Dec 18, 2007 at 1:00 pm #1226350
i am in the process of planning a rim to rim to rim trip along the kaibab trail sometime in late March or early April of 2008.
obviously, the goal will be simple– go fast and light.
my initial plans right now are: on thursday night flying into phoenix, renting car and sleeping. early friday morning hiking down to the valley floor from the south entrance. saturday, get an "alpine start" early and go up and back on the north rim. sunday, up and out and drive back to phx with a flight out late sunday night.
i am looking for tips, suggestions, any experiences on that trail that will help to plan and execute this trip.
if anyone interested, i wouldnt be against having a small group of UL'ers along for the ride!Dec 18, 2007 at 1:15 pm #1412955
Jonathan RyanBPL Member
@jkrew81Locale: White Mtns
I was just in the Canyon this past September and what an amazing experience it was. The trails were a freshing change to the root and rock infested northeast. The only feedback I would give is pretty basic, make sure you have a backcountry permit if you are planning on sleeping in the Canyon. The other thing that surprised me was how hard the ground was. I was really glad I took along my torsolite sleep pad.
Best of luck, I would love to see a trip report and some pic's when you do this.Dec 18, 2007 at 1:34 pm #1412956
The bottom of the GC is not the halfway point. You have a 14-mile (~6K elevation gain) climb from the bottom up to the N. Rim. If you start from Bright Angel trailhead, the total distance across is 23.5 miles. If you start from S. Kaibab trailhead, the total distance across is 21.5 miles. As was mentioned, you will need a permit to stay at the bottom of the GC. You might consider just hiking all the way across the Canyon on the first day, camping or staying at the lodge at the N. Rim and hiking back across the second day. That's the way I have done this hike in the past. Keep in mind that there is no water along the S. Kaibab trail. We took S. Kaibab trail down the first day, and then hiked back up Bright Angel on the 2nd day. It's a beautiful and memorable hike. Enjoy!!Dec 18, 2007 at 3:59 pm #1412963
how about the the cottonwood campground for the first night.
it appears to be about halfway up the n. kaibab trail. that would make the first day somewhere less than 20 miles (of course there is the elevation loss/gain to contend with).
then the second day camp at bright angel, which would set me up for the final approach out of the canyon on day three.Dec 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm #1412974
I agree that Cottonwood or the N. rim would make a better stop, Cottonwood would mean two nights below the rim. If you follow Andrews example of decending via S. Kaibab, you won't have to turn around for the four or five hours of jaw numbing vistas. Until the last few miles near the S. rim, the BA trail is a green, intimate, creekside and drainage walk, easier on the legs.Dec 18, 2007 at 7:50 pm #1412991
@blister-freeLocale: Puertecito ruins
>>obviously, the goal will be simple– go fast and light.
In that case, how about simply hiking it in a (long but incredibly rewarding) day?Dec 18, 2007 at 8:43 pm #1412995
@fairweather8588Locale: The Desert
Try some local AZ hiking sites for more info and people to join you, there are some on the forums who have done it and could give you some pointersDec 19, 2007 at 6:58 am #1413027
Phil BartonBPL Member
Dylan, the GC is a great place to hike. April is a good time of year to be below the rim as temperatures can be moderate. But you may be surprised just how hot it can get at the river even in April. I've only stayed at Cottonwood one time. Cottonwood CG suffers from heavy use. It was overrun with deer mice. I couldn't believe it as we watched several groups dump their food to feed the "cute little mice." I wouldn't choose to camp there again unless I heard a completely different experience from recent hikers. North Rim and South Rim are very different. If you are counting on any services at the North Rim it might help to check the calendar. I'm not sure much is open there until May. I see on the park website that services on the North Rim aren't expected to open until 5/15.Dec 19, 2007 at 9:06 am #1413045
Doug JohnsonBPL Member
Depending on the timframe, I might be down for a trip like that. PM me when you get it nailed down!Dec 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm #1413099
brett — i guess i could do it in a day but i want to spend some time out there. ive never been to the gc and want to soak it in!
phil– when you say "services", and lack thereof, on the north rim, does that mean there will be no piped in water on the north side when it is closed. in other words, when do they turn that on? on that may date? i am assuming that they turn off the water in the winter to preserve the pipes.
should i bring water treatement (AM or a filter)?Dec 19, 2007 at 5:12 pm #1413137
John GBPL Member
@johng10Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
I hiked from the North rim to the South rim years ago (with a heavy pack) starting on May 15th. There is often too much snow on the road to drive into the North rim before then, and the park doesn't plow it before 5/14. On warmer year's you may be able to drive it yourself anyway.
The year I went, there was still about a foot of snow at the North rim campground and for about the first 1,500 feet of elevation drop – but it was easy to walk on the snow since there had been enough thaws that it it had settled into hardpack. Temperatures were mild – low thirty degrees and only a light breeze.
The North Rim "facilties" included a bus that takes you from the South rim tourist center to the North rim trailhead (maybe a 6 hour ride), a campground, a small store, running water and toilets. The store sold snack food and car camping food so plan on provisioning beforehand. The sold white gas but not canisters the year I was there.
You need a backcountry permit to ride the bus, and stay in any of the campgrounds below the rim. The canyon also only allows camping in designated areas and has rangers making spot checks – and very heavy fines. Apply now, since they have a very small number of "at the gate" permits – and a long line that people stand in for days hoping to get lucky.
The campgrounds below the rim AND on a direct line between the North rim store, and Phantom ranch have running water IF the pipe isn't broken. It occaisionally breaks – (and could take weeks to fix) so be prepared to carry 2 days of water and treat it. The Colorado river is 2/3 of the way away from the North rim and 1/3 of the way from the South rim on the route you are talking about, and I don't remember seeing any feeder streams within 10 miles on the topo map (but check since I am remembering from several years ago). Also, the Colorado river is a nice murky green color (mostly from minerals) and VERY cold – so plan your water treatment appropriately.
The North to South Rim is sort of the "tourist" hike and therefore relatively well supported by water, rangers, etc – but one I'd highly recommend even for an experienced backpacker. I've also hiked some of the side trails, and the "tourist" rim-to-rim hike is still the one that impressed me the most.
Also, for experienced backpackers – take what the park service says about it's difficulty with a grain of salt. It's only about 1/2 as hard as they say if your used to hiking in rugged terrain with a lot of steep hills with a pack.
Have fun and Good Luck !Dec 20, 2007 at 10:20 am #1413223
@dsarkaLocale: Sierra Nevada
We lived in AZ and have hiked GC many times. My husband has done Rim to Rim many times and even Rim to Rim to Rim, (all in one day). Going down S. Kaibab to the river takes less than 3 hours for an experienced, fit, hiker. This includes stopping and enjoying the scenery. It is very steep, especially the last 1-2 miles. Many people feel great presure on the knees during this portion. Cottonwood is only another 7 miles from Phantom, and is all flat along the canyon floor, easy to run. In fact we often see groups of senior men,(65-75), running along this section. One of our first Rim to Rim hikes, we were easily passed by these gentlemen. This is what motivated us to step up our fitness level.
You can always stay at Phantom ranch dorms, or just have dinner or breakfast there. It is a great atmosphere. It may be sold out for your dates, just keep checking even at the last minute.
Here are some great websites:
The preceeding web site is grand canyon explorer, filled with excellent info, elevation profiles, topo maps, trip reports, everything you need to know about the Big GC.Dec 20, 2007 at 11:50 am #1413235
Phil BartonBPL Member
The lower 9 miles or so of the trail are along Bright Angel Creek. Water is abundant from the creek but must be treated. I don't know if it's still there but the pump keeper's house at Roaring Springs used to have piped water available. The last 5 miles are a steep climb. There is a break along that climb at Supai Tunnel where water is available (probably not until the North Rim is open). It's a really memorable hike.Dec 20, 2007 at 1:34 pm #1413267
I have done it non-stop twice…..best time was 17 hours
Mostly at night when it was cooler
If you are coming out the South Kaibab you should cache some water.Dec 20, 2007 at 4:31 pm #1413307
Kenneth KnightBPL Member
@kenknightLocale: SE Michigan
My two cents for what it's worth.
Like others have suggested I'd stay at Cottonwood CG the first nigh. That's about 15 miles if you go via S. Kaibab (which is what I'd do). The hike to Cottonwood is just over 7 miles but the ascent on that stretch is not that great. The bulk of it comes after Cottonwood in the last 7 miles to the North Rim.
Cottonwood will be less crowded than Bright Angel CG which is a big plus in my book. Water will not be a problem along the N. Kaibab trail. You've got water at the bottom, at Ribbon falls and around it, at Cottonwood, at Roaring Springs, and you can get water at the North Rim though not at the trailhead.
On day two hike to the north rim, visit the lodge up there (it's a lovely building), and then hike down to Bright Angel. The footing is excellent and as long as your calves aren't killing you you ought to be fine. Then a pleasant hike out on Sunday. If you leave before sunrise you'll be out early afternoon at the latest which will give you time to drive back to Phoenix. If you can manage to get a breakfast at Phantom Ranch Sunday morning (doubtful) get the early brakfast and then you'll be well fueld for the trek out.
To get ready for this hike you need to really strengthen your downhill muscles. The "problem" with GC is not that you have to go down first it's that you go down and down and down; or up and up and up. At least with this particular hike. It is relentless. Find yourself some LONG runs of steps (a stadium, or big building) and spend plenty of time on them. The more you can do to get those downhill muscles in shape the better.
** Ken **Apr 5, 2008 at 8:01 am #1427246
David ChenaultBPL Member
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Dylan, I'm a bit late to the party, but being fortunate enough to live 2 hours from the big ditch, I get up there a lot. I've done R2R2R in a day many times (13-5 hours, typically). Here are some thoughts:
-There's lots of snow around this year. Much of the N Kaibab as is ascends is very shaded. I'd expect snow and ice in spots well into May this year. In late January of this year I got turned around ~4 miles from the rim by knee deep post holing at only 5000'! Also, bear in mind that the N Rim lodge is three miles away from the N Kaibab TH. This has come as a surprise to many dismayed backpackers. It is an awesome place, one of my favorite places on earth to kick back and have a beer.
-Water will be available at Phantom and the pump station residence (~8-9 miles north of Phantom) year round. I never bring a filter or pills on this hike. Spigots going up to the South Rim (on the Bright Angel ONLY) get turned on right around now, the one at Supai Tunnel on the N Kaibab around the beginning on June.
-The descending will get you. On a R2R2R hike pacing the first downhill is crucial, or you'll find that when you turn around at halfway your quads have mysterious stopped working properly. Even on an overnight hike, and especially for folks who can't or don't train on 3k+ descents, going easy at the first will make a huge difference.
-Related note: bring trekking poles. Period. They make a huge difference going up and down. I never go the ditch without, even on dayhikes with an 8 lb pack.
-Campsites at the bottom are typically a huge pain to get. Staying at Cottonwood is a good idea. Besides being a nice location logistically, its a beautiful spot with nice sites. Also relevant, before May at-large camping is permitted on the N Rim. Might simplify things, though I wouldn't want to haul overnight gear up there only to carry it back down!
-It's getting quite warm down on the bottom of the canyon these days. Pack accordingly (light sleeping bag, etc), and don't think that just because it's summer you won't get roasted in the heat!
Have fun. Don't hesitate to contact me personally if I can be of assistance. It should also be said that the ideal time for this trip, IMO, is late October or early November.Apr 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm #1429207
Peter WiseBPL Member
@pwise757Locale: Northeast USA
Dylan, Hopefully by this time you've already enjoyed your hike. I've hiked the GC three times in the past 18 months. Hope you took your time. There was lots of good advice already shared. If you rush… you'll kick yourself later… and wind up going back again as I did.
Of my three hikes, my favorite was second week of May 2007 Day 1) South Kaibab to Cottonwood, Day 2) Sleep late then Cottonwood to Bright Angel – sit in the creek most of the afternoon. Day 3) Early start Bright Angel Trail out.
My 18 year old son, with no hiking experience, was with me.
PeaceApr 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm #1429208
Peter WiseBPL Member
@pwise757Locale: Northeast USA
Photo addedApr 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm #1429343
yes, thank you.
unfortuntely, we havent done the trip yet– b/c i missed the permit window for well, right about this time of year. so instead of spring, we are doing it this fall. target dates are first or second weekend of october. yeah, the permit thing is no joke– and im used to heavily traveled areas in the sierras but the gc has those all trumped with the advanced reservation madness. its like trying to get a permit for the east side route up whitney.
so yeah, 12:01 am on June 1st i will fax in my permit request….
i just did a 35 mile hike with 6,500 descent overnight on the weekend (skyline to the sea). the legs are definitely feeling it. cant imagine how they will feel after the r2r2r.May 4, 2008 at 7:18 am #1431549
@pwszolekLocale: Desert Southwest, USA
Per the backcountry permit procedures shown on page 6:
4.ii) All written requests received by 5 p.m. on the first allowable date are processed randomly regardless of when the request was received.
Thursday morning I had to try faxing our request for September six or seven times before it went through. That was at about 7:45 MDT.
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