How to Hike the Grand Canyon in Winter

How to Hike the Grand Canyon in Winter
Most vacationers visit the Grand Canyon in warm weather months, but here's a chance to see one of the most spectacular sites on Earth-and not be bothered by big crowds. Bear in mind the north rim is closed in the winter due to snow. If you'd like to hike it in the winter from the South Rim, read on!


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Get a reservation at Phantom Ranch, which is located all the way at the bottom of the canyon. The phone number of Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which handles these things, is 1-888-297-2757. Without a reservation at the bottom, you'd have to hike the entire canyon in one day-but why hike for 16 hours straight when you can have a bunk bed to stay in, a warm shower, a huge hot dinner, a hearty warm breakfast and a sack lunch to do this monumental goal?
Step 2
Reserve your meals at Phantom Ranch. One of the joys in staying there is you don't have to carry down all of your food-take advantage of this service (even if it is pricey).
Step 3
Once you're set at Phantom Ranch, get a reservation or two at the South Rim. The phone number is also 1-888-297-2757. The leisurely way to do this hike is get a room at the rim the night before you hike and the night after you come up. That way you're not tired from driving in or too tired to drive out when you're done hiking. There are a variety of places to stay at the South Rim, varying in price, from the economical Bright Angel Lodge to the upscale El Tovar.
Step 4
Spend the next several months training for the hike. You'll be at 7,000 feet when you hike out of the canyon-it's a lung-buster altitude. See my article on training for hiking Mt. Whitney.
Step 5
Confirm your reservations four to seven days before your trip. They will have mailed you the phone number for this.
Step 6
Once you're at the Grand Canyon, buy crampons at the gift store if it's snowing or there is snow in the forecast. They're cheap and will help your footing until you hike below the snow level.
Step 7
On the morning of your big hike down in, eat a good breakfast and set out by 7 a.m. on the Bright Angel Trail. This route is 13 miles to the bottom and yes, longer than the return trip, BUT the Bright Angel provides a wonderful place to take a brief side trip and lunch stop at Plateau Point.
Step 8
Keep your eye on the clock-you want to be to Phantom Ranch by 4 p.m. for two reasons: the first seating of dinner is at 5 p.m. (and they're not going to hold dinner for you) and by 4 p.m. the sun will be going down and the canyon will be very cold.
Step 9
Consider staying two nights at Phantom Ranch-otherwise, you'll be up before sunrise to head out the next morning. If you stay an extra night, the layover day can give you the opportunity to explore the canyon-Ribbon Falls is a 12-mile roundtrip hike, or you could make a short loop hike going across the two bridges over the Colorado River instead.
Step 10
Return by way of the Kaibab Trail, which will be 8 miles back up to the top. Start by 8 a.m. to be out of the canyon by 4 p.m. The trail is steeper than the Bright Angel but affords a tremendous view of the whole canyon because unlike the Bright Angel Trail, it's on a ridge. Walk very slowly, slow enough to carry on a conversation.
Step 11
At the top, take the shuttle bus back to your car. Better yet, park your car at the Kaibab trailhead BEFORE the hike and take the shuttle to your lodging for your first night in the park. If snow and ice have halted the shuttle by the time you've returned, at least your car will be where you're exiting the canyon.
Step 12
Treat yourself to dinner at the El Tovar-you deserve it! They take reservations, so make 'em ahead of time.

Tips & Warnings

Reservations at Phantom Ranch can be had 13 months in advance. Make yours as soon as you can commit to your hiking date.
Occasionally cancellations pop up. People have walked up to the Phantom Ranch reservation Desk inside the Bright Angel Lodge and gotten lodging down below for the next night. Don't count on it, though.
Dress in layers. It could be cold and snowy at the top and shirt- sleeve weather half way down.
Use hiking poles, 13 miles is tough on anybody's knees and poles will save wear and tear for you. Plus they will help you balance if the trail is icy.
The Phantom Ranch dinner seatings offer different menus, and if you and your companions ordered different dinners, you may not be eating together. The offerings are lentil loaf, a steak dinner and beef stew.
At the Ranch, there are little rustic cabins for couples and larger dorms that accommodate 10 in bunk beds. Bring ear plugs if you're a light sleeper.
Phantom Ranch supplies towels and soap. The canteen down there has snacks, too.
Yes, you can camp in the winter at the bottom if you're up for it. In which case, you'll be bringing everything: sleeping bag, tent, food-and a backpacking permit that you can apply for four months in advance.
BRING CHAINS for your car. It frequently snows up at the rim, and you could easily be caught in two feet of snow during your visit.
Be aware of hypothermia, which is what happens if you get chilled to the bone and can't get warm. That's why a warm hat, waterproof clothing, and layers are so important.
There's no place to cook in your cabin or dorm at the Ranch.

Article Written By eHow


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