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Is This Your Year to Hike the Grand Canyon?

Almost everyone agrees that that the Grand Canyon is a spectacular sight. But if you really want to experience it, you need to hike into it.

Need convincing? Here are 5 reasons to say yes:

1. It’s the Grand Canyon. One of the natural wonders of the world, it’s not the widest, biggest or deepest, but it’s the only one called Grand. Here, you find 1.6 billion years of earth’s history on Technicolor display. Each step reveals another beautiful sight, whether it’s a sweeping view of brightly hued horizontal rock layers, the awe-inspiring Colorado River or beautiful flowers along the trails. This will be my fifth year guiding REI trips in the canyon, and I still get excited about every trip because I never know what I’ll see next.


2. Backpacking the Grand Canyon is a great accomplishment.
Over 6 million people visit the park every year, but less than 1% step away from the paved sidewalks at the rim. The group of people who can say they’ve backpacked to the river and back is even smaller. The Grand Canyon will challenge even the most experienced and fit backpackers. It’s all about preparation and planning. If you come with us, we’ll guide you safely through 4 days of exertion and exhilaration. If you decide to do this on your own, make sure you carefully research the route, water sources, campsites, weather, gear, permits, and pre/post-trip logistics.


3. There’s still time to train
. Our spring 2013 trips run from April 4 through May 26. If you’re already in relatively good shape, we advise that it takes between 2 and 3 months to get yourself physically prepared to hike the Grand Canyon. There is no substitute for training that includes hiking with a backpack in the shoes you will wear during the trip. Create a training plan that involves several different types of exercise. To stay motivated, pick your favorites: running, swimming, cycling, weight training, aerobics, yoga, lunges or stadium steps. The next part is crucial. Every 2nd or 3rd weekend, load up your backpack, find a steep and rocky trail, put on your hiking shoes, and hike! Gradually increase the weight in your pack to 35 - 40 pounds. Also increase the distance you hike in a single day up to 10 miles. As a final test 2 weeks before the date of your trip, plan back-to-back hiking days –  full pack, in your shoes, steep trails – for a total mileage of 16 to 20 miles over the 2 days. If you follow this training advice, you’ll be ready to relax and enjoy all that the canyon has to offer rather than worry about whether or not you’ll make it through the trip.


4. Spring and fall are the sweet spots.
Not by chance, this is when our trips happen. We descend 5,000’ to the river; this elevation change means that the air at the river can be 20+ degrees warmer than at the rim. A treat of the early spring trips is the sight of abundant wildflowers and cacti blooming with iridescent jolts of color. In May, we usually see a few days that top out around 100 degrees. We plan for this and will be in the Hermits Creek area where water is abundant, and there are many opportunities to get wet and cool off. No trip is complete without a bracing jump in the Colorado. The water released from Glen Canyon Dam stays a fairly consistent 46 to 50 degrees as it passes through the park. While not quite a polar bear plunge, jumping in the Colorado is an invigorating right of passage that inspires ear-to-ear grins.


5. The canyon will inspire you
. I’ve noticed that the canyon affects each person in different but profound ways. Hiking the canyon is often the next step of a person’s own inspiring story, and the experience of hiking the canyon can inspire people to take on other challenges in their lives.  Some have reached or are nearing a turning point in their lives such as surviving poor health or a serious illness.  Others hike the canyon as a way to celebrate milestone birthdays. Then, there’s the big group of folks who just simply love adventure set against a magnificent backdrop. Except it’s not a backdrop. You’re in it, living it, experiencing and absorbing it. Time and again, I’ve witnessed the canyon work its magic on those who are willing and ready to venture down one of its trails.


Is this the year for you? Check out REI's assortment of Grand Canyon trips to find the one that's right for your interests.


Posted on at 10:00 AM

Tagged: Grand Canyon, backpacking and national parks

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good post.

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We are not highly experienced hikers but in 2012 visited the GC and hiked the Bright Angel Trail to the 1.5 Mile Reststop and back. My wife and I said, "we can do this". So this year, we hiked the South Kaibab trail Monday, April 28th stayed at Bright Angel Campground (used the mule duffle service for our camp gear) and ate meals at Phantom Ranch. Highly recommend eating dinner at Phantom for the experience of meeting so many great people. Tuesday we relaxed and just hiked the River Trail between the bridges and part of the North Kaibab trail. Wednesday we hiked out the Bright Angel Trail.

If you have any debate about which trail to hike down, take the South Kaibab! Panoramic views with each step as it is a ridge trail where the Bright Angel follows side canyons and creeks which are nice and cool but somewhat limiting on the view.

We thought it would be a once in a lifetime event but now we are planning a rim to rim to rim hike for next year!


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