Anyone ever hiked the Grand Canyon?

My dad is planning on making a hiking round trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back for his 50th birthday. His birthday’s in December, so the weather should be fairly mild. He’s booked the hotels and the plane tickets and everything, and wants me to ask some other stuff.

For anyone who’s done this, how strenuous is it? Is going down or coming up harder? How much time does it take?

What sort of equipment do you need? How much food, water, sunblock etc. should you bring? Anything he needs to know that we didn’t think of?

Sure! Which trail is he doing? I’ve never done Bright Angel, but I did Havasupai, and I can tell you:

-Bring all the water you can carry. There’s water at the bottom, but you’ll drink plenty.

-Bring a whole bottle of sunscreen. At least two of the people you are going with will have forgotten theirs.

-Don’t step in the burro doo. The place is pretty darn scenic, but ya gotta look down at the path.

-Do yourself a favor and pack an extra set of clothes (if taking a large backpack) in case yours get wet.

-Take plenty of Gorp. It’s a long trail any way you go.

-Train! Hike local mountain trails, with the pack you are intending to take, with some rocks inside to approximate the weight you expect to carry.

-Take twice as much film as you expect to use, and don’t waste it all in the first hour of the hike! (Experience talking)

-If doing Havasupai, do bring that bathing suit. Diving through the falls is SO cool.

–Good Luck! (If I had more time, I would google an official site for you, but I’m sure you can do that)

By the way…

up is harder. A LOT harder.

There are two trails down from the South Rim, which is the main part of the park. The South Kaibab trail is shorter but steeper, narrower, and more rugged. It’s a little bit over six miles long. The Bright Angel Trail is more gentle and wider. It’s 9.7 miles long. Because of the difference in steepness between the two trails, it’s pretty common to hike down the South Kaibab trail and up the Bright Angel Trail. On the other hand, the Bright Angel Trail is also the one that the mule trains go up and down, so you have to watch your step sometimes, if you know what I mean.

Strenuousity and time? That’s hard to judge for somebody else, but I hiked up and down both trails (not on the same day) when I was seven. (My sister was five!) Presumably he’s in good shape and has done some hiking before? My parents have both hiked in and back out on the same day, but that’s a long day–if your dad can make a reservation at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, it’ll be much more enjoyable trip. Oh, you can also get a permit to camp at the halfway point on the Bright Angel Trail. In general, I personally find hiking downhill to be harder than hiking uphill.

December’s a great time to go because of the weather–not unusual to have snow on the rim, but much more temperate by the river! Summer can be just brutal.

Equipment: good hiking boots, comfy layers of clothing, food and water for the trail. I can’t remember if we brought sleeping bags for the bunkbeds at Phantom Ranch, or if they give you sheets and blankets. I’m pretty sure they fed us, though. Small first aid kit. I don’t remember what, besides a warm layer, you need to bring in order to be safe, but the National Park Service’s visitor center ought to be able to tell you over the phone what they recommend hikers bring. The trails are pretty well travelled, of course.

Hope he enjoys his trip! It’s really fantastic on micro and macro levels–the canyon itself is amazing, and I remember being able to see lots of fossils in the upper layers of rock.

This site looks pretty helpful:

I forgot to mention that there’s a campground at the bottom of the canyon, not just Phantom Ranch. I think that carrying all the camping equipment would make the hike itself less enjoyable, but then I don’t like to camp.

I was at the Grand Canyon in December. It was 14 F at the top of the rim and 38 F at the bottom. Just be aware that temps can get quite cold there.

I should clarify that this was not this past December, but December 1993. From the way I worded it, I made it sound recent.

Is anyone else here incredibly jealous of Daowajan’s dad?

This should really be in IMHO, as you’re not wanting “Yes, I have” or “No, I haven’t” factual answers, are you?

By the way, up is harder than down, but down makes your legs way more sore than you can imagine.

If you haven’t trained, it is easy to hike down to the river, but the next day you won’t be able to walk. Fortunately, I had three days to recover before I had to hike back up.

Doing a real mountain instead of the “upside down mountain” is easier because you do up first, and will get your legs in shape for doing the canyon.

Well IMO the best way to see the canyon is to float it. But if you’re going to hike, make sure you all have sturdy boots that are * broken in*. Your feet will take a major pounding going down, and if they’re hamburger at the bottom of the canyon, you’re SOL. Even though it will be december, you’re going to probably work up a sweat going up, so dress accordingly.

You might want to have a designated driver who will hang out on the rim while the others do the hike. If you’re going to stay at the south rim it won’t be necessary but if you have to drive to Flagstaff or something like that it might be worth thinking about. By the time you get up to the rim, sleep will be your one overriding desire.

Going down is hard and going up is harder. By the time I got to the rim I was doing baby steps to my mantra one…foot…in…front…of…the…other. I started down soon after dawn and rimmed out just as the sun was setting.

If you’re counting on a place like phantom ranch, make sure it’s going to be open. You can send ‘post cards by mule train’ from there. It’s an incredible hike.

I hiked the Hermit Trail, an unmaintained mule path, about eight years ago. In July.

Water is crucial, that goes without saying. In addition to bringing as much as you can carry, bring along vials of iodine. If you have to refill your bottles in the Colorado River, you definitely want to drop a few tinctures in to kill the major bacteria and microorganisms.

I found that going down was much, much harder than going up. Down was murderous on the knees, and the lower you go, the hotter it gets. I literally felt like I was descending into hell.

While going up works your legs a bit more, it is lighter on the joints and you can feel the air cool noticeably around you.

Suffice to say, the best Coke I have ever had in my entire life was from the dusty old machine at the top of the Hermit Trail.

If you find yourself short of food or water, or if you just want to conserve energy, hike back up very slowly. I did the down and up hike in June of '93 and ran low on water on the way up. I hiked the whole way with baby steps, found that I didn’t need to rest or drink much and continually passed other groups that had stopped to rest.

Next time I’m ridin’ a mule. Those mule poop swamps stretch pretty far and wide in some spots and there’s nothing like the smell of poop in the hot Arizona sun.

And wear a wide-brimmed hat.

I worked at Phantom Ranch at the bottom from July 1990 to May 1993, so yeah, I’ve hiked the Canyon LOTS of times. We worked a 10 days on, 4 days off schedule, so we would hike out after our last shift (usually breakfast cook) and then hike back in the morning of our beginning shift of the next cycle. Usually, we would hike in and out through the South Kaibab because it’s faster and there are fewer tourists in the way.

Everyone else covered the basics–WATER, WATER, WATER being the most important.

He should also be prepared for icy conditions. The South Rim is high desert and the trail can be pretty icy at the top in winter. I recommend packing crampons just in case.

Thanks to everyone who’s posted in this thread.

And for further information, he’s made reservations at the Phantom Ranch and ordered breakfast and dinner. He booked all the plane flights and hotel reservations months in advance, got them dirt cheap, and booked enough so that my sister and I could go with him if we wanted to and got our lazy asses in shape.

He’s wanted to do something really cool on his 50th birthday for a long time, and finally settled on hiking the Grand Canyon. At one point he wanted to parachute into it. This is the guy who picked up snowboarding at age 45, so I’m pretty sure that he decided against it because he either couldn’t find a skydiving outfit that would let him do it, or decided it would be over too fast.

I have got to get him to register and post all this stuff himself.

I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail and back up the South Kaibab Trail. I think it would have been easier the other way around, but it was no big deal. Good shoes, sunscreen and lots and lots of water made for a really enjoyable day. The scenery was amazing - - certainly a day hike to be remembered.

Theobroma has it just right.
I hiked the south rim to the base and had a great time.
I hiked the “New Hance Trail” down, proceeded to “Horsheshoe Mesa”, and hiked the “Grandview Trail” out.
Spent four days there.

I haven’t done the Grand Canyon, but I’ve done enough hiking trips to point out one thing: he’ll probably use less food than he imagines for the first two or three days, especially since he’ll get good meals at the Phantom Ranch, so as gobear said, WATER, WATER, WATER is far more important than food.

Also, for training, if he can get hold of a TrailRunner or other incline trainer, that’ll help for his day-to-day training. A stairclimber is also very good for building those leg muscles up. Wearing his backpack filled while he exercises would help condition him to the strain.