by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Introduction to Backcountry Hiking
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon, Arizona Hiking Into Grand Canyon Plan Ahead Whether a day or overnight trip, hiking into Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel, North Kaibab, or South Kaibab trails gives an unparalleled experience that changes your perspective. Knowledge, preparation, and a good plan are your keys to success. Be honest about your health and fitness, know your limits, and avoid spontaneity—Grand Canyon is an extreme environment and overexertion affects everybody at some point. Stay together, follow your plan, and know where you can call 911 with emergencies. Turning around may be your best decision. For information about Leave No Trace strategies, hiking tips, closures, roads, trails, and permits, visit go.nps.gov/grcabackcountry. Warning Hiking to the river and back in one day is not recommended due to long distance, extreme temperature changes, and an approximately 5,000foot (1,500 m) elevation change each way. While Hiking BALANCE FOOD AND WATER • Do not force fluids. Drink water when you are thirsty, and stop when you are quenched. Over-hydration may lead to a life-threatening electrolyte disorder called hyponatremia. RESTORE YOUR ENERGY If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek the advice of a park ranger at the Backcountry Information Center. Know how to rescue yourself. YOU are responsible for your safety and the safety of your family and friends. Rescue is not guaranteed, and assistance may take hours or days due to weather or other emergencies. Before You Go • Choose the appropriate trail for your abilities or consider walking the Rim Trail for an easier hike. • Check the weather and adjust plans; avoid summer heat. Remember the weather can change suddenly. • Leave your itinerary with someone who will notice if you are overdue and report it to 911. • Hydrate, but don’t force fluids. Eat a good meal, and get a good night’s sleep. If you do not feel well, do not hike. • Prepare yourself for a faster hike down with high impact on your joints and a slow, strenuous hike out that may take twice as long or longer. that may take twice as long or longer. • Eat double your normal intake of carbohydrates and salty foods. Calories play an important role in regulating body temperature, and hiking suppresses your appetite. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY • If you start to feel nauseated, dizzy, or disoriented, rest, eat, and drink until you feel better. This can take an hour or longer. • If you are hot, cool off by getting wet in creeks and water stations. If you are cold, put on layers and eat food. • Take plenty of breaks and enjoy the view while resting. 10 Essentials for Your Day Pack 1. Water: bring a sufficient amount and extra in case of emergency; always bring a water treatment method 2. Salty snacks and high-calorie meal(s) 3. First aid kit, prescriptions, blister care, duct tape, and pocket knife 4. Map or trail guide 5. Flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries 6. Sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses 7. Whistle, signal mirror, and cell phone 8. Lightweight tarp or emergency shelter 9. Broken-in hiking shoes with good soles and hiking poles 10. Layers of clothing What to Expect Each Season SUMMER WINTER SPRING AND AUTUMN Plan for hot, mostly dry weather in May and September; extremely hot, dry weather in June; and hot with monsoon thunderstorms in July and August. Plan for short days and long, cold nights with potential snow and ice at the top and rain in the canyon. The upper portion of all trails can be icy and dangerous. The South Kaibab Trail receives more sun than the Bright Angel Trail. Plan for short days with highly variable weather. While the climate is typically cool, it can snow or be intensely hot. High winds are common. Average temperatures at the top: 48°F to 83°F (9°C to 28°C) Average temperatures at the river: 74°F to 104°F (23°C to 40°C); temperatures can feel like 140°F (60°C) in the sun and reach 115°F (46°C) in the shade. Average temperatures at the top: 19°F to 45°F (-7°C to 7°C) Average temperatures at the river: 38°F to 59°F (3°C to 15°C) Hiking Tips Hiking Tips Hiking Tips • Start hiking before dawn, in the evening, or at night to avoid dangerous heat. Do not hike between 10 am and 4 pm. • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting cotton clothing. Soak your shirt, bandana, and hat to stay cool. • Beware of lightning, falling rocks, and flash floods during storms. Stay away from edges, promontories, and individual trees. • Know the signs of heat illness: headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, cramping, and decreased urine output. Rest in the shade, get wet, hydrate, and eat highenergy foods. • Know the signs of hyponatremia, caused by over-hydration: nausea and vomiting, headache, difficulty walking, confusion, and seizures. Balance hydration with salty snacks, eat well-rounded meals, and rest frequently. Average temperatures at the top: 32°F to 63°F (0°C to 17°C) Average temperatures at the river: 56°F to 82°F (13°C to 28°C) • Carry over-the-shoe traction devices and use them on icy trails. • Wear a warm hat, gloves, wool socks, and synthetic or wool-blend layers. Pack waterproof layers, dry clothes, and socks. • Eat warm foods often, such as soup, tea, cocoa, and oatmeal. • Know the signs of hypothermia: uncontrolled shivering, confusion, and exhaustion. Put on dry clothing, drink warm liquids, and protect yourself from wind, rain, snow, and cold. • If the weather is hot, follow summer hiking tips at left. • Prepare for lingering ice in spring and early snow in autumn. Bring over-theshoe traction devices. • Check water availability along the Bright Angel and North Kaibab trails. Seasonal water is usually available May through September. • Wear windproof layers on windy days. • Stay aware—hypothermia can occur in 50°F (10°C) weather and heat illness in 80°F (27°C) weather. Hiking and Camping Information North Kaibab Trailhead: elevation 8240ft (2511m) Destination Elevation Change from Top Distance one-way Time Roundtrip Coconino Overlook 790ft (240m) 0.7mi (1.1km) 1–2 hours Supai Tunnel 1400ft (425m) 2.0mi (3.2km) 2–4 hours Redwall Bridge 2200ft (670m) 2.6mi (4.2km) 4–6 hours Roaring Springs Day Use Area 3280ft (1000m) 4.7mi (7.6km) 6–9 hours Manzanita Rest Area 3840ft (1170m) 5.1mi (8.2km) 7–10 hours Cottonwood Campground 4200ft (1280m) 6.5mi (10.5km) 2 days Ribbon Falls 4480ft (1365m) 7.9mi (12.7km) 2 days Phantom Ranch Ranger Station 5740ft (1750m) 13.6mi (21.9km) 3–4 days Bright Angel Campground 5740ft (1750m) 13.7mi (22.0km) 3–4 days South Kaibab Trailhead: elevation 7200ft (2195m) Destination Elevation Changefrom Top Distance one-way Time Roundtrip Ooh Aah Point 790ft (230m) 0.9mi (1.4km) 1–2 hours Cedar Ridge 1120ft (340m) 1.5mi (2.4km) 2–4 hours Skeleton Point 2040ft (620m) 3.0mi (4.8km) 4–6 hours The Tip Off 3280ft (1100m) 4.4mi (7.1km) 6–9 hours North Kaibab Trail junction 4700ft (1430m) 6.8mi (10.9km) 2 Days Bright Angel Campground 4700ft (1430m) 7.0mi (11.3km) 2 Days Bright Angel Trailhead: elevation 6840ft (2085m) The Bright Angel Trail follows Bright Angel Fault down Garden Creek Canyon on a wellmaintained trail; ”easiest” trail, but still incredibly steep. Destination Elevation Change from Top Distance one-way Time Roundtrip Lower Tunnel 590ft (180m) 0.9mi (1.4km) 1–2 hours 1½-Mile Resthouse 1120ft (340m) 1.5mi (2.4km) 2–4 hours 3-Mile Resthouse 2120ft (645m) 3.0mi (4.8km) 4–6 hours Indian Garden Campground 3040ft (925m) 4.5mi (7.2km) 6–9 hours Plateau Point 3080ft (940m) 6.1mi (9.8km) 9–12 hours River Resthouse 4340ft (1320m) 7.7mi (12.4km) 12+ hours North Kaibab Trail junction 4340ft (1320m) 9.3mi (15.0km) 2 days Bright Angel Campground 4340ft (1320m) 9.5mi (15.3km) 2 Days Hiking and Camping Information Cont. North Kaibab Trailhead South Kaibab Trailhead Coconino Overlook Have Fun Bright Angel Trailhead Ooh Aah Point Supai Tunnel Redwall Bridge Be Careful Roaring Springs Day Use Area Manzanita Rest Area Seek Advice Cedar Ridge Skeleton Point Upper Tunnel Lower Tunnel 1½-Mile Resthouse 3-Mile Resthouse Tip Off Cottonwood Campground Indian Garden Campground Ribbon Falls Bright Angel Campground River Resthouse Trail Courtesy 1. Travel with a friend and stick together. 2. Use toilets along the trails. 3. Mules have the right of way. 4. Uphill hikers have the right of way. 5. To pass someone in front of you: slow down and let them know you want to pass. 6. Do not store or abandon gear along the trail; it attracts wildlife. 7. Pack out your trash. 8. Be quiet and respect those who seek serenity. The South Kaibab Trail follows an exposed ridge line with no shade on a well-maintained trail; best views during a short hike. The North Kaibab Trail travels through pine forests and rock outcroppings down Roaring Springs Canyon on a well-maintained trail. Trail Map Plan your Hike To North Entrance Station and Jacob Lake N O RT H R I M To Point Imperial 67 Full services May 15 to October 15; located 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from trailhead. Grand Canyon Lodge Redwall Bridge 2200 ft 670 m 2.6 mi 4.2 km 4–6 hours Roaring Springs Day Use Area 3280 ft 1000 m 4.7 mi 7.6 km 6–9 hours Manzanita Rest Area 3840 ft 1170 m 5.1 mi 8.2 km 7–10 hours Cottonwood Campground 4200 ft 1280 m 6.5 mi 10.5 km 2 days Ribbon Falls 4480 ft 1365 m 7.9 mi 12.7 km 2 days Phantom Ranch Ranger Station 5740 ft 1750 m 13.6 mi 21.9 km 3-4 days Bright Angel Campground 5740 ft 1750 m 13.7 mi 22.0 km 3-4 days ek Cre CA l L ge 4960ft 1510m N E O N 8161ft 2487m ek Tr a il 0.3mi 0.5km Y Bright Angel Point T R 0.7mi 1.1km A t in N Po yo Ti E An N A Roaring Springs Day Use Area Cre 2–4 hours CA 1–2 hours 3.2 km S 1.1 km 2.0 mi G 0.7 mi 425 m H 240 m 1400 ft H N North Rim Visitor Center T 790 ft Supai Tunnel il Time round-trip RI Distance one-way a Tr SP il Elevation change from top Coconino Overlook 1.8mi 2.9km b Tra Good shade and cover from wind and lightning; seasonal water. Destination ht Dr a g on t ep North Kaibab Trail: Trailhead elevation 8240 ft (2511 m) IG h Pat Redwall Bridge 6040ft 1840m ig 1.7 mi 2.7 km 0.6mi 1.0km Br Campground 8336ft 2541m 6840ft 2085m N General Store Uncle Jim Point Supai Tunnel G 7450ft 2270m 1.3mi 2.1km NY Coconino Overlook T 0.7 mi 1.1 km BR Administration and Backcountry Office ba Kai th G or IN AR RO Seek advice P L A T E A U le Cr ee not recommended due to long distance, extreme temperature changes, and an approximately 5,000-foot (1,500-meter) elevation change each way. If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger at the Backcountry Information Center. id Br Be careful Station 3 Bldg s an Tr Use the charts below to plan a safe hike below the canyon rims. Remember that every exhilarating step you take downhill means twice as much work to hike back up. Day-hiking from the rims to k the “red zone” destinations shown in the charts below is for experienced hikers only. Hiking to the river and back in one day is Have fun North Kaibab Trailhead K A I B A B ON 8241ft 2510m Hiking into Grand Canyon—how far should you go? S E P Manzanita Rest Area 4400ft 1341m T Manz Bridge a n it a South Kaibab Trail: Trailhead elevation 7200 ft (2195 m) Follows an exposed ridgeline with no shade; no water. Time round-trip 1–2 hours Cedar Ridge 1120 ft 340 m 1.5 mi 2.4 km 2–4 hours Skeleton Point 2040 ft 620 m 3.0 mi 4.8 km 4–6 hours The Tipoff 3280 ft 1100 m 4.5 mi 7.2 km 6–9 hours North Kaibab Trail junction 4700 ft 1430 m 6.8 mi 10.9 km 2 days Bright Angel Campground 4700 ft 1430 m 7.0 mi 11.3 km 2 days A Some shade and cover from wind and lightning; seasonal and year-round water. P LE Lower Tunnel H T to an m C A Komo Point 8050ft 2454 m N Cr M O e Cottonwood 4040ft 1231m Wall ht Time round-trip ig Distance one-way 7298ft 2224m 590 ft 180 m 1.0 mi 1.6 km 1–2 hours 1½-Mile Resthouse 1120 ft 340 m 1.5 mi 2.4 km 2–4 hours 3-Mile Resthouse 2120 ft 645 m 3.0 mi 4.8 km 4–6 hours Indian Garden Campground 3040 ft 925 m 4.5 mi 7.2 km 6–9 hours Plateau Point 3080 ft 940 m 6.1 mi 9.8 km 9–12 hours River Resthouse 4340 ft 1320 m 7.8 mi 12.6 km 12+ hours North Kaibab Trail junction 4340 ft 1320 m 9.3 mi 15.0 km 2 days Bright Angel Campground 4340 ft 1320 m 9.5 mi 15.3 km 2 days Br MP Elevation change from top N A Ph 0.3mi 0.5km Ribbon Falls Cr e e k 1.1mi 1.8km Ribbon Falls junction 3760ft 1146 m N G E L 5.8mi 9.3km C A N Y O N TE Destination 981ft 128m Manzanita Point A nge l S Bright AngelH ITrail: Trailhead elevation 6840 ft (2085 m) V Point 1.4mi 2.3km ek 1.4 km ee 0.9 mi Cr 230 m N 790 ft O Ooh Aah Point Tiyo Point 7763ft Distance one-way2366m k Elevation change from top Y Destination A Upper Bright Angel Trail T To Indian Garden, Plateau Point, and Phantom Ranch Hattan Butte H 5973ft 1821m Bridge Jones Point 5314ft 1620m Cree k No rt h 5313ft 1619m R Kaib ab Johnson Point Bridge B 4720ft 1439m IG il Tr a 3-Mile Resthouse To Cottonwood Campground and North Rim X Hiker Dormitories O il Tra Bridge TH E Summer Butte Canteen (Snack bar open daily; dinner 5126ft 1562m Upper Tunnel 6780ft 2067m Ri m Bright Angel Trailhead anite pids Phantom Ranch i Tr a l 6840ft 2085m 0 River Resthouse Po in t P Tra e O F T R 5160ft 1573m Tont o Platea u Pip e r d en Ga Tr ai l il l ge ht Entranc e R oa d Ka ab ig l South Kaibab Trail To South Kaibab Trailhead Trail 0 100 Meters 0 North 500 Feet th ou 7268ft 2215m 0.9mi 1.4km 7200ft 2195m South Kaibab Trailhead 2.3mi 3.7km tr En an c oa e R Ro k Ya Gate d C O C O N I N O P L A T E A U To South Entrance Station and Tusayan Grapevine Rapids Yaki Point ad R o ad aza Pl S Br i Tr a er Riv 6440ft 1963m il Tra M ar ket r Ooh Aah Point ib R I M Services available year-round. ve 6080ft 1853m Campground Clinic Ri o 0.6mi 1.0km il Market Ro a ad Cedar Ridge th S o u th Rim Sou 7120ft 2170m Grand Canyon Visitor Center a Tr Backcountry Information Center Cent er Mather Point m Village Loop Drive d S O U T H 7082ft 2159m 2143m El Tovar 6071ft 1850m or Col To Indian Garden and Bright Angel Trailhead k Cre e O'Neill Butte Ri 6840ft 2085m Tunnel Yavapai Point Grandeur Point 7032ft 3-Mile Resthouse Verkamps Visitor Center River n 1.5mi 2.4km 1½-Mile Resthouse Boat beach Trail NPS Corral Skeleton Point Silver Bridge 1.5mi 2.4km 0.5mi 0.8km ab Bridge 0.1mi 0.2km 1.0mi 1.6km Ang Black Bridge 1.5mi 2.4km 1.5mi 2.4km Lower Tunnel Do not swim in the Colorado River! You could drown due to dangerous currents and extremely cold water temperatures. 2.2mi 3.5km 2.0mi 3.2km 2.6mi 4.2km Bright Angel Trailhead M il k Tr a A ee An THE ABYSS To Hermits Rest L 2.9mi 4.7km Cr ad Bright Angel Campground 3920ft 1195m ek Cr Xanterra Corral ib 0.7mi 1.1km Bridge to campground r The Tipoff il O Tr a T ve ati o C rem The Battleship Powell Point Ro Ri 0.3mi 0.5km Ranger Station H er m it o Ka 3800ft 1158m Indian Garden Maricopa Point ad Ranger Station rt h N Evening amphitheater No O 0.8mi 1.3km 6995ft 2132m 2.3mi 3.7km or 3760ft 1146m T Mojave Point Col 1.5mi 2.4km Plateau Point Hopi Point Black Bridge 0.2mi 0.3km Silver Bridge Tra il r Ri v e 2500ft 762m 1000 Feet 7065ft 2153m 0.1mi 0.2km Pipe Creek Rapids 200 Meters 0 l Tr ai 0.2mi 0.3km Ranger Station Bright Angel El Tovar Hotel Bright Angel Lodge Creek Cl e a r Canteen Do not swim in the Colorado River! You could drown due to dangerous currents and extremely cold water temperatures. Kolb Studio A n ge l 6250ft 1905m Verkamps Visitor Center Afternoon amphitheater Bri gh t Lower Tunnel reservations required) Cree k l Bridge B ge YON Br An ge CAN ht Ri m Brig h t Phantom Ranch l TOM 5720ft 1743m ig Trai l AN 1½-Mile Resthouse An PH Trailview Overlook i in Po t South Kaibab Trailhead closed to private vehicles. Access only via free shuttle bus. se rt 7300ft 2225m Vi ew Dr Ranger Station: Year-round Drinking Water: Seasonal; check availability Ranger Station: Seasonal Emergency phone Toilet First aid Campground Camp in designated sites only; permit required Food service Shoshone Point De Drinking Water: Year-Round Always carry backup water purification Featured trail Road i ve North Lyell Butte 5365ft 1635m Other trail 0 0 To Desert View and Cameron 0.5 1 Kilometer 0.5 1 Mile Overnight Camping on the Bright Angel, North Kaibab, and South Kaibab Trails Prepare: Plan Ahead While at Camp When Leaving Camp • Backpackers planning to camp overnight must obtain a backcountry permit before starting their hike Attach the permit visibly to your backpack. Camp only in campgrounds, not along the trail. No campfires allowed. • Choose your campsite. Sites are firstcome, first-served with the required permit. Large group sites are reserved for parties of 7–11 hikers. • If you start early, remember to maintain a quiet camp and let fellow campers sleep. • In addition to the 10 essentials listed above, bring a stove, fuel, and matches; blanket or sleeping bag with ground pad; and ground cloth, tarp, or tent. • Pack weight should not be more than 15–20% of your body weight. In summer, pack light—replace your sleeping bag with a liner or sheet; bring ready-to-eat foods and leave the stove behind. • Watch and review the Hiking Grand Canyon, Prepare for Backpacking video, available at go.nps.gov/grcabackcountry-video. • Immediately place all food, toiletries, and plastic bags in the food storage cans at each campsite. Keep the lids closed and fastened shut at all times. Hang your backpack with the zippers open to prevent animals from chewing through your pack. • Place your backcountry permit in the box provided. Leave your permit at your site during your entire stay. • Use headlamps with red lights to preserve your night vision, minimize light pollution, and avoid disturbing other campers. • Do not leave any trash, gear, or extra food behind. Check your site for microtrash —look for bandages, twist ties, fruit peels, etc. • Remove everything from the food storage cans and place cans upside down on the picnic table. This prevents animals from getting trapped inside. • Attach your permit to your backpack for your hike out. • Check the campground bulletin boards for weather, trail, and water updates.