permit request in writing between Oct 20 and Nov 1 at 5pm MST. Here is a link explaining the process https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm
The next thing I would like to mention is to choose your time of year carefully. Read the information on the parks website regarding trip planning. We found that the time of year we went was great for hiking we wanted to go in April so putting a permit request for a start date of March 31 would give us a second chance to apply the next month to start in April. As luck had it we got our first request. The previous year we had applied for an April trip but did not get the permit, so we were thrilled to get the permit!
Our permit was for 3 nights, we would be hiking down the South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground at the bottom where we would be staying for 2 nights and then hiking up the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground for 1 night and then hiking the rest of the way up the Bright Angel Trail back to the South Rim.
The night before the start of our trip we arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. We had a reservation to stay in Bright Angel Lodge, right in the park right by the rim of the canyon. We booked this as soon as we got our camping permit as they book up fast and the rates were very reasonable we paid 110.00 USD for the night. There is a hiker shuttle that leaves in the morning at 7, 8, and 9 am to take you to the South Kaibab Trailhead where we started our hike. Also a great bonus was that we ended our hike up the Bright Angel Trail right near the lodge where our car was parked.
So now the best part, the hike!
Day 1 Hiking Down South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground
Our Day 1 started out with some snow on the rim. High winds left the lodge without power and we did our final packing by flashlight the night before. Temperature on the rim that day was high of 3 c (37 F) and a low of -3 c (26 F). There was snow and a little ice to start. We came prepared with crampons and wore them for 15 min. We debated bringing them, and many other hikers leaving at the same time were getting by without them but appeared to be going carefully.
South Kaibab is the shorter of the two trails down the Canyon but is also steeper and therefore it is recommended to go down on this trail. Also there is NO WATER all the way down the trail so you must pack enough for the 7 mile (11.3 km) hike down to Bright Angel Campground. As our hike progressed the weather became warmer. Temperatures at the bottom of the canyon are warmer than at the top.
It was a very different hike for us going down all the way. Most hikes we do have ups and downs and this put a strain on muscles in a way we don’t normally use them. Don’t underestimate this. And carrying a heavy pack adds to the burden. You definitely want hiking poles on this trip.
Bright Angel Campground was a nice surprise for us. There was a washroom with flush toilets and a sink. Also potable water was available, although it is still recommended to bring backup purification in the event of a pipeline break. Our site was right beside Bright Angel creek. There was a picnic table on our site and 2 ammo boxes for food storage.
More to come….