Grand Canyon Adventures
Maybe you’ve already visited Grand Canyon Village and the other developed areas along the South and North Rims. Or perhaps you simply prefer your vacations to be a little on the wild side.
If outdoor adventure is your passion, you’re in luck: There’s no better way to get to know Grand Canyon than by taking the road—or trail—less traveled. And in the process, you’ll probably learn a lot more about yourself too.
On a guided Colorado River white-water rafting trip long, peaceful stretches are sharply punctuated by wild rides through the canyon’s 160-plus rapids. River guides lead hikes up intriguing side canyons, such as sinuously eroded Matkatamiba, and stop to frollic at waterfalls and pools.
Most trips put in at Lees Ferry and take out at Diamond Creek a journey lasting up to 18 days. If your time is limited, you can hike in or out at Phantom Ranch for a half-canyon trip.
White-water outfitters include meals, gear, and shuttle service, so all you need to worry about is how you’re going to readjust to the real world afterward.
Hiking and Backpacking
You can also explore the wild side of the canyon on foot. No permits are needed for day hikes, and you could hike every day at the canyon for a week and still have plenty of trails left to explore. If you want to spend a night in the canyon, however, you must apply for a backpacking permit.
The central corridor—Bright Angel, South Kaibab, and North Kaibab Trails—is busy, but it’s best to start here if you don’t have canyon experience, taking two or three days to hike and camping at Indian Garden, Bright Angel, or Cottonwood Campgrounds.
If you’re ready to graduate to a wilderness trail, Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa or Hermit Trail to the Colorado River combine views with historic sites on 2–3-day trips. If you already have a degree in canyon backpacking, you can get your post-doc by planning a multiday trip looping two or more trails together, such as the Grandview–Tonto–South Kaibab loop.
Climbing and Canyoneering
Grand Canyon is a treasure trove of peaks like Vishnu, Zoroaster, and Shiva Temples. There are no official routes, but climbers have tackled 150 of the canyon’s summits. You can find out more by joining a climbing forum, hiring a guide, or signing on to a chartered river trip that has a climbing focus.
Scores of tributary canyons like Rider or Kanab lead to the main canyon, many of them obstacle courses of pour-overs, pools, chockstones, and boulder fields. Canyoneering combines climbing skills with rock-hopping, hiking, and wading or swimming in order to descend and ascend canyon routes.
Exploring Back Roads
If you want to get away from it all on wheels, Kaibab National Forest has miles of dirt roads for driving or biking, and you’ll rarely meet more than half a dozen other vehicles. Many forest roads are suitable for passenger cars, though they tend to get rockier as you approach remote North Rim viewpoints like Parissawampitts or Timp Points, which overlook the Tapeats Amphitheater.
One of loneliest spots in Grand Canyon National Park is Toroweap, where 10 campsites await at the end of 60 miles of dirt roads. A trail leads to a rocky ledge where, 3,000 feet below, you’ll see and hear roaring Lava Falls.
South Rim snowfalls usually aren’t enough to tempt Nordic skiers, but on the other side of the canyon, the higher elevations of the Kaibab Plateau can be blanketed in white. Although roads and visitor services close on the park’s North Rim mid-October-mid-May, you can ski into the park and snow-camp or reserve the park’s winter yurt. If you’d rather stay cozy and warm at Jacob Lake Inn, you can snowmobile, ski, or snowshoe in surrounding Kaibab National Forest.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition