May 17-We were 4.5 miles to the junction of Mather Campground this morning. We set an alarm for the first time in a while and got moving before 6am into the Grand Canyon National Park. The trail is a bike trail meaning paved road and quick walking. Right before we got to the campground we encountered a herd of elk. There were at least eight of them and they had little care about us hikers or cars that passed by. We waited for the campground to open and reserved a night at the hike in/ bike in site. The car part of the campground was already full for the day. We set up our tent quickly and put most of our things inside of it so we would just have a day pack.
With our day packs on we headed down to the shuttle pick up point. We made our plans for the Grand Canyon back in Flagstaff. This is my first visit to this national park. I have been looking forward to this day for many years long before I began thru hiking. I never envisioned my first visit would be after walking from the Mexican border into the park. But this has been a recurring theme the past three years for me! We took the shuttle first to the backcountry office to get a permit to camp in the canyon. The rangers were very accommodating allowing us to camp at the stock site since the sites are booked way in advance this time of the year. With our morning chores done and it not yet 9 we took the shuttle to Hermits Rest.
The weather forecast had an afternoon rain and thunderstorm possible so we were on a mission. We could of taken the shuttle to visit all of the locations along the western side of the park getting off at each stop to enjoy the view. We decided it would be more enjoyable to walk along the rim for a few miles before riding the bus to the stops that are farther spread out. This allowed us to be in between the bus loads of people and have a few viewpoints to ourselves.
The views certainly did not disappoint. I was in awe and couldn’t take my eyes away from the Grand Canyon. The colors, rock formations, the crazy switchbacked trails, the birds flying about, the Colorado River down below us, and the size of the Canyon had me mesmerized. We walked along the rim for about 3.5 miles with our days packs so I felt like I was floating. We then rode along the shuttle to the last few stops getting off each time. It was a fun way to see the Western part of the South Rim.
We took the shuttle back to our starting point and walked towards the dining hall for lunch. We sat inside at a table near the outlets to charge our devices and enjoyed a warm meal. I always enjoy doing a little people watching in town and at National Parks it is even more entertaining. We relaxed here for about an hour before filling up on water to venture back to the rim.
We began hiking eastbound on the rim trail from where we got off the shuttle. The sky was dark, but the weather would hold out for a bit longer. It was wonderful to have this time to walk together along the paved trail. We stopped at a visitor center, the historic Hopi House, and stopped to read all the signs along the way. Lots of people were rushing about some feeding chipmunks sour patch kids, kids and adults climbing off the side of the rim onto rocks, and many unhappy kids being dragged along the rim trail. We were content with light packs and views. We could see the Kaibab Trail as we headed father East as I got more excited to hike down to the bottom tomorrow.
The farther from the center of the park the less people were on the trail. We walked until the sky looked gloomy and waited for a shuttle to pick us up. Right before the shuttle pulled in it began to rain and we quickly jumped on. We would come back to this exact spot in the morning and walk a mile more along the rim trail to the South Kaibab Trailhead to continue on the Arizona Trail. The actual trail does not come to the rim until that point. We hiked many more miles then the AZT and I couldn’t of missed this section. So we made our own route that connected our footsteps and walked most of the Rim Trail on our town day!
We had to get off at an earlier stop then the campground so our footsteps would connect. We stopped by the store to charge our phones and eat a pizza for dinner. Not a tough day, but we had put in over 12 miles. We spent a while here before walking the last bit to the campground. He called his mom and I retreated to lounge in the tent. As I was relaxing, the storm of the day finally rolled in. It was an intense thunder storm with downpours. Water was pooling outside of the tent and the wind was whipping. He was under an awning by the laundry as I laid inside listening as it passed overhead. We really lucked out that it happened late in the day.
I must recommend a trip to the Grand Canyon for anyone who has never been. I can tell you about a few free campsites right outside of the park and give lots of advice of how to spend a day there. In our one day, I felt very satisfied with our visit and how much of the south Rim that we had the opportunity to explore. I have a feeling I will be back someday and look forward to sharing this destination with family and friends.
We woke up bright and early as we packed up quickly. It was chilly this morning as I put on my jacket and hat. We took the shuttle towards the cafeteria. It was cold so we took the long ride around the park just wasting time and staying warm. It also allowed us to see a few other shuttle spots we hadn’t seen before. We enjoyed one more meal while charging our phones. It was still a bit chilly as we made the long journey by shuttle back to our stopping point yesterday. Before we got off the bus, we took off our warm layers and prepared to warm up. We had a leisurely stroll on pavement towards the trailhead. There was no one else on the rim trail this morning. We made it to the South Kaibab Trailhead and ran into a crowd of people. We quickly filled up our bottles and got ready to descend to the canyon floor.
We have 4,770 feet to descend to the Colorado River. We are both picking up a maildrop at the North Rim so our packs are light besides a few liters of water. The trail starts with quick switchbacks heading downhill. Today was a day where my smile never faded and I loved every minute of this section quickly saying we will be back someday. We did pass by lots of people and met a few early risers climbing out before the heat of the day. You have to step off to the side meaning someone is standing on the ridge of the trail. We chatted and took so many pictures along the way as we stopped at a few waypoints for the “perfect picture.”
Two groups of mules were heading uphill so we had to step off the trail. The first group had tourists with binoculars and cameras. The second were two employees with the mules packing out the garbage from the ranch at the bottom to return later today with more supplies. If you book way in advance and have a good chunk of money to spend, you can stay at the Phantom Ranch which is at the bottom of the canyon along the river. The mules are used to help stock the business.
We stopped for a short break at the first bathroom since we were both super hydrated before moving along. Watching hikers climbing out the canyon exhausted had me a bit worried for tomorrow. The farther down we climbed the warmer it became, but today is actually one of the cooler days of this week. We truly have been lucky with this trail. You can see the trail far ahead of you as you twist and turn. We were making great time and decided to have a snack break with a grand view.
After the break, we started hiking again to come to an edge that overlooked the Colorado River. Flowers are still blooming and the sky was clear. Did I say I loved this section? Maybe because it was all downhill as well. We twisted and turned around some large rocks before getting the view of the tunnel and the bridge over the river. People were rafting and swimming in the river. The only hard part of this downhill was finding a place to duck off the trail to pee without people seeing you. Lots of other hikers unlike most of the Arizona Trail.
We came to the tunnel which is carved into a rock before entering the suspension bridge over the Colorado. The Colorado River is at 2,421 feet and today we did not feel too warm. If it was warmer, I am sure I would of went for a dip, but there was no need. We passed by Bright Angel Campsite. These spots are in a gorgeous location and I said this is where we should camp when we hike it again someday. People were lounging by the river with the large canyon walls surrounding them.
We made it to the famous Phantom Ranch where we both bought a bagel and cream cheese. It was nice to have some filtered water as well. We relaxed in the shade constantly yelling at a hungry chipmunk who lives outside the ranch. It was entertaining watching people show up exhausted and ready to get to their room. I learned you can purchase a “duffle” and have a mule to carry up your gear from the canyon for a high price. I might try to get a job hiking up packs for people. Hey, I’ll even carry their water too. We relaxed for a bit then quickly got moving on a gradual uphill.
The weather was still nice and lots of runners going Rim to rim in a day zoomed by us. We had fun walking along flowing water and staring up at the massive canyon walls. We gradually climbed up 1,638 feet to Cottonwood Campground. We passed all of the sites until we found the last one labeled “stock only.” It was a large site with a picnic table and food storage containers just like all of the other spots. We set up quickly as dark clouds were threatening. I cooked a huge portion of broccoli cheddar soup as it began to sprinkle. I sat at the table with my umbrella as he relaxed inside of the tent. The drizzle didn’t last too long, but I still climbed into the tent to relax. We were rewarded with a colorful sunset to finish off our beautiful day of hiking. Only love!
We were the first ones to leave the campsite this morning as the sun hadn’t yet peeked over the rim. We are 7.1 miles to the top of the North Rim and have to climb 4,171 feet to get there. My legs are a little sore this morning from all downhill yesterday. We moved quickly to start the day and slowly begin to be ascent towards the top of the rim.
By the time we made it to the pump house which is a water source and bathroom along the trail we were running into lots of other hikers. We had to wait in line to us the bathroom before more uphill. I let Paperweight go ahead of me as I took it slow and steady. The trail slowly winds uphill on the edge. I can only imagine all the work it took to build this trail. Large yucca trees were blooming along the way. My legs were feeling the burn all the way.
We were making great time and took a break after a foot bridge. As we smacked, we watched a NPS helicopter land on the side of the canyon dropping off two workers. This winter a large rock slide damaged the water pipe lines. We watched workers and the helicopter going back and forth between two spots. Now that is one intense job. We also thanked workers making the trail larger and repairing worn sections.
We came to the Supai Tunnel next which was fun to walk through before continuing up the switchbacks. I took lots of quick breaks and talked to various people along the way. The views back into the canyon were unreal and we took in the view one last time before busting it to the top. We were done before 11 and happily walking towards the facilities of the North Rim.
I was exhausted after this section and we did our typical town chores. We got a stunning campsite near the ridge of the North Rim, showered, did laundry, picked up our mail drops, feasted on a large pizza, and sat in large wooden chairs overlooking the Grand Canyon. What a day! We finished it up by sitting on a bench drinking beers and watching the sun set over the canyon. I loved this section and am so happy to share this experience with my hiking partner turned love of my life. I look forward to us visiting again someday!