Touring the Grand Canyon, options and suggestions

The Grand Canyon is a place that no picture can ever fully capture its size. Even while you’re standing at the top staring down, you can’t discern how far away the bottom is. You can view the canyon from the south or north rims; both are breathtaking. The north rim’s elevation is 1000 ft (300 m) higher, but the south rim is the more popular side. When viewing the canyon from the south, the sun will be at your back, making it favorable for photography. Four trails lead down to the river from the south rim and one from the north rim. You can choose how far down to go before making the turn; no permits are required. However, if you wish to go all the way down and camp overnight before proceeding back, a permit is required. You can reserve it at the National Parks website.

Venturing down into the canyon to gaze up at the massive rock walls or feel the crisp Colorado River is not a simple endeavor. Still, anyone in decent physical condition can experience at least a few miles of the spectacular trails. If you have the full trip on your bucket list or just feel up to the challenge, I suggest going down on the South Kaibab Trail, stay at Phantom Ranch for a couple of nights and climb back up on the Bright Angel Trail.

The view at Phantom Ranch
The view at Phantom Ranch

South Kaibab Trail Descent — This is the fastest route to the river, descending 4,780 feet (1,457 m) in 7 miles. It is steep, and there is no water available anywhere on the trail until the canyon’s bottom. This trail gives the best views of the Grand Canyon — the big vistas and panoramic views are like no other, and the sun being at your back is perfect for photography.

Phantom Ranch — Overnight options at the canyon floor are limited to the Bright Angel Campground and the historic Phantom Ranch. Booking a sleeping spot at one of the picturesque stone cabins needs planning. A reservation can be obtained via lottery at Xanterra’s website 12 months in advance. I suggest a two-night stay, as you will arrive late in the afternoon, and the body could enjoy a good day’s rest before the climb back. The booking package includes meals. They serve great steak or vegan chili for dinner. You could opt to hike towards the north rim on your rest day, enjoy a lazy beach stay, and take a dip in the ice-cold river. Also, you could take it easy, rest, and make watercolor drawings.

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail Ascent — This trail ascends 4,380 feet (1,335 m) in 10 miles. Compared to the South Kaibab route, Bright Angel offers a more gradual climb, more shade, and, most importantly, several points with fresh drinking water. The trail is made of endless switchbacks, giving epic views that are framed by massive cliffs. The last couple of miles are very steep. This section has quite a bit of shade that provides relief from the sun in warmer months but can generate additional difficulty in the winter due to lingering ice.

You can do the route on top of a mule. For reservations, check Xanterra’s website. And then, the admired few can run the entire course in a single day, like the ones in this short video.

Final words of advice. Pack light and wear good shoes. Be prepared for the canyon’s temperature differences between top and bottom. And most important, condition your body for the hike. There is no phone service nor Uber rides from the trail. Listen to your body as there is a fine line between a worthwhile endeavor and a miserable trip.

More photographs and other impressions at: https://davidgev.com/photography/grand-canyon/grand-canyon-2020/

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David Gev

David Gev

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David’s writings are self-reflections of an Israeli living in Los Angeles since 1987, through the lens of art, travel & culture. https://davidgev.com/biography/