Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim hike
It was a cold night, down to -4C in the Mather campground. I am lucky I brought my sleeping bag cover to go over my regular bag, so I was nice and warm. Woke up to a very frosty tent, but the sun was warm and I hung my tent to dry while the group had breakfast and prepared for our descent into the canyon via the South Kaibab trail.
After reorganized our gear and parking the rental van, the 6 of us headed to the back country office to get our permit and information on trail closure of the North Kaibab trail just below the trail head. We found out that the trail was only closed from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, so to get by the closure we would need to leave Cottonwood campground at 5am. Going to be an early morning, but at least we can do our full planned hike.
We too the park shuttle to the South Kaibab trail head (7260FT/2213M) and arrived just after 10 AM. We had our fill of water, and topped up our bottles for the long decent as there is no water sources till the Bright Angel campground, 7M / 11.3KM and 4780FT / 1457M below. Even though we were going downhill, it was still a challenging hike to the canyon floor.
We took a few breaks at the regular stops along the way as we worked our way down down down. The South Kaibab trail is pretty rough from the mule traffic, and needs some repair. I am glad we are heading down instead of up because there are lots of ruts and mud holes which made for an uneven hiking stride.
We arrived at our destination the Bright Angel Campground (2480FT/756M) at 3:30 PM and selected a nice site close to the water. The campground beside the Bright Angel creek has flush toilets and running water, a real bonus for a back country campsite! We separated into 3 sites, but then found out from the Ranger that we only get 1 site with our 1 permit. A little difficult to do when we have a group of 6 with 5 tents. The Ranger told us the he could let us take 2 sites but not 3, but he did not push us and later left us alone as we could not combine all tents in the small sites.
The nice perk about Bright Angel is the proximity of the Phantom Ranch, and its limited supply store. It is a very popular destination and to get a cabin you need to book 1 year in advance.
We woke up to a partly cloudy morning and set off at 9:00 am, but made a pit stop at the Phantom Ranch to mail out post cards via Mule post.
A vary easy and enjoyable hike of 12.2 KM with an elevation gain of 2400FT/732M through the canyon beside the quickly flowing creek to the Cottonwood Campground. Lots of desert flora blooming in the warm spring sun as we winded our way with towing walls of multicoloured rock surrounding us on both sides.
We passed by the turn off to the Famous Ribbon Falls, but the creek was too high and fast to cross and the bridge was closed, so we had to bypass it for now. There was a little bit of up and down right before the bridge, but nothing too demanding for our hearty crew.
There is a small creek crossing 15 minutes before the campground that required us to remove our boots and walk across a very welcoming cool creek crossing of 1 1/2 feet of water. The water was very welcoming on my soar feet!
We arrived at the very pretty Cottonwood campground (4080FT/1244M) around 1 PM, setup camp and talked about how early we needed to get up to make it past the closed section of the North Kaibab trail by 8 AM. We decided that we needed to get up by 3:30 AM and start hiking by 4:30 to make sure we had plenty of time.
It was a dark clear morning and was a treat to hike under the stars and see the sun rays light up the canyon walls as we headed up the trail. We had to do 5.1M/8.4K with an elevation gain of 2720FT/831M by the trail closure of 8AM. We made it to the base of the Redwall which was the beginning of the construction / trail closure by 7 AM and looked up the challenge of the switch backs in front of us. The climb up the wall was relatively easier than it looked and we made it to the Supia Tunnel (6800FT/2073M) by 7:30 where we took a longer rest and watched the NPS helicopter bring in the work crews to start the trail repairs by 8:00 AM. We did run into the crews tools along the way and decided that it was a good photo opportunity!
The next push up the trail brought us into snow patches and a drop in temperature, but most of the trail was clear and we reached the North Kaibab trail head (8241FT/2512M) just after 9 AM. Still lots of snow on the ground, but it was hard and easy to walk on. We followed the flagging to the right till we found our destination for the night, the Yurt.
It was cold in the Yurt and we all changed out of our sweaty hiking cloths and covered up in our sleeping bags for a well deserved nap before we headed out exploring the North Rim.
We ended up hiking the road to Bright Angel point 1.7M/2.7KM one way, and drank in the views of the Canyon. The North Rim would not open to the general public till late mid May, so it was great to have all the views to ourselves! We sat on top of the sunny Bright Angel point and spotted our previous nights location, the Cottonwood campground bellow. A neat perspective of all the work we did very early that morning to get to where we now are.
We then explored around the snowy Canyon Lodge and started to make our way back to collect water and then to the Yurt to start a fire and have diner. We needed to leave by 6:30 AM to make it past the closed trail again, but this time we have daylight and could see the glorious sights of the North Kaibab trail.
We started at our planned time of 6:30 AM in the cold clear morning and made it to the Supia tunnel by 7:15 AM and then to the bridge by 7:45 AM. We could now see the views we missed the day before, and they are glorious. We knew we had lots of time to take pictures because our destination was the Cottonwood Campground again and it was only an 12.2 KM journey, all down hill.
We arrived at Cottonwood just before noon, setup camp and had lunch. Most of us had a nap and then went to Ribbon falls that was only 2.5 KM away. The bridge was closed due to a small hole near the beginning, but we kept in the trusses and one at a time we made it across the bridge with no issues. Ribbon falls are spectacular and I wish I would have waited till the evening to photograph them with light painting. I did get some good shots and we headed back to camp for diner.
Later that afternoon we heard about a big land slide that closed the Bright Angel trail between Silver Bridge and Indian Garden, and this had us change our plans for the next day. Our destination was Indian Garden and with the Bright Angel closed we would need to take the North Kaibab up to the Tonto Trail and come across to Indian Garden. This would add 5 KM more to our hike, and would add to an already long day.
We did take an afternoon trip to the famous Ribbon Falls, and wow what a magical place and worth the side trip.
We set off at 8 AM towards Bright Angel campground. It was another beautiful morning with wispy clouds highlighting the massive multicoloured canyon walls.
We made it back to the Phantom Ranch by 10:30 AM and enjoyed some of the famous lemonade with our lunch. We were able to get the latest info on the land slide and found that it was cleared for hikers and that we could stick to our original plan! So we relaxed a little longer and started off to Indian Garden (3800/1160) at 12:30 PM. Our trip from Bright Angel to Indian Garden would be 4.7M/7.6KM with an elevation gain of 1302FT/404M.
After a night of rain and thunder we awoke to a fairly clear cold day with the last leg of our journey of 4.8M/7.7KM with an elevation gain of 3060FT/933M. We could see fresh snow on the South Rim above us and knew it would be getting colder as we ascended the Bright Angel.
It was a quick hike out and we arrived at 10:45AM to a picturesque snow covered trees along the South Rim. What a way to end a great 6 day hike! We did approximately 21,000FT/6310M in elevation change and 45M/73KM in distance. I am sure it was more, but this was just a quick calculation from the distance chart on the NPS site.
Video from the trip
Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim