Monday, August 29, 2016


Hiking Grand Canyon's Backcountry

Hiking the backcountry in and around the Grand Canyon affords the intrepid some of the most intimate canyon experiences. It’s not easy. It requires much preparation. Even “Grizzly” Adams would have taken extra precautions at the onset of a Grand Canyon hike. While nothing will substitute for doing your own research, we’ve put together a good starting place when preparing to hike the Grand Canyon backcountry.

Unless you plan to stay overnight at one of the area’s developed campgrounds, you’ll need to fill out a backcountry permit request form. The permit costs $10 plus $8 per person camping below the rim per night. You can request a permit as early as four months prior to your visit.

It’s also a good idea to plan out your itinerary beforehand. Knowing the trails you will be hiking and the days you’ll be hiking them is critical to ensuring everyone involved is on the same page should you encounter any problems. Map out exactly how far the hike will go into the canyon and how long it will take. You’ll be safer and better prepared both mentally and physically if you meticulously plan for the excursion. The itinerary will have to be shared with the park’s Backcountry Information Center, so go ahead and also share it with a friend or relative not coming along.

While you’re not preparing for the Olympics, it’s pretty darn close. The more physical conditioning you do in the run up to your trip, the better off you’ll be. Carry a full backpack up staircases, stadium bleachers or a Stairmaster at your gym. Exercises that help to strengthen your core are also vital. The National Parks Service recommends beginning conditioning months in advance.

Any extended stay in the Grand Canyon will require special gear and equipment. It’s important to pack for your specific trip. Know what resources are available along the trails you’ve chosen and what you’ll need to bring. In some instances, water stations can be found intermittently along the trail. Other trails will have no water available. You’ll want to drink around 32 ounces of water per hour of hiking. Carrying around that much water can be draining, so consider using a water filter. Tents can be another burdensome item to bring along. Considering the heat, you might be better off using a bivy sack or hammock and tarp. Download the Grand Canyon Association equipment list and hiker notes for more information on what to pack.

Fires are prohibited in some portions of the canyon, so you should pack a stove and a pot for meal preparation. Salty foods are critical while hiking, helping you to maintain a healthy sodium level. It is easy to overlook the weight of food when packing for a backcountry hike. The average backpacker will need nearly 2 pounds of food per day for two- to five-day, shorter mileage hikes.

Be sure that each step you take along the hike is a deliberate one. Should you encounter any problems, contact the Backcountry Information Center and 911. Pacing oneself is key to having an enjoyable hike. The Grand Canyon can feel like a reverse mountain; the most strenuous portions of the hike come at the end. Finally, please pack up and carry out every piece of trash you generate along the way, including toilet paper. Many a forest fire has been started by burning toilet paper.

Hopefully, this article has you considering some of the less frequently considered aspects of hiking the Grand Canyon backcountry. Read other blogs, consult NPS literature on the subject and talk with experts should you have more questions. If there’s one thing park rangers love to do, it’s answering emails. Share some of your best Grand Canyon hiking advice in the comments section! For more Grand Canyon travel tips, recommendations and fun facts, check in on our blog regularly and follow VegasDaze on Twitter.

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