Beating the crowds for Grand Canyon hiking

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of February 13-19, 1997
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Beating the crowds for Grand Canyon hiking

Beating the crowds for Grand Canyon hiking
Question: I was wondering, if you were going to backpack in the Grand Canyon National Park, where would you go and what trails would you take to enjoy the scenery and beauty of the canyon? This trip could be as long as three to five days. Also, if possible, please give trail names and estimated traversing times on each trail.

Grand Rapids, MI
[email protected]

The ever-popular South Rim of
the Grand Canyon

Adventure Adviser: The rules are simple: Go directly to the North Rim and stay there. Ninety percent of all canyon visitors never stray from the South Rim's aptly named Grand Canyon Village. And why should they? With an air-conditioned IMAX theater showing films of the canyon and RV-friendly viewpoints for pre-dawn pilgrimages, it's practically perfect--if you don't want to get out of the car. Hikers, however, can brave the 10-mile one-way descent on the ever-popular Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River, dodging pack mules and suffering through the sweltering heat. Or, they can log the extra couple hundred miles in the car via Arizona 67 and head to the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, a remote dead-end outpost that feels almost deserted compared to its hectic southern neighbor.

Should you choose to take this route, the 5-mile Widforss Trail makes a good warm-up for longer hikes, and the spectacular canyon view isn't too shabby either. Or try the more manageable 9.4-mile round-trip hike to the canyon floor, passing Roaring Springs waterfall at the midway point. If you plan on overnighting at the bottom, you'll need to reserve a tent site or a room at Phantom Ranch well in advance (it may already be too late for this summer). For backcountry camping permits ($20, plus $4 per person per night), call 520-638-7875. For trail maps and information, call park headquarters at 520-638-7888.

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