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Photo Gallery: The Grand Canyon’s Best Backpacking Trips

Photo Gallery: The Grand Canyon’s Best Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

“The best backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.”

That was what a longtime backcountry ranger I’ve interviewed in the past, who’s hiked every mile of trail in the park, told me about the 74-mile hike from the South Kaibab Trailhead to the Tanner Trailhead, including the Escalante Route and Beamer Trail. That assertion had struck me as bold and debatable when I first read those words in an email from him—given the magnificence of any Big Ditch hike. But having just completed it, I find myself inclined to agree with him. I think you’ll see why in these photos.

I recently returned from backpacking that route with two friends, and it delivered the full Grand Canyon experience: mind-blowing scenery, wonderful campsites from the Tonto Plateau to the Colorado River, and even more challenge than we expected. I make that observation from the perspective of having also done five of the canyon’s other premier backpacking trips (see links to my stories about those trips below the photo gallery), as well as having dayhiked the canyon’s most popular backpacking trails, the various combinations for hiking rim-to-rim and rim-to-river-to-rim (including dayhiking rim to rim to rim over two days most recently last October).

Note that if you’re thinking about a backpacking trip this fall—an ideal time to visit—you should be looking into a backcountry permit right now for a trip in October, because available permits for popular trails and campsites get claimed very quickly.

 

Do this trip right. Get my expert e-guide to backpacking the Grand Canyon rim to rim
or my expert e-guide to dayhiking rim to rim.

 

Backpackers and wildflowers along the Grand Canyon's Escalante Route.
Wildflowers along the Grand Canyon’s Escalante Route.

Few places boggle the brain so tenaciously as the Grand Canyon. A twisting gorge 277 miles long and averaging about 10 miles wide and a mile deep, and one of the largest national parks at more than 1.2 million acres, its vastness overwhelms you. And yet you can never see more than a fraction of it at any moment.

As I have experienced on every GC hike going back many years to my first one, walk any significant distance here and you will observe the perspective-bending phenomenon of rock monoliths and temples thousands of feet tall expanding like a dirigible inflating until they dominate your field of view, and then shrinking as you walk away until they disappear into the larger landscape. The unforgiving heat and aridity seems ill-suited to any life, but beautiful wildflowers bloom in the open desert, and lush gardens of greenery blossom in narrow, shady side chasms with perennial streams.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


 

In the words of John Wesley Powell: “You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.”

You may not have months free to toil through the Grand Canyon’s labyrinths, but a few days or a week can give you a pretty good sampler of the place.

 

I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. Want my help with yours? Find out more here.

 

My gallery of photos below include all of the backpacking trips and long dayhikes (routes normally done as backpacking trips) that I’ve taken in the Grand Canyon; the first several photos are from the South Kaibab to Tanner hike. See links below the gallery to my stories about those trips at The Big Outside.

Watch for my upcoming feature story about backpacking from the South Kaibab Trailhead to the Tanner Trailhead, including the Escalante Route in the Grand Canyon.

See all of my stories about Grand Canyon National Park, including:

Fit to be Tired: Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a Day

Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop

Not Quite Impassable: Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop

A Matter of Perspective: A Father-Daughter Hike in the Grand Canyon

One Extraordinary Day: A 25-Mile Dayhike in the Grand Canyon

A Grand Ambition, or April Fools? Dayhiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

Dropping Into the Grand Canyon: A Four-Day Hike From Grandview Point to the South Kaibab Trail

And see all of my stories about national park adventures and family adventures at The Big Outside.

Want to make your pack lighter and all of your backpacking trips more enjoyable? See my story A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.” If you don’t have a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read part of that story for free, or click here to download that full story without having a paid membership.

Tell me what you think.

I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons at right, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.

 

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Breathtaking photos, Michael! Which camera(s) did you use?

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Susan, thanks for asking. As I explain in more detail about in this post (https://thebigoutside.com/ask-me-what-camera-equipment-do-you-carry-in-the-backcountry/), I shoot with a Nikon D7100 with Nikkor 18-140 and 10-24 zooms. I previously used a Nikon D90 and a Nikkor 18-200 zoom and a Sigma 10-20 zoom; many photos at The Big Outside were shot with that setup. The Grand Canyon photos at my blog were shot with one or the other, depending on how recent the trip was.

      Reply

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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