BACKPACKER Trip: Epic Grand Canyon

Flagstaff, AZ

Trip Highlights

  • Cross Grand Canyon Twice
  • Solitude on Most Famous Trails
  • Phantom Ranch & the Colorado River
  • Amazingly Varying Climatic Zones
  • Waterfall Oasis of Ribbon Falls
  • Stunning Canyon Scenery
  • Phenomenal Geologic History

Description

Our Winter Rim to Rim to Rim hiking tour is a rare opportunity to hike the Grand Canyon’s most famous trails, see both rims in winter, and experience the amazingly diverse micro-climates in the Canyon, all while having it nearly all to yourself. We begin and end on the South Rim, crossing the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch, and continue up to a high camp where we day hike to the North Rim. And we see waterfalls, Indian ruins, box canyons and more en route!

This trip takes us down the South Kaibab Trail, which has arguably the best views in the Grand Canyon, up the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim and back to the South Rim via the spectacular Bright Angel Trail. The first day we’ll hike to Bright Angel Campground and the Colorado River, where we’ll enjoy moderate desert temperatures at the bottom of the Canyon. From there we’ll take 3 days to reach the North Rim and return to Bright Angel Campground. There are two variations for finishing the trip – as a 5-day trip with pack mules carrying the gear out the last day (10 miles, 4500 feet elevation gain), or as a 6-day trip with a final night at Indian Garden. Please check with our Adventure Consultants when planning your trip to make sure you get the variation you prefer.

6 Days
$1105 Per Person
Return Guests get a 10% discount on all Trips!
Trip Type: Backpacker Magazine Trip
Difficulty Level:
Solitude Level:
Group Size: 4-9 Guests
Trip Length: 6 Days
Distance: 25+MI / 40+KM

DIFFICULTY LEVEL 4

Our difficulty ratings are based on a scale of 1-5, tours with a rating of 1 being least difficult, tours with a rating of 5 being most difficult

Backpack Weight:
30-40 pounds
Daily Hiking Distances:
4-11 miles
Most Elevation Loss:
3000 feet
Most Elevation Gain:
3400 feet
Quality of Trails:
Lightly maintained and rugged in places
Additional:
Hiking in the Grand Canyon is rugged with significant elevation gains and losses. On the Grandview Trek we descend the Old Grandview Trail, which is a steep, exciting descent to the Colorado River.
Participants should:
  1. be active and healthy
  2. regularly exercise vigorously
  3. be comfortable hiking, biking, running, or swimming for several hours without many breaks

SOLITUDE LEVEL 3

1 least solitude, 5 most solitude

We rate this Grand Canyon hike a solitude 3 because it enters the Canyon on the most popular trail in the park (Bright Angel), but then follows the sparsely populated Tonto and Hermit Trails. You can expect hours of solitude at a time and often a feeling of having the Canyon to yourself.

Learn More about our Rating System
WHY WE BASE IN FLAGSTAFF VS. PHOENIX
  • Reduced drive time by 3 hours on first day of hiking
  • Guide support is only an hour away vs. 4-5 hours away in Phoenix.
  • Increased flexibility with unforeseen circumstances
  • Flagstaff is a scenic mountain town with great hiking and restaurants!
Groome Shuttle

Groome Transportation operates an Arizona Shuttle that makes 9 dependable trips daily each direction between Phoenix and Flagstaff. The duration is 2.5-3 hours. They pickup/drop off at Sky Harbor Airport and the Metro Center in Phoenix, and in Flagstaff at the Amtrak Station (near downtown) and the NAU campus.

Note: Groome also offers daily transportation (3 trips in each direction) from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

CAR RENTAL

Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix has a fantastic car rental facility that is easily accessible and hosts a great variety of companies. We recommend checking Priceline.com as well for especially good deals.

ARIZONA EXECUTIVE TRANSPORT

Arizona Executive Transport offers private, reliable SUV service between Phoenix and Flagstaff. This option is best if you’re traveling in a group of 3 or 4. As Wildland Trekking guests, your one-way cost for up to 4 passengers is only $275. Simply type “Wildland Trekking Company” in the Discount Code Box at the bottom of the online registration page. You can go to http://www.arizonaexecutivellc.com to make your reservations online.

Arizona does not charge sales tax on services, so there is no sales tax for this trip.

All trips in Grand Canyon National Park have a 5% fee required by the National Park Service. This fee is applied when your reservation is made and is passed through directly to the national park.

There are no other taxes or fees associated with this trip. Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) with any questions!

We’re here to help. If you have any questions, call 800-715-HIKE or contact us online.
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ITINERARY

ITINERARY

Day 1

  • Shuttle to the South Rim: 1.5-hour drive from Flagstaff
  • Hiking Mileage: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 4,800 feet

This Grand Canyon backpacking trip begins on the South Kaibab Trail, a deservedly popular hiking trail that offers spectacular views both up and down the Grand Canyon. It’s 7.5 miles of well-maintained hiking to the Bright Angel Campground, our destination and camp for the first night. This camp is one of the most charming in Grand Canyon National Park as it’s situated at the bottom of the Grand Canyon near the Colorado River and adjacent to Bright Angel Creek. Campsites are shaded by tall, spreading cottonwoods, piped drinking water is available, and nearby Phantom Ranch offers a snack bar.

Day 2

  • Hiking Mileage: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet

On day two we’ll break camp and hike another 7 miles up to Cottonwood Campground. While hiking we’ll make a detour to a fantastic waterfall – Ribbon Falls. Cottonwood Campground will be our staging point for the next day’s hike to the North Rim.

Day 3

  • Hiking Mileage: 13.6 round-trip day hike miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,161 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 4,161 feet

After a hearty early breakfast we’ll begin our hike toward the North Rim. (If the weather isn’t favorable for the hike to the North Rim, we’ll instead hike to Upper Ribbon Falls, which offers an exciting hike to a breathtaking waterfall.) The hike to the North Rim is a fantastic one for the natural history buff as we ascend through a semi-arid High Sonoran desert environment at mid-canyon to a dense mixed conifer forest on the rim. We’ll be rewarded with increasingly brilliant views as we hike upwards. Once to the top we’ll enjoy the view, have a snack and hike the same route back to camp.

Day 4

  • Hiking Mileage: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 1,600 feet

This day is done in reverse of day 2 back to Bright Angel Campground.

Day 5

  • Hiking Mileage: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet

Out of camp we’ll hike on the Bright Angel Trail along the Colorado and arrive at Pipe Creek. From here we’ll hike up Pipe Creek past its junction with Garden Creek to Indian Garden – a spring site that watered seasonal Havasupai garden plots for centuries. From here it’s a short final hike to our camp for the night – Indian Garden Campground – another enchanting Grand Canyon camp with shade and water.

Day 6

  • Hiking Mileage: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet
  • Shuttle to Flagstaff: 1.5-hour drive from the South Rim

A casual morning and delicious breakfast will precede a beautiful hike out as we continue our ascent to the rim via the Bright Angel Trail. It’s a 4.8 mile hike from camp to the South Rim, where we’ll look back over our trip and reflect on the beauty of this place and our accomplishment in achieving something that few have had the privilege of experiencing.

Alternate Trips

Grand Canyon National Park’s permit system makes it very difficult to 100% guarantee a specific trip or route. We use the Grandview Trek and Hermit Loop as our backups for this trip.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Dates & Booking

TRIP DATES & BOOKING

December 12-17, 2021 – Click here to book

Please Note: Grand Canyon National Park’s permit system is a lottery and we cannot guarantee trip dates or itineraries until the permit is secured. We must have guests registered to apply for permits though, so we highly recommend booking 5+ months in advance. We will know the results of the permit process approximately 4 months in advance. Please do not make concrete travel arrangements until we have confirmed your trip date. We also apply for two alternate itineraries, both of which are fantastic Grand Canyon adventures, in case our first choice is not available.

Don't see your dates? Call us! We may be able to add new trip dates.

800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Details

Trip Details

What's Included

  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified trip leader (full-time Wildland Trekking guide)
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona to the trailhead and back
  • Backcountry dinners in the field
  • Bear cannisters when/where required
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Backpack, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, trekking poles, cooking gear (gear list below)
  • Breakfasts, lunches and trail snacks
  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended) (clothing list below)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Trip leader gratuity (industry recommendation is 10+% of trip cost)

Optional Gear List

  • Trekking poles
  • Backpacking stove and fuel (if your breakfasts only need boiled water, guide can boil water for the group in the morning at camp eliminating need for personal stoves and fuel)
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter
  • Water filter (guide can filter water for the group at camp but if you would prefer to bring your own)
  • Camera, spare batteries
  • Notebook or paperback book
  • Vitamins
  • Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish (area-specific)

Important Packing Note

Please leave a shoe-box’s worth of room in your pack for accommodating approximately 5 pounds of group gear that the guide will disperse to the group on the night of the trip orientation. Group gear will include food items for the group dinners as well as group dinner cookware, stoves, water filtration, etc.

Group Dinners

Your guide will plan and prepare all of the dinners for the duration of the trip for the group. Our prepared backcountry dinners include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, etc.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear List

  • Multi-day backpack (recommended 4000-5000 cubic inches)
  • Backpacking tent
  • 15 degree sleeping bag (down or synthetic)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • 3 1-liter water bottles or hydration system and a water bottle
  • Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
  • Bowl, plate, mug, fork, spoon, folding pocket knife and personal cookware needed for your breakfasts and lunches
  • Folding pocket knife
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter
  • Backpacking stove and fuel
  • Camp pillow, lightweight, packable camp pillow.
  • Contact lenses and glasses if you wear contact lenses please also bring a pair of glasses – your contacts are likely to become dirty and may be difficult to clean
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm
  • Toiletries, and a small washcloth in stuff sack (bandana can serve as a washcloth)
  • Camera, spare batteries (optional)
  • Notebook or paperback book, (optional)
  • Knee braces, if needed
  • Prescription medicine, please inform your trip leader of any medications you are taking
  • Vitamins, (optional)
  • Money, for tipping your trip leader (optional but appreciated, generally 10+% of your trip cost based upon the quality of your experience)

Clothing List

  • Sturdy Hiking boots, mid weight, lug-soled, above the ankle, waterproof and ideally well broken in Important note: Buy your boots 1/2 size to 1 size larger than your street shoes to allow for feet swelling and thicker socks
  • Lightweight tennis shoes or Crocs®, for camp
  • Hiking socks, one pair for every two days of your trip, plus an extra pair to sleep in. Recommended brands include Bridgedale®, Smartwool®, or similar padded socks (wearing thin liner socks under your hiking socks is highly recommended). No cotton socks!!
  • Gaiters
  • Sunhat or baseball cap and bandana
  • Warm hat and gloves, sherpa style hat and light-to-mid weight fleece or wool gloves
  • Long underwear, one pair of wicking tops and bottoms that are light-to midweight, example materials include capilene, merino wool, polypropylene, etc.
  • T-shirt or nylon travel shirt
  • Warm top, mid-weight shirt, sweater or pullover, also wicking material such as merino wool, fleece or polypropylene
  • Fleece jacket or insulated coat, warm, lightweight and packable fleece jacket or coat insulated with a synthetic material
  • Nylon pants and shorts, or zip-offs
  • Rainproof jacket and pant – Waterproof/breathable jacket and pant such as Gore-Tex® or coated nylon – with the pants look for side leg zippers or a style that will allow you to remove them without removing your

Trip Logistics

Trip Logistics

How Do I Register?

Reserve your spot today! In the Trip Dates & Booking section of this page, the green and red dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you’re ready to register we’ll email you a link to a registration profile. You’ll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit.

Feel free to call us for more info – we’re here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

You’ll meet your hiking guide and group in Flagstaff, Arizona for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip and will specify the exact location of the orientation meeting at that point. The next morning we’ll pick you up at your hotel for transport to the trailhead.

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed information about flights, shuttles, recommended lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day’s pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day no later than 7 PM.

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT’s, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We’ve developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.

Guides

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time…etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides’ off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on BACKPACKER trips is 9 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we’ll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:

  • 14 and older to join this trip

Weather in the Grand Canyon

The weather in the Grand Canyon varies tremendously from the rim to the canyon floor, with as much as a 30 degree Fahrenheit difference. For this reason, the Canyon is truly a year-round hiking destination. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures at the South Rim and the Canyon bottom:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
Month
South Rim
Canyon Bottom
hi
low
hi
low
Dec-Feb
41°
18°
60°
38°
March
51°
25°
71°
48°
April
60°
32°
82°
56°
May
70°
39°
92°
63°
Jun-Aug
82°
53°
108°
75°
September
76°
47°
97°
69°
October
65°
36°
84°
58°
November
52°
27°
68°
46°

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