We continued our journey from Bryce to Grand Canyon National Park, where we would stay for three nights.
We arrived on Wednesday afternoon (4/26) without much time for exploring the park so we decided to just have a relaxing evening at our campsite. We had a long hike planned for Friday, so Thursday was spent sightseeing at the usual tourist spots along the South Rim of the canyon. We rode the park shuttle to access a few different viewpoints of the canyon, visited the geology museum, and went to the Visitor Center which played an informative video about the park.
Our first impression of the park was somewhat underwhelming (which, I totally realize, makes me sound a bit high maintenance; how dare the Grand Canyon not be grand enough for me). Although the canyon was massive and interesting to learn about, it felt as though it didn’t require more than a day trip when just viewing it from above. Plus, the crowds of tourists were heavier than I anticipated which resulted in throwing elbows and dodging selfie sticks at every viewpoint (I’ve noticed that my posture improves in these situations). Although we felt moderately discouraged after our first day at the Grand Canyon, we both knew the highlight of our visit was going to be the hike we had planned for Friday (4/28).
Several months before our trip we had an unsuccessful attempt at obtaining backcountry permits that would allow us to hike to the Colorado River at the canyon floor and camp overnight in the canyon. There was still a slim but possible chance at getting a day-of permit, so when we first arrived at the park we went to the backcountry office and told the ranger our plan. Unfortunately, no day-of permits were available. So now, instead of a multi-day hike in and out of the canyon we decided to go ahead and have a (really) long day-hike.
We woke up on Friday at about 4:00 in the morning, bundled up with multiple layers of clothing, and shoveled down some breakfast before catching the first shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead. Although it was a tad chilly and breezy at the start, we had great views of the sun rising over the canyon rim and highlighting canyon walls across the valley as we began our descent into the canyon. There were a few ominous clouds in the sky but any potential threats of rain never materialized. By the time we dropped 4700 feet (over seven miles) to reach the Colorado River at the canyon floor the weather was practically perfect.
We crossed the river on a long foot bridge and took a break in the sun at a small sandy beach. This was a lovely place to enjoy the views, remove some layers of clothing, and have a snack before making the long trek back up to the canyon rim. The Colorado River was downright frigid so we only got in the water long enough and deep enough for a photo op, then quickly returned to the warm sand to regain feeling in our toes.
The beach was a pleasant and quiet rest area but it was mid-morning by this point and we needed to start our ascent before the canyon floor became too hot. We strolled along the river to another bridge, crossed the river once again, then hiked up, up, up for 9.5 miles to the South Rim via the Bright Angel trail. This trail added additional mileage but was not as steep as the South Kaibab trail we came down. Plus, it allowed for exploring a different part of the canyon.
The ranger at the backcountry office had said Bright Angel was the most popular trail for people wanting to hike into the canyon, even if they’re just going a short distance. By the time we were within a couple miles of the trailhead at the canyon rim we were definitely in the company of many more hikers/tourists than we had been at any point earlier in the day. It was a strange feeling to have the strenuous part of the hike come at the end, especially since we were making our way up to where all the tourists were (instead of going up to a peaceful, secluded summit).
Hiking into the canyon was definitely the highlight of our time at the park. Mother Nature played along quite well with our plans and we kept a decent pace all day. I’m grateful for having a pair of legs and lungs that allow for such experiences, as being in the canyon made me appreciate the landscape so much more than being at the canyon.