One of my bucket list hikes has been to trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We had a trip scheduled last year that was canceled due to events beyond my control. So this year I grabbed a permit and was determined to make the trip.
Jyoti and I drove out Wednesday morning and arrived near the south entry gate in about 8 1/2 hours. There was a long line to get in that was backed up to Tusayen. After paying, we made a quick stop at the closed visitor center to get a first glimpse of the canyon then drove over to the Yavapai Lodge to check in. We were surprised how many people were there especially many of the rim hotels were still closed for winter.
After waking up and eating some breakfast we drove over to the backcountry office. The shuttles were not on normal schedules but they had hiker express buses that left in the mornings to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Arriving at the trailhead, we squared away our gear and headed down the South Kaibab trail. We quickly ran into ice covering the trail. Since it was pretty steep, all the hikers were having issues getting a grip. One one stretch we glissaded down on our butts. Luckily this lasted only about a half mile and we back on dirt and rocks. We cruised easily downhill to our first stop at Cedar Ridge. We cruised another segment down to Tipoff Point. From there the trail got steeper as we headed into the inner gorge. We were both getting a bit tired at this point and started slowing down. We eventually got to the Black Bridge and crossed the Colorado River.
Once in Bright Angel Canyon, we scouted out the campground for a good spot. We found one that was near the creek and had some shade. It is surprisingly hot down at the bottom and if we didn't have a nice breeze it would have been unpleasant. After setting up camp, we explored Phantom Ranch and the area. The mule rides were still running and the ranch looked to be on limited service although the canteen only had window service for limited snacks. After a nice dinner, we went down for an early night.
Next morning, we ate breakfast, broke camp and headed out for the long trip up Bright Angel Trail. We crossed over Silver Bridge and then took the River Trail for a bit to get to the canyon that the trail followed up. As we wound our way uphill, we had to dodge lots of runners doing the rim-to-rim thing. The trail followed the creek steadily up but then got really steep at the Devils Corkscrew section. The it was a nice hike along the creek again into Indian Gardens. We stopped there to rest, eat and fill up on water. The next mile or so was mostly in the sun and it was a bit warm. Then the switchbacks started as we trudged into 3 mile rest stop. We were now getting worn out and making only 1.5 mph but that was plenty up the steep trail. There were loads of people happily cruising downhill that were in for a shock when they turned around. We took another break at 1.5 mile rest stop to add a layer as it was getting colder and also mentally prepare for the ice. Luckily it was later in the day so most of the ice was turning to mud but there were a few dicey spots. It is also much easier going uphill on ice. We finally reached the top after 7 1/2 hours which is a good time.
We checked back into the Yavapai Lodge, took showered then searched for food. There were tons of people and not many places were open. We finally got takeout from El Tovar and some drinks at the Yavapai Tavern. Sleep was welcome.
Once the sun came up, we saw an elk right outside our room. I then took a quick walk out to the rim for one last look, then we drove home.
|At the top of South Kaibab trail|
|Great views to the north rim|
|All smiles at Cedar Ridge|
|Down the inner gorge|
|Crossing Black Bridge|
|Our camp at Bright Angle Campground|
|Bright Angel Creek|
|Crossing Silver Bridge|
|Waterfall along the trail|
|A bit more to go|
|Ice going uphill|