Author: Amy Neil
I’d like to introduce myself. I am the fortunate hiker that lives inside Grand Canyon National Park. After growing up in Australia I moved to the Grand Canyon and have been living and working here for the past 17 years. It’s a wonderful small community of only a couple thousand residents in peak season. The Grand Canyon as one of the seven natural wonders of the world is a truly spectacular place to call my back yard. People from all over the world come to visit with different desires to be filled. From 5 minute glances to check off a bucket list, to family vacations, and people with passions for hiking or rafting adventures. There’s something for everyone and I highly recommend those that haven’t at least taken a peek to come and do so. Although I’ll warn you, it’s impossible to come and not find yourself making plans for additional trips. Hence why I’ve never left. You’d actually be surprised, it’s really easy to get a job in a National Park working for the concessionaires in the hospitality industry. You should look into it!
Living here gives me opportunities for hiking, biking and running. Although my favorite thing is backpacking in the canyon. The most accessible hub in the Grand Canyon is the south rim. It is open year round and offers a large variety of trails for those who are fortunate to obtain an overnight permit and come explore. The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona and for those that have this image of a hot desert with lots of saguaro cactus, you’re wrong. The Grand Canyon is 7,000ft above sea level and is located in the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. In fact, we receive an average of 80 inches of snow each winter and rarely get above 80’s in the summer.
Winter time is the slow season for visitation. Which makes hiking fantastic. You can hike for days without seeing a soul. Microspikes are a must to get through the first couple of miles, but as you hike deeper into the canyon the temperatures rise as the elevation drops. In fact the bottom of the canyon is 20 degrees warmer than the rim. So once you get below the snow/ice levels it’s like your own little paradise. Hiking in the winter is certainly like experiencing many seasons. Inversions occur easily in the winter time at the Grand Canyon. This is when the clouds are actually sitting at a lower elevation than the rim, so you look over from a rim overlook and would never know that the canyon existed. Most people that visit find this frustrating, however I find it to be amazing. The best thing is hiking down into and below the clouds and having the whole canyon to yourself. The rainbows are outstanding, and the canyon itself creates an updraft which makes the clouds floating around the temples and buttes a truly remarkable site.
After hiking thousands of miles in the canyon and along the rim I have been blessed to explore all the trails on the south side of the river, as well as several on the north, including (from east to west) Beamer, Tanner, Escalante, New Hance, Tonto, Sinking Ship, Grandview, Shoshone, South Kaibab, North Kaibab, Clear Creek, Bright Angel, Battle ship, Plateau Point, Hermits, Waldron, Silver Bell, Boucher and South Bass. Havasu Falls (which I have also hiked several times) is also part of the Grand Canyon. It’s not inside the National Park and permits are required by the Havasupai Nation and are extremely difficult to obtain. You do hike in water a lot there so I don’t recommend it for a winter hiking destination at all.
My recommendations for those that have not hiked in the canyon previously is to start with the most accessible trails. There are two maintained trails on the South Rim. The Bright Angel Trail, and the South Kaibab Trail. These are both utilized by mules each day and are wide and easy to follow. They are however still very steep as you drop 4,000ft in elevation before you reach the river. These trails are both excellent for day hikes as well as backpacking. The most popular campground in the park is the Bright Angel Campground, which is located next to Phantom Ranch, which is a true luxury in the back country.
They have flushing toilets and a canteen to buy beer! The further away from these areas you get the more obscure the trails become and require some canyoneering and route finding experience. My recommendation is to avoid hiking from May-Sept as the inner canyon temperatures can soar over 120 degrees and there’s very little water sources or shade to be found. So don’t keep wondering if you should visit, just start planning, I promise the canyon is inspirational and will not disappoint. Come explore!!!