The Grand Canyon: Rim to rim hike

To all fellow hikers I say sign yourself up to a trip to the Grand Canyon and stay within it. Don’t be the other 99% of the population who goes to one of the rims and never enters the canyon. Its the biggest of all the canyons so you have to go in. Well I do anyway. My compulsive adventurous side won’t let me do otherwise.

So there is a whole range of ways that you can do this hike. You can do it in one day (for the super fit) or break it up with camping/lodging along the way. Yes you can sleep in the canyon, and I would say you should if you can.

Rim-to-Rim Trail - Trail Map (Elevation Grade) 2.png

As is detailed in this cross-section map of the canyon I have found above. There are three camp sights to choose from when doing a hike through the canyon. Cottonwood campsite, Bright Angel Campground and Indian gardens campsite all of which you do require a permit to stay at so do look into that if this is something you would like to do yourself. There is also a lodge which is where we stayed whilst we were on our trip, Phantom ranch, its nothing fancy but it it has hot showers and cold drinking water. At the point that you make it there that is all you want in life. Trust me.

There are two trails in and out of the canyon that lead North – South. The bright angel trail and the Kaibab trail.  The bright angel trail is a natural trail that was used by the native tribes to the canyon prior to the Kaibab trail being formed. The Kaibab trail was blasted and cut out of the rock and so enabling free public access to the inside of the canyon.

The route that we took was leaving from the north rim on the Kaibab trail to Phantom ranch, then the bright angel trail up and out of the southern rim. This is a 26 mile hike through heat that reached 110℉ (around 44℃). Needless to say we were all crisping like streaky bacon in that heat. Walking from one patch of shade to another, legit the only thing we could do. Plus this was in September, when it is suppose to be cooler. It wasn’t any cooler at all. Damn you global warming! We did it in two days with a night at the bottom staying in Phantom ranch. I cannot recommend it highly enough for you to go and stay there. Even if you are not going to do the rim 2 rim. You can walk down and mule back up if it is too much, but staying in the canyon is something really special, I think anyway.

So here is a rundown of our adventure into the canyon itself.

View from the North Rim looking down into the canyon

Day 1 

Starting point: Grand Canyon, north rim lodge.

Date: 6th September 2018.

Start time: 5am.

Distance to achieve: 14 miles (25 km).

Waking up when it is still dark, pulling up our socks and catching the shuttle bus to the Kaibab trail head. The down hill start is something that by the time the sun rises you are pleased about as it brings a world of heat along with it. But you have a couple of hours before that time is upon you. These are the hours where you are praying that you cover as much ground as humanly possible so that the desert sun doesn’t catch you out. It always will though. Always. Being September we assumed it would be cooler temperatures but we assumed wrong. 40 degrees. We were melting, obviously. The start of the day was nice. Beautiful and surprisingly green. The Northern section of the canyon closes in winter months due to the large amount of snow fall makes it dangerous to walk the trails in that area of the canyon. Along the way there are a few landmarks that are key to figure out where you are in relation to Phantom Ranch. The first of these being Roaring Springs, a little out of the way from the track down there was a small springs where I headed down to reach to see the sweet little spring where I splashed my bandana within in order to cool myself down. By this stage it was really starting to warm up and the sun was bridging over the edges of the canyon. 

The heat was really being turned up a notch and we were going through the water that we brought with us like it was going out of style. The hardest part was yet to come however. On reaching the next landmark of the trip, Cottonwood Campsite. This campsite (which is a permitted camp) is the final place to stop off to get more water before making it to the lodge for the night. Seeing as we had not even reached the half way point of the trek it was the most surprising part for me. Although I felt fine with the trek progress thus far I was highly aware that I now had to make sure the water that I had with me would last enough time to get me to the lodge. After a re-fuel with some of our snacks and a top up of all of our waters we set off to find our lunch spot for the day. 

A little oasis called Ribbon Falls. A welcome sight for us that was for sure. Giving us the time to take off the boots and soak our feet in the waters cooling waters. Here at our lunch spot we had a good hours rest and had our lunch for the day, although it was only about 11am by this time. Ribbon falls was really so beautiful, and when we arrived we were the only ones there. It was so amazing to have what seamed like our very own little oasis around us. So much greenery, right at the base of the canyon where only the very few who ventured down into the centre of the canyon would ever be able to see. We spent a while having lunch taking some pictures and explored the inside of a cave within the waterfall which although the water. Although the water was incredibly cold it was seriously refreshing indeed. The water that had soaked our clothes with was literally dripping off of us but within the first ten minuets of setting off on the trail again we had dried out and were sweating once more.

The next marker on our journey was a little less oasis and more death trap. I mean it is even called ‘The Box’ which if it isn’t off putting enough in itself, I shall describe it for you. ‘The Box’ is a corridor of stone that is so close together that the suns rays bounce off the walls of the canyon reflecting onto one another so that the heat is exaggerated. The heat is also amplified so that with every passing hour it just gets hotter and hotter. Plus the fact that we had managed to do some of the worst timings ever and were heading into this part of the walk at midday. Smart. Once through this needlessly warm part of the trek we were so close to the lodge. After managing to reach Phantom ranch we were relieved to get our of the heat. I dropped the bag in our room and then headed straight to the stream to dip my now some what stinky feet into. So nice to take off the boots after so long of walking around in the desert heat. 

Phantom Ranch Lodge

Our time at the bottom of the canyon was short, sweaty and sweet. The heat got more and more intense as we made our way down into the canyon and it didn’t let up just because we had reached a little oasis at the base. The lodge was really sweet with little wooden cabins all dotted around the area that is shaded by trees. The main body of the lodge is set up as a canteen with two meal sittings a night. The first sitting at 5.30pm of steak, which I hear is enormous and is very difficult to finish. We had the 6.30pm sitting of beer stew. A good hearty meal after so long of walking around in the extreme heat that is so unforgiving. So delicious, after super we all went to bed but not before I managed to send a postcard to my family members from the bottom of the canyon. The only post office where letters are delivered by mule! I am not one usually to send post cards to people but this time I thought that it would be fun and its not like I will be able to return back to the bottom of the canyon any time soon. 

After all of the days excitement everyone set out for an early night. We had earn’t it after all. The next morning we had another early start that included a rather large and delicious breakfast. Starting with some fruit followed by eggs, pancakes and bacon. I was one happy hiker to say the least. Also the combination of coffee and OJ in the mornings is the best thing ever. 

Day 2

Starting point: Phantom Ranch lodge.

Date: 7th September 2018.

Time: 6am.

Distance to achieve: 11.12 miles (17.91 km).

Having to get up early to make it a good way up the canyon walls before the sun hit its apex was essential so we had breakfast at 5am and then set off as soon as we were ready. Setting off before the sun had really even started to come up.  The sunrise was really beautiful to see, especially with the changing colours of the canyon as the light changed. Off we set off with a fresh pep in our steps as we started the journey out of the canyon once again. Heading over the black metal bridge just as the dawn was breaking was really something special, with the Colorado river running wild down below it was setting out to be a good day indeed. The day that we had planned was set out into two main sections. The pre Indian gardens and post Indian gardens parts of the day. 

The pre Indian gardens was really very relaxing with lot of shade for us to walk in so that we weren’t getting too baked by the sun. Having the start being a narrow canyon area again I was relieved that the sun had yet to come up fully so I wasn’t baked once again. The first part of the day was a gradual incline that wasn’t a bad start to the day, broke in the legs again which was a nice surprise. Then as the sun started to pour into the canyon we reached the devils corkscrew. No I’m not joking, that is what it is called officially. This corkscrew isn’t as bad as it sounds like it would be, the main issue was that was the fact that it was a lot of stairs. Stairs are not my friend, my poor little legs do struggle when there is a lot of them. Once we managed to reach up and over the corkscrew the sun was burning bright and starting to cook us all who were walking around in the base of the canyon. At least we weren’t left overly exposed to the sun for too long before we reached the beginning of the Indian gardens and with it the shade of some large shrubbery. I must say that the amount of green that was within the canyon really did surprise me, I was expecting much more of a classic desert environment. 

Stopping for lunch around 10.45am (I know that isn’t lunch time usually but we had been up and active for a long time by this point) by the Indian gardens camp ground. Yes there are multiple camp sights in the base of the canyon. I don’t know who would want to sleep in a tent in the heat however but each to their own.  After lunch came the hard part. Getting back up and out of the canyon itself in the midday heat none the less. So after lunch we started up again and to begin it really was not too bad making our way steadily up towards the canyon which appeared at this point to never end. With false tops and everything around noon you thought that you weren’t going to be able to make it out the other side. But you can and you will, you realise that you are getting closer as the trail is busily with people. Some looking far too fresh to be doing the same trail as I was. But there they were all clean and not even sweating – I will never understand it! It was ridiculous that people really do get used to being out in 40 degrees. Maybe its just because I am a true English rose. Who knows!

To add fuel to the fire, in the last three miles of the canyon walk out there are other people walking down from the south rim who are just doing the three miles and haven’t any idea about the general rules on how to pass people who are walking on a gradient. I get it everyone is doing their own thing but people, it is so much easier to walk down hill to let the people moving up pass first before shoving your way though. So infuriating, especially when you are smelly and tired and just want a cold shower. 

Once we made it to the top without your legs from ceasing up too much I walked straight to the ice cream parlour and went in for a chocolate chip ice cream as a victory treat. After all I definitely deserved it!

Victory mint chocolate ice-cream

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