Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 1-2 – San Diego to the South Rim)

Posted: June 24, 2014 in Bucket List, Family and Friends, Full Life, Hiking, Living It, Vacation
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View of the Grand Canyon through the trees on the South Rim

It can take a long time to plan a Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. I started planning for this hike in December 2012. I knew I wanted to do the hike in the spring time instead of the fall this time, and I wanted some time to explore both the south and north rims of the canyon before the hike. A lot of things can change when you have to plan something this far in advance. Our group changed in size and composition several times during the planning.

The second to the last change was just a few weeks before the hike when my youngest son decided he wanted to go. We were about two-thirds of the way through our last long training hike and he kind of just blurted out that he wanted to go with us to the Grand Canyon. Up until that point I had no idea he was interested and when we started hiking to train for the rim to rim hike I would not have thought him going would be a good idea. He had a fear of heights and had even frozen up on a couple of the early training hikes. But on the last hike there was a very narrow trail with a pretty big drop off and he just casually walked along the path. I’m not sure what changed, but I knew something was different for him. His confidence and self-assurance had built up over all the training hikes. Although there is always a reason to worry about your kids, and I knew this hike was a serious thing, I also knew he could do it.

The last change was a big personal disappointment for me. I had trained for and planned to hike a rim to rim to rim hike. Unfortunately I got a fairly bad head cold about 10 days before the hike and it had not let up on the day we planned to leave. Even though I still thought I could do it, I didn’t want to ruin the trip for the folks just planning to hike from the north to the south rim. So I let it go for this year and decided to take the shuttle. I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance, or who I’ll go with, but I still hope to hike both ways one of these days. I have a lot of local hikes planned over the next several years, so I expect I’ll be ready if the chance comes up. Also a rim to rim to rim hike done in 2 days doesn’t require as much lead time, because the reservations at Phantom Ranch are what sell out early.

We left San Diego early on a Friday morning. I thought we would be going up the 15 to the 10, but decided to let Google Navigation decide. We ended up taking a back route that took us through some interesting places including through Glamis and past the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area on California Highway 78. I’ve seen the Sand Dunes when driving along Interstate 8, but the dunes seem much closer from this road.

Driving Past the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

We got to the south rim about 4 pm and checked in to our hotel. It had been a hot day and the room did not have A/C, so we opened the window, turned on the fan and went exploring.

We started by taking a look at the canyon from the rim. I pointed out the top part of Bright Angel Trail (lower right of this picture) to the group.

A view of the canyon and a portion of Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim

We decided to walk down and check out part of the trail…

Sean walking along Bright Angel Trail a couple days before the hike

We stopped just past the tunnel near the top of the trail for a picture.

The gang checks out Bright Angel Trail before the hike

Not sure why, but the very nice person who snapped this picture left the tunnel out of the picture. My cousin Mike volunteered to get another picture of me, Sean, and Jenny with the tunnel in the frame… much better!

Part of the gang with the tunnel showing in the picture

We decided to take the shuttle toward Hermits Rest to have a better view of the sunset. The last stop at that time of the day was Hopi Point and it was a great place to watch the sunset. I’m used to taking pictures of the sunset over the Pacific ocean, but this is a different, when you point your camera toward the sunset you lose a lot of the details of the canyon. It was a very clear day, so the sky wasn’t very interesting either. I took a few pictures of the sunset, but decided it would be better to take advantage of the warm angled lighting by taking pictures in other directions.

This was my favorite sunset picture. You can see a part of the Colorado river below the red glare from the sunset.

Sunset from Hopi Point Grand Canyon South Rim

When I zoomed in on the river, the colors in the late evening sun really popped.

View of the Colorado and Grand Canyon near sunset

A view in the opposite direction showed some interesting color and another little part of the Colorado River.

View away from the sunset into the Grand Canyon from Hopi Point

As the sun went further down, the smoke from a fire on the North Rim dominated the sky.

View of a fire on the North Rim from Hopi Point at sunset

When we got back to the room after dinner, it had cooled off outside, but the room was still about 90 degrees. The window had been open for a few hours with the fan running so I was surprised it was still so hot. I put my hand in front of the fan to see if I could feel the cool air being pulled into the room. Nothing! It was absolutely the most useless fan I’ve ever seen. The fan was on high but I could not feel cool air or air movement at all on either side of the fan. I know this sounds like exaggeration, but I’m not kidding, absolutely no breeze. We opened the door for about an hour and it got a little cooler, but I didn’t want to sleep with the door open, so eventually I closed it and drifted off to sleep. Even though it got down to the forties that night, having the window open did not cool the room off any further. We were all glad that the room we would be staying in after the hike would have A/C (or at least we thought it would…). We got up early, organized our packs, ate breakfast and went out to explore some more.

Out time was limited before our shuttle ride to the North Rim so we decided to take the South Rim Shuttle all the way to Hermits Rest.

Arched Hermits Rest Marker

This used to be the starting point for hikes into the canyon on the Hermit Trail to Hermit’s camp. The trail is maintained, but the camp is long gone. Hermits Rest is a unique place built to look older and less well-built than it is.

Hermits Rest

It was worth the bus ride out to see it. There are also some unique views of the Grand Canyon there and along the shuttle’s route.

We caught the shuttle to the North Rim in the early afternoon. Although I’ve done this hike before we did not spend any time on the North Rim last time. We stayed about an hour north of the park the night before. We drove up at sunrise, got out of the car and started the hike. I was really looking forward to staying at the North Rim for a couple nights and having some new experiences.

Next post in this series covers our stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 2-3 – North Rim)

If you want more, I’ve created a page that lists all of my planning and hiking posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)


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