It has been nearly three weeks since I made the trek down into the Grand Canyon with Robb + I think it’s a safe [but embarrassing] truth when I say at least 10 of those days were spent fighting with or avoiding the DSLR camera we used. Turns out shooting photos in RAW is fantastic for the marketing + graphics guys but straight up terrible for anyone attempting to upload them anywhere, especially on a hotspot. Or, at least that’s my excuse for failing miserably at sharing my van living adventures…now, without further adieu, here’s how our little trip into the Grand Canyon went down, then back up.
5:12pm // Hand over our National Park pass + snag our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon at the South Entrance.
6:07pm // Arrive at Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center to see that it closed at 5pm. Hm. We’d hoped to chat up a few rangers about the ideal routes into the canyon rather than wing it on our own.
6:12pm // Find the Grand Canyon Store + hit up Jenna for all the advice on the trail. She filled us full of information about the trail options, including the trail we needed to take to get to the South Kaibab trailhead before the shuttle started [there is no personal parking at that TH].
8:23pm // Settle in for the night at a campsite on the National Forest on the city limits of Tusayan, a little town just outside the East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.
2:06am // Alarm starts buzzing to start our day of hiking.
2:15am // Snooze starts buzzing to kick off our day of hiking.
2:17am // We roll out of our bunks, stumble into the front seats + point the van toward the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center parking lot where we’ll fill up our hydration bladders, stash snacks in our packs + clumsily tie our shoes.
3:08am // Hit the Rim Trail just outside the Visitor’s Center on our way to the South Kaibab trailhead. It’s about a 2 mile hike along a paved trail that followed the rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a rather quiet hike with a massive moon hanging just above the trees on the western horizon. We did spot a few eyeballs along the way, a full herd of elk just chilling in the grass along the trail.
4:03am // After a bit of confused wandering around the South Kaibab trailhead we find the trail that drops us into the Grand Canyon. Bring on the adventure!
4:33am // The horizon lights up with the fiery oranges of the sunrise. Yes, full-blown sunrise at 5am! We were both a bit surprised by how quickly the sun made it’s way over the horizon!
5:29am // The sun was officially above the horizon. It may have been hours before the rest of the world woke up but to us it felt like about 9am. We were in for a long day but we were feeling awesome + happily trotted along the trail discussing politics, arguing about science + taking way too many photos. #howwehike
6:21am // Decide sunscreen is a good option! Robb is a closet ginger, meaning he becomes a lobster after about 17 minutes of sun exposure so we were already risking it. Three layers of sunscreen later he felt safe enough to continue…for at least another 97 minutes!
6:37am // Catch our first glimpse of the Colorado River as it rolls through the bottom of the Grand Canyon — it is so green! Like a river of split pea soup! I like green, but this was just plain weird!
7:08am // We’re officially at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! It took us a solid 3 hours to trek the 7 miles down the South Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River…now it was time to soak our feet + eat “lunch” before starting the climb back up before the sun started cooking the world around us.
7:32am // Settle in near the creek that flows past Bright Angle campground for snacks + river soaking. Robb kept talking about the glory of soaking in the river [he’s been into the Grand Canyon before, but from the North Rim]. We also had our first snake encounter near the river while inhaling eh-too-dry nutella sandwiches, but he was just a wiggly grass snake, no harm done!
8:01am // Robb threw himself into the river in the name of preemptive cooling while I tiptoed my wet feet back to my dry shoes. Time to start the trek up, up, up.
8:37am // The sun was turning up the heat + I became quite jealous of Robb’s soaked shoes so I hopped into the first stream we found. Oh, the frozen glory of water in a steamy canyon! It may have been 80+ degrees but that water was freaking cold — until your skin started going numb.
9:12am // Another stream! It looked like it may be our last chance to really cool down so we both kurplunked into the water + sat about until our legs actually got cold. A few other hikes we’d been leap frogging with stopped to dip their hats in the water — genius! [side note: who knew the Grand Canyon could be so stinking green!]
9:53am // On instinct I backpedaled down the trail, elbowing Robb square in the chest. As I was walking up to a sign in the shade near the Indian Garden campground it started to rattle at me. I’ve never had a rattlesnake rattle at me before…yet I knew exactly what it was + what to do. Instincts are weird like that. By the time my eyes adjusted to it all I was already a few feet back + saw he wasn’t coiled so all was good. We just stood back + let him wiggle his way across the trail while chatting with a few hikers that came up behind us. I chalked that up as my most exhilarating wildlife encounter of the day, so far…
10:14am // We stop for our second breather of the day. Robb needed to swap out his hydration bladders + I needed to switch over to my handhelds [my bladder nozzle hated me] so we plopped down for food while we were at it. Brunch?
10:23am // Back on the trail we talked about how there was no way we’d be out of the canyon by 11am. That was our overall goal…but even though we were climbing faster than we descended there was no way it was going to happen. We had at least another 4.5 miles of climbing + the trail was getting busy, it was time to wrap our minds around the fact we’d still be in the canyon during the “danger zone” on a day with “extreme heat warnings”. At least we’d be *near* the top…
10:54am // As more + more people flow into the canyon we come to the realization that even though we won’t be all the way out of the canyon before the heat really picks up we’ll still be in the smarter percentile of the Grand Canyon’s visitors. People…are amazing…ly stupid.
11:08am // Our communication has dwindled to rolled eyes + “why?!” facial expressions as we meet more + more under prepared groups + families hiking INTO the Grand Canyon as the heat index bounced up to the triple digits. But, seriously, WHY!?
11: 24am // The trail has gotten really busy…but we finally got a stretch of a few hundred feet without people! Ahhh, peace. Except for the very large mountain goat running down the trail, at us. Uh…I have no instincts to react to this! We moved off the trail, toward the cliff that dropped into the canyon. No, wait. That felt dumb. If he butted us we’d go careening to our death. No way were we going to be the prepared hikers dying in the canyon! Just before he got to us we skittered over to the safety of the canyon wall with me apologizing to Robb for hiding behind him. I played every single girl card I had in that moment. Seriously tho, I’m sorry Robb!
11:41am // We basically give up on trying to make up excuses for these people. This might make me sound like a hater…but it would be a very bad decision for me to ever be a ranger or medic in the Grand Canyon because I would encourage natural selection to do its thing. The trailheads + website + everything else is literally plastered with “bring water” + “hike early” + “this is dangerous” with extra “extreme heat danger” signage…yet people were a mile or more into the canyon with just a single bottle of water, for a group of 4+ people. How do they even find the bathroom in their house every morning!? #endrant
12:01pm // Oh, the top! Finally! We made it up + out of the Grand Canyon just as the “heat of the day” started…yet we were the ones going against the masses as tourist flowed INTO the canyon. I still cannot wrap my mind around their life choices, but I think I have a better understanding for America’s political headache — people really like blissful ignorance.
We made it! We had hiked in + out of the Grand Canyon + did not die! It took us about 9 hours when you add in our lunch break. You can find all the details + route on my Strava, but keep in mind Strava manipulates numbers like crazy — we were moving for 8.5 hours with a pace close to 30 minutes/mile. There was no running, just steady hiking with lots of photo breaks.
Overall, I feel like we did this right…or as right as we could, considering we were at the Grand Canyon in mid-June at the beginning of an “extreme heat warning” week. We got up super early, covered a lot of ground before the sun got hot + kept a really steady pace even as the day heated up. We carried extra water, just in case…for our own potential mishaps or to offer up to others. We had plenty of snacks + remembered to eat them so we were in good spirits 99% of the time. Robb’s feet took a beating as he’s used to hiking shoes but opted for trail runners while my body was surprisingly happy with the miles + vert. I think the hours I spent in Mexico’s mountains paid off, big time!
Route: Visitor’s Center > South Kaibab TH > Angel Bright CG > Angel Bright TH > Visitor’s Center [via bus]
Stats: 19 miles // 8.5 hours // 5,800 feet gained // Strava Data