Grand Canyon National Park Part Two: Below the Rim

Boondocking Bliss

We had boondocked several times by now – in Sedona for 10 days and also near Phoenix and near Joshua Tree NP for a few days each – but this stop is where it “got real” for me.

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.

Our site near Grand Canyon NP in Tayusan, AZ

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.

Calla exploring the empty, dead-end forest road behind our site.  Of course she was finding rocks to throw in this picture.


The Canyon

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.

Checking out the Grand Canyon from Mather Point

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!

What’s more impressive – the crowd or the canyon?

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!

A foreshadowing picture at the visitor center

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.

Bright Angel trail

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!

Hannah on Bright Angel trail
One of the trail’s resthouses.  It offers shade, a spring-fed water faucet, and a nearby bathroom.
Bright Angel offers stunning views at every turn

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.

The cacti were blooming near Plateau Point due to the heat. Yep, that’s the start of the trail up there!
The reason for going to Plateau Point – views of the Colorado River

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


  1. Looks like a beautiful hike. I can well understand why only 1% go below the rim. You can sense the danger there and the information offered at the park reinforces it. So , you are to be commended for your hike! I didn’t know they had the little rest stops there, which is great! Pictures don’t do justice to that canyon!

    1. Thank you, Judy! The rest stops are amazing – the cold, fresh spring water is fantastic. We agree, it’s hard to convey the massive size and beauty of the canyon in pictures. It must be seen in person!

      Thanks for reading!


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