Our trip begins this morning in Scottsdale, Arizona. We rendezvous with our guides at 8am at our host hotel and, following a brief orientation, drive north through the Sonoran Desert, past Lee’s Ferry (the launch point for Grand Canyon rafting trips), and towards the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Arriving in mid-afternoon, we set up camp at the North Rim Campground and stretch our legs on a short hike along the Transept Trail before enjoying our first dinner together at the North Rim Lodge. Overnight for the next two nights at North Rim Campground. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 1–2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: minimal; Van transfer: 7 hours, with multiple rest stops along the way
After an early start and hearty breakfast at the North Rim Lodge, we set out on a morning hike along a mostly forested trail to Cape Final, a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Grand Canyon. From Cape Final, we can make out some of the canyon’s iconic formations, including Vishnu Temple and Jupiter Temple, and distant views of the Vermillion Cliffs and Navajo Mountain. Although the hike is a mellow one, it's a chance to begin acclimatizing to the North Rim’s 8,000-foot elevation and its arid desert climate. After returning to the trailhead, we take a short van ride to Cape Royal, another fabulous North Rim viewpoint, where we eat lunch and discuss our plans for tomorrow’s big adventure. Back in camp by mid-afternoon, we have the rest of the day relax and prepare for our very early wake-up call and the hike down to Phantom Ranch. All meals included.
Hiking: 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +425'/-425'
We rise before dawn and get ready for a challenging trek into the heart of the Grand Canyon. Dropping 5,900 feet in 14 miles, today’s hike down the North Kaibab Trail descends from the alpine to the desert, each step taking us thousands of years back in geologic time through ancient oceans, deserts, lakes and swamps. With mind-blowing vistas, 100-foot tall waterfalls, green spring-fed oases and astonishing trail design and workmanship, the North Kaibab Trail is truly a national treasure. The end of our epic hike brings us to Phantom Ranch, nestled on the banks of Bright Angel Creek, not far from its confluence with the Colorado River. Phantom Ranch was founded in 1903 as a hunting camp and named by Mary Jane Colter after nearby Phantom Creek. We sleep in dormitory-style accommodations at Phantom tonight. All meals included.
Hiking: 14 miles, Elevation loss: -5,900'
Important note: During summertime departures (typically late June to early September), hiking into the Grand Canyon requires an extra level of care, so our days typically begin with an alpine start (as early as 2am) in order to avoid hiking during the midday heat. Although waking at such an early hour can be challenging, it will quickly become apparent that a Grand Canyon trail sunrise is a more than ample reward. It’s a sunrise you will never forget! Our guides will keep you fully informed of each day’s schedule once your trip begins.
Up before the sun once again, we have breakfast at Phantom Ranch before setting our sights on the South Rim. Our rim-to-rim adventure culminates with a 4,300-foot ascent up Bright Angel Trail, an iconic Grand Canyon hike! After crossing the Colorado River, the trail snakes its way up and out of the inner gorge to Indian Gardens, a welcome oasis and rest stop. Here, we refuel and refill with water before tackling the steep hike up Jacob’s Ladder through the Redwall layer. While always a tremendous challenge, our guides provide interpretation and encouragement to keep us engaged and energized throughout the climb. With proper preparation, hydration, and timing, we push through the final uphill section of trail and are soon high-fiving on the South Rim. We will celebrate our grand accomplishment and head to our nearby hotel for a celebratory dinner with our hiking companions and newfound friends. All meals included.
Hiking: 10 miles, Elevation gain: +4,300'
For those interested in packing in a few additional hiking miles before our departure this morning, our guides will be waiting after breakfast to lead a short hike along the Rim Trail. While the elevation gain is minimal, the trail provides outstanding bird’s-eye views of the canyon and offers some perspective on the fantastic route we hiked during the previous two days. Those interested in relaxing and learning more about the natural history of the Grand Canyon (or doing some last-minute souvenir shopping) can spend the morning hours in Grand Canyon Village at the village’s museums and shops. We regroup at 11am and begin the drive back to Scottsdale, stopping for lunch in Flagstaff en route. We anticipate arriving in Scottsdale by 4pm. Please do not schedule a departing flight from Phoenix prior to 6:30pm this evening. Lunch included; breakfast on your own.
Optional Hiking: Up to 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: minimal; Van transfer: 4.5 hours