A Virtual Hike in the Grand Canyon

Down the South Kaibab Trail and Up the Bright Angel Trail


Though they recommend coming up the Bright Angel, heed the following reality: It's 9 miles up this trail with a vertical rise of 4420 feet. Can you walk 9 miles on a nice level surface? How about the 4420 vertical feet? That's over four trips up the Empire State Building to it's observation deck! Also, this is exactly the opposite of climbing a mountain. You go down first. If you get tired when climbing a mountain, gravity will give you a big assist to get you down. In the canyon once you're down you're committed.

There's also the common misconception that the temperature will be cooler as you go down. Quite the contrary, it gets very hot very quickly as you descend into the canyon. It's a large heat bowl.

And there's another factor that even some experienced hikers overlook. Within the Grand Canyon it's a desert which means besides the heat, it's also incredibly dry. This translates into a serious dehydration threat. You might have heard or read that for any given temperature, it will feel cooler in the dry desert. It's absolutely true. But the coolness you feel is at a high cost in the canyon: loss of body water (i.e., dehydration.)

Choosing of your own free will to attempt these hikes means you've accepted the inherent risk that goes along with it.  It is a serious decision and the possible consequences should be weighed.  

If you're still not deterred and still contemplating a hiking the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and back, I have three suggestions:

1) Reconsider!
2) Prepare as if you are going to do the most strenuous endeavor of your life because that's exactly what it will probably be. It has been compared to doing a marathon.
3) Reconsider!

As awful as the statistics are (16 total miles, 4780 feet down, 4450 feet up - and almost another mile if you go on to Phantom Ranch), some people try to make this into a death-defying challenge by attempting it all in single day! Without special preparation this endeavor can be suicidal. The park service highly discourages it by simply saying "Don't attempt it." I highly discourage it, also. It's an easy way to either get yourself hospitalized or dead.

But just when you thought it couldn't, it gets even worse ...

During the summer months (about the middle of May through early October) you will also have to battle significant heat.  Temperatures during the day quickly rise above the 100 degree level within the canyon and can be well over 110 in the inner gorge.  Dehydration is so great at these temperatures, it can be nearly impossible to drink enough water.     

If you're contemplating hiking to the river and back in one day, read the following warnings and stop when you're convinced this is a bad idea:

1) Every year, the park service is involved in about 400 incidents. According to them, the majority of the problems involve day hikers. An overnight hiker, almost by definition, is more prepared than a day hiker, and has the advantage of getting at least one nights rest between the trips.
2) If you find yourself in trouble because of dehydration, exhaustion, or both, help may not be just around the corner.
3) You're at number 3??? You obviously didn't read numbers 1 and 2 thoroughly. Start over: go back to number one!


Here's the Good News!

You do not have to make it all the way to the river to have a great hiking experience!!! If you're doing a day hike, the recommended stopping point on the South Kaibab is Cedar Ridge. Look at the photos and see what a great view you'll get if you only go that far! The farthest point they recommend for a day hike on the South Kaibab is Skeleton Point. If you decide on a day hike on the Bright Angel, you probably should stop at the One and a Half Mile Resthouse if you're not in very good shape. Those in better shape might consider going all the way to Indian Garden.


Take the Virtual Hike?

Do you now think you're ready to take the Virtual Hike? What kind of shape are you in? There are 200 pictures to click through on 5 separate pages. Do you have enough water and snacks at hand to make it the entire way?

 YES! I'm physically fit enough to click through the rest of the virtual hike. I've got enough fluids and snacks here at the monitor to make it through okay. Continue the tour...
 NO! I'm worse than a couch potato. I look at those people with envy. Someday, I hope to get myself into a least that shape. Take me back to the home page.