Grand Canyon- A Moderate 36 Miles

by Bob Arnold on September 17, 2013

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The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Grand Canyon” are images of a vast and majestic chasm. It’s not hard to imagine how the first settlers must have felt when they laid their eyes on one of the natural wonders of the world. And even now with the knowledge we already possess, it doesn’t prepare you for what your about to see when you walk up to the edge.

With that in mind I prepared a trip to try and explore as much of the inner canyon as I could in a 5 day period. I decided to make our entry point at the Grandview Trailhead and our trip would begin at Horseshoe Mesa.

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Then we would work our way along the “East Tonto Basin” for the 27 mile hike back  to the South Kaibab junction. This is a rim to river trail which would eventually take us down to the Bright Angel campground. Along the way we would make camp at various drainages that empty into the canyon.

This trip is suggested only for people who have decent route finding skills, and can tolerate a strenuous regiment over a long period of time.

Basic mountaineering skills and a comfort level around exposed heights doesn’t hurt either.

The most important thing to remember on a trip like this, and I can’t stress this enough is to make sure you plan your stops and or campsites near sources of water. Depending on what time of the year it is, water can be scarce at best so it’s important that you stay hydrated and don’t put yourself or your guests in a dangerous situation. Big Horn Sheep frequent the cliffs up and down the drainages for the same reason, so it will still be a good idea to treat or filter your water.

I planned this trip in early March for two reasons:

  • 1st, the crowds would be down and we wouldn’t be competing with other hikers for the spots that were preferable.
  • 2nd and most importantly is that there was still snow on the rim (elevation is 4000 ft), and that meant we’d have a good supply of fresh cold water filtering down through the drainages.

The added risks to this though are the trail conditions coming down. The first 1500 ft or so from the rim are snow covered and very icy due to the thawing and refreezing and instep crampons are a must.

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But don’t let the temperatures on the rim fool you. Once you get down to the “Tonto Basin” it’s warm and very desert like so choose your clothing appropriately. The Tonto Basin is a geological feature located approximately half way down the canyon that had been used for thousands of years as a route by local native americans for travel and commerce.

You should consume at least a qt of water every couple of hours while hiking in these conditions and take frequent breaks in any shaded areas you find.

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Campsites will usually coincide with the many drainages that you will have to detour around as you hike along the basin. Trail mileage is not as the raven flies. The drainages are a good source of shade and water and are the preferred campsite choice. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry, and of course Leave No Trace ethics always apply. You should also be aware that the raven I just mentioned have become very adept at opening tent flaps and manipulating pack zippers to get at anything that looks like a tidbit.

Rock squirrels and deer mice can also be aggressive so store your food in some type of critter proof  plastic container or an Ursack,  http://ursack.com/  and keep your campsite clean of wrappers and crumbs. The only other fauna to be concerned with are the Pygmy rattle snakes, but they were in hibernation and its rare that you’ll encounter them.

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The route I chose also included a layover in the Bright Angel hikers campground which offer restroom facilities, food storage boxes, and a picnic table in each campsite. They are situated in the Bright Angel Canyon along side Bright Angel Creek amidst beautiful cottonwoods and cathedral granite walls.  These sites have to be reserved in advance.

You will also have access to the commissary and dining facility provided for the guests of Phantom Ranch Cabins. You must get your name on the list to take advantage of the family like communal dining that include an incredible breakfast & dinner. Cold beverages and snacks are available for everyone in the evening as well so pack your wallet. We were lucky enough to be able to stay for two nights while we prepared for the 9 mile hike back up and out of the canyon. There is a Ranger station and campground called Indian Garden that you can stop and refill for the last push out, but the only water available after that will be the “Three Mile Rest-stop” on the Bright Angel Trail before you reach the top. This is the most strenuous part of the trip and you’ll need to get an early start.

 

Always remember to stay hydrated, know your limits, and take your time to enjoy this trip. It’ll be worth it!

 

Total Milage : 36.5 miles

Difficulty :

Easy

***  Moderate

Difficult

Extreme

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