|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – August 2008
Drop into America's belly on a little-known hike that dips in and out of four different canyons, each blessed with gurgling spring water.
>> Getting there From Phoenix, the Grand Canyon's south rim is a 230-mile, four-hour drive on I-17 N and then US 89 NW. From Las Vegas, it's a 276-mile, four-and-a-half hour drive via US 93 and I-40. The turn-off to the South Bass trailhead is located just south of the park entrance gates, which means you avoid the most crowded entrance station.
>> Season In this extremely dry country, the best time to hike is late spring when water is most plentiful. Late fall is good too, but check with park rangers on water availability. Triple-digit temperatures make our suggested route hazardous in summer.
>> Best frontcountry campground The 70 spacious sites in Ten X Campground (in Kaibab National Forest) sit in a secluded ponderosa pine and oak forest just four miles south of the park entrance on US 180. They're $8 cheaper and less crowded than any campground in the park. Contact: (928) 635-8200; fs.fed.us/r3/kai. Note: When Ten X is closed (November to April), hit Mather Campground inside the park (877-444-6777; recreation.gov).
>> Pre-trip breakfast If you're starting in Flagstaff–or leaving Phoenix at dawn–pick up a sinfully smooth Mars Hill mocha and a tasty egg burrito at Late for the Train in Flagstaff (928-773-0308). In the park, your best option for a quick, cheap breakfast is Maswik Cafeteria, in Maswik Lodge at the west end of Grand Canyon Village. Note: The town of Tusayan, just south of the park entrance, offers little restaurant fare beyond standard fast food franchises.
>> Gear Shop Peace Surplus (928-779-4521; peacesurplus.com), in Flagstaff, rents trekking poles for $3 per pair, per day. There's no full-service gear store in the park or Tusayan, but you can buy fuel and basic groceries at the Grand Canyon Village store.
>> Permits Avoid the tourist-oriented South Rim Visitor Center, near Yavapai Point, and go straight to the hiker-specific Backcountry Information Center (928-638-7875) in Grand Canyon Village. There you can get required permits ($10, plus $5 per person per day), maps, info on trail conditions, and backpacking advice. Apply for your permit up to four months in advance (a must during popular spring and fall hiking months) online at nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm.