Trip Number: 13039A
Staff: Paul Gross
- Challenge yourself to the demanding hiking of the Grand Canyon
- Experience the awesome geological grandeur from within the Inner Gorge
- During your time off, hike, explore, or kick back and enjoy beautiful
- All vegetarian meals
- Group cooking gear
- Cold soaks in the Colorado River
- Memories to last a lifetime
Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
Photo: Melody Gross
The Grand Canyon is one of our national treasures, awesome in its grandeur
and magnificent in its beauty. We will experience this spectacular natural wonder
intimately as we traverse backcountry rarely seen by most park visitors. We
will see the desert flora changing as we drop through different plant zones.
We’ll hike thru a vast array of desert shrubs, succulents, and cacti.
The area in which we will be hiking is rich in human, natural, and geological
history. We will see the multiple sedimentary layers of earth that have been
exposed over the ages by the meandering Colorado River.
One layover day will allow for side hikes to further explore deep side canyons.
Just being able to sit on the fine sand that makes up the various beaches where
we’ll be staying is an experience in itself. The vistas are stunning.
The hiking will be challenging and strenuous on some days, and easier on others.
Regardless, every day will offer a different view of this marvel of nature.
Whether you're interested in geology, photography, etching, writing, or simply
experiencing the wonder that is the Grand Canyon, this trip will provide ample
opportunities for discovering some of the canyon's secrets for yourself.
Participants must be prepared to carry 2-4 quarts of water each day as well
as 12-15 additional pounds of commissary gear.
Temperatures will likely be warm -- in the 80s during the peak heat of the
day at the bottom of the canyon. Lows in the canyon drop to the 50s. Temperatures
along the rim may range from the mid 30s at night to the mid 60s during the
day. While April is generally a relatively dry month, participants should be
prepared for rain in the canyon. If you've seen the Grand Canyon from the rim
or from the maintained corridor trails and still want to see more, this may
be the trip for you.
Note: Due to Park Service rules, backcountry permits cannot be obtained until
December 1. This means that final trip dates cannot be confirmed until the first
week of December. Slight schedule changes, therefore, may be needed if specific
dates are unavailable.
Photo: Melody Gross
Day 1: We will officially start our trip at 8 a.m. on April
16th in the lobby of the Maswik Lodge, on the South Rim, for trip briefing and
commissary distribution. We will then caravan 10 miles along the East Rim Drive
to trail's end at the Grandview parking lot. There, we'll leave some cars and
then drive another 10 miles to Lipan Point, where we'll leave the rest of the
cars and start our hike on the Tanner Trail. From Lipan Point, the Colorado
River and Marble Canyon can be seen over 4,000 feet below. The Tanner Trail
is initially steep through the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino. After 1.5 miles,
our descent through the Hermit Formation and Supai Group is more gradual for
2.5 to 3 miles until our dry camp at the top of the Redwall. The views from
this spot are breathtaking. Today we will have hiked about 4.5 miles and descended
Day 2: Our day begins with another steep descent through the
Redwall and Mauv Limestones. Our grade diminishes across the Bright Angel Shale
and Dox Sandstone to Tanner Rapids and the Colorado. Views will be abundant
along the way. We will have lunch here and explore this big open area that's
called Furnace Flats because it's particularly hot when the temperatures start
soaring. In the afternoon, we will hike a couple of hours over relatively level
terrain on the Escalante Route to our camp near Cardenas Canyon next to the
Colorado. Our route will cover about 7 miles today with a descent of approximately
Day 3: Today is a full one as we hike along the Escalante
Route with some substantial climbs and descents that include serpentine hiking
around side canyons, and an interesting scramble down a notch into 75-mile Canyon.
We’ll have big views from some of the higher points. We will also see
lots of pink Shinumo quartzite along the Colorado. Our camp between 75-mile
Canyon and Papago is a great beach with a long stretch of rapids. We will gain
and lose over 1,500' during our 7+ miles of hiking today.
Photo: Melody Gross
Day 4: This is our layover day with a chance to relax and
contemplate this vast wilderness. Those interested will spend some time exploring
Papago Canyon without packs.
Day 5: This morning we will hike the last mile of the Escalante
route to Red Canyon, so named because of the bright red of the Hakati Shale.
Just beyond Papago we'll need to use care as we go up and over a 350-foot pass,
then right back down to avoid swimming the Colorado. We will set up camp near
the mouth of Red Canyon and enjoy lunch. In the afternoon we'll hike without
packs up Red Canyon about two miles on the New Hance Trail. We'll observe the
oldest member of the Unkar Group, Bass Limestone, as we make our way to some
exceptional examples of stromatolites; now 1.2 billion years old, they were
once mats of blue-green algae that converted the earth's atmosphere to an oxygen-rich
one. Life as we know it would not exist today without these special algae.
Day 6: The eastern end of the Tonto Trail at Red Canyon is
the beginning of our journey today. Leaving the Colorado River behind, we'll
hike over 1,200' to the Bright Angel Shale, traversing past Mineral Canyon on
our way up to Hance Creek where we’ll be able to relax and enjoy the sounds
of the resident frog population as they serenade us to sleep.
Day 7: This morning we will ascend up the east side of Horseshoe
Mesa. We will fill up with water at Miner's spring on our way over another 1,300'
on the east spur of the Grandview Trail to our lunch stop on Horseshoe Mesa.
Those who are interested can join on a short hike out to Cave of the Domes.
Our hike from the Mesa out the Grandview Trail will be about three miles, with
an elevation gain of about 2,500'. We’ll enjoy stunning vistas along the
way to the end of our trail and the cars. After retrieving our other vehicles
at Lipan Point, we will share a last meal at a local restaurant. Don't plan
to be at the cars sooner than 4 p.m.
Note: The exact itinerary for the trip may vary from what is described above
depending on the weather, water availability, permit availability, and the strength
and preferences of the group.
Photo: Melody Gross
Of all the places that we lead National outings, the South Rim of the Grand
Canyon is the most environmentally friendly place to travel in. There is no
need to have the added expense of a rental car while in the park. The local
bus service runs long hours to a majority of the places on the South Rim. There
are also taxi and shuttle services that will take us to the out-of-the-way trailheads
that we use. The end result is less dependence on a car once you’re at
So how to get there:
To Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and Flagstaff, then catch a bus from Open Road
Tours, service twice daily, (tel. 800/766-7117 or 602/997-6474; www.openroadtours.com).
Amtrak, service to either Flagstaff, or Williams Arizona. http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage
Amtrak will coordinate the final connect to the South Rim, either thru Open
Road Tours or Grand Canyon Railway.
Accommodations and Food
The leader takes pride in providing tasty, appetizing, and fulfilling vegetarian
meals. Dinner is the largest meal of each day, with soup, main course, and dessert
on most nights. Participants with any dietary restrictions or requests are encouraged
to discuss this situation with the leader. All participants assist with camp
chores, including the preparation and clean up of meals on a rotating basis.
The Sierra Club will provide stoves and cooking equipment. The food and group
equipment (commissary gear) will be divided up among all the participants at
the trailhead. The first meal provided will be lunch on the first day, and the
last will be lunch on the last day. The Maswik cafeteria has a dining room where
participants can choose their own meal during our get-acquainted dinner on Saturday
evening before the trip officially starts, and for breakfast on Sunday morning
before we head out for the trail.
Participants will be responsible for making their own room reservations prior
to and following the trip. We cannot reserve rooms at any of the South Rim lodges.
The rooms fill up quickly. The leader suggests that participants reserve rooms
as soon as final departure dates are known. There is also camping available
at Mather campground. Free local bus service is available within the South Rim
Photo: Melody Gross
This trip is rated moderate (M). The rigors of desert hiking combined with
the stresses of long ascents and descents dictate that participants be aware
that this trip may involve a slightly higher level of difficulty. If you have
previously hiked in the Grand Canyon you should have a good sense of this outing.
These trails are mostly non-maintained. Some are very steep, rugged, and rocky,
with occasional sections that are exposed. It is important to realize, however,
that hiking in the canyon may seem significantly harder than other trails you
may be used to hiking. The steep routes of the first and last day are extremely
strenuous. Rim altitudes and the challenges posed by desert hiking make proper
conditioning prior to this trip essential. Not including our layover day, we
will be averaging approximately six miles of hiking per day, descending or hiking
on rolling terrain.
During the middle of our trip we will have a day that will require a climb
down a 12-foot vertical pour off, where many participants will want to lower
their packs with a rope. On day we will have to negotiate a steep rock outcropping,
which we must climb about 50 feet up and over. After we crest this outcropping,
we will have to descend a steep, talus rockslide. For inexperienced hikers,
this may be the hardest day of the trip. If you have a fear of heights, this
is not the time to confront this fear! We’ve done this route many times
and each time this section has seemed easier. If you are in good physical condition
you should be more than able to enjoy this trip. If you would like a more detailed
description of what it's like to hike in the Grand Canyon, please read the first
chapter of Sharon Spangler's excellent book (see References).
Please do not hesitate to contact the leader if you have questions regarding
the difficulty of the trip.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Melody Gross
A comprehensive list of recommended equipment will be mailed to each participant
when they sign up. Below are some of the more important essentials:
- Backpack: Internal frame preferred. You should be capable of carrying all
of your own gear, as well as an additional 12-14 lbs of communal gear, and
a gallon of water on the first day.
- Sleeping bag: A bag with a comfort rating of 30 degrees should be fine.
- Sleeping pad
- Light tent or tarp
- CamelBak or similar water carrier (70 oz), plus two additional 2-quart water
- Boots: Well broken-in, but still in good condition. Boots should provide
good ankle support.
- Clothing suitable for 90-degree daytime temperatures and 50-degree evening
temperatures. (1 pair of pants with zip-off legs works well; 2 T-shirts; long-sleeved
shirt; sweatshirt or fleece pullover (for the rim); underwear; socks)
- Hat with wide brim
- Poncho or rain jacket
It is very important that all personal items be kept to a maximum of 25 pounds
- National Geographic/Trails Illustrated Topo Map: Grand Canyon National Park
– Map #207.
- The USGS 7.5-minute maps that cover our route are Desert View, Cape Royal,
and Grandview Point Quadrangles.
- Spangler, Sharon, On Foot in the Grand Canyon: Hiking the Trails of
the South Rim. Pruett Publishing, 1989. Its first chapter provides an
excellent sense of how one feels when hiking on a route for which they are
not adequately prepared.
- Thybony, Scott, Official Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon. Grand
Canyon Association, 1997.
- Good, John, Guide to the Grandview Trail. Grand Canyon Association.
- Price, L. Greer, An Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology. Grand
Canyon Association, 1999.
- Grand Canyon National Park maps, books, and guides can be purchased from
many outdoor shops or from the Grand Canyon Association through their website
- Informative site detailing excellent information on the natural history
of the Grand Canyon as well as providing narratives of several trips in the
- Great source of information on backpacking in the Grand Canyon as well as
trip reports on the trails we will be hiking: http://www.kaibab.org/
- The official National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/grca/grandcanyon/index.htm
Photo: Melody Gross
One of the goals of an outings leader is to facilitate energetic environmental
discussions that are relevant to the area that we are visiting. The leader's
approach to achieving this goal is to combine our discussions with what our
visual surrounding is showing us. :A picture is worth a thousand words"
could never be truer than when experiencing nature in all her glory. We’ll
be discussing the recent reintroduction of the California Condor into the greater
Grand Canyon area. Hopefully we’ll get to see this magnificent bird soaring
above us. The ebb and flow of the Colorado River will be our daily reality check.
We won’t miss the opportunity of discussing the politics of water and
power, and how it affects the ecosystem. As ardent followers of Leave No Trace,
we will be practicing, demonstrating and discussing these LNT principles through
our weeklong visit. Additionally you are encouraged to come prepared and introduce
topics of interest to you.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Paul Gross, a 62-year-young outdoor enthusiast, has been a backpacking vegetarian living in harmony with his surroundings for more than 37 years. Ten years spent building his homestead in the Ozarks and living self-sufficiently off the land have given him a significant appreciation of being with nature. Paul has been leading local Sierra Club outings for the past 15 years, and national outings for 7 years. He decided to share his love of the outdoors -- not to mention his zest for life and people -- with the National Outings program. Besides backpacking 5-6 weeks per year, Paul is also an avid cyclist and cycle tourist. He has completed several long-distance, self-supported cycling tours with his wife Melody on their tandem bicycle. When not backpacking or cycling, Paul can be found in his garden, experimenting in the kitchen, or ballroom dancing with Melody. In his spare time, Paul supports himself as a remodeling contractor, carpenter, and cabinet/furniture maker. As an aspiring sculptor, his favorite mediums are wood, stone, and people. Paul has trained and received his Wilderness First Responder Certification.
The co-leader of this trip is Melody Gross. Her husband Paul introduced her to backpacking 17 years ago, and she has been a hopeless enthusiast ever since. She is the consummate tree hugger, ardent follower and teacher of LNT principles. Besides canoeing on the local rivers, she can be found backpacking in southern Missouri and Arkansas, three or four times a year. She's quite often out in the mountains with her husband, too -- their weeklong trips into the wilderness are annual events. A more recent passion is backpacking with her dog Sandy, which has expanded into new National Outing trips.
Equally at home in the backcountry or on the ballroom dance floor, Melody has learned how to be one with her surroundings. She is a practicing home health nurse, as well as a Reiki master. She also practices vibrational healing and cranial-sacral therapy. Her other passion is singing: If you hike near the sweep, you may be fortunate enough to hear her singing with the birds. Her Native American cedar flute has also been known to stow away in her pack for after-dark serenades.
Melody has trained and received her Wilderness First Responder Certification.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips