The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful land majestic places on Earth. Though the canyon proper runs hundreds of miles,this page will concentrate on Grand Canyon National Park and the three main trails that run from rim to river - North Kaibab, South Kaibab, and Bright Angel, as well as the Tuweep region.
If you'll allow a little altitudinal license, consider that this grandest of all canyons is really an "inverse" mountain, which presents unique challenges to those who choose to tackle it. "If the falls of Niagara were installed in the Grand Canyon between your visits and you knew it from the newspapers - next time you stood on that dizzy rim-rock you would probably need good field glasses and much patience before you could locate the cataract which in its place looks pretty big. If Mount Washington were plucked up bodily by its roots - not from where you see it, but from sea-level - and carefully set down in the Grand Canyon, you probably would not notice it next morning, unless its dull colors distinguished it in that innumerable congress of larger and painted giants. All this, which is literally true, is a mere trifle of what might be said in trying to fix a standard of comparison for the Grand Canyon. But I fancy there is no standard adjustable to the human mind."–Charles F.Lummis, 1909
Grand Canyon has been a locale for human use and occupation for millennia, with ruins and artifacts from inhabitants dating back nearly 12,000 years, In the early 1800's,trappers and expeditions sent by the U.S. government began to explore and map the canyon. It was first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later a National Monument, achieving National Park status in 1919.
Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is known throughout the world for its size and colorful landscape. The entire canyon, carved by the Colorado River for over 6 million years, is 277 miles in length, is from 4 to 18 miles wide, and is more than a mile deep in places. Nearly two billion years of Earth's history are thus exposed by the Colorado River and its tributaries.
Uplift associated with mountain building events moved sediments thousands of feet upward and created the Colorado Plateau. The massive rift created by the Colorado River and its tributaries exposed uplifted Proterozoic and Paleozoic strata, and is one of six distinct physiographic sections of the Colorado Plateau province. The higher elevation resulted in greater precipitation in the Colorado River drainage area, but not enough to change the Grand Canyon area from being semi-arid. The uplift of the Colorado Plateau is uneven, and the north-south trending Kaibab Plateau that Grand Canyon bisects is over a thousand feet higher at the North Rim than at the South Rim.
During prehistory, the area was inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its caves. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon ("Ongtupqa" in Hopi language) a holy site. The park's 11 Traditionally Associated Tribes and historic ethnic groups view management of archeological resources as preservation of their heritage. Archeological remains from the following culture groups are found in Grand Canyon National Park: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan (Kayenta and Virgin branches), Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Southern Paiute, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Euro-American. The park has recorded over 4,300 archeological resources with an intensive survey of over 5% of the park area.
The first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas from Spain, who arrived in 1540. In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran with a thirst for science and adventure, made the first recorded journey through the canyon on the Colorado River. He accomplished this trek with nine men in four small wooden boats, though only six men completed the journey. Powell referred to the sedimentary rock units exposed in the canyon as "leaves in a great story book".
In the early 1800s, trappers and expeditions sent by the U.S. government began to explore and map the Southwest, including the canyon. Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, the Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today Grand Canyon National Park encompasses more than 1 million acres of land and receives close to 5 million visitors each year, a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 which the park received in 1919.
Both Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail are located at the South Rim. To get to the South Rim, drive US 180 northwest from Flagstaff and turn right at AZ 64, which goes through the town of Tusayan and directly into Grand Canyon National Park. You can also approach the South Rim from US 89 by turning east on AZ 64 near Cameron. This takes you to Desert View, and then you drive 20 miles along the Rim to get to Grand Canyon Village.
The Bright Angel trailhead is located next to the Bright Angel Lodge in the village. There's ample parking, but you'll have to compete for these spots with the many tourists. The South Kaibab trailhead is only accessible via free shuttle bus(daylight hours only) or taxi. You can catch the bus to this trailhead from the visitor center located across the street from Mather Point, or take a bus to Mather Point from Grand Canyon Village and change buses there. A 24-hour taxi service is available by calling (928) 638-2631.
North Rim is accessible from Alt US 89 by turning south on AZ 67 near Jacob Lake. The North Kaibab trailhead is located about 1.5 miles from the lodge at the North Rim. There's a parking lot at the trailhead. You may also take a shuttle from the Grand Canyon Lodge at 4:15 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. fora fee of $7 (first hiker in party) or $4 (each additional hiker in a party).Once the Arizona Department of Transportation closes Highway 67 south of Jacob Lake to vehicle traffic for the winter season, the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park also closes to vehicle traffic. The gate at Jacob Lake is closed and locked and the gate at the North Rim entrance station is closed and locked. Hiking in (including snowshoeing and skiing) are permitted at this time.
Tuweep (also know as Toroweap) is in a remote region of Grand Canyon National Park. It is open year-round, and is especially suited for those seeking solitude. Because of this, anyone traveling to it should be prepared for self-sufficiency. The sometimes graded, often dirt roads to it are suitable for most vehicles, though RVs, trailers and low-clearance vehicles are not recommended. Travelers should carry tools; a spare tire; and extra food, water and gas. Travel after rainfall and snowfall may be difficult to impossible. Tuweep can be reached from AZ 389 near Fredonia or Colorado City, AZ, or from St. George, UT. The NPS cautions that road signs in this area may be incorrect or misplaced.
$10 per permit plus $8 per person or stock animal per night camped below the rim and $8 per group per night camped above the rim. Denied requests will not incur a charge. Permits cancelled at least four days in advance will receive hiker credit (minus a $10 cancellation charge) valid for one year. Backcountry Information Center charges are NON-REFUNDABLE!
If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim or the South Rim, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.
A backcountry permit is required for:
A backcountry permit is NOT required for:
Backcountry permits are required to stay overnight in the canyon (except at Phantom Ranch--See Lodges section above). Campgrounds in the backcountry require reservations and are often booked months in advance. One can day hike to avoid the hassle. However, one might get lucky with reservations if someone cancels at the last minute or lets their reservation expire. So check with the backcountry office if you are interested in staying overnight inside the canyon. Based on the usage zones(see Hikingsection below), the following inner canyon campsites area vailable:
The Primitive and Wild Zones are not recommended for use during summer months due to extreme high temperatures and the lack of reliable water sources.
During the winter season (approximately late October through mid-May), abackcountry permit is required for overnight use of the North Rim from thepark's northern boundary to Bright Angel Point on the canyon rim. Winter accessis by hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Permit holders are allowedto camp at-large between the park's north boundary and the North Kaibab trailhead (but not at thetrailhead itself). Between the North Kaibab trailhead and the Bright Angel Point area, camping is permitted onlyat the North Rim Campground group campsite.
Tuweepprovides ten primitive campsites, including one group campsite. The sites areon the north rim, but are considered backcountry camping. They may be reservedthrough the backcountryreservation system. Visitors may also be able to obtain a walk-up permit,up to six days in advance and based on availability, by visiting PipeSpringNational Monument near Fredonia, Arizona or the St. George Public LandsVisitor Center in St. George, Utah. Picnic tables, fire grates, andcomposting toilets are provided, but no electricity or water is available.Firewood must be brought in.
If you spend much time at the bottom or lower elevations (say the Tonto Trail, Beamer Trail or Escalante Route for example) or the off trail low altitude routes, then for the North Rim early to mid-October is usually best, and for the South Rim March-mid April and late October-November are best. Most backpackers are only near the cooler rim for a short time and spend most of the time in the canyon.
May or even early October is pretty hot and, once you are away from the Corridor trails, lack of water is a pretty serious problem on many routes and can be deadly. Keep in mind that temperatures are taken in the shade and there is little shade in the exposed parts of the canyon. On routes in which water is fairly scarce (which are countless ones), even May can be deadly; unprepared hikers have died of heat, exhaustion and dehydration even in April and May.
|Hike Description (increasing difficulty)
|Bright Angel to Indian Garden to Plateau Point and back
|South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel
|Bright Angel to Phantom Ranch and back
|North Rim to South Rim (Bright Angel end)
|South Rim to North Rim (South Kaibab start)
|North Rim to Phantom Ranch and back
|The ultimate Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim challenge (VERY advanced)
Zoroaster Temple - Northeast Arête. Zoroaster Temple has has been climbed in under 24 hours South Rim to South Rim. But with over 30 miles and more than 10,000-feet of elevation gained and lost, plus the inevitable temperature extremes of the canyon, most parties will need 3-4 days. The approach involves some class 4 scrambling with exposure. The most difficult part of the actual climb is a short 5.8 pitch.
If you're interested in beta on other climbs, the following book may prove useful:
Grand Canyon Summits Select - A guide to remote, backcountry climbs in Grand Canyon National Park.