By Michael Lanza

On the last morning of a three-day, 34.5-mile backpacking trip on the Grand Canyon’s remote and very rugged Royal Arch Loop, I got this photo of my friend David Ports at a spot where the Tonto Trail traverses close to the brink of a precipice nearly a thousand feet above the muddy Colorado River roaring through Granite Gorge.

The Royal Arch Loop had been on my list for a while, and it exceeded expectations. Considered the most difficult of the established hiking routes on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim—the park recommends taking five days (we had a strong, very experienced party, and we spent nine to 11 hours on the trail each day)—the route includes long stretches that lack a discernible trail, although it’s marked with cairns, some difficult and exposed scrambling, and a 20-foot rappel. But the scenery was as good as it gets, the campsites outstanding—including one, below Royal Arch, sure to make the next update of my list of 25 all-time favorite backcountry campsites—and, not surprisingly, we saw just a handful of people.

Later, I’ll post a feature story at The Big Outside, with many photos and a video, about our backpacking trip on the Royal Arch Loop. Meanwhile, view menus of all of my stories about the Grand Canyon, all of my stories about national park adventures, and all of my stories about backpacking at The Big Outside.

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