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One Best Hike: Grand Canyon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Hike from the Rim to the River-and Back

One Best Hike: Grand Canyon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Hike from the Rim to the River-and Back

by Elizabeth Wenk


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One of the world's most spectacular places, the Grand Canyon annually attracts over 4 million visitors who peer over the edge of the abyss. A smaller number of them trek from the rim to the banks of the Colorado River on one of the nation's best-known hikes. Many of these hikers are inadequately prepared for the rigors of what can be a deadly journey. This indispensable guide describes the most popular route into the canyon — the 16.2 mile round-trip route from the South Rim to the Colorado River. It addresses the many possible hazards (extreme heat, cold, elevation gain/loss of over 9,000 feet), gives advice on physical conditioning, and includes helpful charts, maps, and GPS waypoints for the best rest points. The hike itself is covered mile by mile, with expert coaching and hints along the way. Experienced and novice hikers alike will benefit from its encouraging, can-do approach.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899974910
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 07/29/2010
Series: One Best Hike
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 839,003
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

From childhood, Elizabeth Wenk has hiked and climbed in the Sierra Nevada with her family. After she started college, she found excuses to spend every summer in the Sierra, with its beguiling landscape, abundant flowers, and near-perfect weather. During those summers, she worked as a research assistant for others and completed her own Ph.D. thesis research on the effects of rock type on alpine plant distribution and physiology. But much of the time, she hikes simply for leisure. Wanting to explore every bit of the Sierra, she has hiked thousands of on- and off-trail miles and climbed nearly 500 peaks in the mountain range. She recently relocated Australia with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Section 1

Bright Angel Campground to Mouth of Pipe CreekDistance... 1.6 miles

HINTMany Grand Canyon Books refer to "river miles." When you next see such a reference, note that the Bright Angel boat beach is at River Mile 97.5 and the Pipe Creek Rapids are at River Mile 88.9 (near the mouth of Pipe Creek).

Beginning at Bright Angel Campground, retrace your route south to the bridge across Bright Angel Creek. Instead of crossing the creek and heading east to the Kaibab (or Black) Bridge, continue west toward the Silver (or Bright Angel) Bridge. The route takes you past a large collection of park service buildings, a water tap, and a corral, before reaching the bridge. Suspended below this bridge is a large water pipe that carries water from Roaring Springs, far up the North Kaibab Trail, to the South Rim. It stays at river level until Pipe Creek and then climbs steeply to Plateau Point, on to Indian Garden, and then up to the rim. The South Rim can store enough water to last only three days.

The base of the Silver Bridge is metal mesh, providing an aerial view of the swirling Colorado's waters— the mules are not fans of this and will not cross it. Halfway across the bridge is a wonderful place to look up and down the river corridor, as you are far enough from the walls to appreciate that you are in a steep gorge, above which are distant buttes. Unfortunately, except on a cool spring day, you should cross the bridge long before the sun shines deep into the gorge, limiting photo opportunities.

Across the bridge, you reach the River Trail and turn right (down-stream). The left-hand direction takes you back to the base of the South Kaibab Trail and across the Kaibab Bridge. A beach of giant cobbles lies beneath the south end of the bridge, and indication of the power of the river, especially when it floods. For the first stretch you walk alongside the Colorado’s banks. Shortly, you pass through a sandy expanse. Your feet slip with each step, making walking difficult. And the vegetation changes immediately, for different species are adapted to sandy substrate than the nearby rock. Water drains through the sand even faster than the rocky soils elsewhere, making it a very water-stressed environment.

Beyond the sand the trail climbs slightly and you look steeply down to the river, for much of the River Trail was blasted into solid rock. You will repeatedly note that you are walking along this nearly flat four-foot-wide boulevard, but vertical walls rise above your head and fall beneath your feet to the river. The basement rocks through which you are traversing, intermingled Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite, form steep, mostly dark walls on either side of the Colorado River, effectively trapping and reradiating heat on already hot days and making this stretch an oven by midmorning.

Table of Contents


  • A Location Hike
  • Human History
  • Natural History
  • Grand Canyon Region Weather


  • Hyponatremia
  • Dehydration
  • Heat Illnesses
  • Hypothermia
  • Falling
  • Blisters
  • Flash Floods
  • Lightning
  • Scorpions
  • Waterborne Pests
  • Altitude Sickness
  • Drowning in the Colorado


  • Choosing an Itinerary
  • When to go
  • Wilderness Permits
  • Staying at Phantom Ranch
  • Training
  • What to Contemplate Before Descending
  • Familiarizing Yourself with the Landscape
  • What to bring
  • Getting to Grand Canyon Village
  • Getting Around Grand Canyon Village
  • Grand Canyon Village and Tusayan Services


  • Suggested Schedules
  • South Kaibab Trail
  • Bright Angel Trail
  • Side Trips from Bright Angel and Indian Garden Campgrounds





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