You will need to pack all of your personal gear into an internal frame hiking backpack. The pack should have a hip belt and a sternum strap and should be as small as possible. Many people use a 35-liter pack (or smaller); it should not exceed 44 liters.
Hiking backpacks are highly adjustable; make sure yours is fitted properly before using it. When you are packing for your hike, make sure your food and water are easy to access. Load your lightest gear at the bottom of the pack, your heaviest gear next to your back and centered in the pack, and your medium-weight gear toward the top and outside of the pack.
The Hike In
Meet at the Bright Angel Lodge lobby at 5:45 a.m. ready for your hike with all of your gear packed into your backpack. Be sure to purchase breakfast and snacks the day before as no stores/restaurants are open this early. We will provide lunch when you reach the river. In the lobby, our hiking guide will be checking you in and providing a hike orientation before leading you to the trail. Please do not go to the trailhead on your own. We find the best combination for carrying water is a hydration bladder and a oneliter bottle used to mix electrolyte drinks; make sure to have two liters (64 oz) capacity total. There are rest houses where you can refill water and use the restrooms. It is recommended to refill at every water station. Your hiking guide will be on the trail behind the group but will not expect everyone to hike together. If you need assistance, wait on the trail for the hiking guide to catch up to you. If you hike faster than the guide, they will assume
you are doing well. **The entire group’s river trip itinerary is dependent on everyone maintaining an appropriate pace on this hike in. If the hiking guide deems that you are not able to safely complete this hike in 4-6 hours, you may be turned around on the trail and will forfeit your river trip.
You will hike the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim to Pipe Creek Beach – a distance of about 8 miles with an elevation loss of 4,400 vertical feet. The hike in averages a steep 10% grade and takes the physically fit and prepared hiker 4-6 hours. The trail is very long and ALL DOWNHILL. There is little shade, the weather is normally extremely hot and dry, and it gets hotter as you hike into the canyon making this hike even more strenuous. When you encounter pack mules on the trail, make sure to step off the trail on the uphill side away from the edge and listen for commands from the wrangler. There are a few intersecting trails, so be alert as you hike. As you near Pipe Creek Beach, you will see a restroom which indicates that you are very near our rafts. From the restroom, head straight down to the river and look around for our guides and rafts. Do not continue to hike along the river to Phantom Ranch!
It is very important that you exercise regularly and train for this mandatory hike. Do not underestimate the rigorous nature of this hike. Long-sleeve shirt, hat, appropriately-sized backpack, hydration bladder, and a Nalgene – perfect for the hike in! Many people assume this hike will be easy because it is all downhill, but this is a mistake. The constant downhill is very difficult because it is so unusual for your body and hard on your joints, and it is made even more difficult with the weight of your backpack. Activities such as cycling or swimming, while great for cardiovascular endurance, do not adequately prepare you for the strain of pounding downhill on your feet all day. There is no substitute for hiking; the best way to train is to do practice hikes of similar length and elevation change with a weighted backpack and in the footwear you’ll be using for the hike. Clip your toenails so they don’t rub against your shoes as you hike downhill. Hiking poles are great to have and can take some stress off your legs. Even if you’ve never used poles, we suggest getting them for the hike. They are easily stored on the rafts. Depending on how prepared you are, your hike can be an accomplishment to start off your river trip or a challenging ordeal. The difference between a great adventure and a trip to the hospital is up to you! We have provided a custom training plan for the months leading up to your trip.
Additional tips from the Grand Canyon National Park Service can be found here.
EAT OFTEN & STAY HYDRATED – Eat more than you normally do, ensuring you eat before, during, and after your hike. No matter what the temperature, you need water and energy to keep going. Every hour hiking in the canyon can be likened to the physiological equivalent of shoveling wet sand. You need to eat about twice as much as you normally would to meet your energy needs while hiking in the heat of the Grand Canyon. Your best defense against illness and exhaustion is eating breakfast, consuming salty snacks, and alternating drinking water and electrolyte drinks throughout your hike.
STAY WET & COOL – Whenever you are near water, make sure you get your head and shirt wet to cool down. A wet bandana or sarong on the back of your neck can help lower your body temperature.
DO NOT HUFF & PUFF – Walking at a pace that allows you to walk and talk means that your legs and your body are getting the oxygen needed to function efficiently. At times it may seem like you are walking too slow (sometimes even baby-sized steps when the trail is steep), but your energy reserves will last longer. Take breaks and enjoy the view!
No question too small!
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