Alright, folks. I am here to bring you my thoughts on the trail that my father and I completed at the Grand Canyon. I will put a note here and say that this trail is rated DIFFICULT and it is no joke for most that have even attempted this trail. The whole trail is roughly 17-19 miles all around depending on detours and stops.
So with that out there let's dive in.
The trail that my father and I completed is Rim- RIver- To Rim or some people just call it Rim to River. The trail starts on South Kaibab and ends up Bright Angel. A while back we did Suuth Kibab and came back up the same trail and it was terrible. We had a late start, it was super steep and we learned a lesson about water and how much we really love to drink it. It was very intense at that time.
For this adventure, we had planned this out over the years and talked about how we wanted to finish a hike that didn't require permits. In the end, this was the route we decided on that would be best for us to do in one day and not get a backpacking permit.
To begin with this adventure I would advise having a campsite at Mathers Campground and to make sure that you have a day or two in front of the trail and a day or two after you have completed the trail to rest. This also will give you a weather window. Please make sure to check for rain/ wet conditions or you could find yourself scurrying out of the trail in mud and that is never ideal in any situation but definitely not ideal in the Grand Canyon itself. We planned for a week of staying in the campground and we were there at the end of September when the weather would be cooler. Ideally, you want the weather to be anywhere from 50's to 70's up top and maybe high 70's to 80's at the bottom. You don't want to get caught at the bottom of the canyon when it could be in the 100 heat index. That's how people end up being rescued or dying from heat exhaustion. Always, always, always check conditions before attempting this hike.
Once you have planned out your time frame make sure to get plenty of rest and pack your bag the day before. We planned to have our camelbacks completely filled and brought several snacks to eat every few hours. It is also highly recommended to have trekking poles and a hat or shirt that is breathable for the hike. Once your pack is ready set your alarm for being up at 4 a.m. We made sure to have coffee before we left and I ate chicken and potato for breakfast as a starter of fuel. The first bus is at 5 a.m over on Bright Angel. Take your car over there so that you have immediate access when you get up from the trail. The bus that comes at 5 a.m is an "express line" and will take you to the trail. By the time you get over there, it will be roughly 5:30. If you need to use the restroom they do have one at the start and we both went ahead and used it since the next bathroom wasn't for 3 miles or so.
The trail itself is outstandingly beautiful but it is VERY steep. South Kaibab is around 7,200 ft high and as you go down you lose around 4860 ft of elevation. Getting down to the river is about 6.3 miles and even though it is down the real truth about this is that it's not smooth going down. It has steps and they are all different heights. In the beginning, you will need a headlamp but by the time we got a mile and a half in you can start to see first light. By the time we got down to three miles, the sun was rising and we no longer needed headlamps or long sleeves since it started to warm up quickly in the canyon.
Every corner you turn will reveal an amazing landscape and it will take your breath away. Make sure to stop and take photos and videos along the way but be aware of your time. The best way to accomplish this hike is to be heading up and out of the canyon before noon.
I will say that by the time we got down to the river, my toenails were hurting. A lot. They were sore from the stepping down and I loved it when we ran into areas on the trial where it was Smooth and it had zero human-made steps. When you get down to the river you cross over the first bridge and go towards the famous Phantom Lodge. This is your first water point. So for reference, you have to have enough water for the first 7 miles. When you get there refill what you need to and water your hat or shirt. For us, this was an amazing way to keep us smiling and stop us from being miserable. The heat at the bottom of the canyon is a lot to take when you are doing long hikes and by being able to cool down I felt so much better. I also brought sunscreen since I didn't have a long-sleeved sleeve breathable shirt. But that's honestly ok.
After you refill your water and wet your hat you continue onward towards the second bridge and then follow alongside the river for quite a while. It's a beautiful view and we even saw some mules on their way to the ranch with supplies. After some time of following the trial, there will be a river "resting house" on the left-hand side and that is the start up the box canyon to make your way up. Here you can stop to take a rest and use the restroom.
The box canyon hike up isn't too steep but it does have switchbacks with a gradual incline afterward. You follow this up until you get to an oasis of sorts. To be honest I didn't know how green the Grand Canyon could be but it was super green. It has trees, a stream, and is full of plants. It was shaded and a nice change of pace from the usual scenery you see in the Grand Canyon.
After a while longer of hiking you make it Indian Garden. From here it's 4.5 miles to the end of the trail. This is a great place to replenish water, wet your hat, and take a rest. By the time we got here, we were pretty much in the clear and knew we would be alright. Around that point, it was a little past noon so we knew that the heat wasn't the issue but the steep trail ahead was. We talked to some other hikers and a ranger that was around and after having some electrolytes and a snack we put on our packs and started up the steep trail. The next resthouse is at Mile 3 (3 miles to the top) and you gain roughly 950 elevation in that short trip.
After mile three your next resthouse is at mile 1.5. From here you start to gain elevation rapidly. I highly recommend having those trekking poles and using them as it is almost a 12% grade from mile three onward to get out of the canyon.
Once you get to the next resthouse you are roughly at 5,729 feet. Around this point, I remember thinking that I wanted to get out of the canyon. My right foot was on fire and it was starting to get excruciatingly painful. Of course, there's nothing you can do at that point but push through the pain to get out. In truth, I think the last three miles would have been ok if my foot hadn't started hurting but I remember thinking to myself that it sucked ass. We kept going back and forth with these other hikers and one made a comment that the hike was taking a toll on me. It was in the sense that my foot was throbbing but the rest of me was ok. I made sure to try to stretch my leg and back when we stopped for a breather and take in plenty of water.
Once you get past the 1.5 mile resthouse there aren't any other stops. You now have the home stretch to get out. From here it's constant switchbacks and the elevation continues to climb. By the time you leave the canyon and are done with the trail, you are back at 6800 feet. From mile 3 to the top it's a struggle. Luckily there is shade going up the trail in the afternoon so you are not constantly in the blazing sun cooking away as you work up the trail.
When we finally got out of the canyon and were in the parking lot I felt like a sack of potatoes. My foot was hurting like crazy but I managed to limp my way to the truck. In truth, my foot only started to hurt the last three miles and while it was annoying to have it flare up I am still proud I finished the hike. It's strenuous but amazingly beautiful and only 1% of people that go to the Grand Canyon attempt this hike. It honestly is a memory I will not forget.
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