In November 2003 my brother got married (congratulations Mark and Laura).They live in the US so naturally we decided that we would make a holiday out of attending his wedding (after all, we were coming over from Australia). We included hiking in the Grand Canyon as part of this holiday. Hiking the Grand Canyon was a fantastic experience - the 2nd best highlight of the trip (the wedding being the highlight of course).
Deciding on the Grand Canyon
When planning our holiday, we really wanted to see some of the spectacular desert sights in the Nevada/Arizona area. Obviously the Grand Canyon came to mind. Originally we didn’t consider hiking into the canyon, but when we began finding out about the Grand Canyon, this idea entered our minds. The National Park Service Grand Canyon website showed us how spectacular the inner canyon was and when I saw the picture on the South Kaibab Trail, I really wanted to hike into the inner canyon.
Organising the trip
We got most of the information we needed to organise our trip by browsing the web. Obviously the main source of information was the National Park Service Grand Canyon website. Make sure you take note of the warnings and precautions advised on this site. Other useful websites were:
However some things still were not clear so in a couple of cases, we resorted to the using the good old telephone (making sure we took time zone differences into account).
Suitability for children
The biggest problem we had when organising the hike was: Is it suitable for children to hike? There were plenty of warnings at Park Service website about the dangers of hiking the canyon but we couldn’t find any info on the internet about suitability for children. A call to the rangers at the park only yielded a fuzzy (ambiguous) answer (something like “it is up to us to decide”).
In the end we looked at lots of images of the hiking trails (found on the internet) and since we did not find anything saying it wasn’t suitable - we went ahead and organised it.
So was it suitable for them?
Well our 2 children (aged 8 and 10 then) had never done any overnight hiking prior to this but they managed it reasonably well. On the third day, we had to lighten their loads as they got tired. Probably the hardest part for them was listening to me nag them to concentrate and stay on the “safe” side of the path.
If anything, it was harder on the parents. The kids were sometimes quite exuberant and we constantly had to monitor them. The paths were approximately 1.5 metres wide and quite stony - so care was needed at all times.
In the end, as the rangers seem to say: “it’s up to you to decide”.
Booking the Hike
You HAVE TO BOOK for overnight hikes into the Grand Canyon. BOOK EARLY!
Read the paragraph on “Permits” on the Inner Canyon page then read more about permits
We booked 7 weeks in advance and missed out on the nights we wanted. It took us 3 weeks to find out our permit application had not been accepted (the reply comes by mail - a long wait if you are overseas). We then had to apply again being more flexible about our dates and hiking route. Our permit was then granted but for only one night. Fortunately we were able to get another night when we arrived at the Grand Canyon (the night before we commenced our hike). Actually this was very fortunate as our family needed 3 days for the hike - it would not have been possible in 2 days.
Take note of the following points:
- Be flexible when booking. It takes a while to find out if your application was accepted.
- If you do not get the booking you want, contact the “Backcountry Information Center” when you arrive. You may be lucky and get a “Last Minute Permit”.
- Book EARLY. (Just in case you missed this point before).
Since we were coming from overseas, bringing our own camping gear was not an option - so we wanted to hire gear. This was actually quite easy to organise. The Canyon Village Marketplace (general store) hired out camping equipment and we were very pleased with this service. They advised us to make our booking about one week in advance. For more information look at the Park Service website - Things to know before you come.
We caught the 8:00 am express bus to the head of the South Kaibab Trail. Got off, put on our packs and did a last check. By 9:00 am we were ready to go. Already the spectacular scenery was upon us as the picture below shows.