Canyon – can•yon – A deep gorge, typically one with a river flowing through it, as found in North America.
Grand Canyon Panorama from Bright Angel Trail
This was a trip of firsts for me: my first backpacking experience (including Backpacking the Havasupai Reservation), my first time in Arizona, my first time camping in below freezing temperatures, and my first time to Las Vegas.
My new hiking boots were broken in from earlier in the trip. We arrived in the evening and watched the sun lower behind the horizon of the massive Grand Canyon. My first true desert experience with chilling temperatures at night and hot temperatures during the day. The tourists competing to capture a photo of the natural wonder. This is where most tourists stop, at the South Rim. They do not try to venture into the Canyon.
One of my first views of the Grand Canyon.
We went to Mather Campground on the South Rim and pitched our tent. I bundled in layers to stay warm in my synthetic sleeping bag. The temperatures dropped down to the low 20’s! We woke up before the sun rose to get an early start on the South Kaibab trail. A shuttle picked us up and dropped us off at the trail head. We decided to do this route on the way down because it was shorter and steeper than the Bright Angel Trail.
Along the hike down, we had to continue to stop and break to remove our warm layers as temperatures rose. Being our own donkeys, we were both carrying heavy packs with food, water, and camping gear. This trail is less traveled, and we saw few people.
Sun rising on the South Kaibab Trail
The descent was worse than I expected with pains in my knees and ankles from the weight on my back. We hiked down and crossed the Colorado River, where it was roughly ~80º! We gained roughly 60ºs in a matter of hours!
Crossing the Colorado River
Finally at the campground, we set up our “room” for the next two nights before exploring Phantom Ranch. Phantom Ranch requires reservations of more than a year in advance and costs a pretty penny. After discovering we could get a family style dinner at Phantom Ranch, we considered possibly paying in lieu of Ramen noodles. It was now time to dip our tired feet into the Colorado River and take in the glorious walls around us that the river carved. We opted out of dinner at the ranch but returned for the ranger talk about the geology of the park. This topic was very interesting to us. After the talk, it was dark, so we headed back to our tent hoping not to run into any scorpions along the way.
Bright Angel Campground
We woke up leisurely and decided to hike to Ribbon Falls. Exhausted from the day before, we only hiked roughly 2 to 3 miles and decided to turn around. We were both hungry and found we forgot to stock our day packs with enough food. On our way back, we paid for the steak dinner at the ranch for the night.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon to Ribbon Falls
It was good to have a down day to rest my feet from all the hiking we have done the last few days. My dogs were definitely barking! I walked around and took pictures, wrote in my journal, and napped before dinner. At dinner, we met a bunch of dentists, who told us we could sleep in extra beds they had paid for since two of their party ended up canceling last minute. They even told us we could use the showers. We thanked them for the offer but decided to remain in our tent due to our planned early morning start out of the canyon.
We went to bed early to get enough rest for our ascent out. We broke down camp with the lights from our headlamps and started our hike in the dark around 5 am. We cruised up the trail past Indian Campgrounds. We had similar views from our hike down, but we still were taking in the experience. The more elevation we gained, the more the trail was covered in ice. We also passed donkeys carrying bags down to Phantom Ranch and other hiker’s gear. At least South Kaibab trail did not have the droppings of the donkeys. We also saw many more people who were venturing away from the viewpoints at the top. Most were not equipped to handle the icy, steep terrain causing us to dodge them as we continued our climb.
The never ending switchbacks of Bright Angel Trail.
We would occasionally look back to take in the beautiful landscape behind us. We actually were able to see the trail we hiked on in the distance. I was elated I almost finished my first backpacking trip!
Views of Bright Angel Trail winding through the Grand Canyon
We finished our hike and returned to Mather Campground to shower before departing the Grand Canyon.
Exiting the Canyon
See my entire trip’s itinerary here: Havasupai Reservation and Grand Canyon Itinerary.