When I used to think of the Grand Canyon, quirky family vacation movies came to mind. The father convinces the family to pile in the RV for a trip across the country, slathered in sunscreen, over-sized hats, and misadventure. The disgruntled teenager is forced to pose for a family photo in front of the Canyon among the bustling crowd of tourists. Click. “Grand Canyon Vacation” mission accomplished.
Today, a majority of visitors still arrive to our national parks with the expectation to be entertained, or to snap the perfect photo. The Canyon draws visitors from around the world and rightfully so. Setting eyes on this devastating geological masterpiece is enough to send chills down one’s spine. My challenge to you is to continue following the call, down into the canyon.
Today’s hiking challenge is for experienced hikers and not for the faint of heart. This trip requires booking a night at the Phantom Ranch, which is located at the bottom of the canyon. Due to the popularity of the lodge, plan to book about a year in advance or enter the lodge’s lottery.
Camping Reservations: Visit http://www.recreation.gov to book your campsite at the Mather campground, located on the South Rim, for night two of your trip. This campground offers sites for RV’s and tents. Bathrooms, access to water, and laundry facilities are available on-site.
Day 1: Rise before the sun, fuel yourself with a hearty breakfast, and take the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trailhead. The beginning of your hike will quickly descend into the canyon, passing the Ooh Ahh lookout point. Witness new breathtaking views every few hundred yards. Hike down to the Colorado River and reward yourself with lunch on the beach and a soak in the crisp water. Continue a short distance to Phantom Ranch and enjoy a well-rested evening in the bottom of the Canyon. (7.4 miles, 4700 ft elevation descent)
Day 2: Make sure to get a good stretch in and mentally prepare yourself for the ascent out of the canyon. Begin your hike out on the Bright Angel trail and take refuge in shady resting spots along the way. When you begin to notice more vegetation and lush trees, that means you’re approaching Indian Gardens and are about halfway. Breathe in the views as you conquer switchback after switchback to the top of the rim. (9.9 miles, 4300 ft. elevation ascent) Take the shuttle back to the Mather campground and reward yourself with a hot meal and a nighttime visit to the overlooks by the Visitor Center.
Day 3: You’ve earned your Kaibab Shuffle! You may now shuffle through the Kolb Art Studio, Tusayan Ruins, and gift shops with pride (and some funny looks). Take the Desert View Drive to leave the park and stop to see different views of the Canyon along the way!
The Grand Canyon’s mystique influences everyone differently. Remember to share your experience with others and help them go beyond the edge!