Our trip begins in Scottsdale, Arizona. We rendezvous with our guides at 8am at our host hotel, and after introductions and a brief orientation we drive north through the Sonoran Desert towards Grand Canyon National Park. We enter the park from the east and stop for lunch at iconic Desert View Watchtower, a 70-foot-tall stone tower perched on the canyon?s edge. Designed by Mary Colter in 1932, Desert View contains a wealth of murals depicting various Hopi traditions and stories. Continuing to our hotel near the South Rim, we check in and have some free time to stretch our legs on a walk along the Rim Trail, enjoying panoramic views of this awe-inspiring natural wonder. At dinner this evening, we feel the excitement rising as our guides enlighten us on what to expect during tomorrow?s adventure down to Phantom Ranch. Overnight tonight at a South Rim hotel. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: minimal; Van transfer: 4.5 hours
We gather for a 7am breakfast in the El Tovar dining room before slinging on our daypacks and tightening our laces in preparation for our big hike. We begin our journey into the inner canyon on the most direct?and one of the most scenic?routes to the Colorado River. The hand-built South Kaibab Trail follows open ridgelines that provide jaw-dropping 360-degree views throughout the seven-mile descent. Hiking down along a series of switchbacks, we eventually reach the aptly named Ooh-Aah Point before continuing on to Cedar Ridge, a flat plateau where we may encounter a mule train en route to the bottom of the canyon. At Skeleton Point, we peer down and catch a glimpse of the mighty Colorado, perpetually carving its way through the canyon as it has for millions of years. The last part of our hike leads us along the big river itself, then over a suspension bridge as we approach Phantom Ranch, serenely nestled on the banks of Bright Angel Creek. Tonight, we enjoy a hot meal at the Phantom Ranch Canteen before stepping outside to gaze up at an inky canopy speckled with countless twinkling stars. Overnight tonight in dormitory-style accommodations at Phantom Ranch. All meals included.
Hiking: 7 miles, Elevation loss: -5,000'
Rising before the sun this morning, we eat a hearty breakfast in the canteen before beginning our 10-mile hike back to the South Rim. Our exit route follows Bright Angel, a classic Grand Canyon corridor trail. Unlike the South Kaibab Trail which follows a ridgeline, Bright Angel follows a natural fault, making it less exposed but equally awe-inspiring. After bidding an early farewell to Phantom, we cross the Colorado River and follow the trail as it snakes its way up to the shady oasis of Indian Gardens, our halfway point. After a short rest, we tackle the final steep ascent up Jacob?s Ladder through the canyon?s Redwall layer. While always a tremendous challenge, our guide is nearby sharing helpful tips and stories to keep you energized along the way. Reaching the South Rim by early afternoon, we celebrate our epic accomplishment and gaze into the depths of the canyon one last time, enjoying a newfound appreciation for its hidden treasures that only a small percentage of visitors ever get to see. Loading into our van, we begin our drive back to Scottsdale, planning to arrive at our host hotel by 7:30pm this evening. Please do not schedule any flights out of Phoenix prior to 10pm. All meals included.
Hiking: 10 miles, Elevation gain: +4,300'; Van transfer: 4.5 hours