Hiking the Grand Canyon is absolutely riveting. The views are even more gorgeous covered in snow. Plus the trails and lookouts are less traveled. It’s like you have entire the place to yourself.
Where to Hike in the Grand Canyon
During the winter, several trails could be a bit more challenging to navigate than others. Make sure to get the latest information on the difficulty of the trails. Check with the visitor center before embarking on your journey to choose the right trail for your skill level.
South Rim Trails
South Bass Trail
The South Bass is a very popular trail; however, it loses its popularity in the winter months because the access is more difficult. To reach this trail, you must travel approximately 30 miles on extremely remote roads. When the weather is wet, snow and mud become major obstacles.
The Boucher is another trail that is popular among travelers to the National Grand Canyon; however, it is a trail that is known for gathering an immense amount of ice and snow. It faces west, so, the sun is able to heat the trail. While this results in higher levels of thawing, it poses many dangers at night, when the temperatures drop. This is when the ice develops and visibility is hindered.
The Hermit Trail is a beautiful hiking area that contains significantly less amounts of snow, ice, and mud than any other trail that is located on the South Rim. If you start at the top of the trail, you are sure to discover ice, snow, and mud; however, as you descend, you will discover less of these environmental hazards.
Bright Angel Trail
If you have a desire to hike through the Bright Angel Trail, you will find, for the first few miles or so, an immense amount of packed-in snow and large amounts of ice; however, after this initial setback, less snow and ice are found.
South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trail is one that is noted for its immense amount of heating during the daytime hours. While the first section is known to hold high amounts of ice throughout the winter, after that, ice is only experienced in an intermittent fashion.
North Rim Trails
The North Rim is considered rougher terrain. In this highly mountainous environment, you are likely to experience a larger amount of obstacles, dangers, and severe weather conditions. The average heights in which you will be traveling include 8,000 feet. Ensure that you are properly prepared for high levels of ice and immense depths of snow.
North Kaibab Trail
This particular trail in the North Rim is typically closed by the middle of October; however, you may cross the South Rim by foot or ski to the trail from the Jacob Lake region. You should know that, in the winter, this trail head is considered to be extremely isolated and extremely dangerous. The good news is, this is a corridor trail. This means that it is regularly maintained and patrolled by rangers. Be careful to situations such as rockfalls, wildlife encounters, and losing your footing in this area.
North Rim Yurt
The most popular destination for winter hikers in the North Rim of the National Grand Canyon is the North Rim Yurt. Here, you will find that it is just about 10 minutes from the ever-popular North Kaibab Trail. In order to visit this region, you must obtain a special permit from the Backcountry Information Center. While this is very beautiful during the winter months and offers many accommodations, it is also considered to be extremely isolated. You must be prepared for extremely cold temperatures, a lot of ice, and very deep snow.
I’m sure your excited to get started. But before you head out, we want you to be armed with the most important information.
Hiking the Grand Canyon during the winter has the potential to turn quite dangerous. Every year, numerous individuals suffer from illnesses, injuries, and even death as a result of not being prepared for the cold and harsh wintery terrain of the national park.
Make sure to be familiar with the most current forecast before you go. Keep in mind that weather may change rapidly throughout the park – especially when it comes to precipitation. By learning as much as you can about the open trails before your hike, you are likely to experience far fewer complications.
Be Alert for Unforeseen Events
According to professional hikers in the region, a safe hiking adventure is completely dependent on the routes that you take and the weather that occurs during your trip.
These individuals stress the importance of knowing that these routes can be highly susceptible to issues, such as deterioration as a result of rockslides and icing.
You must make sure that you have the tools and supplies that you would need if faced with any unforeseen events and/or natural occurrences.
Basic Supplies Needed for Hiking the Grand Canyon
There are several different types of basic supplies needed for winter hiking through the National Grand Canyon. These are as follows:
- The first and most important of all supplies that you will need for hiking the Grand Canyon is food. You should ensure that you bring along foods that contain a higher level of salt and that you make it a point to eat at least twice as much as you normally do. Cold weather increases the body’s metabolism and results in far more calories being burned than normal.
- Next, you will need water. You should have a combination of standard, purified water and water that contains a high level of electrolytes.
- It is always important to have a first aid kit that includes a large assortment of items such as bandages, wraps, over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, antibiotic ointment, and an antiseptic agent.
- You will require a flashlight, batteries, and an additional light source.
- You should bring along a shelter and a means to ignite a fire should you become delayed.
- Your clothing and footwear should be warm, water proof, and appropriate for hiking the Grand Canyon during the winter months.
- You should ensure that you have a whistle, a flare, or a mirror that may be used for signaling. Remember, a cell phone is not enough because, in some areas, you will not have reception.
The most common and serious life-threatening condition that may occur is hypothermia. It happens when your body temperature drops to dangerous levels. It usually sets in when a person is consistently exposed to the cold without protection.
On average, the normal temperature for a human is 98.6°F. When a person develops hypothermia, it drops to below 95.0°F. In severe instances, the body temperature may drop into the 80s or 70s.
When hiking during the winter months throughout the Grand Canyon, you will be subjected to cold temperatures, consistently. Take the proper precautions in order to ensure that you do not develop this potentially deadly condition.
In order to properly protect yourself from developing hypothermia, you must understand how the cold results in the development of the issue.
When you are subjected to cold for a prolonged period of time, up to 90% of the heat loss that occurs happens through your skin; however, you also will lose heat through the lungs, as you exhale.
If, by chance, you are in water in an outdoor environment that is cold, heat loss will occur much faster – 25 times faster, to be exact.
Normally, the heart and the liver are responsible for producing the heat throughout your body. As the body starts to cool, the organs slow and result in a type of shut down designed to preserve the heat you have. This is to properly protect the brain. Immediately thereafter, the heart rate, the breathing, and the activity in the brain slows down.
It is absolutely imperative that you learn the symptoms of hypothermia. This way, should you start to experience this issue while hiking in the National Grand Canyon this winter, you may get help:
- In the beginning stages, shivering may occur.
- It is common for the breathing to become slow and very shallow.
- Confusion and other cognitive issues may be experienced.
- The speech may start to become slurred or mumbled.
- Coordination issues may develop.
- The pulse may become slow and very weak.
Make sure that you are dressed appropriately. Pack on the layers and cover every inch of exposed skin. Hats, gloves, scarves, masks, thermal underwear and good socks and boots. If you bought new hiking clothes, do a test run. Wear them out in the cold to make sure that they’re warm enough for hiking before you hit the trails.
Avoid wearing clothing composed of cotton or any type of jean material. These materials will actually hold moisture in and could result in hypothermia. It is best to wear clothing, socks, and other pieces that are composed of a merino wool blend, polar fleece, and/or down. Additionally, all items that you wear and bring along should be waterproof.
Also make sure to have a means of communicating should you need assistance. Make sure that your phone is fully charged and loaded with the phone numbers of the people who can help you the quickest.
Like we mentioned before, Eat carbs and drink lots of fluids before you go. Carbohydrates give you a boost of energy that keep you warm. If you’re planning on being out for a long time, bring snacks.
If you feel any of the symptoms of hypothermia setting in, head back or call for help.
With all of this knowledge on your side, you can have a safe, fun and incredible trip. The Grand Canyon is one of the most breathtaking places on earth, sure to make memories that you can keep for a lifetime.
“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.” – John Wesley Powell