backpacking Grand Canyon

A backpacker on the Clear Creek Trail, Grand Canyon.

Finding Solitude Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Utah Flats and Clear Creek

By Michael Lanza

After descending seven miles and over 4,800 feet on the Grand Canyon’s always-stunning South Kaibab Trail and crossing the footbridge to the north side of the Colorado River, we follow the path through the Bright Angel backpacker campground to its end. There, not marked by any sign and not obvious to anyone unaware of it, a faint path leads through low bushes. Within moments, it turns and runs straight up a steep canyon wall of cacti and other desert flora, loose scree, and boulders, ascending about 1,500 vertical feet in the first mile, beyond what we can see from the bottom of it.

Gazing up with a volatile mix of excitement and trepidation, we start a long uphill grind.

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A hiker on the Tonto Trail by Monument Creek in the Grand Canyon.

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

By Michael Lanza

There’s not another hiker in sight as my friend David Ports and I start down the Hermit Trail on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, even though it’s nearly 8 a.m., hardly an early hour to hit the trail. And that’s just the first conspicuously unusual circumstance at the outset of our hike. The second obvious oddity this morning is that it’s overcast—a welcome sight here—and actually chilly enough that we’re wearing the light jackets we brought.

But most unusual aspect of this hike is that we’re only carrying light daypacks—and cruising along almost effortlessly—for a walk of nearly 25 miles, with some 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. That’s because we’ll do it all today.

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A backpacker above Royal Arch Canyon on the Grand Canyon's Royal Arch Loop.

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

By Michael Lanza

Hiking just ahead of my three companions in Royal Arch Canyon, a remote chasm off the South Rim the Grand Canyon, I stop before a dead end: a 15-foot pour-off dropping away in front of me and towering cliffs to either side. It looks impassable. After a moment of scanning the walls more closely, though, I notice a stack of narrow ledges—some only as wide as one of my feet—leading across and down the cliff to my left, around the pour-off. The traverse is exposed—a slip could result in a really bad tumble off this cliff. But it actually looks fairly easy, and it’s clearly our route. So I start inching across as David and Kris come up behind me and watch.

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A backpacker on the Tonto Trail above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Trip in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

All three of us have hiked this footpath before, and even still, our first steps down the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail leave us with hanging jaws. It’s early morning under clear skies, with the low-angle sunlight bringing the vastness of this chasm into sharp clarity—every inconceivably towering monolith, bottomless abyss, and sheer precipice—and we’re sputtering silly superlatives about the vista unfurling before us.

This is, after all, the world’s grandest canyon. It does that to people, even hardened veteran backpackers like us.

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A backpacker at a waterfall on the Deer Creek Trail in the Grand Canyon.

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

By Michael Lanza

The heat presses in from all sides as we hike down the Bill Hall Trail off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The overhead sun feels as if it has expanded to a supernova threatening to engulf the planet. The rocks radiate waves of heat up at us; I wonder if they might actually reach egg-frying temperature today. Even the air seems to be rising to a boil like a vast kettle on a stove. We hike cautiously over broken stones that slide underfoot, leaning out onto our trekking poles for the two- and three-foot ledge drops on this path—which appears better suited to bighorn sheep than to bipedal primates hauling backpacks weighed down with gear, food, and a surplus of a rare element out here: water.

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