It’s worth bearing in mind that more than 250 people have to be rescued from the Grand Canyon every year. To make sure you’re not one of them, here are some of my dos and don’ts:
Stay in your comfort zone
You know what it’s like when you’ve been planning a trip for ages; you can sometimes get a bit carried away. When I first started researching our Grand Canyon trek I had the mad idea that we could do the ‘rim to rim’ hike – in at one side and out the other – in a single day. It can actually be done but is strongly advised against and the recommended time for this trip is three days. After our own nine-mile trek, I can see why.
Luckily we made the decision to do something we felt comfortable with, allowing ourselves twice the amount of time to hike out as it took to get in. We actually reached our destination of the Indian Garden in a quicker time than expected and it can be tempting to push on and go a little bit further. But we stuck to our original plan and as a result had a really enjoyable experience.
Drink a lot
I’m not going to lie to you, you are going to sweat buckets on this hike, especially if you do it in the summer time like we did. In August temperatures can reach up to 41C (106F) so it’s really important to remember to stay hydrated. If you choose to hike on one of the more established routes like the Bright Angel Trail, spring water is available at a couple of rest spots. It’s really important that you remember to fill up your bottles here and also splash your body with water.
It’s recommended that you take a 10 minute break every hour and we pretty much stuck to this. As well as being an important time to refuel and give your body a break, I also felt that it gave us the opportunity to properly appreciate the views around us. Sometimes when you’re hiking it’s so easy to put your head down and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other that you sometimes forget to look up!
Stay in the shade
Park officials say that you should avoid walking in the sun between 12pm and 4pm. While this isn’t always possible, it’s worth trying to arrange your hike to stay out of the midday heat as much as you can. For example, we set off at 8am when it was still cool which allowed us to reach the shade of the Indian Garden by lunchtime. Although we decided to begin our ascent at 1pm we made sure that we stopped for a rest and a drink every time we reached a shaded area. It was actually unbelievable how excited we got when we spotted some shade!
Eat lots of salty and sweet food
It’s really important to keep your energy levels up and you should be eating twice the amount of food you would normally eat. As well as sandwiches for lunch we made sure we took lots of salted peanuts, trail mix, crackers and cereal bars. At each rest break we made sure we alternated between eating something salted and something sweet. As well as being essential to keep your energy up, it also gives you something to look forward to when the going gets tough – just make sure these little guys don’t steal them!
Wear a hat
As a rule I never usually wear hats. But for this hike I made an exception and am so glad I did. The sun is relentless in some places and, trust me, that wide brim makes all the difference. FYI, this may be the reason why Mr A didn’t choose to propose to me in the Grand Canyon!
Get carried away
I think the trap that many people fall into is thinking ‘Oh, this is easier than I thought it was going to be,’ as they merrily make their way down into the canyon. ‘I’ll just go a little further.’ But as the Grand Canyon saying goes: ‘Down is optional, up is mandatory’. So know your limits.
If you’re feeling tired, stop and rest. Pushing on is only going to make you feel worse. If you’re in a group, go at the pace of the slowest person and never make others feel rushed.
As we were planning for this trip we heard a lot of stories about people attempting to hike the Grand Canyon unprepared. But you almost can’t believe it’s true. I mean, no one’s going to attempt a trek like this without any water are they? As I’ve said, the way back up was much tougher for us and it was so hot. We were stopping regularly for shade and drinking entire bottles of water at each rest break. (There are places to top up your water at the 3 mile mark and 1.5 mile mark on the Bright Angel Trail.) So I was totally shocked when we came across a woman with a girl of no more than seven or eight, sitting on the ground looking completely exhausted. They had absolutely nothing with them – no backpack, no hat and, most crucially, no water. I immediately stopped and gave them a bottle of ours which they were really grateful for, but I was also really shocked that someone would put a child at risk like that.
Even if you’re planning on just doing a short hike please, please, go prepared. It can literally be the difference between life and death.