May 7-24, 2005
Trip to Grand Canyon interior and Havasu Falls
A month earlier, we decided to visit the Canyon and hike. Reserved a flight
to Phoenix for Al (53 yr) and his son Zack(21 yr). Tried with NPS for
backcountry permits but they were all booked for May. Spoke to a ranger on
the help line in the pm and received advice that spaces were usually
available if you could wait a day or two. Discovered that Bright Angel
Campground has 33 sites and Cottonwood about 11. Not sure about Indian
Garden. We originally wanted to hike Rim to Rim, but the N rim was still
closed due to snow level. Booked some meals through Xanterra for Phantom
Ranch meals. Phantom was also booked but we learned about last minute
cancellations available at the Bright Angel Lodge transportation desk.
The trip was fantastic, scenery incredible, body fatigued and great weather.
Here is our story:
Arrive in Phoenix, 90 deg, rental to the South Rim, stop in Williams,
interesting town, shopped at a great Safeway and had cheap gas. Reserved at
Mather campground, while waiting for an interior permit. Put our name on the
Phantom Ranch at the Bright Angel Lodge, Transportation desk (do so before 8
pm each day) About 45 degrees at the S rim and 30 at night. About 4 hours
drive from Phoenix. 75 mph on I17. Interesting drive north, through desert,
thru scrub to northern forest.
Checked out the sunset at Mather Point.
Mather Campground Up at 5:30am to get to BA Lodge before 6:30 am. With
the 3 hour time change, it was not difficult to awaken. Scraped ice off the
car windshield with a credit card!
Roll call at the BA Lodge, many no shows, we did not get called, but learned
we were first on the list for Day 3.Also learned from the desk, that it was
very likely that we could get a cabin or dorm for Day 3. Drove over to the
Backcountry office, across from Maswik Lodge to get in line, We were first.
Someone had left an interior permit for that night in the door, we could
have used it and held on. People started to arrive and by 8 there were about
15.(So get there early) Some had wait list numbers from the day before.
Doors opened, and some numbers were no shows. Go to the clipboard right away
and get a number and fill out the form. We were called and received 2 nights
at Bright Angel for Day 4 and 5. Cottonwood was not available on Day 5.
Indian Garden was avalable on Day 4. We could have gone down with the free
permit, but gave it back to the ranger. We were not 100% prepared and tired
from the long flight from Ontario, Can via Buffalo, NY. A wise move, we got
more groceries from the Park store, napped in the pm, Cooked a high carb
pasta meal with lots of veggies at Mather, got packed up and early to bed.
Cold again, 28 deg.
Hiking down S. Kaibab. With packs all ready,we headed for BA Lodge
for the 6:30 am roll call. Parked at BA lodge, close to our BA trailhead
exit. We were first as predicted and could have booked a cabin for 2 nights,
but opted for our camping permit and confirmed the Beef Stew Dinner for 6:30
pm. Steak is 5 pm every day. Breakfasts are at 5:00 am and 6:30 am. Sack
lunches are picked up at 6:30 each day. Took the camper's shuttle from BA
Lodge. It leaves at 5, 6 and 7 am in May. Times vary with the season. Then
stops at the Back office then to Yaki Point for the S. Kaibab trailhead. Bus
was packed. One last toilet stop at the rim then into the canyon we went. It
was about 45 deg but we knew it was going to warm up, so shorts were the
order. Al had some nordic hiking poles (a great acquisition). We also found
Platypus water reservoirs, and extra water bottles to be helpful as well.
Left at 7:30 am down S. Kaibab trail. A very scenic trail, headed out for
cedar ridge and skeleton point. This trail was beautiful as predicted and
very scenic. Average grade the rangers tell us is 14%. Zack was further
ahead and had to wait for his slower Dad. Had some mule trains pass us,
packing trail repair rocks and materials. Also a few rookie mules had their
first ride down. Watch out for these guys. The trail is often not level.
There are either rocks, blocks or tree trunks every 3-4 feet. This we hear
helps the mules get a grip and keeps the trail from eroding. However, it is
very difficult on your legs, in particular your calfs, lots of up/down
motion. Stopped for a few drinks and then llunch at the Tonto trail
intersection. Saw a few crews repairing the trail, a continual job they
telll us. Our calves were really hurting now, but when you get that first
glimpse of the Colorado R, you're motivated. It got very warm, up to 90 at
the BA campground. We arrived about 2 pm. We saw a few river raft parties
arrive at the beach at BA creek. Also saw some mule parties come up the S.
Kaibab trail and a few brave hikers ascend in the heat of the day (very
foolish we thought). We wanted to cool off in BA creek but the level was
extremely high due to the high snow melt, perfect for whitewater kayaking,
but not swimming., Zack jumped in to the 48 deg Colorado R (yearround temp)
for a few seconds, but Dad declined! A beautiful beach, but the drop off is
quick and the current very strong. Swimming is discouraged. Got a good site
at BA campground. Each site has steel ammo boxes to store your food and
garbage from those voracious squirrels and geckos. We didn't see or hear
anything bigger. Washroons and cold running water. A few biting house flies
were there, but not a real problem. Heard a Ranger program at Phantom Ranch,
a real sparkplug presenter gave us Grand Canyon Jeopardy with various
categories to answer for sticker or book mark prizes.
Beef Stew dinner ($21 each) at 6:30 was fantastic, unlimited stew, salad,
corn bread and choc cake. (water and ice tea) You could purchase wine or
beer (BUD or Agave). Heard another ranger talk on the Colorado R.
Learned a neat fact. Over 5 million visitors at the GC each year. Average
length of stay is 4 hours with only 15 minutes viewing. Only 1 % enter the
canyon, either by hike, mule or raft connection.
Mule trips leave BA trailhead either for overnights at Phantom and returns
up S. Kaibab or down BA trail, stopping at Indian Garden, with lunch at
Plateau Point and returns up BA trail. So mule droppings are everywhere on
the trail, but they decompose quickly. Early to bed 9 pm.
Hiking up N. Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls
Up for the 5 am breakfast (A little pricey at $17, only about 15 present,
about 1/3 full. Great meal of scrambled eggs, pancakes, extra crispy bacon,
OJ, and coffee. Picked up our sack lunches. Some people have been
disappointed with the lunch, but we thought it was pretty good but maybe a
little pricey at $9.50. Got a bagel with cream cheese, fat salami stick,
cookies, raisins, apple, granola bar, Gookinaid mix and peanuts. We left for
Ribbon Falls up the N Kaibab trail. Good thing it was uphill as our calves
were in pain. We saw many others shuffling around. Where are those massage
The trail followed BA creek in high flow up the BA Canyon, We crossed the
river several times on bridges. A relatively new trail has been made with
the Roaring Springs water line inserted under the trail. Roaring Springs
supplies the N and S rim year round. THe pipeline travels to Indian Garden
on the BA trail and then is pumped to the S rim from there. THe trail was
very enjoyable. Overall there was a lot of growth around the area due to the
high water levels. Saw many cacti blooming and the tall century cactus also
in bloom. There was so much water that we had some swampy areas along BA
creek (swamp inside the canyon, yes !) A gradual hike upwards with a 2000
foot elevation gain after 7 miles to ribbon falls. We could not cross BA
creek due to high water flow, so had to north up a hill and cross the bridge
back to the west or left to Ribbon Falls. While Zack was about to water a
rock, he saw a brown coiled rattlesnake ! The snake quietly moved under a
rock, but we had some entertainment, keeping a distance. Had lunch by the
falls. A beautiful scene, ribbons of water falling on calcified rock, with
some green growth around. It reminded me of the Fern Grotto on Kauai,
Hawaii. You could climb above the falls and get a great view. Be careful of
the slippery rocks and muddy areas. Well worth the trip. Weather was cloudy
and about 70 that day, very breezy at BA campground both nights. Returned on
a gradual downhill, oh those calves. As we shuffled into the Phantom Ranch,
enjoyed a cold beer from the canteen, other items, sunscreen, snacks and
lemonade are also available there every pm till 4 then after 8-10 pm. Then
we shuffled off, returning for the 5 pm steak dinner. We arrived late and
had the last 2 steaks, Zack had a good cut, but mine was heavily marbled.
Dinner was pricey at $31. Potatoes, corn, bean salad, corn bread and choc
cake with water and iced tea. Overall food was good there and we didn't have
to carry it down. We saw many hikers there, but most were ranch guests.
Could you believe the ranch guests even have hot showers available. There
were quite a few river parties, either just arrived by mule or hiked in,
they left the next day for their trip or about to start off their trip.
To bed early, ready for the hike out.
Hiking up BA Trail.
Up at 4 am, in the dark, protein bars then leave at 5:15 am crossing the
silver bridge at sunrise. A shaky bridge, with steel grating, not for those
afraid of heights. Pleasant river walk, lot of downhill sections, then
started up Pipe Creek creek canyon heading for Indian Garden. All in full
shade until the top of the Corkscrew, arrived at the Garden at 9:30. Rested,
filled up with water, had some bagels with PB and J and off we went. Then Al
started to feel the uphill pain, lack of oxygen and frequent stops. The pack
seemed just too heavy! Hike across the open until the multiple switch backs.
Some shade started to appear. Temps were pleasant at around 70. Where is 3
mile house, and then 1.5 mile house, then the 2 tunnels. Finally we made it,
due to Al's slow progress at 4:45. 11.5 hours up the hill, about 3 hours too
long. But had to be safe, hard to catch a breath with the chest pounding.
After rest then OK again, over and over again.
Learned that you could hire a pack mule to bring your pack down or up for
$75. Maybe next time?
To the GC store for more food for the next few days. Pasta and soup dinner
then showers at Mather campground and early to bed before 9. Best nights
sleep of the trip, thanks to BA trail.
Learned why it was so quiet in the Canyon. The airspace is a no fly zone, so
no helis or planes, except the far east and west areas of the canyon, and
summer rescues of course.
Drive to Havasupai Indian Reservation and Havasu Falls.
Slept in to 6 am, then oatmeal, pack up then off for the Indian Reservation.
South to I 40, East to Seligman, then old route 66 to mile marker 110, then
60 miles to The Hilltop. About 3.5 hours later arrived at the Hilltop,
looking towards Havasu Canyon. A parking lot with 200 cars appeared, with
cliff views. Watch which gear you engage your tranny! Heard helicopters
flying. What is this! Apparently you could take a $85 one way trip for 5
minutes or 5 hours hike for 8 miles (what a decision!) we hiked in, You
could also ride a horse down for $65. Your gear would be delivered for $20.
Is this camping? We think not, so hiking we go. Many horse trains with mail
and all goods. The natives at Supai, 600 strong, rely on the heli and horse
deliveries. Many run the horses on the trails. Some switchbacks on the top
portion then a pleasant walk along a dry river bed to Havasu creek. We even
saw a horse train led without guides, some very intelligent horses ! We left
at about 12:45 arriving just after 5 at Supai. The office is open from 7am
to 5 pm for check-in. $20 per person then $10 per person per night to camp.
Walked through Supai., Felt we had stepped back 100 years, except for the
satellite dishes and helis. Very dusty roads. First glimpse of Havasu Creek
is impressive, clear blue-green water. Village is small, with post office,
office, store, cafe, school, medic and lodge amongst houses. Domestic dogs
everywhere with no apparent home. A 1.5 mile hike further to Havasu Falls. A
few smaller waterfalls before (Navajo falls, I believe) Temps were about 90
at Supai. First glimpse of Havasu is very impressive, then .5 mile further
to the campground. Campsites on both sides of a fast flowing Havasu creek,
The bridge washed out so some logs are used to cross or wade across at waist
height. The campground holds around 250 people and it was about 80% full.
Booked most weekends, You need to reserve ahead, and the rest of the summer.
The lodge was booked until Nov/05. The campground was very disorganized. No
numbered sites, just grab what you can. Each site has a picnic table, but
some large groups had multiple tables and had spread themselves over a large
An interesting note, at Havasu and BA campground, many slept without a tent.
Rain is not prevalent.
Crossed the creek and had a nice site. Set up and did a dehydrated meal, bag
slipped off and we had 50% of the meal. Lots of nuts and granola bars. To
bed early by 9 again. The majority of the campers either helied in or horsed
it or had their packs transported down. Unfortunately it seemed like a
regular car camping site without the cars.
Havasu Falls and hike out
Up at 6, oatmeal, then veg out, hike .5 mile further to Mooney Falls, About
200 feet drop., Some premium campsites at the foot of Mooney falls. Al
walked 1/2 way down and Zack all the way. Some caves, chains and wood
ladders with slippery toeholds led him to the base of Mooney, some swimming
pools were established. Packed up and after stocking up on chlorinated
drinking water and visiting the plastic toilet boxes, we vegged out at
Havasu Falls, just perfect, water about 65 deg. Many day visitors from the
lodge hiked down. Left at 12:30 headed for Supai., Stopped at the cafe for a
gigantic Supai Taco (either on fried bread or nacho). Rested for a few
hours, many heli's in/out, then headed back up the canyon to the Hilltop.
All in the afternoon shade. Saw some wild horses grazing on both trips. As
usual Al tired quickly and we arrived around 8:45 pm, in the dark with some
moonlight. The legs now were strong!
Drove to Williams, about 2 hours away, tried for a campsite or hotel but all
were full, so we pitched the tent beside the Super 8 in a field.
Williams to Phoenix and home
Up at 5 am, gas, protein shake, OK and muffin then I 40 East, took 89A south
Zack drove us thru scenic Oak Creek Canyon (some great campsites visible).
Into Sedona, with the red buttes and rocks. Lots of art galleries, shops,
condos and cottages. Then to !-17 and Phoenic.
- stairclimber training is not enough. You need 3 months at similar
altitudes if possible, or at least carrying a 30 lb pack up down locals
- plan further ahead than 1 month. Interior sites can be booked 4 months
- try out your pack well ahead and practice hiking. Did not anticipate chest
strap problems and awkward positions of pack.
- carefully pack and decide what to take. We overpacked. Do you need a whole
roll of ducttape?
- plan ahead, did I already say that!
- use hiking poles
- if you haven't slept in a tent, do so before you go. I had camped for 40
years, but not in the last 4 years.
- do you need a tent? Tarp and bag/pad
- dehydrated food is a must, lightweight stove
- camelback or platypus water equipment is essential
- good boots and insoles. Just used new orthotics. Realized that improved
toe and ball padding was needed
- follow all the hints given on this web site
Al and Zack at S. Kaibab Trailhead