The past 2 summers I’ve backpacked the Grand Canyon, it’s been a nice, relaxing vacation kind of trip. We’ve hiked down to the Bright Angel Campground, spent 2 nights at the bottom, hiked up to Indian Garden and spent a night there and then hiked out. A nice easy way to go, but I have wanted to just bust it out in a day for a while, just to do it!
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions the restaurant I work at was closed for almost 2 months. There was work to do, to come out better than before and be ready to open with new cleanliness procedures and such, but there was also a lot of free time. Outdoor exercise was allowed under Arizona’s stay at home order and I took advantage of that. Hiking, biking, and running became my major activities, I had a great time, saw some cool things and came out of it pretty fit. This seemed like a perfect time to try a Grand Canyon in a day hike.
I began not so patiently waiting for Grand Canyon National Park to re-open, obsessively checking their website and twitter account. Once they opened, I was hoping the shuttles would be running, but that hadn’t happened yet and it was getting too far into the summer to wait much longer. My original plan was to go down the South Kaibab trail and up Bright Angel. You can’t park at the S Kaibab trailhead, and I really didn’t want to walk it. I decided I would see if I could get a Lyft in the morning out to the trail-head or just hike Bright Angel both ways.
I headed out Friday morning around 10am, and made good time up to Flagstaff. After navigating the afternoon traffic, which can be a task, I got a sandwich at the Crystal Creek Sandwich Co, a great sandwich place in Flag! Back on the road, I made it to the Ten-X Campground right outside the park a little after 2 pm.
Ten-X is a nice, basic national forest campground that has been re-modeled recently, I was able to reserve a great spot on the outer loop and had no one within 100 yards of me, not too bad for an established campground! After I got set-up I headed into the park for a bit.
While I’m not surprised, I’ve never seen Grand Canyon so deserted. I was able to park right next to El Tovar and there were very few people walking around. I walked around the rim a bit and got some pics. Unfortunately there’s a large fire burning on the North Rim, in the pic below those aren’t clouds you see right next to the canyon rim!
After some cruising around I chilled on the El Tovar patio, took in the scene and had a couple beers. After that it was back to the campsite to relax for a while.
Back at the campground I just relaxed in the nice temperatures and enjoyed being out of the city, it’s so relaxing just being in the outdoors! Unfortunately there is a fire ban in most of Arizona, so no campfire for me. Since I was by myself I passed the time watching a movie on my phone until it was time to make dinner and then crash out around 10pm.
It was a nice night to sleep outdoors, cool enough that I needed to be in my sleeping bag, a nice change for someone who lives in Phoenix! I got up about 4am and started boiling some water for coffee and oatmeal. While that was going I was able to get my camp broken down and everything stowed in the truck. After a nice warm breakfast and some coffee to sip on I headed towards the park.
Not surprisingly there was no traffic and no one else at the entrance station, I made it to the Backcountry Information Center pretty quickly. While I had pretty much accepted that I was going to take Bright Angel both ways, I tried one thing to get out to the South Kaibab Trail-head, Lyft. There were no Lyft drivers around at 5:30, also not a surprise…
It’s a quick walk over to the BA Trailhead from BIC, I did have to skirt around an elk family enjoying some shrubberies for breakfast. After that it was time to head out into the canyon.
It was a nice morning for hiking, cruised along at nice pace and tried not to slow down to take too may pictures. It’s not easy in this amazing place. It was great to hike along, let your thoughts wander and just be. Before I knew it I was at Indian Garden, filled up on water and off I went again. The temps were still pretty good at this point, the entire hike down was comfortable and easy.
Pretty soon I was past the River Resthouse and on the River Trail to the Silver Bridge. The trek through the sand dunes wasn’t too bad, and I made it to Bright Angel Campground pretty quickly. The campground was pretty much deserted except for a few day hikers, I found a campsite by the creek to chill for a bit. Stripped down to just the shorts and spent about 5 minutes soaking in BA Creek. Overall I wasn’t super warm, but wanted to cool myself down for the rest of the day, which I knew would be hot.
After cooling off and eating a quick lunch, it was time to hike uphill. At this point I was staring to figure out a goal time to aim for and 8 hours sounded doable. This time the sand dunes felt much warmer, but the Pipe Creek section comes up quickly and provides some nice shade. You could easily soak yourself with water here to cool down if you were already feeling hot. I felt super strong during this portion, and made it to Indian Garden in one solid push. Also, I was able to get through the switchbacks pictured below with some shade!
After Indian Garden the real work begins. I tried to just put it in a low gear and keep on going up. The last 3 1/2 miles or so are the hardest part as you climb out of the canyon, you can see in the pic below the serious elevation gain tin the last few miles! I started to feel a little squirrelly the last mile or so, but I just kept going because finishing is the best way to feel better!
I topped out just under my 8 hour goal, a little tired, a bit thirsty and super glad I did this hike. I still need to nail down what caused my issues the last mile, some kind of hydration/nutrition things was lacking. I drank ample water, had 7 Nuun tablets, both things of Honey Stingers, 4 cliff bars and a Ziploc bag of pretzel things.
I love the Grand Canyon, and feel so lucky to be able to access it so easily, 13 hours after starting my hike I was home in Phoenix!