Be prepared if you hike the Grand Canyon

Hiking the Grand Canyon is to only way to truly experience it

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Sid-KaplanGRAND CANYON, Arizona June 1, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Hiking the Grand Canyon is the only way to really experience it. It’s an unfortunate fact, however, that most visitors only see the canyon from the rim and for an hour or less. Even if you stay on the South Rim and watch the light play on the canyon and see the colors change, you will miss the extra dimension you get when you venture down into the Grand Canyon.

If your time is short you can take a day hike part way down either the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab trail. Even a short three- or four-hour hike down one of these trails will take you on a geologic safari back in time. Information along the sides of the trails tells you how old the rocks you’re hiking by are. Looking back up at the rim, you get a whole different feel for the canyon.

If you have more time to get into the Grand Canyon, plan to hike to its floor. By getting reservations to stay at Phantom Ranch, you can make the hike without a back country permit.

There is a Phantom Ranch Canteen where some food and beverages are available. For meals at Phantom Ranch, you must make reservations, and remember to make them well in advance because everything that goes into and out of the Grand Canyon goes by mule, including that steak dinner that you just had. All of the garbage has to be packed out too.

A good way to see different parts of the canyon is to hike down the South Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel trail (or visa versa). Hike part way across the canyon for a more in-depth experience. You can hike rim to rim if you have several days, but you must plan as to how to return to your starting point.

There are campgrounds for backpackers near Phantom Ranch and spaced out across the canyon. You must have a wilderness permit to camp in the Canyon, and the Rangers WILL check. You must camp in the campgrounds – which have water and toilet facilities – to protect the fragile desert environment of the canyon floor.

There are a limited number of permits available for each day so you will need to apply well in advance to obtain the permits. Call the Park Service on the first of the month, three months in advance of the day you want to hike.

It can be very hard to get through to the Park Service to get a reservation for popular dates so have alternative dates in mind. You can e-mail or fax requests, but phone reservations have priority.

There are a small number of permits available if you wait to get one until you arrive, especially for visitors from abroad who might not be aware of the requirements and the popularity of the hikes. The park service allows you to put your name on a waiting list for cancellations if you arrive without permits.

The hike is challenging. Be sure to carry PLENTY of water. Be prepared for weather and temperature changes. Use sunscreen. If you’re taking a day hike, remember that the last half of your hike will be ALL UPHILL!!!

If all this hiking sounds like a little too much for you, there are also overnight mule trips into the Canyon with stays at the Phantom Ranch. But be warned: while hikers may end up with sore feet, mule riders may end up with sore . . . well you get it.

All of these options are extremely popular, so plan to get your reservation in advance.

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