Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Day 2

The previous night was really nice; with the fly off, I was able to look up to the stars anytime I was awake, which wasn’t really that much. I didn’t eat a full breakfast since my dinner was large the night before, but we still didn’t get out on the trail very early. It was 05:59 by the time we got to the North Kaibab Trailhead even though it was only about 150 yards from the campsite.

A small mob of mule deer near the start of the North Kaibab Trail near Bright Angel Campground

A small mob of mule deer near the start of the North Kaibab Trail near Bright Angel Campground

Male mule deer near North Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Campground

Male mule deer near North Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Campground

North Kaibab Trailhead at Bright Angel Campground

North Kaibab Trailhead at Bright Angel Campground

 

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

We really expected this to be our worst day just because of the length (14 mi) and the ascent (5700+). The mule deer were grazing near the camp when we set out so that was a nice start to the day.

I should also mention that the temperatures were moderate on this day. The photos don’t seem to show it, but I remember the day being a little bit overcast and the temperatures down in the canyon didn’t seem to rise above mid-90s unlike the next day (spoiler alert).

The first landmark when ascending the North Kaibab is Cottonwood Campground and it is 7.2 miles up the trail. This trail ascends through the Bright Angel Valley and along the Bright Angel Creek (which makes me wonder why the Bright Angel Trail in another valley by another creek is named thusly). You begin by going through an area called “The Box” because the canyon walls are close by and the 1600 foot climb over the 7.2 miles seems even and steady. When we reached Cottonwood Campground at 09:19 and realized that we were about halfway through the hike, we were prematurely celebrating. Obviously, we really had no idea what was ahead.

Lower North Kaibab Trail

Lower North Kaibab Trail

Lower North Kaibab Trail

Lower North Kaibab Trail

Lower North Kaibab Trail, pretty sure this is part of "The Box"

Lower North Kaibab Trail, pretty sure this is part of “The Box”

Looking back at the South Rim, which you won't see again until near the North Rim

Looking back at the South Rim, which you won’t see again until near the North Rim

North Kaibab Trail toward Cottonwood Campground

North Kaibab Trail toward Cottonwood Campground

North Kaibab Trail toward Cottonwood Campground

North Kaibab Trail toward Cottonwood Campground

Entering Cottonwood Campground

Entering Cottonwood Campground

 

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

So, Cottonwood Campground is a good rest stop. There are composting toilets and fresh water there. But having seen it, I don’t think I’d ever camp there because the camp sites are just right out in the full sun. For almost all of the day, these camp sites would be in the blazing sun in pretty much the hottest part of the canyon. If anyone is considering a stay, I would advise against it.

The next rest stop is the Pumphouse Residence only 1.4 mi further on and another 500 ft climb. This is a very compact rest stop with the toilet and fresh water nearby and plenty of shade. We reached this point at 10:05. One of the Park Rangers met us coming into camp and was advising everyone to soak their shirts and headwear. The creek is very nearby and some people were actually going down to take a dip. It really is advisable to soak your shirt and headwear for the evaporative cooling effect.

North Kaibab Trail between Cottonwood Camp and Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail between Cottonwood Camp and Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail between Cottonwood Camp and Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail between Cottonwood Camp and Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail between Cottonwood Camp and Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail between Cottonwood Camp and Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail looking across at Roaring Springs

North Kaibab Trail looking across at Roaring Springs

 

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

The Pumphouse Residence is called that because there is a pumping facility here serving the trans-canyon pipeline. The pipeline begins up in Roaring Springs and follows the North Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails to provide water throughout the canyon including the South Rim.

By the time we reached the Pumphouse Residence, we had completed 8.6 mi of a 14 mi hike and were feeling quite confident. The worst was yet to come. Upon leaving the Pumphouse Residence, the trail ascends much more steeply. However, your reward for this work is some of the most spectacular views in the canyon. Our next goal was the Supai Tunnel roughly 3.7 mi ahead.

North Kaibab Trail leaving the Pumphouse Residence

North Kaibab Trail leaving the Pumphouse Residence

Looking back at Pumphouse Residence

Looking back at Pumphouse Residence

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

After a series of switchbacks to get up to the next layer of canyon, we came upon a beautiful place to take a break. It is a shallow, cave-like area high up a sheer face with plenty of shade. From there, you can see quite a way back down the valley and can see a mile or two of the trail you’ve just climbed.

Ascending toward Supai Tunnel (zoom in to see hikers climbing that wall)

Ascending toward Supai Tunnel (zoom in to see hikers climbing that wall)

Ascending toward Supai Tunnel (zoom in to see hikers climbing that wall)

Ascending toward Supai Tunnel (zoom in to see hikers climbing that wall)

A nice place for a break or lunch

A nice place for a break or lunch

Daryl catching up

Daryl catching up

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

At this point, we’re in the Supai layer of rock. A sign tells us that it is a deep layer of red limestone. It is really striking. The ascent here is still very steep toward the Supai Tunnel, which marks the end of this layer. I reached the tunnel at 12:48, which means that last 3.7 mi took me about 2:40 to ascend. I sat down for lunch here amidst the pesky squirrels.

Looking back down (way down) to the Pumphouse Residence

Looking back down (way down) to the Pumphouse Residence

Climbing toward the Supai Tunnel

Climbing toward the Supai Tunnel

Climbing toward the Supai Tunnel

Climbing toward the Supai Tunnel

Looking back while ascending toward the Supai Tunnel

Looking back while ascending toward the Supai Tunnel

The last bridge on the North Kaibab marking the last series of switchbacks before the Supai Tunnel

The last bridge on the North Kaibab marking the last series of switchbacks before the Supai Tunnel

Nearing the Supai Tunnel

Nearing the Supai Tunnel

Looking back from near the Supai Tunnel to the last bridge and the trail I've ascended

Looking back from near the Supai Tunnel to the last bridge and the trail I’ve ascended

Suapi Tunnel ahead!

Suapi Tunnel ahead!

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

The next layer (after the Supai Layer) is called Hermit Shale according to a sign along the trail and, in my opinion, marks the most beautiful part of the North Kaibab trail. The vegetation becomes more lush here as the Ponderosa Pine Trees begin to dominate. From the Supai Tunnel, it is only 1.4 more miles to the trailhead and I reached that at 15:54. Along the way, you come to a nice place for photos signed as Coconino Outlook.

Great look at the Hermit Shale layer above the Supai Tunnel

Great look at the Hermit Shale layer above the Supai Tunnel

Looking back toward the South Rim from above the Supai Tunnel

Looking back toward the South Rim from above the Supai Tunnel

Humphreys Peak, at 12,637 ft is the highest point in Arizona and about 63 mi from my location at that point

Humphreys Peak, at 12,637 ft is the highest point in Arizona and about 63 mi from my location at that point

The Conconino Outlook one of the easiest milestones for tourists to reach from the North Rim

The Conconino Outlook one of the easiest milestones for tourists to reach from the North Rim

The view from the Coconino Outlook

The view from the Coconino Outlook

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

Panorama from the North Rim

Panorama from the North Rim

Here’s a video of day 2.

Summary

Day 2 Route

Day 2 Route

Start:  Bright Angel Campground
End: North Kaibab Trailhead
Distance: 14.0 miles
Elevation (start): 2480
Elevation (end): 8241
Elevation (net loss): 5761 feet

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

3 Responses to Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour – Day 2

  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