Jan 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm #1297903
I am planning a last min trip to the grand canyon during the last week of march. I know its super late in the game to try and get a permit. I was wondering if anyone here knew of any lesser used trailheads/campsites that I could try to use to up my odds of getting a permit otherwise I'll role the dice with the walk-up option. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
BradJan 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm #1942973
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
The further from the Corridor, the better. Also if you are flexible on dates/campsites, that may help rangers squeeze you in. There's also a slot for alternate itineraries that you may also put as 'flexible' dates. Maybe earlier in the month if you are able, since mid-March starts prime spring break season.Jan 11, 2013 at 6:31 pm #1943004
You are trying for a permit in the Prime hiking season. It will be tough.
You're providing no details about capabilities, intended routes, or duration. That makes it tough to help.
If you are strong, capable of route-finding, and not intimidated by an easy 20' (dead if you fall) climb, and there is no snow at the Tanner trailhead consider Tanner to Grandview along the Escalante Route. It's one of the best down there.
Figure out your itinerary. Figure your your dates, alternate dates, and how much you could "slide" earlier or later. Know how far you can walk in a day.
Call the Back Country Office around 2pm, when they're not to busy. Ask them if what you want to do is possible. Then ask them what IS possible. Offer a range of dates and durations. They will be able to run the dates and locations. If they can find something that works, fill out the forms – with as much flex as possible – and send in the fax, asap.
Also, if you haven't been hiking much, and you end up walking to the river on Day 1, consider making Day 2 a layover. It's not far, but it is enough Down to be debilitating to the unprepared.Jan 13, 2013 at 9:39 am #1943396
Thanks for the tip about calling the back country office.
The reason I did not provide any details is because I am very flexible at the moment and just trying to get a sense of the lay of the land so to speak. My girlfriend and I aren't really looking to do anything epic in terms of milage but are both capable of putting in consecutive 20+ mile days. We just want to experience the canyon and find a way to spend a night or two on the canyon floor.
BradJan 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm #1943490
In that case just go for a walk-in.
If you haven't been to the GC do the classics – Bright Angle and Kaibab.
Assuming you have the legs for it…
Down the Kaibab, which will get you in ahead of the crowd and a good choice of campsites, to stay at Bright Angle campground for 2 nights. If you want to experience the Canteen family style dinner ($25 each for Steak or Stew) sign up as soon as you get there. (But do take a dinner for that night in case they are full.) Spend your second day hiking up to Ribbon Falls. After dinner walk the river loop. Return up the Bright Angle enjoying the Indian Garden area as you go.
Or some variation.
I have done walk-ins on numerous occasions with my wife and with other friends. If things are busy, which is likely in March, plan on spending 2 days being a "Rim Tourist", or spend a day walking halfway down the Hermit and back, or Grandview/Horseshoe Mesa.
As soon as you get to the GC go to the BCO (Back Country Office) and ask for a permit for the next day. If they say "Sorry", talk about options. Then return the following morning.
Go Early to the BCO before it opens, stand in line and you may get your wish. Ask about options. If nothing works, you will get a number for the following day. Do not be discouraged by a high number. You'll be on your way by 10am. Go be a tourist.
Go back to the BCO the following day and wait for your number to be called, and plead your case. If you don't like what you hear, ask the ranger for suggestions. There is a 99% chance you'll get your 2 nights at the bottom. Go be a tourist again. Then pack and go. There is a bus that will take you to the Kaibab trailhead.
It's not wilderness trip but it is a great place with a wonderful history.Jan 14, 2013 at 10:28 am #1943686
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
I've got a permit starting March 8th but I applied the first day you could, November 1st. And I still didn't get the dates I wanted. March/April is COMPETETIVE. It's Spring Break AND when the weather stands a bit less of a chance of killing you. Perfect storm.
Walking-in isn't a bad idea, if you're flexible. You may have to wait a couple or three days to get an opening, so don't plan on skipping onto the trail the first day you show up.
If you want a low-use trailhead to call and ask about it doesn't get much lower than Nankoweap- but that's North Rim. I saw exactly one other hiking group when I did it. There's an alternate trailhead a thousand feet or so lower than the North Rim proper, so it doesn't get quite the same extreme snowfall. I did it in the first week of April last year and there wasn't a single spot of snow or ice, but 2012 was a very low-snow year. Depending upon how the snow goes this year you might need spikes or even real crampons to do it, and the trail is very exposed in a lot of spots. There are at least two extremely cool campsites on the way down (Marion Point and Tilted Mesa) if you want to go slow and split it up, but they are both dry. There's a seep just past Marion Point but it's just a drip and takes hours to fill a gallon jug. See the first half of this:
In March I can't say that anything on the South Rim is truly low-use, even Tanner or Hermit. March/April is precisely when the back-country hikers flock to the inner canyon. If you're into it there may be opportunities for skiing or snowshoeing on the North Rim. In a particularly low-snow year like 2012 you could HIKE the North Rim in the last week of March.
You could try some of the really remote spots, i.e. west or east to the the Navajo or Havasu nations. A little later- April- and you could hike down the LCR. Relatively few people have ever done that- I found a blog post about it once.Jan 14, 2013 at 10:39 am #1943692
worst comes to worst … you don't need a permit for a day hike. and a day hike can last 16-18 hrs or more.
I've spent a lot of hours "day hiking" down in the canyon.Jan 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm #1943727
>> My girlfriend and I aren't really looking to do anything epic in terms of milage but are both capable of putting in consecutive 20+ mile days.
I take it that you've never hiked below the rim in the Canyon before? Do a little research first; you won't like hiking consecutive 20+ mile days in the Canyon. 8-mile days are reasonable, 10-mile days are long.
If you can't get through by phone, email them at email@example.com. Ask about Clear Creek use area. Cremation is another possibility. Boucher is a long shot but worth asking about. You'll have more options if getting to the river isn't a must.
BTW, the steak dinner at Phantom Ranch is closer to $50.Jan 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm #1943748
My bad on the Canteen –
Stew – $28
Steak – $43
I prefer the stew. But more than the food it is usually a good experience just to rub shoulders with others, talk, and exchange views. Definitely not worth going for just the food.Jan 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm #1943811
>> Definitely not worth going for just the food.
Oh, I don't know… after a couple of warm days on the trail, I thought it was the best salad I'd ever had. :) I prefer the stew, too.Jan 15, 2013 at 6:42 am #1943963
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
"I take it that you've never hiked below the rim in the Canyon before? Do a little research first; you won't like hiking consecutive 20+ mile days in the Canyon. 8-mile days are reasonable, 10-mile days are long."
That's true- I missed that the first time or I would have commented. Even Skurka says to plan for AT BEST 75% of your usual mileage. And he's Skurka. 10 miles is about right for me in the canyon, and I can usually otherwise do 20 mile days if the elevation gain isn't extreme.Jan 15, 2013 at 8:27 am #1944009
>> 10 miles is about right for me in the canyon, and I can usually otherwise do 20 mile days if the elevation gain isn't extreme.
I don't even think in terms of "miles" in the Canyon. It's not what hiking there is about, imo. Trails are scarce, and are really just established safe ways of getting to different areas, sort of like the passes through mountain ranges, and connecting spots where you can camp and find water. But the best places are off in the side canyons and if you don't allocate enough time to stop and explore those, I think you're missing the best parts.Jan 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm #1947485
New Hance Trail is little-used and may not be booked.
It starts on South Rim, not quite as far east as the Tanner trailhead.
You could spend 2 nights at the spot where New Hance hits the river. (Might be called Hance Rapids?) On your layover day, hike west along the Tonto Trail up to the mesa and back.
You MUST be comfortable with "rugged" if you want to do New Hance. I found it, well, not exposed in a scary way anywhere, but steep and in places, not entirely obvious. Requires a little bit of route-finding (nothing big; just looking ahead for cairns). Do you have good footing?
I'm guessing the backcountry office does not normally mention New Hance as a possibility to the last-minute permit-seekers, unless it is clear to the staff there that you are "advanced" in their eyes.
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