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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Grand Canyon National Park

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.

by: Annette McGivney

Above Thunder River's Headwaters (Greg Von Doersten)
Above Thunder River's Headwaters (Greg Von Doersten)
The Colorado River Winding Through the GC (Michael Clark)
The Colorado River Winding Through the GC (Michael Clark)
Indian Canyon (Elias Butler)
Indian Canyon (Elias Butler)
Photo by Ed Callaert
Photo by Ed Callaert

Exit Strategy

>> Clean up Built in 1905 and perched on the edge of the rim in Grand Canyon Village, the El Tovar Hotel is both a national historic landmark and a great place to take a bubble bath in a clawfoot tub. Rates for a queen size room start at $196 per night, and it's a worthy indulgence. Make reservations well in advance.

>> Pig out Savor canyon views and wild game like buffalo carpaccio at El Tovar's dining room, the park's most upscale restaurant (reservations: 928-638-2631). For a more casual meal–like baby back ribs drizzled in prickly pear barbeque sauce–plus local microbrews like Apache Trout Stout, go the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village (no reservations required).

>> Best dayhike: Tanner Trail to Cardenas Butte
You won't run into any street-shoe, just-off-the-tour-bus dayhikers on this little-traveled trail located on the far eastern end of the park's south rim. From the Tanner trailhead at Lipan Point (two miles west of the Desert View entrance), it's seven quad- and-calf burning miles (roundtrip) to the top of the Redwall just below Cardenas Butte. Once there, feast your eyes on unobstructed views of the eastern Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon, and the Colorado River. There is no water on this hike, so pack plenty.

>> Try something new Mountain bike the north rim (18 miles one- way) along the edge on the Rainbow Rim Trail, located west of the park in Kaibab National Forest. The singletrack leads to five panoramic overlooks with sweeping views of Powell Plateau and the western Grand Canyon. Car camp at Fire or Fence Points, just 100 feet from canyon's edge. No permits are required for these primitive sites. Contact: (928-635-8200;

Go Deeper Than the Rest

>> Do your homework Rangers are wary of hikers who ask for ideas on routes. In the ranger's mind, it shows inexperience (i.e. potential rescue), and they'll direct you to the cattle paths: Bright Angel, South Kaibab, Hermit. Know your options and ask for a specific route.

>> Hike in winter December to February is better than midsummer for hikers: dark red canyons dusted in white, peaceful trails (permits are no problem), and T-shirt weather at river level. Pack in-step crampons for the first mile of trail below the rim.

You're a Tourist, Now Act Like One
Cool off in the air- conditioned Grand Canyon IMAX theater in Tusayan. In classic IMAX fashion, the 30-minute "Grand Canyon: Discovery and Adventure" film gives you condor's-eye views of the Big Ditch. Swoop off the rim and sail over the place you just hiked. Located in the National Geographic Visitor Center. Tickets $13; open daily 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (928) 638-2468;

The Stats
Acres 1.2 million
Miles of trail 588
Phone (928) 638-8777
2007 visitation 4.5 million (total), 282,663 (backcountry)

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Reader Rating: -


Jan 20, 2011

One of the things thats really annoyed me about Backpacker over the years is that they keep encouraging people to visit "my" secret places.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Jun 08, 2010

The above information is very helpful and worth. I hope this will help me in a lot. Thanks.


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