I was sharing the logistics of my Rim 2 Rim trip over coffee with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She was taken aback by how complex the process can be. I suppose, because I’ve been in the thick of it for a couple of years now, it didn’t hit me that many people might not know what it takes to make this whole thing happen. So I'll share:)
First, some background…
Hiking from the North to South rim of the Grand Canyon (one of the most popular routes) is a 24-mile journey. 14.3 miles down and 9.6 miles back out. Daily elevation changes can top 4,800 feet (nearly 3 Sears Towers in height) and temperatures fluctuate seasonally with roughly a 20-degree Fahrenheit difference from the bottom of the Canyon to the Rim.
Ready to pack your bags yet?
Depending on the number of days in which you choose to complete the hike (there are some crazy, wonderful, super-fit people who do the entire thing in a day) adventurers generally average 8 to 9 hours of hiking per day, over steep, loose, rocky, and/or exposed terrain.
Backpacking trips require you to carry anywhere from 25-40 pounds of gear and all overnight stays in the Canyon require backcountry permits.
Our first attempt…
My sister, Tracey, has had this hike on her mind for a few years now. And 2016 has always been the target date. We initially planned to make the hike as a trio (Tracey’s friend Robin is our third amiga). We all consider ourselves above average fitness gals. Tracey is a runner, I’m a workout fanatic and Robin has hiked the canyon before. So we figured we’d pick a date, get a permit and make it happen.
Well, permits are doled out based on a number of elements… including the number of requests, the group’s itinerary and the size of the group. The best and earliest time a permit can be requested is four months prior to the month of your start date. Factor in personal schedules, work/vacation days, flight availability and accommodations for three people, and the tangled web of trip coordination begins early.
We also wanted to spend one of our nights at the Phantom Ranch Lodge. Located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, it is easily one of the most difficult-to-book lodges in the country. Reservation requests begin 13 months out - yes, thirteen - and are only taken by telephone. "Phantom is the only lodging below the canyon rim, and can only be reached by mule, on foot or by rafting the Colorado River."
Hold off on that celebration, though.
The permit fairy came through for June of this year. That’s one of the hottest months to hike the Canyon. How hot is it? The Park Ranger sent us an email that basically said, don’t do this, you could die.
An outfitter company. These one-stop-shops have eons of experience in various Canyon adventures (R2R, whitewater rafting, day hikes, dory excursions and helicopter/hiking combos, to name a few). We chose The Wildland Trekking Company and they take care of securing permits, provide a good portion of the gear (although you’re welcome to use your own) and they even have a standing block of rooms reserved at the Phantom Lodge. Groups are also kept to a maximum of six people.
We so scored:)
It’s a pricier option. But it cuts out a lot of the legwork and red tape and you don’t have to invest in equipment you might never use again. I say, you have to know when to ask for help:)
Now that we've finally dotted all our i's and crossed those pesky t's, here’s our new itinerary:
We've yet to put boot to gravel and this has already been an adventure.
My initial panic has lessened and my excitement grows with each day nearer to our start date:)
For your trivia enjoyment, here are some fun facts about the Grand Canyon.
Courtesy of The Wildland Trekking Company brochure…
I'm an actress, a writer, a singer, and a move well-er. I love Scrabble, spades and air hockey. And P90X changed my life. But hiking the Grand Canyon is an entirely different beast. If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space, right? Well, here's to the edge...