May 24, 2005

Grand Canyon Trip - I am going camping in the grand canyon next month and need some advice/help.

Me and 2 (possibly 3) friends plan on visiting the Grand Canyon next month and spending 5 full days hiking/camping either in the canyon, on the rim, or both. The main questions I have are: Where is long term parking available (6 days of parking). Also, is it allowed to just wander in and camp, or are there designated camping zones where you must camp/have a reservation/pay/etc. We were hoping to avoid any campsite areas because we want to get out and be somewhat isolated, and avoid crowds, for that reason we were thinking of getting at least 20 miles or so from the main South Rim hotspots. Any other advice (what to bring, what to expect, etc) would of course be appreciated as well. In addition, we might be spending an evening (5 PM til next morning) in Vegas. For two of us would be our first trip there. Any must-see hotels, or just cruise the main drag stopping here and there? I appreciate all help, and bannanas will go to well wishers.

  • Why not go to the north rim instead of the south rim, it is less touristy than the south rim. I believe you can park your car at the lodge. Not sure about long-term parking. Also you should probably visit the information center at the entrance of the park, they'll have lots of info on camping I'm sure...
  • I second the north rim thangy, plus the roads are really interesting from a sports-car perspective... South rim = tourists up the ying-yang, north rim = interesting landscapes and terrain.
  • Your options for camping within the National Park itself are going to be fairly limited, unless you have a backcountry permit. These are very popular and can be tough to get sometimes. If you don't have/can't get one, you should still be able to camp just about anywhere you like in the surrounding Kaibab National Forest, which makes a good home base for day-hikes into the canyon.
  • the_bone introduced me to the wonders of Creek Running North. In addition to being a terrific author, Chris has done some serious hiking. I did a quick trip to the Grand Canyon a few years back and it's truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. I'm totally jealous. Enjoy!
  • Make sure you hit Bright Angel Trail and get down to the Phantom Ranch. I'll third the assessment that the north rim is the better area because there are less tourists. And while everyone is adding links for you to check out, I'll throw in this one
  • Ooooh - bring us pics!
  • I did this sort of thing 10 years ago. Car camping in the National Forest was easy, but there was a lot of trash left by trashy people. We hiked down from the south rim, using the steeper train to the east from the main tourist trail. This meant that there were no mules and not nearly as many people. We hiked along the level of the canyon above the deepest part, where we had the trail almost entirely to ourselves. Eventually, we climbed up the main trail, along with lots of other folks. This was not as steep as the one we hiked down, which was a real help in escaping from the canyon on rubbery legs. We never got down to the water, but saw lots of great stuff. We parked at the main trailhead and took a hotel shuttle to the other trailhead. Advice: Hot, hot, hot! My backpack was mostly water bottles. The interior of the canyon is hotter than the rim. Watch people hike down with a Big Gulp as their only drink, and pity them. Strengthen your legs before you go. The climb up is hard, but the climb down will kill you if you are not prepared. Take pain killers with you, as you will need the bump after the first day. It is possible to avoid the crowds on the south rim, and still have the shops and facilities available when you want them. I have never been to the north side, and wish to. Have a great time. Don't dry out too much or climb down further than you can climb out. Take some neat pictures. Consider a panoramic camera.
  • Whatever you do, don't let those sinners tell you that the Grand Canyon was formed over thousand of years! Beleivers know the truth!
  • The park website ( has all the information you seek, and a cool online trip planner. North rim, definitely. You will need a permit to camp in the Canyon, the number of permits are limited and your have to use a designated site for the most part. Second EarWax--water water water, if you aren't used to desert hiking it is way too easy to under estimate the need, and the consequences of running out. On the other hand, if you want spectacular desert landscapes with fewer people, the slickrock country of southern Utah is full of options. There are dry canyons where you can hike along in the cool of the cave-like walls towering above you and never meet another soul. I especially like Capitol Reef National Park and various hikes around Escalante, Utah. Check out the webpage of (and join!) the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance ( for ideas, as well as the GORP pages for Utah ( for ideas. Oh, and for the rest of us monkeys, check out SUWA's clickable map of the state of Utah--each blue dot links to a spectacular wilderness photograph:
  • Thank ye all for the advice =)
  • Long ago when i hiked from south rim to north... During the layover in the bottem at Phantom Ranch, we discovered that the tiny lodge was run by Howard Johnson's (wana get some clams?). This was real funny till the host got all over someones shit for throwing out a candy wrapper in howards garbage(mules hiked out the trash at the time). Is it a felony to TP a hosts cabin in a national park? Pack some hard candy with the extra water, you may need the sugar buzz for the 1000 foot extra climb if you do the north rim.
  • I'll third the water part. You might want to invest in one of these to help you carry enough water. On a 100 degree day on the top of the canyon, it can be 120 on the bottom, and people die every year of dehydration and overheating. (not to scare you -- just to offer information) Have fun! Some friends and I hiked the rim, and it was amazing. There are way too many people up top, but if you even go down 10 feet below the rim it gets all quiet and great! We also camped outside of the park, but it cost less than $10/person. I think our one mistake was going directly to Los Vegas the next day. All that natural beauty, followed by Vegas spectacle, is jarring.
  • The only thing I remember from my visit is that it takes about three times as long to go up as it does to go down. This is very important.
  • By way of fixing Space Kitty's broken link: Creek Running North. I'll second her recommendation of that blog. It's one of my "must visit" sites and you'll get a lot out of it... if anything, reading about the author's hiking trips and so on will get you psyched to go. I went to the Grand Canyon a while ago. It was absolutely beautiful, but a rigorous hike. Tracicle's observation above is accurate.
  • They say that long after dark you can see the lights of the people on the trail. And try to imagine hiking up that trail on a dark night without a light. It is like climbing a mountain, but in reverse. The hardest work is the last part. It is worth it, for the views and the nature. Get someone to take your picture at the bottom and at the top, so that you can remember what you were able to do. If you like the Grand Canyon, try Big Bend National Park, too. I recall that a riverside hot pool, with a natural source, was a great end to the day.
  • I do believe this is something I'd like to do. To derail, though, in the spirit of jccalhoun: what gets me about the weird Grand Canyon claims is that they make no sense at all. After all, these people are not claiming that every other natural formation is the result of the flood-- after all, did God create a flat, featureless Earth? So why the Grand Canyon? I suppose it's because its age and the processes that formed it are so blindingly obvious that they need a real whopper to distract people.
  • north rim is great, but be careful if you drive in or out after dark. I was driving two friends in a rental car and they thought I was driving too fast. I realized that I definitely was driving too fast when it dawned on me that those charming boulders right on the side of the road where in fact really big cows. its all open pasture up there and the cows don't all go to sleep at sundown! have fun.
  • If ye must go at this time of year, the mule ride down Bright Angel can be fun, but I think ye have to book well ahead of time these days. Be sure to bring a cell phone or walkie talkie if ye set off on your own. Seriously. This country is no joke to get lost in or suffer an attack of appendiciditis or a broken leg in.
  • Went earlier this spring and the tourists were insane then on the south rim. North was still closed. Don't know if it's better now that it's hot, but I'd still advise the north rim. Second the lots of water, and the idea of planning to do the hike down and up in an absolute minimum of two days--that's assuming you're young and in good fettle. They were hauling out two young men that tried to do it all in one day when we were there--both looked like they'd been dragged thru a knothole backwards when I saw them. I second the idea of some of the other areas--Capitol Reef, Bryce, Kodachrome Canyon, any of those areas are fantastic, and may be a bit more private. Have fun.
  • Bees is right. Remember what happened to the Bradys. Then again, I dislocated my shoulder and sprained an ankle when I slipped and fell in a ditch running to my lodge on the North rim during a freak thunderstorm. So...uh... be careful on near the lodges too. =)
  • If anyone is still reading this thread. We have decided on the North Kaibab trail, which is enough to fill our whole visit. We have made backup plans for Utah/Kaibab forrest areas in case we don't get backcountry permits.