We headed to Grand Canyon from Flagstaff on March 31st 2012
Our plan was to try to hike down to the bottom and up (I know it’s very ambitious and I will add the disclaimer later :)) and the new rules about ban on selling water bottles inside the park caught me by surprise – I was planning on getting a certain number of big water bottles – like several 1 liter bottles, so I could fit them comfortably to the backpacks pockets I had, and turned out they banned selling water bottles at Grand Canyon park, so the only option to get water was to buy small 0.5 containers for 1.99 each and fill with tap water or buy 1 gallon plastic canister. I wasn’t prepared for that at all – carrying 1 gallon plastic container seemed like a very weird idea (although later I saw people doing exactly that) and buying lots of small wide 0.5 plastic bottles also seemed weird – that made me make a wrong choice and I got not enough containers to carry all the water I planned to have.
Later that evening around 6 pm huge dark cloud showed up and it started to snow heavily, and I wasn’t sure at all we would hike next morning at all, but I packed everything just in case –snacks, gatoraid, band aids, coach tape, headlights and layers of clothes etc. Because of the snow and wind I cancelled my dinner reservation at El Tovar, and we just ate at Yavapai Lodge cafeteria – nothing to write about, but it was quick and not expensive.
Next morning I got up at 5:30 am – it was not dark already, and I saw that there was not that much snow on the ground and skies looked clear so our hiking plan was on. We left hotel at 6 am, drove to Yavapai point to see the sunrise (at 6:12 am) and to catch shuttle to South Kaibab trailhead. It was very very cold and windy, so it was hard to enjoy the sunrise, but still it was pretty, we spent about 20 minutes there and waited for a shuttle in a car. At 7:10 we were ready to start our hike down.
I totally agree hiking GC in one day can be a very bad idea, especially in hot weather, I was close to pay for it myself and I learned the lesson. It can be possible at right weather conditions, right fitness level, right amount of food and water, comfortable clothes, shoes/boots, backpacks and supply of different things in case something goes wrong. Also you have to know your partner’s ability very well. I was traveling with my 10 yo son and actually he was the one who pushed me – let’s do it, let’s do it, and between 13 miles and 16 miles he was asking let’s go for 16 miles – he’s in a very good physical shape - swims 5 times a week for several years, go hiking, runs fast and can handle long distances, climbed to high altitude – Camp Muir at mount Rainier - and didn’t seem tired at all, while adults were suffering, so I was pretty confident in his physical ability, even more then in my own.
So we have started our hike – it was so beautiful although very cold at the top, so we were trying to get down fast to get to a warmer temperature – we made it to the Skeleton point in 1:20 min, and it took us another 1:40 to get to the bottom – the hike is amazing! The views are awesome and the whole experience was great! The last section below Tonto trail crossing seemed longer and steeper than I anticipated and I noted it might be challenging to go up especially while carrying a backpack. So we made it down in 3 hours with some quick stops to take pictures and enjoying the hike. The trail was in excellent condition and it was not a difficult hike – even my knees felt OK, although I felt they were working and I guess the pole helped, so I don’t recommend this hike to people with knees problems.
We crossed the bridge and spent some time by the bridge and at the sandy beach down the river. There was first unexpected thing – at the bottom of the canyon my son told me his pants don’t feel comfortable and it hurts to walk and I could see that, so I got really worry about going up, but I had a coach tape (to prevent blisters and turned out it really helped – I covered pretty big skin sections and he didn’t complain anymore, but when I asked him OK which way we’re going up he chose the shortest hike (same way via South Kaibab), which was option 2, which meant we couldn’t refill water on our way up. We didn’t use much water on our way down and it wasn’t hot, so I though we will be OK, just need to be careful.
We have started our climb up at 11:10 and very soon I realized that water can be a problem, because we were thirstier than we thought we would be, could be still OK, but we had to be very careful. We made it to the Skeleton point in 2 hours making several stops on our way – we were going at good pace, but I started feeling quite tired and higher altitude made going up more difficult. Because of water shortage we couldn’t take as many rest stops as we could (weather was fine and we had enough daylight) and I got very angry at myself that I didn’t buy enough plastic water containers – turned out I got very prepared for many unexpected things, but did very bad on number 1 item – water.
Heading up from Skeleton point was quite painful – there were many people on a day hike which looked very fresh with enough water and we were, correction - I was, my son felt perfect and he was carrying a heavier backpack - quite tired. But we got some moral boost when several hikers really admired our adventure and provide encouragement (I was too ashamed to ask for water, and I still thought we had enough, barely, but enough).
Finally we got to the last 0.3 switchbacks and I could see the top, but suddenly I realized what marathoners and people doing triathlon feel when they stop and can’t move – my muscles above my knees started to hurt really bad that every step seemed extremely painful – and I thought – ok, that’s what they mean by effect of dehydration and I got really scared about what if that would happen in the middle of our way up. My son still felt great – was asking if he can go up faster, so the plan was that he would go up, refill the bottles with water and bring them to me, but one family who followed us and knew we are heading from the bottom gave us one small bottle and it was enough to get rid of that muscle pain, so I made it up fine.
Very interesting and life learning experience! Overall it took us 5 hours to climb up, we were at the top at 4:10 and it started to get really cold again. We ended our day at El Tovar, celebrated our hike – my kid was happy, I was happy too, but again angry at myself, but I could see that my kid was really happy of his accomplishment and he liked the feeling of being hero – that he handled everything really well, was about to save me etc.
I’d like to hike that trail again - because it's gorgeous, but… Now I think the best way is to get lucky to get a room at Phantom Ranch, I also not sure if I’d make it if I had to carry a heavy backpack , even if I had to stay camping overnight, and I can’t even imagine what it looks like in summer when it’s 100 degrees. Probably I could repeat the same thing in the same weather conditions, but I’d bring all the bottles I need of right size so we’d have enough of everything.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC