Mar 3, 2014 at 11:36 am #1313975
A few years back I headed down to Las Vegas and based on this communities recomendations and great feedback, I ended up doing the Zion traverse. It was incredible. However, I am heading back for business and ended up getting 4 days off (May 1st to May 4th). So my question is, where do I hike this time?
I will have a car, so the plan would be to drive to the hiking area on the evening of April 30th (to start hiking on the 1st) and be back at the airport (Las Vegas) by Sunday night (11pm flight).
I want to do the Rim to Rim but thought maybe it was too early or logistics wouldn't work out. I am also a Canadian with one desert hike (but tons of northern country hiking experience) under my belt so try not to kill me.
Thanks everyone!Mar 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm #2079063
Early May is a good time in the Grand Canyon. Too late for Death Valley. Too early for the White Mountains or Sierra.
R2R is a great hike, but, yeah, requires some substantial logistics to get back to your car.
Personally, I'd rather be hiking than driving the same roads twice and spending a fair bit on shuttles or nervous about hitch-hiking. In round numbers, Vegas-SR, Vegas-NR and SR-NR all take about 4:44 to drive.
If you've done the Zion Traverse, you have a very good sense of how you hold up over the miles, the vertical climbs, descents, and how much conditioning you need in advance.
I'd consider, in increasing levels of difficulty:
South Rim (SR) – River – SR: lots of easy lodging (I usually use Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan just outside the park if I want a real bed cheap or last minute), easy to get supplies at markets on the SR, expansive views especially on the South Kaibab trail, 1000 feet less vertical than from the HR, albeit with many more tourists along the way. Start early. Like 5 am. You can't start too early – 4 am with a headlamp isn't wrong. Wear a layer less than you think you need because 1 mile in, you'd peel it anyway. Starting early avoids all the tourists on the way down and much of the way up. And you get up and out before the heat of the day hits. Start early.
NR-River-NR: Higher, cooler, far less hiking traffic. Going to the NR lets you access Zion easily to fill out your 4 days with day hikes.
SR-River-a ways up along Bright Angel Creek-SR – I did that two years ago on a BPL R2R2R because I wasn't up for the whole enchilada (hard to train in an Alaskan winter). That could be 20, 25, 30 miles – however much you felt like in a day. Just turn around when you're 1/3 fried.
SR-NR-SR – I did that when I was half my age and it definitely is in the "death march" category. But old farts do it, too.
Everything I mentioned above is in the context of a "day"hike. Maybe a 20-hour day, but no permits required. Camping permits are hard to get for the main corridor so you'd probably have to wait for the last-minute permits. There's a whole routine of waiting one day for a low number in line the next morning but it sounds like you don't have a really long time.
Something I've done from the NR is a "hike till you're tired, sleep till you're cold, wash, rinse, repeat" thing with a friend. Mostly we did it to fit Half Dome in Yosemite, Angel's Landing and Narrows in Zion, and hike to River in GCNP – all in 3 days. Bring 10,000 calories, extra batteries for night hiking and a sleeping pad. DON'T look like a backpacker who needs a permit. Never admit to sleeping or being ready to. Just get well off the trail and nap a little. In tan clothing.Mar 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm #2079084
Thank you for taking the time to type in all that info! Great stuff.
I did a little research and see that the corridor permits are basically all gone for those times. But I am really liking the sound of a R2R2R, however, doing it in one day doesn't sound too fun, so I am opting for 2 days. I tried to figure this out, but I am confused. If I did SR-NR-SR, could I camp at NR without a permit? I would do the trip in 2 days and one night.
Thanks for the help.Mar 3, 2014 at 6:55 pm #2079156
Oh, right! I forgot about the option of a R2R2R by camping on the opposite rim.
For me, it'd be worth the $175 room versus the $20 campground to get a room in one of the lodges on one rim and park the car on the other rim. Shower, real bed, wash&dry the clothes (wash in the sink, drip dry over night), shower again in a morning and head out for the return hike. Then you save the weight of tent, pad, sleeping bag, pack, etc. Just a day pack, driver's license, credit card and $50. You could even buy sandwiches, wraps, and most trail food on the other rim, especially on the SR where there is a full-blown super market and lots of restaurants.
Camping on the NR:
"Closed for the Winter. Reopens May 15, 2014"
and "Camping in the park on the North Rim is restricted to the established campground. Camping fees are in addition to entrance fees, and are charged per night. Campsite Reservations are required. Campsite reservations fill up fast; make reservations as far in advance as you can."
But from the lodge's site:
"WELCOME TO GRAND CANYON LODGE – NORTH RIM The lodge is open May 15th through October 15th."
So, Dang! It doesn't seem you can lodge at the NR or even start hiking there because the NR won't be open until May 15th. Officially, you can't camp there, but if you started on the SR, brought your gear, and stealth camped on the NR, there would be hardly anyone around.Mar 4, 2014 at 6:27 am #2079267
Thanks again for the help. I am getting pretty excited about this trip. I actually ended up applying for what is called a North Rim Winter Campground Permit. This allows you to camp on the NR outside of the seasonal year. According to the park, there are still permits available for the NR at that time. We will see how that goes.
Right now the plan is:
May 1st Dayhike (still have to plan this)
May 2nd SR-NR (Camp on NR)
May 3rd NR-SR (Hotel on SR)
May 4th Fly home
I still have to work out if I should do SK or BA, but I did put SK as my trailhead entrance/exit on the permit application. I am also a bit weary about the 24 mile one way trip. Thats a big day for me and some serious elevation gain, then to do it 2 days in a row makes me think I should start training pretty hard right now!Mar 4, 2014 at 1:23 pm #2079402
Cool. I didn't know those existed. So you'll be totally legal. And if you bonk partway there and stealth camp somewhere and get noticed, at least you were TRYING to be legal and just could physically get there.
That's pretty big motivation to do some SUL techniques – carrying your pack for 42-48 miles in 36 hours. Know that a $20 bill weighs only a gram but can purchase lemonade, granola bars and candy bars at Phantom Ranch. Even if you plan to be self-supporting, remember that you can grab some calories there if need be.
For me the biggest bang-for-the-buck training prior to a GCNP trip is walking up and DOWN stairs. Just 10 minutes every morning for the month prior makes a huge difference on the hike and in reducing soreness. Unlike a stairclimber at the gym, you raise and LOWER your body actually doing some work against gravity.
In addition to that, miles and miles of miles and miles. For that 24 miles days, if I'm routinely doing 6 mile days and thinking nothing of it, then I can finish the hike. If I'm doing 12 miles a few days a week than the miles during the big event won't bother me.
The two killer things in GCNP are (1) the heat, and it might be hot in early May (or still cold (or both)). Beat the heat by starting early each day. (2) the constant pitch of the trail. Many other iconic hikes – Half Dome, Zion Traverse, etc – are much more varied in trail angle. SK and especially BA are so dang constant in pitch that my legs get more tired than if there was some variety in the day.Mar 5, 2014 at 10:11 am #2079697
Again, thanks for the tips. I think it is just waiting game for a permit now. One thing I am not overly comfortable with is camping if I don't get a permit. I can just imagine it now, I get thrown out of the park or smoehting lkike that and ruin my trip…The pictures I am looking at appear that it is a fairly open area, I am not sure how one would stealth camp, but I've never been there.
So I started looking for a backup plan by browsing around some of the other parks in the area to see if I could gaurantee something. Looks like Buckskin Gulch is booked up but there are overnight spots avialable in Zion on the narrows. I have never done a canyon trip so thought that may be an option. Did a little research and if I did an overnighter on the Narrows, I could head up to Orderville Canyon on the second day. I am not "as" excited to go back to Zion but surely that hike must be great.
This would be a "just in case" the GC doesn't work out.
And thanks Dave (or anyone else who responds), this is helping me a great deal.Mar 5, 2014 at 10:16 am #2079701
d kBPL Member
We did the Narrows as a day hike a few years ago, and went up Orderville a short ways towards the end. I wish we'd had the time to go further up Orderville. It was really lovely – I think that would be a great couple of days.Mar 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm #2081573
Thanks for all the help guys.
Sorry David, I know you put alot of work into the recomendations above but I chickened out on the R2R2R after the park sent me an email saying my requested itinerary was bad idea…here is what they sent me.
"Experience has shown that trips such as the one you requested all too often result in off-itinerary camping, injury, and occasionally even death. This is further compounded by the fact that you are seeking to do this hike alone – something that leaves an inadequate safety margin for dealing with problems that might come up. Please do not accept this itinerary merely because it is available. Make sure it is what you really want and well within your capability. If not, consider canceling or making a different request. The attached form explains some key factors that work together to make hiking within Grand Canyon unusually difficult and potentially dangerous."
I am sure I would have been fine, but I don't have enough experience in that environment to make the call. I booked overnight in the Zion Narrows May 1st. I've never done a canyon type hike so I am pretty excited.
I will save the Grand Canyon for another time…
Thanks again!Mar 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm #2081576
@davecLocale: The West Slope
Steve, they send that email to all overnight hiker who go over a certain (modest) mileage threshold. May is a bit late in the year for ideal R2R2R conditions (too hot). The Narrows is a great hike, camping should be a fun experience, and doing it in two days allows for a leisurely pace. Explore up Kolob and Orderville along the way.
There is a chance the river might be too high for your trip at the beginning of May. Not much snow this time of year, but worth keeping in mind.Mar 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm #2081641
A bad idea, or "No, we are denying it."?
I've seen those letters, signs, and verbal warnings from GCNP towards myself and towards others even more physically capable. I understand they want to scare off the newbies, but they exaggerate to the point of lying at times. The sort of, "You'll need ice axe and crampons!" when, really, there's a 50-foot stretch of low-angle snowy trail and running shoes are just fine.
I'll be doing the Zion Narrows with my 9-year old the day after tomorrow. I expect someone with a lot less strength to weight than her (she can do an iron cross) will try to warn us off.
Have a great time! Sounds it will also be a great trip.Mar 11, 2014 at 7:32 am #2081763
Thanks guys. I figured it was just the standard letter to gets sent out when you try to push a bit, but it made some sense that I re-evaluate the trip. In the end, I would like to spend more than just one night in the GC so I will be back…don't worry.
The narrows will be a walk in the park in comparison, but I am in no rush and the place looks amazing. I am sure I will have a good time.
I'll post a trip report afterwards.
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