The Inner Canyon
The only way to explore the inner canyon is by foot, mule, or boat. The slower pace encourages visitors to match the rhythms of nature—the steady beat of your footsteps, the colors shifting with the angle of the sun, juniper giving way to chaparral, then cactus, as you descend in elevation.
For those new to canyon hiking or backpacking, it’s best to stick to well-traveled corridors or guided trips. The inner canyon wilderness is a place of exquisite beauty but also extreme danger. Summer temperatures soar into the hundreds, with little or no water available on many trails.
The Colorado River’s peaceful greenish blue hides dangerous currents and bone-chilling waters impounded by Glen Canyon Dam. Fierce summer thunderstorms erode cliffs and sweep down side canyons, briefly turning the Colorado red, a reminder that the river hasn’t been completely tamed.
But for the 15,000–20,000 people who float through the canyon each year on commercial or private trips, time is almost forgotten as the rhythm of the river takes over. Cliffs rise up from the water’s edge, enclosing you in an embrace of colorful stone. Cell phones don’t work down here, and watches become unimportant. You’ve entered a desert wilderness punctuated by 160-plus white-water rapids, more than a dozen waterfalls, and countless side canyons, seeps, and springs.
Hiking choices include official trails as well as casual meanders up magical side canyons like Matkatamiba or Elves Chasm. Climbers can try their skills on inner canyon peaks and monuments, while anglers can test theirs on rainbow trout. Between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, 225 miles downstream, the only outpost of civilization is historic Phantom Ranch, a cluster of log-and-stone cabins offering cold beer, hot showers, and mail service by mule train.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition