How to Hike the Grand Canyon without a Reservation

How to Hike the Grand Canyon without a Reservation
Experienced Grand Canyon hikers make reservations months in advance so they can hoof it over unfamiliar trails or revisit favorite hikes. The National Park limits the number of people treading and camping inside the canyon. But what if you can't plan ahead and simply find yourself at this knockout destination, wearing hiking boots and aching to drop over the rim? There is hope, though not for the most popular lengthy hikes, where campgrounds always are booked ahead. If you are willing to chance unusual hikes and primitive camping, read on.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate

Ready for Backcountry: South Rim

Things You’ll Need:
  • Telephone, method of payment, Internet access (optional)
  • Telephone, method of payment, Internet access (optional)
 
Step 1
Start your search for a backpacking trip at the Backcountry Information Center in Grand Canyon Village. Follow South Entrance Road about four miles. Turn left at the T intersection and continue on the one-way road past the congested area and up a small hill to Maswik Lodge. The backcountry office is across the street. Signs are plentiful and helpful, although streets often have no names and most phones are not staffed on weekends. Pick up a waitlist number as soon as you arrive.
Grand Canyon National Park
PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
(928) 638-7888
www.nps.gov/grca/
Step 2
Take a day hike. No permits or reservations are required to hike into the Grand Canyon and out the same day. Grand Canyon National Park lists five day hikes from the South Rim in order of increasing difficulty and 13 day hikes from the North Rim, with distances from 0.2 to 10 miles.
Step 3
Be on hand when the backcountry office opens the next morning because available campsites are allocated by waitlist number to those present. If you're unlucky the first day, your number for the following morning will be lower.

Ready for Backcountry: North Rim

Step 1
Hike from the North Rim. Most park visitors come to the South Rim, so last-minute hiking permits are easier to get for North Rim routes.
Step 2
Go to the North Rim Backcountry Information Center, open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. daily during months the North Rim is open. It's about a mile north of the Grand Canyon Lodge. Turn right at the sign for "Administration and Backcountry Offices." Nearly 20 hiking routes and trails descend the canyon.
Grand Canyon North Rim Backcountry Information Center (mid-May to mid-October)
(928) 638-7875 (information, Monday through Friday)
Step 3
Pack up and head into the Grand Canyon.

Creative Work-Arounds

Step 1
Call an outdoor adventure company and book a one-day or multiday guided hike. The national park website lists a dozen commercial guided trip companies, most of which ask for three days' advance notice. It's worth your time to check them out, but don't rule out other companies.
Grand Canyon National Park
www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm
Grand Canyon Hikes
(877) 506-6233
(928) 779-1614
7010 Bader Road
www.grandcanyonhikes.com
Hydros Adventures, LLC
PO Box 30695
Flagstaff, AZ 86003
(888) 949-3767
(928) 310-8141
www.hydrosadventures.com
Step 2
Hike outside the park boundaries. Consult a map, decide what looks good and get on the phone. For example, the Havasupai and Hualapai Nations include regions within the Grand Canyon corridor but outside the boundaries of the national park. Call Havasupai Tourism Enterprise or stop at the lodge on IR 18 in Supai. Phone or stop at the Hualapai Lodge on Route 66, Peach Springs.
Hualapai Nation
PO Box 179
Peach Springs, AZ 86434
(877) 716-9378
www.destinationgrandcanyon.com/tours.html
Havasupai Nation
PO Box 10
Supai, AZ 86435
Camping, (928) 448-2141
www.havasupaitribe.com/hiking.html
Step 3
Wait for school to start. Not only are there fewer park visitors in autumn and spring, but the weather is lovely.
Step 4
Bundle up and take a cold-weather hike. This applies only to South Rim trails. The North Rim is closed during the middle of winter.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
Canyoneering is backward: First you descend, tiring quad muscles and challenging your sense of balance, then you turn around and climb, taxing your cardiovascular system. Canyon hikers speak in terms of elevation gain or loss instead of miles traveled. The temperature rises as you descend. This makes a profound difference during hot weather. When it's hot, consider hiking from sunrise to the heat of the day, then lying low until cooler evening hours. Whatever you carry into the canyon, carry back out. Eat well and frequently: It takes energy to walk. With insufficient energy, you will not think well.
 
Canyoneering is backward: First you descend, tiring quad muscles and challenging your sense of balance, then you turn around and climb, taxing your cardiovascular system. Canyon hikers speak in terms of elevation gain or loss instead of miles traveled.
 
The temperature rises as you descend. This makes a profound difference during hot weather.
 
When it's hot, consider hiking from sunrise to the heat of the day, then lying low until cooler evening hours.
 
Whatever you carry into the canyon, carry back out.
 
Eat well and frequently: It takes energy to walk. With insufficient energy, you will not think well.
 
The difference between a glorious adventure and a trip to the hospital or funeral home is spelled "prudence." The biggest factor by far is water. Always treat or boil drinking water. Check the latest reports on trail and campground closures and the availability of water. Don't go to the river and back in a single day. Many try to make it but wish they had spent time to enjoy the canyon. Many try and fail, which is complicated, uncomfortable and can be dangerous. Mules have right of way.
 
The difference between a glorious adventure and a trip to the hospital or funeral home is spelled "prudence." The biggest factor by far is water.
 
Always treat or boil drinking water.
 
Check the latest reports on trail and campground closures and the availability of water.
 
Don't go to the river and back in a single day. Many try to make it but wish they had spent time to enjoy the canyon. Many try and fail, which is complicated, uncomfortable and can be dangerous.
 
Mules have right of way.

Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at Trails.com or at Azacda.presspublisher.us.

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