Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Day 1

Upon arriving at the Grand Canyon, we went immediately to the Backcountry Information Center because we thought we had to check in. It turns out that we didn't. However, I'm sure it doesn't hurt to let the Park Ranger know you've showed up and will be following your posted itinerary. We then walked around the rim a bit taking in the first sites (for me, anyway) of the Grand Canyon. Afterward, we stopped in the Grocery Store to pick up a few odds and ends and were quite surprised to find out how well it is stocked with both groceries and outdoor gear. And then it was on to the Mather Campground to set up camp and settle in.

It got down to around 35F that night so we were quite chilly when we got out of the tents that morning. Neither of us wanted to linger nor enjoy a luxurious breakfast in that cold so we packed up and drove to the visitor center to catch the free shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. This was the recommendation of the Park Ranger with whom we checked in. From the timestamps on my photos, it appears we arrive at the trailhead at roughly 07:15. I shot a short video and we began the trip down. The trailhead starts at elevation 7260 ft.

The start of the South Kaibab Trail

The start of the South Kaibab Trail

Looking down at some of the switchbacks near the start of the South Kaibab Trail

Looking down at some of the switchbacks near the start of the South Kaibab Trail

View near the top of the South Kaibab Trail

View near the top of the South Kaibab Trail

High up the South Kaibab Trail

High up the South Kaibab Trail

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

One of the things that struck me first was that you could not see the Colorado River. I guess I had it in my mind that I’d see it from both the South and North Rims. But it is buried far into deeper and deeper canyon walls that you don’t get your first view of it until quite a ways down the trail.

The South Kaibab Trail is what you’d really expect for a desert climate; there is no water to be found. The views are spectacular, however. The first landmark you come to is called Ooh Aah Point at 6660 ft and we reached that at 07:46.

Me at Ooh Aah Point

Me at Ooh Aah Point

Daryl at Ooh Aah Point

Daryl at Ooh Aah Point

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

The first rest stop you get to on this trail is called Cedar Point at which you’ll find composting toilet, no water, and no shade. This is 1.5 mi down the trail at 6120 ft and we reached that point at 08:31.

Looking down on Cedar Point from above

Looking down on Cedar Point from above

Me at Cedar Point

Me at Cedar Point

Descending somewhere below Cedar Point

Descending somewhere below Cedar Point

Looking down and east. Still can't see the river.

Looking down and east. Still can’t see the river.

Looking back up the trail at last views of the South Rim.

Looking back up the trail at last views of the South Rim.

Looking down and west at another trail that I think goes to Plateau Point.

Looking down and west at another trail that I think goes to Plateau Point.

Still heading down somewhere above Skeleton Point

Still heading down somewhere above Skeleton Point

More switchbacks

More switchbacks

Looking way down at a bunch of switchbacks

Looking way down at a bunch of switchbacks

 

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

At 3 mi down the trail, there is a landmark called Skeleton Point. I’m pretty sure we stopped there, but I’m also pretty sure I never saw the sign. (I can see the sign in photos by searching on google, but there’s no way to know if it is still there.) Skeleton Point is at 5200 ft elevation, but I don’t know at what time exactly we reached that point.

First view of the river from Skeleton Point

First view of the river from Skeleton Point

Me looking down from Skeleton Point

Me looking down from Skeleton Point

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

The next landmark that I know the time is a sign at about the halfway point. It declares that the South Rim is 3.5 mi back and the elevation is 4700. I’m pretty sure we reached that point at 09:32.

The halfway point

The halfway point

One of several mule trains carrying tourists

One of several mule trains carrying tourists

One of several mule trains carrying tourists

One of several mule trains carrying tourists

A rarer sight is the train of pack mules carrying supplies into the canyon

A rarer sight is the train of pack mules carrying supplies into the canyon

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

Panorama somewhere above the Tonto Trail Junction

Panorama somewhere above the Tonto Trail Junction

The next landmark is the junction to the Tonto Trail, which runs east to west through the canyon and intersects with both the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails. This point is at 4010 ft in elevation and we reached it at 11:00.

Tonto Trail Junction

Tonto Trail Junction

Me at the Tonto Trail Junction

Me at the Tonto Trail Junction

Looking down and west to the Silver Bridge

Looking down and west to the Silver Bridge

Looking down and east to the Black Bridge

Looking down and east to the Black Bridge

Looking down at the trail above the River Trail Junction

Looking down at the trail above the River Trail Junction

Looking down and east, somewhere above the River Trail Junction, across the river to an unused camp

Looking down and east, somewhere above the River Trail Junction

Looking back up the South Kaibab Trail

Looking back up the South Kaibab Trail

Looking down and west just above the River Trail Junction

Looking down and west just above the River Trail Junction

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

Pretty much at the bottom of the trail is the junction with the River Trail that will take you over to the Bright Angel Trail. Shortly after that junction, you enter a tunnel and then you’re on to to the Black Bridge (or the South Kaibab Suspension Bridge), which is at 2600 ft in elevation. We reached the bridge at 12:20 and then Bright Angel Campground at 12:28, which is at 2480 ft elevation.

Junction between South Kaibab and River Trails

Junction between South Kaibab and River Trails

The Black Bridge

The Black Bridge

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

Bright Angel Campground is long and skinny, running north-south along the Bright Angel Creek. The camp sites are first-come-first-serve and, at that time of day, one third to one half were already taken. The most popular are those by the water. By this time of day (and at this time of year) it is blazing hot in the canyon and this campground offers very little shade. Those campsites that have some shade from trees are very popular as well. If the site is not shaded by a tree, then it is going to be 5:30pm to 6:30pm before the canyon walls begin to provide some. I spent several hours seeking shade down at the creek or back down the trail where I sat and read a book. It is very hard to predict in the middle of the day which sites will have shade earliest, but it is a worthwhile endeavor to try. If I were to go back, I’d search the web to see if there is some sort of guide to those sites.

The south entrance to Bright Angel Campground

The south entrance to Bright Angel Campground

My tent set up for twilight viewing

My tent set up for twilight viewing

Daryl's tent. Notice the ammunition cans on the benches for food storage to keep the critters out.

Daryl’s tent. Notice the ammunition cans on the benches for food storage to keep the critters out.

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

We really didn’t do much that evening besides have dinner and read. Since it was a warm night, we both left the fly off our tents so we could have some ventilation and, of course, enjoy the starlight view. It was a very pleasant night.

Here’s a video of day 1.

Summary

Day 1 Route

Day 1 Route


Start: South Kaibab Trailhead
End: Bright Angel Campground
Distance: 7.0 miles
Elevation (start): 7260
Elevation (end): 2480
Elevation (net loss): 4,780 feet

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Backpacking, GCBT, Routes, Scenery and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Day 1

  1. Pingback: Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Night on the North Rim | Bike Lane Ends

  2. Pingback: Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Day 3 | Bike Lane Ends

  3. Pingback: Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Day 4 | Bike Lane Ends

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s