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Hikers Specials: What to Expect and How to Prepare

By Brannon • September 12, 2021

These trips only run of couple times a year, at the very beginning of our season, to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Seeing more of the canyon appeals to many but these trips tend to be significantly more demanding, both physically and mentally.

What Makes These Trips “Special?”

First, the Hikers Special trips are longer, 11 days for the motor trips and 15 days for the oar trip. Both motor and oar trips also have the option of doing either the upper or lower sections which require a hike out of or into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. This adds significantly more hiking mileage and physical challenge to the trip. During the trip, there will be some longer hikes, 5+ miles, but due to the inaccessible terrain in much of the canyon, most hikes are relatively short, 1-3 miles. With the added time there are more opportunities to explore side canyons with waterfalls, see Ancestral Puebloan and historical sights, and hike to spectacular and unique views of the canyon and the river. The cooler temperatures make it possible to do some of these hikes that are simply too dangerous to do in the heat of the summer. The extra days allow time to move down the canyon at a slower pace in order to pack in more hikes and explore from camp.

“It’s difficult to explain the beauty of the canyon from the river view. Pictures can’t even do it justice. The majestic beauty just seeps into your soul. I was able to do every hike. This is not Disneyland. There are no handrails, no protective walls. You will be trusting your footing greatly. But you climb to some of the most beautiful waterfalls and ponds you have ever experienced because they are mixed with your sweat from the excursion and the elevated view of the river. Get in shape for climbing. Run some stairs for cardio and leg strength. Then enjoy the beauty!!” -Sharlene B. California

What Are the Unique Challenges?

The Grand Canyon is difficult to explain until you have experienced it. Almost everything is steep and rocky. Even the shorter hikes can be challenging. From scrambling over loose rocks, lung-searing elevation gain, and walking in cold water; there is nothing easy about the canyon. Our trips in April benefit from cooler temperatures but this also means that it can be harder to stay warm. Cold mornings, chilly river water, and less direct sunlight means that packing appropriately is key.

Setting up camp is the same as any ARR trip. There are more nights on the river which means more duffle lines, more set-up, and more break down. Also, in order to maximize the opportunities to explore, the guides will facilitate a more efficient morning and arrive later into camp some days. This just means that with the challenging hikes, staying warm, and more days on the river, these trips can be wonderfully exhausting.

I’m Up for the Adventure…now what?

Start training now! Being fit is the best preparation for the Hiker’s Special. The thing we hear most often (from very fit people) is “I should have trained more.” It’s not the “doing of the thing” that is so hard, it’s the “doing of the thing” everyday. If you don’t have elevation where you live (Kansas and Florida, we’re looking at you), the next best thing is extra distance. Work up to 10+ mile hikes. If you work or live in a tall building, start taking the stairs (like you said you would start doing on January 1st). Take some long weekend trips with friends and family to get used to filling up a day with fun activities and try out your new camping clothes to see how you do with some colder temperatures. Finally, call the ARR office if you have any questions or concerns. We can talk about your trip and go into greater detail regarding what to expect on the river and how to prepare.

Wow! This sounds like a bit much for me but I’m already booked on a Hiker’s Special.

Sometimes the extra days on the river sounds inviting, so you signed up for the longest trip you could. However, if after reading this you think you might be over your head, prefer a more relaxed trip, or someone in your group may not be able to fully enjoy themselves. That’s fine! We prefer that everyone book a trip they are capable of and have the time of their life. If a Hiker’s Special doesn’t fit with your plans, please get in touch with our office right away so we can discuss our other trips that may be the perfect fit.