Winter Hiking and Backpacking in Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim

Trip Code: SKXWG

Why we love it

During winter at the Grand Canyon, there are less tourists and snow regularly dusts the ground and the dramatic canyon valleys and peaks, creating a spectacular sight., See both the South Rim and the less-visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon and cross the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch., Soak up the pristine natural surroundings in camping spots that put you right in the heart of stunning wilderness areas with top-of-the-line tents and all your camping gear provided., Enjoy freshly prepared, delicious backcountry dinners prepared by your leader and admire sparkling stars overhead if the weather is clear.

Is this trip right for me?

This is a hiking and backpacking trip so a good fitness level is essential to participate in all the included hikes and activities. 

This trip involves hiking from 4.8 to 13.6 miles (8 to 22 km) per day with a total trip distance of 44 miles (71 km). The maximum daily elevation gain/loss is 4800 feet (1463 m). Please check the trip itinerary for more details.

On this trip, you’ll be required to carry a backpack weighing approximately 35-45 lb (16- 20 kg).

The Grand Canyon is prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. On winter trips, there can be snow and the temperature often drops to minus 7 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) in the evening. It is important to be fully prepared and follow the recommended clothing list closely.

Winter weather can be unpredictable in the Grand Canyon so we may need to make itinerary changes to keep the group safe and well at all times. If this occurs, we will do our best to find comparable activities and experiences.

Please Note: Due to a temporary trail closure of the Bright Angel Trail, this trip will be modified between December 1, 2023 and February 28, 2024. We will spend a layover day at Bright Angel Campground on Day 5, and then hike out the South Kaibab Trail on Day 6. You can still expect the same breathtaking views, time at the Colorado River, fascinating geology and amazing camping!

Important information

It is strongly recommended to book your Grand Canyon backpacking trip 5 months in advance due to the Park’s permit system. Backpacking permits are issued on the first of the month 4+ months in advance. Permits for the most popular trips sell out very quickly during the initial lottery, so registering prior to the deadline of the month you’re interested in is highly beneficial.

1. Please note this trip requires a minimum number of booked customers to guarantee the departure. Your Booking Agent will advise at time of booking if the departure has met minimum numbers. If minimum numbers are not met, you will be advised no later than 30 days out from departure. We recommend arranging flights and related travel services once your departure is guaranteed. In the event that your departure is cancelled due to minimum numbers not being met, a full refund will be provided of monies paid.

2. A completed registration form is required to join these trips. You will not be confirmed for the trip until your form has been received and reviewed. We may ask for a medical release signed by your physician for medical conditions or circumstances which could possibly compromise your safety or the safety of others on this trip – please speak to your agent for further details.

3. A signed disclaimer (Acknowledgement of Risks Form) is required at the time of booking for this trip – please speak to your agent for further details.

4. To help ensure this trip is right for you, this trip is subject to additional ‘Essential Eligibility Requirements’ – see the ‘Itinerary Disclaimer’ section of the Essential Trip Information for further details.

5.This trip is operated and run by Wildland Trekking, an Intrepid company. You will be travelling with a mixture of both Wildland Trekking customers and Intrepid customers.

6. Please note, a pre-trip orientation meeting will take place at 5:00 PM day before trip starts at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff. Early on the morning of day 1, between 4am and 7am, you will be picked up from that hotel and we also recommend you book a pre tour night there. This trip will conclude at approximately 5:00 PM on the last day.

7. A single tent is provided to all solo travellers at no extra cost.

8. Please Note: Due to a temporary trail closure of the Bright Angel Trail, this trip will be modified between December 1, 2023 and February 28, 2024. We will spend a layover day at Bright Angel Campground on Day 5, and then hike out the South Kaibab Trail on Day 6. You can still expect the same breathtaking views, time at the Colorado River, fascinating geology and amazing camping!

What to bring/pack

LUGGAGE RESTRICTIONS

All luggage is carried in trailers or inside the vehicle so please don't bring more than one medium-sized bag, backpack or suitcase (20kg maximum) per person. Your suitcase/rucksack may get some rough handling, so make sure it's a tough one. A small daypack and camera may also be carried inside the vehicle.
As well as your underwear, toothbrush and other items you always need to pack for travel, below are some items that you specifically need for this trip.

INCLUDED GEAR

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
- Deuter or Osprey backpacks
- Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
- Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
- Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
- Leki trekking poles
- Cooking stoves and cookware
- Company-issued first-aid kit
- Emergency communication device(s)
- Bear spray cannisters and food-hanging gear (where applicable)

ESSENTIAL ITEMS YOU NEED TO BRING

The following items are required for your trip unless otherwise noted. When packing, think layered clothing systems that work together and can be easily added or removed.

 Winter Hiking Boots/Shoes – insulated, lug-soled, waterproof and ideally well broken in.
(Note: buy your boots/shoes 1/2 size to 1 size larger than your street shoes to allow for feet swelling and thicker socks)
 Expedition Socks – 2 pairs of padded hiking socks, mid-to heavyweight wool socks. No cotton socks please!
 Gaiters – waterproof and mid-ankle to just below the knee in length
 Insulated gloves – waterproof/breathable, insulated gloves
 Warm Hat & Fleece Gloves – fleece lined beanie and light-to-mid weight fleece or wool gloves
 Balaclava or neck gaiter – mid-weight fleece or wool balaclava or neck gaiter for windy days
 Base Layer/Long Underwear – 1 pair of wicking tops and bottoms that are lightweight to midweight, synthetic wicking materials such as polyester, polypropylene, merino wool…etc.
 Fleece Pants – mid weight fleece pants or leggings for warmth
 Warm Tops – mid-weight sweaters or pullovers of wicking material such as merino wool, fleece or polypropylene
 Mid Layer Insulating Jacket – down-fill or synthetic-fill insulated “puffy” jacket or warm, heavy weight fleece jacket
 Insulated ski pants – waterproof/breathable pants insulated with a synthetic material
 Snow jacket – Waterproof/breathable snow jacket such as Gore-Tex® or coated nylon
 Casual Clothing & Footwear – comfortable clothes and shoes for evenings off the trail
 Personal Luggage – small duffel bag, suitcase or backpack – for extra hiking clothes and casual clothes
Important Note: Please, no cotton hiking clothes

GEAR CHECKLIST
 Insulated Water Bottle/Thermos – 2+ liter capacity, needs to be insulated to avoid freezing
(Note: bladder/hose style hydration systems will not work for this trip due to extreme freezing temperatures)
 Headlamp – preferably with an L.E.D. bulb that works with AA or AAA batteries
(Note: always test your headlamp before trips, travel/pack without batteries in device, and for longer trips (4+ days) consider a spare bulb and 1 set of spare batteries)
 Ski Goggles
 Contact Lenses and Glasses – if you wear contact lenses, please also bring a pair of glasses – your contacts are likely to become dirty and may be difficult to clean
 Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Lip Balm
 Toiletries
 Prescription Medication – please inform your trip leader of any medications you are taking
 2-3 Face Masks, 1-2 Over-the-counter Rapid Antigen COVID-19 Tests

OPTIONAL ITEMS
 Personal Trekking Poles
 Support Braces – consider bringing any joint braces that may be currently needed or from past injuries (i.e. knee, ankle, elbow, etc…)

Physical rating

5

This trip involves hiking from 4.8 to 13.6 miles (8 to 22 km) per day with a total trip distance of 44 miles (71 km). The maximum daily elevation gain/loss is 4800 feet (1463 m). Please check the trip itinerary for more details.

This trip has two elements that determine the difficulty: 1) hiking with full backpacks (35-45 lbs/16-20 kg) on well-maintained trails with moderate distances and elevation changes; and 2) a 14-mile/22.5 km roundtrip day hike to the North Rim with daypacks (10-15 lb/4.5-7 kg) and 4200 ft/1280 m of elevation gain/loss. The trails can also be icy or snowy in places, which increases the difficulty.

Hiking in winter is naturally more strenuous given the additional physical effort required when hiking through snow, especially on steep terrain and when gaining altitude. To enjoy this trip you should be used to walking in the mountains on rocky terrain and on reasonably steep slopes.

Please note that as the climate continues to change it is becoming more difficult to predict when and where snow will fall. As such the leader will adapt the trails taken according to the weather conditions and the physical condition of the group if required.

While no backpacking experience is necessary to participate in this trip, it is important to note that you will be carrying your own gear in a backpack weighing 35-45 lbs (16-20 kg) while hiking for up to 8 hours per day. A good level of fitness is essential. Please read through the trip notes carefully to ensure that this trip is the right trip for you.

If you’re already a regular exerciser, it might be an idea to up your game a little. Run those extra laps, or take few longer walks, ideally with a day pack on your back. If you’re not exercising so regularly (2-3 times a week), it’s important to start in the weeks leading up to your departure (4-6 weeks prior at least). Your best choice would be to start walking regularly 2-3 times a week including at least one longer walk (up to 15 km). It’s important to not only walk on flat surface, so if you cannot access a hilly terrain easily, walking up and down the stairs is a good replacement. Top that up with some general fitness exercises and any other cardio related classes and you will see a huge progress in your fitness levels.

Joining your group

The Little America Hotel, 2515 East Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, 86004, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Little America Flagstaff features 247 luxurious guest rooms, designed with floor to ceiling windows, imported marble, and spacious baths & dressing areas. The careful planning that went into every stage of our development is evident everywhere the visitor looks.

Alternate Joining Point


Joining instructions

From Interstate 40 Eastbound or Westbound
Take exit 198, Butler Avenue. The Little America Hotel is the far Southeast corner.
From Phoenix
Take Interstate 17 Northbound. Take Interstate 40 Eastbound. Take exit 198, Butler Avenue. The Little America Hotel is the far right (Southeast) corner.
The hotel courtesy shuttle runs every day from 7 AM to 10 PM on the hour and half hour. Please call the hotel at 928-779-7900 once you arrive at the Flagstaff airport or Flagstaff Amtrak station, and hotel will send the shuttle to pick you up. We do not schedule reservations for pickups due to potential air or train delays. The hotel does not provide shuttle service to Phoenix.

Finishing your trip

The Little America Hotel, 2515 East Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, 86004, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Alternate Finish Point


Meals & dietary information

Breakfasts included: 5

Lunches included: 6

Dinners included: 5

While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader or local representative will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. If you have dietary requirements and/or food allergies, please let your booking agent know prior to departure.

Climate & seasonal information

Grand Canyon itself influences weather. Tremendous changes in elevation cause large differences in temperature and precipitation.

The Grand Canyon's South Rim has an elevation 7,000 feet above sea level. Such an elevation means snow in the winter and cool nights, even in summer. The Inner Canyon (below the rim) has a distinctly different climate, since at the bottom along the Coloardo River, elevation is almost a mile lower. Temperatures along the Colorado River at the canyon bottom can reach 120 degrees F.

The North Rim is 8,000 feet above sea level (1,000 feet higher than the South Rim) and can receive snow throughout most of the year. Weather is particularly unpredictable in spring and fall so visitors should be prepared for a variety of climates. The North Rim is closed in winter.
Summer temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant (50s-80s F; low teens to high 20s C) but inner canyon temperatures are extreme; daytime highs at the river (5000 feet below the rim) often exceed 100 F. North Rim summer temperatures are cooler than those on the South Rim because of its increased elevation.

In case of emergency

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

We recognise that there may be times when your group leader or local representative may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the group leader or local representative to speak to their direct manager.

You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time.

For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

POLICE AND AMBULANCE
In case of an emergency, local authorities can be contacted by calling 911 – this is the toll free phone number for the police, fire department and the ambulance in the USA and Canada. In case of doubt, call the operator on 0.

In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local office on the numbers below:

Intrepid's Local Operator: +1 928 224 0699

Accommodations

You’ll camp in beautiful, well-located campgrounds and spend the night in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents with self-inflating sleeping pads and synthetic-fill sleeping bags which are professionally laundered after every trip.

Transportation