I don't know what type of Grand Canyon experience you are interested in having, but ours was never destined to be one of comfort or leisure. No pillow top mattresses, no continental breakfast, no television or showers. We opted for moist towelette wipe downs, creek water, a mesh topped tent, and MRE's for all three meals. So, if you were hoping for a post on the more casual side of the Grand Canyon that will have to come when we embark on a more "silk slipper" type of trip. Jayme & I wanted to challenge ourselves with a multi day hiking/camping trip. We wanted to pack everything we'd need on our backs and make our way down to the bottom of the canyon and back out. Reference the Multi Day Hiking post we did for tips and pitfalls to avoid when backpacking, its relevant for most any trek. Here you'll get a few Grand Canyon specific places that are so strong that We'd Go Back for, places where Once was Enough, and end with some Final Tid Bits that may make life easier for you.
- Antelope Canyon: Some may not consider this as part of the Grand Canyon, but why would you ever find yourself near there unless visiting the Grand Canyon? I dunno. But my goodness, this is gorgeous. Its not cheap, roughly $40 a person. Its also, if coming from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a 3+ hr drive to get there. You NEED to get there early, I'm talking 30 minutes early at least. They consider 15 minutes early as being late and they give your spot up. And don't think there will be another spot available or they can just sliiiiiip you into another group. They are incredibly strict on the number of people allowed into the canyon at a time, they have a set number of groups, and are likely sold out. I just spent a long time trying to convince you to be on bloody time! I recommend getting ahead of your group a bit once you get into the canyon, it can get quite congested with the tourists moving through the cavern, so feel free to jog ahead and find the sweet spot between groups. Have yourself some canyon all to yourself.
Upside: Beautiful natural wonder
Downside: Out of the way and a bit pricey.
-Horseshoe Bend: I can already here everyone scoffing about how we are recommending the touristy ole Horseshoe Bend, but you know what, sometimes there is a reason all the tourists are headed to the thing. Jayme & I aren't the biggest fans of staying on the trails or following the crowds. We did a lil speed walk past the slow walking sightseers in their jelly sandals and fancy dresses (clearly not a tough path to the bend). We pushed through the crowds of people lined up along the nice standing path and we skirted down the dirt in front of the path to a small dirt ledge overlooking the heart of the bend. It looked like they were doing construction, so this may not be accessible anymore. Jayme and I are savvy little climbers so traverse the uneven terrain at your own peril. But from this point, when we looked out, we only saw the bend and all its beauty. Our peripheral was free from all the masses, and it felt like we were the only ones there.
Upside: Incredible view
Downside: Very touristy and controlled
-Hiking into the Grand Canyon (Hermit Trail): There are a lot of different trails that you can take into the Grand Canyon. We chose the path less traveled. Hands down the most popular trail is the Bright Angel trail, everybody and their mother do this 2-day hike. First off, know that if you want to hike into the Grand Canyon you must submit a request early. I'm talking maybe even a year early. It recommends 6 months, but the camping/hiking community are freakishly on top of planning out their future trips. Our request for entry was denied and we decided to go anyways and hope for the best. We woke up quite early and headed to the ranger station to stand in line with a bunch of blue hairs and creaky jointed hikers. You know where all of them were requesting permits for, yep, Bright Angel Trail. Hermit trail was available, our original plan, but we had to do it the journey in one less day. The Hermit trail was what we originally wanted because the campsites only allow for 5-7 groups, where as Bright Angel allows for over 60! The best part of this whole hike is the last day when you get to camp down on the sand along the Colorado river. It was so spectacular I couldn't believe it. We had two days to get to the bottom of the canyon, and one day to get out. I DO NOT RECOMMEND trying this unless you are a very experienced hiker, it is wildly difficult. We wanted the 3 night option, but due to the cap on hikers we had to do the two night. Gotta do what you gotta do. I'll tell you this though, I have yet to do a hike or trip that has come close to being as demanding as the last day where we had to hike all the way out of the canyon in one day.
If I could recommend one thing, it would be to travel with the right person. Especially on a trip like this. It will be uncomfortable, it will be exhausting, and it will be challenging. We are absolutely spoiled to be able to travel together. We kept each laughing and made light out of the tough situations. I couldn’t imagine doing this trip with anyone else. I hope you also choose the right person. Because, as we have said before, it always takes two.
Upside: Really challenging, limited hikers means no congestion, legendary scenery.
Any pay to use campsite: There is enough BLM land within very close proximity to the trail heads in the Grand Canyon that I cannot justify paying for the incredibly packed campsites. We stayed at one the first night, and it was fine. Typical campsite. But the next two nights, while waiting for our day to enter the canyon, we stayed on BLM land. This is open land where you can camp wherever you please. Be aware, there are absolutely no amenities, meaning no bathrooms. If you don't mind that, then I recommend avoiding the campsites for the opportunity to truly camp.
Upside: Significantly more privacy, free.
Downside: No amenities