The Grand Canyon in a day... or two

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 12-18, 1996

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The Grand Canyon in a day... or two

The Grand Canyon in a day... or two
Q: I am looking for advice on training or generally preparing for a hike from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon down to the river and back up to the South Rim all in one day. It's a challenge, but then, isn't that the point?
Philip Clark
Malvern, PA
[email protected]

A: The most direct access to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is the Bright Angel Trail, a 9.6-mile trek that switchbacks down 4,460 feet to the Colorado River. That said, you'd be looking at a grueling 19.2-mile round-trip day hike, with plenty of mule- and hiker-dodging--not to mention nearly one vertical mile of quad-burning steeps on the way up--guaranteed to slow your pace considerably. Keep in mind that while the hike down to the river takes about five hours, the walk out--most of which will probably be in the dark--will likely take you twice as long. Add to that the good chance of a lecture from at least one ranger on the dangers of making the round-trip hike a one-day affair, and you'd be smart to skip this bone-breaking challenge for a more relaxed--and safer--two-day trek. Pitch your tent on the canyon bottom at either the Bright Angel or Indian Gardens campgrounds, or book a private cabin or bunk room at Phantom Ranch, right on the Colorado. Either way, you'll need to plan your overnight well in advance, as campsites and rooms are reserved months ahead of time. For more information and reservations, contact the South Rim Visitor Center at 520-638-7770.

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