The Grand Canyon: April 26 - April 28, 2008

Trip #1: Grandview to Tonto to South Kaibab

Plan and Cost

The plan for this trip was to just fly into Flagstaff or Phoenix and then drive to the Canyon, leave the car and then get a ride back to the car after we hike out. The biggest cost was actually the cost of the rental. Next time, I will try and figure out a way to not rent a car and get a ride there and back somehow.

Also, the hotel was just a place to sleep the day before and the day after. Not really necesary if you wanted to shower and camp near the canyon, as there are ample spaces.

Flight: $270
Rental Car: $400
Hotel: $300
Food: $100
Park Pass: $50 (Full Year)
Backcountry Permit: $40


Map of the Trail... Starting at the Bottom right from grandview Point, Moving to the West of Horseshoe Mesa, West along Tonto Trail, and finally south on the South Kaibab trail to the end of the trailhead.



I have been trying to get to the Grand Canyon for a few years now. At some point I want to try and kayak the whole thing. But until I get good enough to do that, I wanted to at least see it from the rim and do some hiking and maybe some backcountry camping. So when my friend Joe called me and said his wife had agreed to let him out of the cage for a few days, I said let's do it.

Unfortunately, we did not plan addequate time to obtain the necessary backcountry permits. While anyone can just show up and do a hike, if you plan on doing multi day hikes, you will need to do some serious prior planning. The cushy lodges are booked up more than a year in advance. In order to get a backcountry permit, it is recommended that you apply the earliest you can, which is four months prior to the proposed start month. If not, you're likely to get denied.

We were lucky enough though, to be able to get approved for a permit though. How you ask? Simple. Joe submitted the permit (about a month or two before we were going to go) and we were rejected within a week or two. He then reapplied, and in the 3rd option he wrote, "We will take any 3 night, 5 day trip. (We are eperienced hikers) Thank you."

Luckily for us, this time, they accepted our permit, and sent them out to us. unfortunately, just beofe we were ready to leave, Joe's had some family obligations he had to take care of, so he was unable to go. unfortunately, the way the permits work is they are only valid for the Trip Leader (the person who's name is on the application) and a generic bnumber of others. The trip leader needs to be there, as the permist are literally their property.

So we emailed them and they let us know that it was possible to change the permits into another persons name if the trip leader sent a fax or mail stating their wish to change the trip leader and the new trip leaders name and address. What we found by experince is that email will work for this as well. Joe emailed, explained the situation, and the ranger emailed back letting me know that they could mail out the permits to me, or I could stop at the ranger station and they would give me a copy. Below is what the actual permit looks like when you get it.




Backcountry Permit Procedures

If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim, South Rim, or Tuweep, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.

The earlier you plan your hike and apply for permits, the more likely you will be to get the dates and itinerary of your choice. The earliest you can apply for a permit is the first of the month, four months prior to the proposed start month.

Each year Grand Canyon National Park receives approximately 30,000 requests for backcountry permits. The park issues 13,000 permits, and close to 40,000 people camp overnight in the backcountry at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park encompasses more than 1.2 million acres, the vast majority of the park is inaccessible due to the predominance of cliffs, and inhospitable to all but desert plants and animals. The Colorado River bisects the canyon; hikers can cross the river only at Phantom Ranch. If you choose to hike from rim to river to rim, you will have to deal with an elevation differential of more than 10,000 feet from start to finish.

Despite the fact that canyon hiking is extremely demanding, requests for backcountry permits far exceed the use that the canyon's fragile desert environment can sustain without serious resource damage. Therefore, overnight camping in the canyon and in undeveloped areas along the rim is carefully monitored and controlled, and demand usually exceeds availability.


Backcountry Information Center

The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily for walk-in visitors from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center is open mid-May to mid-October for walk-in visitors from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Backcountry Information Center staff answer information telephone inquiries at 928-638-7875 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. This telephone number is for information only.

Email the Backcountry Information Center.

FAX number for permits is 928-638-2125
you can send a fax 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - HOWEVER the first day of every month we receive many faxes and the number may be busy

Mailing address is:
Grand Canyon National Park
Backcountry Information Center
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon AZ, 86023

Backcountry Permit Request Form NOTE: This is a printable form only. You must print the form, fill it out, and then fax/mail it directly to the Backcountry Information Center.

Backcountry Trip Planner (2mb PDF File): The information in this newspaper can assist you in obtaining a backcountry use permit.

Video: Hiking Grand Canyon, Prepare for Backpacking. This video is designed to help you plan for and enjoy your hike into the canyon's harsh, yet fragile, environment.

Hike Smart: Be sure and listen to the Hike Smart Podcasts! (transcripts available)

The Grand Canyon Association sells maps and books on hiking in Grand Canyon National Park.

Last Minute Permit Availability

People without a permit may be able to obtain one upon their arrival, in person, at the Backcountry Information Center. However, permits are very difficult to obtain during popular seasons.

When demand for campsites exceeds supply, a waiting list procedure is implemented. Participation in this procedure is limited to walk in visitors only. Obtaining a same day permit is unlikely; anticipate a 1 to 3 day (or longer) wait.

People may participate in the waiting list for as many consecutive days as are necessary to obtain a permit. However, those on the waiting list must be present at the Backcountry Information Center at 8:00 am Mountain Standard Time each day in order to maintain their position on the waiting list.


Someone on a bulletin board had this advice for last minute backcountry permits

The backcountry office always holds a few permits until the last minute. They give them out on a first come/first served basis to people who ask for them in person.

**Note** To pull off this maneuver, you'll need to be coming to the canyon for more than a weekend. I'd recommend at least 4-5 days (of course, more time is always better!).

The first morning you are in town, you'll need to go to the backcountry office before they open (it's located in the train station near Maswik lodge) and get in line. If you are early enough (and lucky), they'll give you an overnight permit for that evening for the usage area you requested.

If you can't get a permit for that night, don't dispair! Ask for a number for the next morning's waiting list. Then come back the next day and try again. Every consecutive day you come back, you get higher up in the line. It's so simple, it almost seems unfair that more people don't know about it, doesn't it?

I've done this 3-4 times for my own hikes and I rarely have to come back more than once to get the permit.

One caveat about doing things this way though... Since the office doesn't open until 8am so you can't leave for the trailhead before then. This will probably force you to be hiking during the hottest time of day which is a truely awful time to be on my favorite South Kaibab Trail.

Unless you are very confident that you and your group can make it down the 7 mile South Kaibab in 2-3 hours (including getting to the trailhead, I'd recommend taking the Bright Angel trail down instead and spend the hottest hours of the day relaxing at shady Indian Gardens and in the Bright Angel creek waterfalls just below there and walking the last few miles during the late afternoon.

Don't forget to check out our favorite Grand Canyon hikes!
Have a great time at the canyon!




Well done is better than well said.    -Benjamin Franklin

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