The wild side of the Grand Canyon

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 21-28, 1995

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Trekking Peru's Inca Trail
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The wild side of the Grand Canyon
Joshua Tree's panoramic views

The wild side of the Grand Canyon
Q: What is the best time of the year to go down into the Grand Canyon?
Jim Pasquini
Cheshire, MA
[email protected]

A: Because temperatures differ dramatically between the North Rim, South Rim, and canyon floor, you'll first need to figure out where you want to start your hike. For a relatively crowd-free Grand Canyon experience, we suggest you avoid the touristy South Rim--90 percent of all park visitors see only this side of the canyon--and make the extra effort to get to the wilder, more isolated North Rim. Because it's 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim, average annual snowfall on the North Rim usually exceeds 100 inches--which explains why it's closed to vehicular traffic from as early as mid-October through mid-May. If you choose this route, then, the best time to go is early- to mid-summer (June or July) or early fall (September), when average daytime temperatures on the rim range between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temps hover right around 40 degrees--mild compared to the 20-degree readings that are the norm for much of the year. August is nice, too, although it usually sees almost twice the rainfall of June, July, and September. Keep in mind, though, that inner canyon temperatures during these months will usually hit near 100 degrees during the day--so plan to get an early start on your hiking while it's still cool; nights will bring some relief--with comfortable 70-degree readings. The only maintained trail into the canyon from the North Rim is the North Kaibab, a 14-mile one-way trek from just north of the Grand Canyon Lodge to Bright Angel Campground on the Colorado River. From there you can either retrace your route back to the North Rim or pick up the South Kaibab or Bright Angel trails and hike nine miles up to the South Rim, where you can catch a four-hour shuttle back to your car. For more detailed trail maps and additional weather information, contact park headquarters at 602-638-7888, or check out "The Grand Canyon's Other Rim" in the Destinations section of our May 1992 issue.

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