One Day Before The Hike Into The River Trip: There are only a couple of options to get from
Las Vegas to South Rim Village. It is your responsibility to book a flight or a ground shuttle to get to the South Rim and stay overnight the day before your trip starts. Grand Canyon South Rim lodge reservations can be made by calling Xanterra at (888) 297-2757 or online at www.grandcanyonlodges.com. Rooms at the South Rim can be difficult to obtain, so please reserve early. Reservations open one year in advance. If lodging is unavailable in the park, you could stay in nearby Tusayan, AZ.
Most guests book a one-way flight from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan (approximately $270 per person). The flight typically leaves twice daily. To book your flight, visit Bar 10 Transportation or call 435.628.4010.
The Grand Canyon Airport is located in Tusayan, Arizona, eight miles from the South Rim. Taxi service (928.638.2822) is available between the airport and the South Rim and Tusayan hotels. Taxis are cash only, and they do not take advanced reservations. You will need to pay a national park entrance fee or show your national park pass when you enter the park. Ground shuttle options may be available; contact our office for details.
The Morning Of The Hike Into The River Trip: You must check in with the ARR hiking guide at the Bright Angel Lodge lobby at 5:45 a.m. for orientation. You will be hiking on Bright Angel Trail approximately 8 miles; the trail descends 4,400 feet. Please see Hike In section for more information. When you reach the rafts at Pipe Creek Beach, please identify yourself to one of the river guides. You’ll have time to change clothes and repack into the provided dry bags as you wait for all the hikers to reach the river.
On The River: You will be traveling 136 river miles on your journey through the Grand Canyon. Each day, you will experience whitewater rapids and various side hikes.
The Final Day: The river portion of your trip will end in the morning at Diamond Creek, river mile 225. You will ride on a Hualapai bus for about an hour along a rough dirt road to the main highway in Peach Springs, AZ, where an air-conditioned shuttle will be waiting to return you to Las Vegas. The bus, reserved through ARR, will drop off at the designated hotel and then Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
Estimated return time back to Las Vegas is between 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.* If you choose to fly out of Las Vegas the final day, make sure your flight departs after 5:00 p.m. Our bus must go to the airport immediately after dropping guests off at the hotel. If you have luggage stored at the hotel, you’ll need to factor in extra time to retrieve your bags and then arrange transportation to Harry Reid International Airport on your own.
*Due to the remote nature of the trip and multiple forms of transportation, we cannot guarantee our exact return times.
Start and End at South Rim, AZ
One Day Before The Hike Into The River Trip: Drive to the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park and stay the night. You are responsible for making your own room reservations. Grand Canyon South Rim lodge reservations can be made by calling Xanterra at (888) 297-2757 or online at www.grandcanyonlodges.com. Rooms at the South Rim can be difficult to obtain, so please reserve early. Reservations open one year in advance. If lodging is unavailable in the park, you could stay in nearby Tusayan, AZ. You can leave your vehicle at the South Rim for the duration of your trip, free of charge. A good place is in the backcountry long-term parking lot (Lot D).
The Morning Of The Hike Into The River Trip: You must check in with the ARR hiking guide at the Bright Angel Lodge lobby at 5:45 a.m. for orientation. You will be hiking on Bright Angel Trail approximately 8 miles; the trail descends 4,400 feet. Please see The Hike In section below for more information. When you reach the rafts at Pipe Creek Beach, please identify yourself to one of the river guides. You’ll have time to change clothes and repack into the provided dry bags as you wait for all the hikers to reach the river.
On The River: You will be traveling 136 river miles on your journey through the Grand Canyon. Each day, you will experience whitewater rapids and various side hikes.
The Final Day: The river portion of your trip will end in the morning at Diamond Creek, river mile 225. You will ride on a Hualapai bus for about an hour along a rough dirt road to the main highway in Peach Springs, AZ, where an air-conditioned shuttle will be waiting to return you to the South Rim, Grand Canyon. The shuttle, reserved through ARR, is estimated to arrive at the South Rim between 1:30 & 2:30 p.m.* If you wish to spend the night after your trip, be sure to make reservations well in advance.
* Due to the remote nature of the trip and multiple forms of transportation, we cannot guarantee our exact return times.
The packing list was created from decades of Grand Canyon rafting experience to cover varying weather conditions, please follow it (even a fleece in summer!). It is better to have and not need, than need and not have. For those of you flying to the area, we suggest carrying absolute river necessities in a carry-on bag. It is tough to get things together if your luggage is lost by the airline.
Note: DO NOT bring hard-sided luggage or suitcases on the river. It is very important to keep your weight to a minimum to make the hike less difficult. You must limit your gear to 25 lbs or less.
Small internal-frame backpack, 35-44 liters or smaller, with hip belt to carry your personal gear and water during your 8-mile Grand Canyon hike
Water containers: Nalgene-style water bottle to use on the river and a hydration bladder for the hike out. You need to have two liters capacity total for the hike.
Grand Canyon rafting is a unique adventure. Once we embark into the canyon, we are self-sufficient and self-contained for the duration of the trip. This means packing well is important as there are no stores to supplement things you may have forgotten. We have put a great amount of thought and care into our packing list, and we ask that you trust our experience!
Another equally important item is quality footwear. Investing in a good pair of river sandals/shoes is crucial to navigating the various slippery surfaces you’ll encounter. “Aqua socks” are not a good option. Getting on and off the rafts can be surprisingly challenging as the rafts are often moving and the side tubes can be extremely slippery. To help maneuver on these surfaces your river shoes should have grippy tread and attach securely to your foot with laces/straps. For optimal comfort make sure your shoes are broken in before the trip as you’ll be spending a majority of each day in these shoes. River sandals tend to be the most popular choice as they have all of these features and are great for the numerous side hikes on unmaintained backcountry trails which may be through water. Amphibious shoes are another good choice as they provide toe protection in addition to traction in both wet and dry conditions. We recommend Chaco, Keen, Bedrock, or Merrell for excellent river sandals/shoes.
Ideally, you should bring 1 pair of river sandals/ shoes, 1 pair of hiking or tennis/athletic shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops to wear in camp, and several
pairs of socks. For your 8-mile hike, some prefer above-ankle hiking boots while others like lighter trail running shoes. Lean on your own experience
to make this choice. Your hiking shoes don’t need to fit in your duffel, they can be stored in the community shoe bag that will be accessible during the day. Flip-flops or Crocs are nice to bring so you can give your feet a break and switch out of wet, sandy river shoes once you’re at camp for the evening. Watch out for blisters and sore spots due to rubbing and abrasive sand under the river shoe straps. Socks are a great way to help combat these issues, protect your feet from the sun, and keep them happy. Look for socks that are synthetic or wool instead of cotton. If you tend to run cold, wool socks can also help as they maintain heat when wet, or consider bringing neoprene booties/socks. Having proper footwear goes a long way towards an enjoyable trip!
It is important to have a quality rain jacket with a hood and rain pants. Because the river is very cold year-round, you’ll use rain gear as a splash guard from the rapids. Even on the hottest days, guests often wear rain gear in the morning, while going through rapids, and in the shade of the canyon walls. Make sure your rain gear is waterproof, not just water-resistant. Rain gear with the ability to cinch at the neck and wrists works well. A poncho is not effective. Do NOT go on your river trip without rain gear!
You will pack your backpack in our waterproof bags when you get to the river. Quick-drying clothing is highly recommended. Many of our guides wear long-sleeved shirts every day for sun protection. If it is overcast, it can turn chilly, so pack a fleece jacket to wear under your rain gear, no matter the time of year. You do not need a change of clothes for every day; many people wear the same outfit for several days. Follow the packing list and remember “less is more!”
If your trip is in the early or late season (April/May or September/October), it is very important to bring additional warm clothing. These months tend to have cooler temperatures, cloudy skies, and the potential for storms. In addition to the items on the packing list, we recommend bringing layers including long underwear, fleece/warm pants, warm hat and gloves, warm socks, and neoprene socks/booties. Layering clothing under waterproof rain gear works well as being splashed by rapids on the river can make it feel much colder. We recommend having an additional set of warm, dry clothes, and maybe a puffy jacket for camp. We strongly suggest you bring these items and be happy if you don’t have to use them!
It is customary, upon receiving a satisfactory experience, to tip the river guides. It is an acknowledgement of a job well done and is greatly appreciated by the crew members. A common tip is 8-10% of the total river trip cost. You may leave cash or a check (bring a blank one to fill out on the river) with the trip leader, who will distribute it evenly among the crew. Please come prepared as you will not be able to tip with a credit/debit card nor apps like Venmo.
As the sun peeks over the canyon walls, you’ll hear a guide call “Coffee!” That’s your cue to head to the kitchen and grab a cup of joe and get ready for the day. A short while later, guides will call you to breakfast. Breakfast menus include traditional favorites such as made-to-order omelets, pancakes, French toast, sausage, and bacon. After breakfast, quickly finish packing up your campsite and personal gear and bring your bags to the rafts.
Once the guides have packed up the kitchen, everyone helps reload all the gear. Then you are off for a day of adventure on the mighty Colorado River!
On the River
As you start down the river, the serenity and beauty of the canyon capture you and the excitement builds as you anticipate running the first rapid of the day. Rain gear is a good idea for early morning rafting. Your day consists of running rapids, listening to canyon interpretation from your guides, and stopping for exploration of side canyons. Each guide has unique stories to tell about the canyon so make sure to switch rafts during your trip. Lunch is typically a quality deli spread. After lunch, the afternoon is filled with more rapids and spectacular scenery. You may take a hike, or sometimes two, as there are many incredible places to enjoy in the canyon. Hikes are to a variety of destinations: a beautiful vista, a stream or waterfall, an archaeological site, or a sandy beach to toss a Frisbee and enjoy some leisure time.
In the late afternoon, you pull into camp and the rafts are unloaded by the group “duffel line”. Then you find your camp spot for the night – all camping gear is provided. You can set up a tent or sleep in the open air. The guides hustle to set up the kitchen and an important part of camp, the scenic bathroom area. Once your campsite is set up, enjoy sitting by the river or wander over to the kitchen for appetizers. Camp chairs are set near the kitchen area, so guests can chat and watch the river guides do their magic. Soon a fresh and delicious riverside meal will be ready for your dining pleasure! Dinner menus include hearty options such as grilled chicken, steak, and fajitas with fresh salads, side dishes and desserts.
As the day winds down, sit and watch a beautiful sunset, reflect on the day, or join in a conversation with other guests. At the end of the evening, head to your campsite for a restful sleep under a canopy of brilliant stars.
Please note: There is no exact itinerary of all the side hikes and camps that you’ll visit. Know that things are always changing. Many factors go into the guides’ decisions and can greatly impact what a normal day looks like including other groups, guest abilities, extreme conditions, and inclement weather.
To get the most enjoyment out of your trip, you’ll want to be in good physical condition. Each day on the river includes several essential physical activities including simply living outside, being exposed to the elements, getting on/off the rafts (roughly a 2-foot step) from uneven, jostling, and/or slippery terrain, and navigating sandy/rocky beaches while carrying your personal bags and provided camping gear to a place where you can set up your own camp area. At camp, we ask everyone (with no medical restrictions) to assist with loading and unloading the boats via a duffel line. Gear bags, camping and cooking equipment, and buckets of water are passed up the line to make camp an enjoyable place to spend each evening. As this is a whitewater trip, you need to be able to be an active participant in your own rescue in case you end up in the river.
Your multi-day river trip also provides you with a unique opportunity to explore places deep within the Grand Canyon. These rugged side hikes are highlights for most guests. Secluded beaches, narrow slot canyons, ancient ruins/pictographs, and hidden waterfalls are just a few treasures that await you. Some of the hikes will require more effort than others, and it is critical for you to assess your own abilities. The guides will give you a brief overview of the hike, but ultimately, you need to determine the level of participation that’s right for you. It often surprises guests that most river trip injuries happen on land. Take your time, watch your step, ask for help if you need it, and don’t go beyond your limits. Most hikes are out and back, so you can tailor the hike to your ability by keeping up with the lead guide to see it all, going at a slower pace and doing only part of the hike, or choosing to remain at the rafts. Keep in mind that the guides will often be in the very front and very back of the group. It is not uncommon for guests to be somewhere in the middle without a guide in sight. If you need assistance or have a question about the trail, it’s often best to wait where you are until someone catches up to you. If you think you’ll opt out of several hikes, we recommend bringing a book, journal, or sketch pad as some hikes can take several hours.
Many people find this trip to be more physically demanding than they expected but also find it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Get active – go for a hike, take the stairs, and get ready for a great trip!
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 Out
On the last morning of your trip, you will be up extra early for breakfast and to prepare for the hike out of Grand Canyon. We will provide lunch and snacks for the hike out. You will raft the last few miles of your river expedition to Pipe Creek Beach where your hike begins. We find the best combination for carrying water is a hydration bladder and a one-liter bottle used to mix electrolyte drinks; make sure to have two liters capacity total. There are rest houses where you can refill water and use the restrooms. It is recommended to refill at every water station. A guide will be hiking 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, and you do not need to wait at the top to check in with them.
You will hike the Bright Angel Trail from the river to the South Rim – a distance of about 8 miles with an elevation gain of 4,400 vertical feet. The hike out averages a steep 10% grade, is similar to an extended StairMaster workout and takes the prepared hiker 6-8 hours or more. The trail is maintained, but it is very long, ALL UPHILL, and tops out around 7,000 feet above sea level. Some of the hardest portions of this hike are near the end where many tall steps can be taxing on your already tired legs. There is little shade, and the weather is normally extremely hot and dry 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. Do not 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. Activities such as cycling or swimming, while great for cardiovascular endurance, do not adequately prepare you for the strain of being 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 gain with a weighted backpack and in the footwear you’ll be using for the hike. 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 top 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!
There is no WiFi or cell phone reception in the canyon. If you plan on using your phone as a camera, backup your data before you go and make sure you have lots of memory available. Put your phone in airplane/low power mode to save battery while on the trip. If you are using a camera and can bring additional memory and batteries, be sure to do so. ARR provides a community charger that has limited ports and is shared by all guests, so please use it sparingly. Bring your USB or wall plug-in cord to use this charger. You can also bring a portable charger for personal use, but we can’t recharge it with the community charger as it drains power too quickly. Securing a strap to your camera/phone is very helpful. A waterproof case doesn’t do any good if your camera or phone ends up at the bottom of the river. We recommend keeping your camera in a case even while in the provided dry bag (7” x 14” sealed). We have found that the fine Grand Canyon sand is as much of a danger to your camera as the water. Drones are prohibited per National Park Service rules.
Most personal homeowners’ insurance policies will not cover lost or damaged cameras on your river trip. If you bring items of value, it is your responsibility to provide your own insurance coverage. Arizona River Runners is not responsible for damage to or loss of personal items during river trips.
Beverage Section: We provide coffee, tea, and hot chocolate at breakfast. Water, electrolyte mix, and a variety of diet and regular soda are always available. If you only drink a certain brand (preferred soda, fruit juices, mixers, tonic, etc.), you may want to bring an additional supply as some choices run out. Since drinking water is not chilled, we recommend that you bring a hard plastic Nalgene-style water bottle so you can chill the water in the river. Insulated water bottles do not allow you to do this.
We do not supply alcoholic beverages, but you can bring your own. For info on how to get your booze on the trip, check out our blog. All beer must be in cans, not glass. Wine should be in boxes. Liquor in a glass bottle is acceptable, but plastic is preferred. Wine and liquor will be stowed by guides during the day and available in the evenings. Beer will be kept cool by the river and available during the day. Ice may be available in the evenings for cocktails.
Whether you are an amateur or avid fisherman, casting a line out into the mighty Colorado is a fun and enjoyable activity on a river trip. However, it does require some additional planning and equipment. Here are a few tips and tricks.
Fishing is best in the first 60 miles or so downriver from Lees Ferry and when the Colorado River is running clear. If the river is thick with sediment and muddy, you will have limited success. The river becomes muddy when we get rainfall over the side streams and tributaries that empty into the Colorado River. Two of the largest tributaries merge with the Colorado River near Lees Ferry and at river mile 60. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish throughout the Canyon.
An important aspect of staying healthy while on-river is hydration. The arid environment requires that you drink more water and eat more salty snacks to maintain proper electrolyte balance. Being a desert environment flying insects aren’t usually a big problem, however, this can vary depending on the time of year and recent rains. If you are sensitive to bites you may want to plan accordingly and bring insect repellent and/or long sleeves and pants. Snakes and scorpions are rarely seen. If you do happen to spot any, give them space and notify a guide. You can reduce the possibility of an encounter with a critter even further by shaking out your shoes and PFD in the morning before putting them on and waiting until you are heading to bed to roll out your sleeping bag. Please be respectful of your fellow guests. Consider things like red lights on your headlamp, be thoughtful when using spray sunscreen, and know that marijuana is illegal as Grand Canyon National Park follows federal law.
Because we’re like a big, close family throughout the river trip, keeping clean is an important factor in staying healthy. Guides will show you the hand-wash system and remind everyone to use it frequently. Soap is allowed only in the main river channel. Bathing in the cold water isn’t always appealing, so baby wipes are an easy alternative. You can’t use soap in or near the side streams but getting in the warmer, clearer water is refreshing and can help to keep you clean. We do NOT recommend bringing solar showers because they are difficult to store and very difficult to use on the river.
During the day, all urine must go directly into the river – that means squatting/standing near the river’s edge, wading in, or using a female urination device. There will be pit stops during the day, but if you have to go between stops, tell the guide before it’s an emergency so they have time to find a good place to pull over. If you need to poop during the day, the guides have a portable toilet system. Don’t be shy to ask for it if you need it. In camp, the guides will set up a camp toilet for solid waste while urine continues to go into the river. At night, we provide handy pee buckets so you don’t have to find your way to the river in the dark. In the morning, dump your pee bucket directly into the river. The guides will explain sanitation and bathroom procedures in greater detail during on-river orientation.
Ladies, if you might be on your period while on your river trip, it’s helpful to plan ahead and pack for the unexpected. If you will be using tampons, bring an outdoor menstrual kit or several Ziploc bags and plenty of baby wipes. Make sure you keep these supplies handy during the day, in your provided day dry bag. When you change during the day, you can wrap the trash in a baby wipe, put that in a Ziploc and dispose of it in the boat trash system or into the hygiene disposal at the camp toilet. Using pads is not the best option as you will get wet a lot on your river trip.
Medical and Dietary Consideration
Due to the remote nature of the trip, it is important to understand that access to professional medical care can take several hours or even overnight. If you or someone in your group has any physical, medical or mental conditions, dietary restrictions or allergies, please list this information on your registration form and notify our office as soon as possible. We strongly encourage you to talk to a doctor and take any necessary precautions. Although we can often make modifications for customers who have food allergies, we want you to understand that we cannot guarantee 100% safeguard from exposure to your allergen. Be sure to bring your required medications, including EpiPens, on the trip.
Multi-day river trips are active, outdoor adventures and can be challenging. Extreme weather, cold river water, and other factors add to the intensity. Please see your acknowledgement of risk form for additional potential risk factors. If you have essential prescription medication, it is advisable to split your medication into two waterproof containers ahead of time so you can keep half and give half to the trip leader for backup storage. Be sure to clearly label all containers. If you have any questions regarding your ability to participate in this trip, please consult your doctor and call our office so that we may help answer your questions.
One of the benefits of a river trip in Grand Canyon is the rare opportunity to be disconnected. There is no cell service or WiFi. We do carry satellite communication devices, but they are only used for outbound messages in the event of an emergency on the river. These devices remain turned off and are not used for incoming messages/calls. In the unlikely event that we could get a message to our guests, there are almost no options to leave the trip and exit the canyon, even if there is an emergency at home. We think it is important to discuss with your family ahead of time whether you would want to receive news of an emergency or death while on the river, as there will likely be nothing you can do until the end of your trip. Feel free to share our office number with your family so that they can reach us while you’re away.
Our experience through the years has shown that river rafting trips are fun vacations. You should recognize, however, that there is an element of risk in any adventure or activity associated with whitewater rafting and the outdoors. Check with your local agent concerning your insurance needs. The Visitor’s Acknowledgement of Risk form must be understood and signed by each passenger 18 years and older. Minors must have a parent/legal guardian sign for them. Each spouse must sign individually; one cannot sign for the other. It is important to understand our rafting trip policies, a few of which are highlighted in the following section.
No question too small!
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