Hiking, Rafting, and Camping in the Grand Canyon

Hiking, Rafting, and Camping in the Grand Canyon

Ah, one of the seven wonders of the world. The Grand Canyon boasts some of the most spectacular views from the rim of the canyon and down to the floor while navigating the Colorado River. It’s an outdoor adventurer haven with numerous ways to camp, explore, and take it all in. 

Hiking, rafting, and camping are the most popular ways to experience this world wonder. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to give you an idea of what to expect as you plan your trip to this national park.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Hiking in the Grand Canyon is not exactly a leisurely stroll. While there are pathways along the scenic roads to overlook some of the most beautiful parts of the canyon, for hikers wanting to trek down and then back up, proper training is highly recommended.

Before your trip, you’re encouraged to hit your local mountains to train for the adventure. Practicing going up or down the mountain across varying elevations and terrains is a great way to prepare yourself for the steep inclines and declines you’ll face on your journey in and out of the canyon. 

Likewise, it’s a good idea to train using the pack you’ll carry with weight and wear the shoes you plan to wear inside the canyon. This way, you can get a feel for how much you should bring on your journey.

When packing, remember that less is more. Many people wear clothes several days a row to avoid overpacking and adding weight to their backpacks. With that said, you’ll want to stock up on water, a water filtration device in case pipes break, food, and sun protection. Bring sunscreen and a hat that offers you plenty of shade, as many trails do not have shade to keep you cool. Long sleeves are also a good way to keep the sun off your skin. 

Popular Hiking Trails in the Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail

This hike starts at the South Rim alongside Bright Angel Lodge and follows a path down to Bright Angel Trail campground. 

On this path, hikers and mule riders share the trail. The lack of followed safety protocols have harmed both hikers and killed mules in the past. It’s important to follow the direction of the wranglers while on the trail and step out of the way uphill side whenever you see mules approaching. Remain quiet and stand still as they pass, only returning onto the trail after the last mule passes and is 50 feet in front of you.

There are seasonal-only water refill stations, though they should never be relied upon for water. Bringing a water filtration straw is highly recommended in case a pipe breaks. 

South Kaibab Trail

The South Kaibab is another popular trail because of its incredible views. Those views can make it easy to lose track of how far you’ve walked. Having a map with you to track the various points is highly recommended. Generally, it takes twice as long to hike back up as it does to hike down, so time your trip accordingly.

There are no water stations along this trail! Bringing extra water is also highly recommended. 

In addition, there are also mules along this trail, so you’ll need to use caution when hiking. Follow the wrangler’s guidelines and instructions, and everyone should stay safe.

Rafting in the Grand Canyon

Rafting the entire Grand Canyon is no easy feat. This 279-mile journey can take anywhere from a week for motorized boats to three weeks for oar boats. Shorter trips are also available, but most include a mandatory hike in and out of the canyon.

Plenty of areas where rafters are met with large Class 8 rapids can entail large drops up to 30 feet. The most challenging sections are Crystal, which is at mile 98, and Sapphire, Turquoise, and Ruby rapids. The most famous rapid, however, is Lava Falls. This rapid is located at mile marker 179, with technical rapids, steep drops, and large waves. 

Camping in the Grand Canyon

There are many ways to camp all around the Grand Canyon. Tent and RV campgrounds are open year-round in or near the park. The closest city, Williams, Arizona, also provides camping opportunities year-round.

You will need a backcountry camping permit to camp inside the park. If you are exploring the park with a guided tour, your tour guide will most likely already have a permit for you, so you will not need to get an extra one. It’s a good idea to check ahead of time to know the status of your permit.

The most unique way to camp in the Grand Canyon is at Phantom Ranch. This campground offers dormitories and cabins for hikers, mule riders, and rafters along the bottom of the canyon. There is also a cantina at Phantom Ranch, helping save weight in backpackers’ packs on food. No camping permits are required to stay here, but reservations are necessary. This location books out months in advance.

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