Grand Canyon National Park

North Rim to Phantom Ranch to South Rim

September 2013

I had just finished Shadow flight testing in Yuma, Arizona and drove north to the park after work on Thursday.  I made it to the South Rim on Friday morning and went immediately to the backcountry office to get camping permits.  Since I did not know when I was going to be arriving, I did not have any reservations.  I wanted Cottonwood (campground on the North Kaibab Trail), then Phantom Ranch / Bright Angel Campground, then Indian Gardens, hiking in from the North Rim and across, and hiking out on the South Rim.  Bright Angel Campground had openings, but Cottonwood and Indian Gardens were both going to a problem. Cottonwood’s last minute openings are only given out from the backcountry office on the North Rim, which I did not know.  The ranger at the South Rim backcountry office called the North Rim backcountry office and asked if there were any openings. The ranger at the North Rim said “If he is here [at the North Rim] tomorrow morning when I open, I have a spot for him.”  Bingo.  I spent a couple hours on the South Rim, and then drove around to the North Rim.  The last three photos in this section show the view from Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon, and the southeast face of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, taken as I was driving around to the North Rim. I spent the night at Jacob Lake and got up early to drive to the North Rim on Saturday morning.


I went to the North Rim backcountry office as soon as they opened on Saturday and was waiting outside the office when the ranger arrived to open. I helped him raise the American flag, and then we went inside. The ranger got me the Cottonwoon reservation, and Indian Gardens. I already had Bright Angel Campground, so I was all set. I spend Saturday on the North Rim, visiting the lodge, Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial, and along the Cape Royal road to Roosevelt Point, which was as far as it was open. 


I started my hike in on Sunday from the North Rim, and spent Sunday to Wednesday hiking across to the South Rim. I had reservation for the trans-canyon shuttle on Wednesday afternoon, which took me back around to my rental car parked at the North Kaibab trailhead.  I watched sunset from Bright Angel Point on the North Rim, and camped on the Kaibab Plateau north of the park on Wednesday evening.  On Thursday I drove back south, stopping at Sunset Crater National Monument outside Flagstaff for a very short visit, then a few hours in Sedona, before driving to Phoenix for a red-eye flight out on Thursday evening.  I made it home about noon on Friday.  The rain, and low clouds inside the canyon made for some spectacular photos.  I took a few.

This Grand Canyon hike was fantastic!  I have never felt better hiking the canyon.  I drank and ate a lot more than usual, and it made a big difference.  The temperatures were lower, and it rained quite a bit, so I kept cool also.

Sunday: North Kaibab Trail, Hike North Rim to Roaring Spring to Cottonwood campground.  A lot of these photos show the clouds that were in the Canyon for most of my rim-to-rim hike.  These hanging clouds inside the Canyon are rare, only happening a few times a year.  You can see the trail go past the Eye Of The Needle, through the Redwall Limestone, and on to Roaring Springs.  I took the side-trail down to the Roaring Springs picnic area and dipped my feet in the water before continuing on to Cottonwood, where I set up camp.


Monday: Hike Cottonwood to Ribbon Falls to Phantom Ranch (Bright Angel campground).   The next morning I broke camp and hiked to Ribbon Falls, on through the Box, and to Phantom Ranch.  The side creek flowing into Bright Angel Creek in one of the photos below is Phantom Creek, from which Phantom Ranch gets its name.  It is about a mile north of Phantom Ranch.  You can also easily see erosion at work in one of the photos - part of the Canyon wall had dropped onto the trail.  After setting up camp at Bright Angel Campground and waiting out the afternoon thunderstorm, I hiked to the river and crossed the Black Bridge, before walking to Boat Beach where I dipped my feet in the Colorado River.  There was a helicopter delivering some workers into the Canyon as I was standing on Black Bridge.  I had made reservations for the hikers stew dinner at the Phantom Ranch canteen - their food is always great, and there is plenty of it!


Tuesday: Breakfast at Phantom Ranch,  Hike Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens campground. Sunset at Plateau Point (!!!). Today was the start of the hike up and out, but I had two full days with plenty of time and plenty to see.  First along the River Trail, where I had a very cool sight - hikers, mules, and river rafters all in one photo frame.  Then up through Pipe Creek Canyon and the Devil's Corkscrew switchbacks, through the Tapeats Sandstone and onto the Tonto Plateau and Indian Garden.  After resting, setting up camp, and eating, I hiked out to Plateau Point for sunset.  Sunset at Plateau Point is a MUST for anyone who spends the night at Indian Gardens.  It is a simple level hike of 3 miles round trip, and the views from the middle of the Canyon are fantastic.  The views were even more fantastic on this trip because of the low clouds hanging in the Canyon.  There was about a dozen people in three or four small groups at Plateau Point to watch sunset, and one of the groups was being lead by a guide.  He pulled out a book of verse and read a very nice passage on the Grand Canyon that everyone enjoyed a lot.  It was a real cool way to end the day.  One of the photos below is my required Grand Canyon squirrel photo; everyone who goes to the Canyon will inevitably have at least one squirrel photo.


Wednesday: Hike Indian Garden to South Rim. Trans-canyon shuttle back around to North Rim. Sunset at Bright Angel Point - North Rim. Camp on Kaibab Plateau.  Wednesday was the big climb - up from Indian Garden to the South Rim.  I made it in four hours flat, including rest and photo breaks at the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest houses.  I had lunch at Bright Angel Lodge, and then caught the trans-canyon shuttle back around to the North Rim, where it dropped me off at my rental car parked at the North Kaibab trailhead.  I watched sunset from Bright Angel Point, and had dinner at the lodge.  I camped here, on the edge of the Kaibab Plateau, east of Jacob Lake.



Thursday: Drive south to Sunset Crater National Monument, then Sedona, and on to Phoenix Sky-Harbor Airport.  I woke up on Thursday morning with an incredible view of the Vermillion Cliffs.  I drove east and south, stopping for a short visit at Sunset Crater National Monument (lots of lava fields), and then for a few hours in Sedona before finally reaching Phoenix that evening.