"HIKING THE GRAND CANYON - WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!" Top 5 Page for this destination Grand Canyon by mikehanneman
Grand Canyon Travel Guide: 934 reviews and 3,113 photos
It is true that 90% of the people who visit the Grand Canyon never get below the rim. I strongly encourage people to hike a quarter or half mile down the Bright Angel or South Kaibab trail. You will receive a totally different experience and appreciation for the Canyon!
My son and I left Waterloo, Iowa and flew to Phoenix in anticipation of hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I was armed with a digital camera and a 8mm camcorder in order to capture this event the best I could.
My son was right, NOTHING can touch the Canyon!
After a late start (left at 9:45) we hopped on a shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead and we were set for the descent. I took a lot of pictures and we took our time initially. It was June of 2004 and the summer weather was getting hotter by the minute. What beauty the Grand Canyon has! We reached Cedar Ridge where people on mules were coming up from below. Boy did they look hot and uncomfortable! It made for a nice picture of the people and their mules. Now we could see the great vistas of the Grand Canyon, including a Condor flying overhead. I asked a Ranger how far we were from the Phantom Ranch where we had planned to spend the night. He replied "you are only about 10 to 15% of the way down." It was supposed to be 113 degrees at the bottom of the canyon that day and the Ranger was concerned we might have problems getting overheated. I told him we had a lot of food and Powerade to drink.
As we proceeded past Cedar Ridge, it became hotter yet and the wind picked up. I might have seen 2 or 3 people on the next 6 hours at most. We stopped at Skeleton Point to get out of the sun - the only place that had any shade was an outdoor restroom facility. It was one of the worst smells ever and the sign said not to light anything because you would blow up. Now I know where the name "Skeleton Point" came from. Not the smell, but it was an area that was like a plateau - hot and windy and basically no signs of life.
Scott and I were drinking Gatorade like it was going out of style. Now I was starting to get hot and tired. It did enter my mind that we could get into trouble because it had become so late in the day - the temperature had to be at least 100 degrees. I knew we had to push on. I felt responsible for Scott's safety, but I was the one struggling. Only a Raven kept us company circling overhead. Sometimes the trail had become very rough. The mules tear up the Kaibab trail and make it almost sandy in nature. As a result, I was slipping a lot and had to be careful I didn't hurt my knee.
We met a couple on the way down from the eastern part of the country. I don't know if they made or not. I am sure they did, but they were really hot and tired too. They were sitting in the shade when we left them after a 10 minute visit.
Scott and I made our way to the Colorado River and across the suspension bridge leading to a dark tunnel. When we were out of the tunnel we noticed some Indian ruins by the river that were neat.
We were hot and exhausted. Our Powerade had to be least 95 degrees, so it wasn't too much fun to drink. There was a beautiful stream along the trail and Scott was using a stick to look at the tadpoles. A few hundred yards away I noticed kids and adults in the stream cooling off. The temperature at 3:45 was 115 degrees at the bottom of the Canyon now.
We limped into the Phantom Ranch area a half a mile away to be greeted by nice looking Cottonwood trees blowing in the afternoon wind.
I was disappointed by the reception we received. In the cantina, people were drinking Mexican Budweiser and pop hauled down from the rim above via pack mules. After 10 minutes, a grumpy overweight 35 year old woman told everyone to leave so they could start to prepare the stew for the evening's meal. I tried to ask her where the dorm style building was and she acted impatient. I said, "hey, we just got here and we are hot and tired. I would appreciate it if you would let me know where we can find our beds." Then she settled down and told me to go to a building and pick out a bed. When Scott and I located the building with dorm style accomodations, there were like 9 guys in there. Our only choice was two bunk beds on top. I could barely get to the top because my legs were so sore from the eight mile journey to the bottom of the Canyon.
After taking an hour nap (everyone else who got to the bottom earlier were sleeping too) it was time to eat supper back at the cantina. The stew was great and we had an opportunity to visit with people from the east coast, California and China. Chew was an engineer from China who brought his wife with him for the trip to the great American Southwest. He seemed a bit offended when my son inquired about how China treated their people and why they let him come to the United States. He was a nice guy and we visited more the next morning about his world in China and ours back in Iowa.
We went to the Ranger discussion at dusk. It was neat looking up at the rim of the Canyon from below. A tiny female Ranger spoke about the wildlife in the Grand Canyon. The cool part was when she took some black lights and went along the trail revealing all the scorpions! They were like every 5 feet or less. The Ranger indicated about one person a month camping out is bitten by scorpions. That scared a couple of little kids who were going to camp out with their parents that night.
The next morning we got up around 4:45 in time to eat some cold pancakes, bacon and fruit for $18. Then it was off to the Bright Angel Trail headed for the top! We crossed the suspension bridge and I noticed a bunch of rocks along the side of the Colorado River that had been shaped by the abrasiveness of the water over time to resemble mushrooms. Chew (from China) and his wife passed us as I took a few more pictures of the river as the sun's rays were starting to penetrate the Canyon floor. Another ten miles and then we would be back to the top!
On the way up to Indian Gardens, which is about half way to the rim, we saw a good looking Mule Deer with a multiple point rack. I thought about taking a picture of him as he was only a few feet from the trail, but I was too tired at that point.
I was a bit disappointed in the Bright Angel trail on the way back up. It was beautiful, but you are a little boxed in because of the canyon walls. I guess I got spoiled by the South Kaibab vistas on the way down. The recommended way to the river and back is to decend down the South Kaibab trail and up the Bright Angel trail.
Scott and I reached the Indian Gardens around 10 o'clock or so. The trail was accompanied by a nice stream that even sounded refreshing as we walked along it. Indian Gardens can be seen from the South Rim as a group of Cottonwood trees. I had to go to the outdoor restroom and boy did it stink! Again, the sign said no smoking because it would blow up! There were like 4 rest areas on Bright Angel and we used all of them to replenish our water jugs and rest a bit. I was told the Park Rangers started to cut off hikers at the Indian Gardens due to the extreme heat.
I took my time going back up to the top and Scott carried all the backpacks for me. He was patient with my slow progress hiking and I appreciated HIS patience.
We made it back up to the South Rim of The Grand Canyon around 2 o'clock. I was tired and sore, especially my legs. A couple of nights before we went down the Bright Angel Trail and ran into a couple of female Big Horn Sheep. Scott and I enjoyed watching them for about a 10 minute period. Two of the older sheep started to bunt heads. It was cute seeing their little offspring make a run at going up the steep sides off the trail so they could graze on the dry shrubs.
Scott and I enjoyed our trip down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The Canyon is an experience everyone shoud take in before they leave this planet.
Please check out my travelogue below for information and pictures regarding my visit to The North Rim of The Grand Canyon. Both rims have a lot to offer!
****2012 GRAND CANYON UPDATE:
>There will be a South Rim bicycle rental and bike-tour operation starting as soon as May 15th in the Mather Point area.
>Completion of an eight-mile multiuse trail that connects the South Rim visitor center with the gateway town of Tusayan.
>Please keep in mind 21 people died in the park last year. Deaths ranged from heart attacks, suicides, falls, lightning strikes and hypothermia/dehydration. BE CAREFUL and enjoy your park.
- Pros:Makes a person think about life
- Cons:Out in the middle of nowhere - but that is good!
- In a nutshell:Does it get any better than this?
If you want to hike down the Bright Angel Trail (located just West of the Bright Angel Lodge), the National Park Service... more travel advice
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