How to Plan a Grand Canyon Trip

How to Plan a Grand Canyon Trip
The Grand Canyon is not only a picturesque wonder to behold but also offers some of the most interesting outdoor adventures. If your passions include hiking, you can plan a rim-to-rim trip with a little legwork. If you'd like a more scenic and leisurely adventure into the canyon, perhaps a guided trip is more your speed. Whatever your tastes, there's a Grand Canyon adventure that's ideal for both your skill level and hunger for excitement.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Planning a Hiking Trip in the Grand Canyon

Things You’ll Need:
  • Day pack or medium-sized backpack Personal hydration system or water bottles Hat Sunscreen Extra layers for evening (i.e. fleece, light down, warm pants) Extra pair of socks Headlamp (if staying overnight) Sleeping bag (if staying overnight) Stove (if staying overnight) Snacks Sturdy hiking shoes or boots
  • Day pack or medium-sized backpack
  • Personal hydration system or water bottles
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra layers for evening (i.e. fleece, light down, warm pants)
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Headlamp (if staying overnight)
  • Sleeping bag (if staying overnight)
  • Stove (if staying overnight)
  • Snacks
  • Sturdy hiking shoes or boots
 
Step 1
Read about the available options and determine what your schedule allows. Three guidebooks to get you started on your Grand Canyon hiking trip planning are: "Best Easy Day Hikes - Grand Canyon" by Ron Adkinson, "Hikernut's Grand Canyon Companion" by Brian J. Lane and Kathleen Bryant, and "Frommer's Grand Canyon National Park" by Shane Christensen.

Considerations for choosing your Grand Canyon hiking trail should be experience level, available gear and time of year.

Once you have chosen your Grand Canyon hiking trail, you should determine if you will be doing a self-guided hike or a commercial guided tour.
Step 2
Consider a guided hiking tour in the Grand Canyon if traveling alone or enjoy the comaraderie of groups. There are several outfitters who provide these tours, although pricing will vary. Ask tour companies about emergency medical training, evacuation procedures for accidents, qualifications for their guides, group size and water provisions.

If you have ample experience in wilderness hiking and adequate gear, you may be capable of doing a self-guided Grand Canyon hiking trip.
Step 3
Determine your required gear list. If hiking solo, make your gear list for the hike and make extra copies of your trail maps. If hiking with a commercial tour, request the suggested gear list from the tour company and pack your gear.
Step 4
Confirm your trip. A week prior to your trip, confirm your group's attendees if doing a self-guided hike, or if doing a commercial tour, call your tour provider to confirm your reservation and ask for any available updates. A week prior to your trip is a good time to confirm the weather forecast as well.
Step 5
Arrive on time. Hiking trips are set to depart at a specific time by the outfitter and delays can impair the group's ability to return during daylight hours. Contact your outfitter immediately if you will be late.

Planning a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

Step 1
Assess your skill. If you have previous experience whitewater rafting and have adequate equipment, you may opt to do a self-guided rafting tour. If you have minimal experience and would still like to venture into Grand Canyon waters, a commercial guided tour may be your best and safest opportunity.
Step 2
Obtain your permit. If taking a self-guided rafting tour, you will be responsible for obtaining your permit directly from the National Park Service. If taking a commercial rafting tour, your outfitter will usually arrange for the group's permit. However, it is best to speak with your outfitter to confirm permit requirements in advance.
Step 3
Make your gear list. If taking a Grand Canyon rafting tour through a commercial tour company, ask them for a list of recommended gear. If doing a self-guided trip, you will need to make your own gear list based on personal experience and the advice of others or guide books for the region.
Step 4
Confirm your trip. A week prior to departure, confirm your rafting trip participants and ensure they all have their required or allocated gear. If using a commercial tour company, call and confirm your reservation and inquire about any changes in conditions or gear recommendations.
Step 5
Arrive on time. Rafting trips are generally scheduled to depart from the predetermined meeting point at a certain time and must do so to ensure the group's safety. Call your outfitter if you are going to be late for any reason.

Planning your Grand Canyon Burro or Mule Tour

Step 1
Determine your starting point. Grand Canyon mule and burro trips are available beginning at either the South or North Rim. There are only a few authorized providers of mule and burro trips in the Grand Canyon, so there is little price competition. Plan to spend anywhere from $40 for a short, one-hour trip to over $800 for an overnight or multi-day trip into the Canyon. Xanterra is the largest provider of mule and burro trips.
Step 2
Make your reservations. Mule and burro trips fill up fast as there are a limited number of permits allowed in the Canyon per day and per season. Cancellations are rare and poor planning will likely result in disappointment. There are waiting lists, but openings are unlikely.
Step 3
Make your gear list. Ask your outfitter for a list of recommended gear. All mule and burro trips have a per-person weight limit that is strictly imposed. While most active adults should not have to worry about exceeding these limits, it is important to understand the gear you are expected to provide, including water.
Step 4
Confirm your reservation. While requirements for confirmation vary by outfitter, it is good practice to contact your outfitter a week prior to your trip to confirm your reservation. This is also a good time to ask about any changes in the gear list or trip itinerary.
Step 5
Arrive on time. Be sure to arrive at the predetermined meeting point on the day of your tour and contact your outfitter immediately if you will be late for any reason.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
If planning on using natural water sources to re-supply, bring a water filter. Extra socks are always a wise addition to your packing. If one pair gets wet or compromised, you have a second pair to put on while the other dries. Don't pack unnecessary items. A lighter pack weight will not only lessen the load on your knees but put you at less risk for slowing down to an unsafe speed. For self-guided hiking trips, make three copies of the trail map. Two people in your group should carry a copy and then one extra copy should be placed in a safe compartment of one person's backpack. Be sure to let a trusted contact know when you leave on your hike, expected duration of your hike, and a time at which they should call for help if you have not reported back. Rafting tours of the Grand Canyon are classified as either commercial (paid, guided tours) or non-commercial (private). Check with the National Park Service on permit guidelines and requirements for Grand Canyon rafting tours. Understand that the permits for Grand Canyon rafting trips are available up to one year in advance and can be in very high demand. Many permits (especially for longer, self-guided trips) are available only through public lottery. Make sure you plan your rafting trip plenty of time in advance so you do not meet up with any surprises. Burro and mule rides can fill up, especially on busy holiday weekends, up to a year in advance. Book early.
 
If planning on using natural water sources to re-supply, bring a water filter.
 
Extra socks are always a wise addition to your packing. If one pair gets wet or compromised, you have a second pair to put on while the other dries.
 
Don't pack unnecessary items. A lighter pack weight will not only lessen the load on your knees but put you at less risk for slowing down to an unsafe speed.
 
For self-guided hiking trips, make three copies of the trail map. Two people in your group should carry a copy and then one extra copy should be placed in a safe compartment of one person's backpack. Be sure to let a trusted contact know when you leave on your hike, expected duration of your hike, and a time at which they should call for help if you have not reported back.
 
Rafting tours of the Grand Canyon are classified as either commercial (paid, guided tours) or non-commercial (private). Check with the National Park Service on permit guidelines and requirements for Grand Canyon rafting tours.
 
Understand that the permits for Grand Canyon rafting trips are available up to one year in advance and can be in very high demand. Many permits (especially for longer, self-guided trips) are available only through public lottery. Make sure you plan your rafting trip plenty of time in advance so you do not meet up with any surprises.
 
Burro and mule rides can fill up, especially on busy holiday weekends, up to a year in advance. Book early.
 
Be sure to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the temperature concerns for the time of year in which you're planning your trip. Temperatures can vary greatly from the top of the canyon to the bottom as well as from morning to noon and night. Never underestimate your water needs. Understand the water requirements for your trip as well as the availability of natural water sources.
 
Be sure to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the temperature concerns for the time of year in which you're planning your trip. Temperatures can vary greatly from the top of the canyon to the bottom as well as from morning to noon and night.
 
Never underestimate your water needs. Understand the water requirements for your trip as well as the availability of natural water sources.

Article Written By Erika Napoletano

Erika Napoletano is a full-time professional writer and social media consultant based in Denver, Colorado. Her skills include experience as a formerly licensed securities professional and extensive real estate work including over 18 months in hard money lending. Recently featured in the Denver Business Journal for her social media expertise, Erika is a prominent figure in the Denver and Colorado social media communities.

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