Trip Number: 13450A
Staff: Wendy Davison
- Enjoy a week of backpacking through one of the world’s natural
- Take in views of the Canyon from the top, middle, and bottom
- Experience a challenging, varied backpack across broad mesa, into narrow
canyons, along sandy beaches
- Tried-and-true backpacking skills tailored to the Grand Canyon
- Tasty and hearty light-weight meals
- Group cooking gear
Photo: Shelly Eberly
Please note that the leader has changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
PLEASE NOTE: Because of Grand Canyon National Park rules, a backcountry permit
cannot be applied for until November 1, 2012. Dates and/or itinerary may have
to be changed to obtain a permit. Final dates and itinerary should be solidified
by early December 2012.
Join other adventuresome women on a week-long backpack through the challenging,
inspiring, and empowering Grand Canyon, rightfully one of the World’s
Seven Natural Wonders. The canyon may seem impressive when viewed from the rims.
However, not until you drop below the rim, touch the Colorado River, experience
a sunrise and sunset from the depths of the canyon, hear the hooting of owls
nesting in the Coconino Layer, smell the wildflowers freshly in bloom, and slowly
hike back out will you truly experience the magic and magnitude of this incredible
Over 4.5 million people visit the South Rim each year, but only two percent
dare to enter the Canyon’s depths and spend the night. These are the lucky
ones. Nearly 2 billion years of the planet’s history is exposed in the
Canyon’s layers. During our week of traveling through the Canyon, we will
explore and experience the geological and archaeological history of the canyon
while admiring the animals and plants that live in this challenging environment.
The leader will share her knowledge of backpacking, especially in the canyon,
and her limitless passion for this natural treasure.
The demands of the trip require very good physical conditioning. This is an
absolute must for this trip. A flexible attitude and a sense of adventure are
helpful and necessary traits, too.
During our adventure we will cover approximately 35 miles of trails and a few
miles off trail while exploring. We will experience the Tanner, Escalante, Tonto,
and Grandview Trails. Distance covered each day will usually be 5-6 miles. Our
planned route spreads the descent into the canyon across two days to reduce
impact to our knees. Our ascent out of the canyon will be spread over three
days, giving us opportunities to rest and to explore. The leader likes to take
a slower but steady approach to backpacking. Her goal is not to set any speed
records but to appreciate and relish the beautiful country through which we
will pass. As time permits, participants may explore side canyons, search for
wildlife, listen to the roaring Colorado River, take photographs, or simply
stay in camp to relax, read, or write.
Photo: Julie VanTilburg
On a typical day, we will rise at 6:30 a.m., dine on a hearty breakfast, break
camp, and be hiking by 8:30 a.m.. We will strive to be at camp mid afternoon
with time to erect tents and clean up a little before dinner. However, some
days may be long meaning we may not get to camp until 5:00 p.m. or possibly
The following is our itinerary for the week. Consider it approximate as weather,
the group’s pace, and the National Park Service’s permitting requirements
may necessitate modifications.
Day 1: The official start of our trip is 8 a.m. on Sunday,
March 31, at the Maswik Lodge in the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of
the Grand Canyon. We will discuss some basics about the outing, distribute the
commissary, and then caravan to our trailhead at Lipan Point, leaving a couple
of cars at our exit trailhead. Finally, we will be off on our adventure, backpacking
into the Canyon four to five miles and down 2,000 feet. Our first night will
be spent about half way down the Tanner Trail near an overlook, providing expansive
views of the Colorado River and enormous, colorful walls of sandstone and limestone
by day and unobstructed views of the starry sky by night.
Day 2: On the second day of our journey, we will descend the
final 3,000 feet into the Grand Canyon, arriving at the Colorado River early
afternoon. After soaking our weary feet in the refreshingly cool river, we will
begin our westward journey along the Escalante Route for three miles over undulating
terrain to our camp along a quiet sandy beach. Total mileage is approximately
seven miles, four challenging downhill miles followed by three rolling miles.
Days 3-5: For the next three days, we will continue west along
the Escalante Route to Red Canyon where we will pick up the Tonto Trail to Hance
Creek. These 15 miles will take us through some terrain that our legs and eyes
will find incredibly varying! Our trail will begin along the Colorado River,
then it will climb steeply to a long traverse, one that is sometimes narrow.
The traverse ends at an incredible vista. We will drop into and climb out of
several side canyons, one of which we will slowly meander down, giving ample
time to admire the blue and pink tones in the unusually shaped rocks that form
Photo: Shelly Eberly
At one place, near Papago Canyon, the Colorado River rushes against a rock
outcrop. To bypass the outcrop, we will have to climb up a short rock face and
then descend a rockslide. Slow and careful footwork will safely get us to the
other side but hearts will be pounding through this section. Once past this
obstacle, we say goodbye to the Colorado River as we begin the steady climb
to the Tonto Platform to our camp beside Hance Creek. During this climb, we
will witness the beginning of the Inner Gorge: two-billion-year-old, sheer rock
walls that plunge into the Colorado River. Eagle-eyed participants may spot
desert bighorn sheep in this section, too.
Day 6: Today we continue to climb, covering three to four
miles and gaining over 1,000 feet. After setting up our camp on Horseshoe Mesa,
a camp many may vote as their favorite, we will spend the afternoon exploring
a multi-room cave, roaming to the end of both arms of the Mesa for beautiful
views of the Inner Gorge, or climbing a butte for even more commanding views.
Day 7: We have just three miles to cover this day but they
are all up -- 2,500 feet up. The slow steady pace that has gotten our group
from Lipan Point to Horseshoe Mesa will faithfully get us up the Grandview Trail.
After arriving on the South Rim, we will retrieve our cars from the entry trailhead
and then return to the Grand Canyon Village for a celebratory lunch. We likely
will finish our lunch by 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, but please consider the
potential for delays when making travel plans.
The Grand Canyon National Park Service maintains a thorough webpage containing
information about getting to South Rim (http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/directions_s_rim.htm).
The nearest major airports are Phoenix (230 miles) and Las Vegas (275 miles).
Flagstaff, AZ has a regional airport with limited flights. Bus service is available
from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon Village via Flagstaff, AZ (http://www.openroadtours.com/faq/default.htm).
Amtrak goes through Flagstaff. Alternatively, one may rent a car. Carpooling
is strongly encouraged and the leader will provide a list of participants so
carpools can be arranged.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Shelly Eberly
All meals are included from lunch on the first day of the outing through lunch
the last day of the outing. Responsibility for cooking and cleanup will be shared
by trip participants. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners will all be hearty, healthy,
and varying. The leaders work hard to make the weight of the food as light as
possible to lessen the loads in our packs. Careful attention is paid to ensuring
there are sufficient calories with high protein content so our bodies are well-fueled.
Organic foods are used as much as possible. We can easily accommodate vegetarians.
This trip is rated level 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. Everyone will likely feel
that the trip is more like a level 5 through some sections of this outing. Recent
(within the past year) backpacking experience is required to participate. Total
mileage is 35 miles, which might not sound like much, but miles in the Grand
Canyon are tougher than other places. We will lose at least 5,000 feet over
the first two days and gain at least 5,000 feet over the last 3 days. However,
the Escalante Route and Tonto Trail undulate along their westward track, sometimes
gaining/losing several hundred feet as they cross each major side canyon. Additional
miles and elevation gain/loss are possible on optional day hikes.
This route is along challenging terrain with sections, sometimes long, that
are either close to steep edges or that traverse steep slopes on loose rocks.
In some places we crouch low to avoid hitting our heads or hug boulders to inch
along. Plus there is the short but steep rock climb up and down near Papago
Canyon. This is all done while carrying loaded packs and therefore requires
a good sense of balance, core strength, and confident footwork. People fearful
of heights will not be comfortable on this outing. The first and last miles
of the trails may be snow packed or icy. If so, foot traction and walking sticks
will be required.
The Grand Canyon is unique in that we will go down, down, down for the entire
first day and half of the second day. While we will move at a moderate pace,
knees must be prepared for the steady down under a full pack. To fully participate
in this experience, you must commit to a regular aerobic training program with
pack weight for the three months prior to our trip. The leader will recommend
several practical techniques to prepare for the outing.
Photo: Julie VanTilburg
Early April usually is an ideal time to be in the Canyon. Inside the Canyon,
daytime high temperatures should be in the 70s; nighttime lows should be in
the upper 40s. Rain and wind are possible, although rarely persistent at this
time of year. But remember that weather can be anything but usual!
Equipment and Clothing
The Sierra Club provides the cooking gear, food, water purification, and a
first-aid kit to be used for emergencies only. You are responsible for everything
else that you want/need. We divvy up the gear and food provided by the Club,
which generally equates to approximately 12-13 pounds each at the start of the
trip. You must keep your personal gear with three quarts of water to a weight
of 25 pounds or less and make sure your backpack has enough capacity for the
extra gear, which will be the size of approximately two one-gallon milk cartons.
The leaders will work with you to achieve this weight for personal gear.
The leader will provide an extensive list of gear to each of the participants
well in advance of the outing. The list will include those items that are essential
such as backpack, shelter, sleeping pad, sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees F,
boots, rain gear, and your personal medications. The list will also include
optional items such as camera and reading material.
Photo: Shelly Eberly
- For an overview of the Grand Canyon, the Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon
National Park map is good. Available online from many sources.
- For an overview of the Grand Canyon National Park located to the east
of Hermits Rest, a good map is Grand Canyon National Park Trails, available
from www.amazon.com or at the Grand Canyon.
- For detailed coverage, the U.S.G.S. 7.5-minute topographical maps
have all the detail. These are not required but are perfect for the map enthusiast.
Our route will be along 2 quadrangles: Desert View and Cape Royal. Available
- The National Park Service maintains a website for each of the national
parks. The website for the Grand Canyon is especially complete, up-to-date,
modern (podcasts, webcams), and informative. Regularly visit www.nps.gov/grca
for information or just to look around.
- Ranney, Wayne, Carving the Grand Canyon. An book on the
theories of how the Grand Canyon has been formed.
- Kolb, Ellsworth L., Through the Grand Canyon. The account
of brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb’s trip down the Green and Colorado
Rivers in 1911-1912. Beautifully written prose depicting life 100 years
- Butler, Elias and Tom Myers, Grand Obsession. A look at
Harvey Butchart’s tireless pursuit to find routes from the Rim to
River in the Grand Canyon.
- Fletcher, Colin, The Man Who Walked Through Time. An account
of Fletcher’s non-stop walk along the Colorado through the Grand Canyon.
Photo: Shelly Eberly
The real purpose of Sierra Club outings, which began in 1901, is to follow
John Muir's example of bringing more people into the fold of protecting the
earth's ecology. Muir wrote "if people could be got into the woods, even
for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way
of forest preservation would vanish."
During our week in the wilds we will discuss and practice minimal impact techniques
and take on minor tasks to erase the signs left behind by less knowledgeable
The Grand Canyon National Park is not designated as a wilderness area. We will
discuss what wilderness protection means, reasons for protecting more land as
wilderness, and what can be done to improve this protection. We'll also discuss
the importance of your involvement and how to relay your concerns about the
protection of wild lands. Additionally, we will discuss three current issues
especially of importance to the Grand Canyon: noise from aircraft, the impact
of lead in aummunication on the California Condors, and uranium mining. You
are encouraged to come prepared and introduce topics of interest to you.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate
under a permit from Grand Canyon National Park.
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.
Wendy Davison is a Sierra Club leader who enjoys helping others discover and appreciate America's wild places, and this year those wild places include the Grand Canyon, the Wind River Mountains, and Dark Canyon. In addition to sharing beautiful places, she loves to witness the blossoming of newly found self confidence in others while expanding their comfort zones gently, safely, and with encouragement. She believes that a large component of trip success results from being prepared and encouraging participants to act as a team. Wendy is trained as a Wilderness First Responder -- but puts much more value on avoiding injuries than on treating them. When not leading Sierra Club Outings, Wendy can be found hiking and cycling in North Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and other hilly places.
Shelly Eberly has loved hiking and backpacking since being old enough to walk, and she has finally balanced work and play enough to have time to share that passion with others. She has led backpacking trips in the ecologically rich Appalachians of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and in the deserts of Utah and Arizona. Regardless of where she is backpacking, Shelly looks forward to sharing the rejuvenating power of the natural world with you. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips