We wanted to see Grand Canyon NP more intimately and chose to boondock in Kaibab National Forest so we could be as close as possible to the park itself. We were two miles from the park entrance and had absolutely no neighbors in sight. This, to me, is quintessential boondocking. Well, at least the solitary version of boondocking, which is pretty much the opposite of our recent experience with communal boondocking at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming (spoiler: it was awesome). I digress.
This boondocking spot was fantastic. Surrounded by pines, with an empty, winding forest road behind us, we had total privacy but also the convenience of being two miles away from the second-most-visited national park in the country. And it was free. Have we mentioned how much we love boondocking on public land?
This specific boondocking experience definitely influenced our most-likely-abandoned-but-maybe-revisited-in-the-future business idea we covered here.
We stayed in Kaibab National Forest for three nights. We visited the park as a family and stuck to the overlook on the day we arrived. Hannah and I did individual hikes on the Bright Angel trail over the following two days.
On the first day – when we stayed on the overlook trail – we felt the pain of visiting the park during the busy season. Thankfully it wasn’t nearly as bad on the trails below the rim. We’ve read that only 1% of the park’s visitors venture below the rim!
Bright Angel trail was one of the first trails in the canyon and remains one of the most popular and renowned trail in the park. It starts at the rim and descends into the canyon for pretty much as far as you’re willing to go. Because you have to turn around and come right back up!
The National Park Service has lots of in-depth documentation on the park’s trails. We read about Bright Angel prior to going so we knew what to expect and were happy that we did. They also have a NPS employee stationed on the trail, asking hikers where they’re planning on turning around and making sure they have enough water.
Hannah hiked first and smartly chose to turn around at the 3 mile resthouse. In total her hike was over 6 miles and descended around 2,000 feet into the canyon. She loved it!
I went the following day intending on doing the same hike. I felt great at the 3 mile resthouse turnaround point – of course I did, it was all downhill so far, and it was also in full shade – and decided to push it another 1,000 feet down to Indian Garden. And then to Plateau Point after that. Bright Angel is pretty enchanting and I felt like a seasoned hiker after backpacking in Supai with friends less than a week prior.
By the time I turned around I had descended around 3,000 feet over 6 miles. The sun had came over the canyon wall by that point and the temperature reached 95 near Indian Garden. Needless to say, the second half of the hike wasn’t nearly as fun as the first. Many rests were taken and the emergency pack of Pedialyte was consumed early.
I enjoyed the hike overall, but Bright Angel can be pretty brutal. It’s literally straight downhill going in and straight back up hill going out. You have to be prepared if you choose to push it on this trail. Also be mindful of sun exposure and temperature as you descend as they can greatly impact your ability to hike back out.
We loved Grand Canyon National Park and hope to revisit it in the future. Perhaps a rim-to-rim backpacking trip? We will see!
Date visited: April 2018