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Our Personal Adventure of Hiking to the Bottom of Grand Canyon and Back Up in 14 Hours

Jena and I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time together before we had children and have visited again with them. The story we were share here was the former. This is our adventure story. A more detailed family-friendly itinerary of Grand Canyon will be available on our blog soon.

The Grand Canyon is pretty big. It’s not the deepest canyon in the world. It’s not the widest canyon in the world. But, it is still one of the most magical, beautiful, and majestic places either of us have ever been to.

When we got to the Grand Canyon it was almost sunset. We had just enough time to see the beautiful depth, colors, and rock formations. Every segment of the canyon is uniquely different. The setting sun beaming against the canyon casts enormous shadows of, and onto, the canyon itself. It is as if the sun is closing in on the canyon and the canyon never fully yields to the sun, creating a surreal feeling of awe.

The next day we took tons of pictures, basked in the glorious beauty and enjoyed our leisure time at the top of the canyon.

Just after sunset, while strolling through the town we stopped into the visitor center and asked about any activities we might want to try. After speaking at length with the park guide, one activity that kept jumping out at both Jena and I, was hiking down the canyon.

We asked the guide about hiking the canyon, but she was adamant that we should not hike the canyon as we needed a permit to camp, or a reservation for the resort at the bottom of the canyon. We asked why we couldn’t hike down and up without staying. The guide said that it would take at least two days to hike down and then back up, and especially so without any training, planning, or equipment. The permits were all sold out and the resort books up months in advance.

Jena and I left the visitor center rather discouraged. We both really wanted to hike down the Grand Canyon. Our frustration discussion, quickly evolved into talking through the timing of hiking down and up. We evaluated each of our desire to hike the canyon, our energy level, and then our realistic expectations of the hike itself. Then, we decided to go for it, and our planning kicked in full gear.

We got to the local grocery store/sporting good store just before it closed for the night and bought the minimal amount of equipment and supplies needed to hike the canyon. Please note, there is absolutely no trash to be left anywhere in the canyon. In other words, everything that goes down, MUST come back up with you. So, planning the hike took some serious thought and careful equipment, clothing, food, and beverage decisions.

Our equipment was packed up, we went to bed, and set our alarms for 3:00 a.m.

The shuttle took us to the trail head and we started our hike at 4:00 a.m. with less than 12 hours planning. The amount of drive and strength we had to accomplish this goal far outweighed the stubbornness we had because someone told us we couldn’t do something.

The sun would not come up for another two hours, and the canyon was so dark we needed to use a flashlight to see where we were walking. The incredible rate of our decline made each step seem much closer to falling into the canyon than it did a typical trail footing. We kept moving as we knew we needed to keep a quick and steady pace in order to finish in one day.

The temperature when we started was extremely cold and we were wearing jackets and pants. These, we soon found, were very burdensome once the heat and climate changed. The climate of the canyon changed several times throughout our hike making our attire choices much more meaningful.

There are several options regarding the trail to take down and up. The trail we chose on the way down was 6.8 miles and on the way back up was 9.3 miles. We hiked all the way down, stopping only a couple of times for food and water.

Throughout the hike there are several groups of tourists riding donkeys down and up the canyon. They have the right of way, and hikers on foot must get out of the way so that they can pass. This is not always easy to do as many times the trail is very steep and nowhere to go. This surprise was an added bonus to an already strenuous hike. But, the forced break was welcomed since the hike is an all day, or in most circumstances, two-day endeavor.

At the bottom of the canyon there is a huge active river. There are bridges to cross from one side of the river to the other. The atmosphere at the bottom of the canyon is noticeably different than at the top of the canyon. 

We did make sure to stop and smell the proverbial roses throughout the hike as well. We ate lunch at the bottom of the canyon, on the sand at the beach, right next to a lively part of the river. It was incredible.

After our break, we began our trek back up to the top of the mountain. Choosing a different trail to go back was one of our best decisions of the hike, as hiking up was much more difficult! We were exhausted. Half of the items we were carrying were trash or not useful to us any longer. But, having new scenery, and new places to explore was the saving grace to help us get through every mile, in addition to meeting a few other people that were taking on this grand endeavor in only one day, just as we were.

The journey up was, as I have said, and will probably repeat several more times, so hard! But, once we began to see the top of the canyon appear in the distance, we felt like we were rounding the final corner of our marathon reminiscent hike. Once we finally plateaued over the final step of the canyon before the sun started to set, we knew we had accomplished so much more than a hike. The view and experience were absolutely magical. We came out of the canyon with so much more than we took down. 


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