Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - What to take?
Hiking through Grand Canyon National Park is a thrilling challenge that EVERY serious hiker should tackle at least once! Whether you're taking the "Rim to Rim to Rim" (R2R2R2) challenge or hiking the South Kaibab Trail to take in the breathtaking views at Skeleton Point, the Grand Canyon offers some of the best hiking routes in the country.
But, like any smart hiker, you'd do well to be prepared for this epic journey. Below, you'll find everything you need to know about this amazing trip…
What to Expect
Here are some of the challenges you'll face while hiking the Grand Canyon:
Heat -- You're in Arizona, after all! The canyon can read up to 120 degrees, but it will feel like 130 thanks to the rocks reflecting the sun's heat. The humidity won't be too bad in most of the canyon, but the heat is pretty brutal. You'll need to understand Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke, and take steps to prevent it!
Altitude -- The North Rim sits 8,275 feet above sea level, meaning you're going to be breathing 75% of normal oxygen. If your cardiovascular system isn't in great shape, you could get dizzy, short on breath, and possibly faint. You need spend a few months in advance training to prepare for the hike.
Dehydration -- The heat, sun, and exertion is going to make you sweat like nothing else, increasing your risk of dehydration. You need to bring salt pills, electrolyte powder, and plenty of water on your hike, or else you're in serious trouble!
Tough Climbs -- This isn't just a walk in the park, but you're climbing steep trails and pushing your body hard. Time to hit your legs HARD at the gym and build serious lower body strength. The trails are rough on your knees, feet, and ankles, thanks to the loose rocks, dirt, and soil.
Low Humidity -- This is NOT a good thing! Your sweat will evaporate faster, meaning you'll sweat more--increasing your risk of dehydration.
No Water -- If you don't bring your own water, you're in trouble! There is water in the Grand Canyon, but it may not be drinkable. You'll need something to both filter and purify water.
If you're planning your trip to the Grand Canyon, here's what you need to know:
Hike at the right time of year. May through September are the hottest months of the year, so plan your trip through the rest of the year.
Know your limits. If you have health problems or can't handle the exertion, don't try! Hike the easier trails (like Bright Angel Trail) instead of the more hardcore ones!
Carry less. Carry as little in your backpack as possible. Over the course of your hours-long hike, a light backpack can weigh a lot more than you'd think!
Bring along plenty of food and water. Calorie and protein-dense foods (like protein or energy bars) will be your best friend on this trip, and consider bringing along sports drinks and electrolyte water for any hike longer than 3 or 4 hours.
Get your permit. If you're planning an overnight hike, you MUST get a permit. The Grand Canyon only allows for a certain number of overnight hikes. Apply for the permit months in advance! (Note: Day hikers pay an entrance fee, but don't need a permit.)
Plan the route. Don't stray off the beaten path (danger is all around), but stick on the hiking trail. Consult a local guide if you don't know the best routes.
Take a walkie talkie. Vitally important on long hikes is a way to stay in touch with communication services should things go wrong. Read up in advance about walkie talkie reviews.
Remember: Leave No Trace. Take all your trash with you, stay on the trails, and don't carry away any natural items you find--no matter how awesome.
Here's what you need to do buy in anticipation of the trip:
Sturdy, lightweight hiking shoes with a thick tread
Camelbak or similar hydration system
GPS devices/electronic compass
Water filtration and purification system/tablets/Steripen
Hiking poles (they may look goofy, but they may save your life!)
Durable, comfortable backpack
Electrolyte powder/salt pills
Here's how to prepare your body to tackle the Grand Canyon hiking trails:
Take up Hot Yoga -- A few weeks of Bikram Yoga will help you prepare physically and mentally for the brutal heat in the Grand Canyon. If you can't sweat it out through a few Hot Yoga sessions, you won't survive a hike in the Grand Canyon.
Hit the Cardio Hard -- And we're not talking low-intensity or steady-state exercise, but proper High Intensity exercise (sprinting, running, fast cycling, etc.). Spend a few months pushing your heart using HIIT training in preparation for your Grand Canyon hike. You'll be glad you did--not just because it strengthened your legs, but because it enabled your heart to keep up with the reduced oxygen.
Strengthen Your Legs -- The muscles in your thighs, hamstrings, and glutes are going to be doing most of the work on your hike, so work out your legs at least two or three times a week in the months leading up to the hike. Do it with:
Treadmill on a serious incline
And do all of your training with a backpack weighing at least 15 pounds!
Follow this advice, and you'll make it through your Grand Canyon National Park hike safe and sound.