Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is my favorite place on Earth.

Everyone needs to visit at least once.

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I found that out in 2012 when I spent a summer working at the gift shop in the Bright Angel Lodge. I literally looked at the canyon every single day for 4 months straight and it never got old. Living in a little cabin tucked amongst the Ponderosa Pines, I was only a five-minute jaunt from the busiest trailhead in the park (Bright Angel). My days off were spent exploring the hundreds of miles of trail all throughout this massive geological feature. Since then, I have been back several times.

The canyon feels like home.

Grand Canyon

A quick glance at these staggering numbers, 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, 6,000 some feet deep, will tell you that this place is BIG, but you can’t possibly comprehend how HUGE it is until you see it in person. And even then, standing at the top of the rim, looking out onto the endless sea of plateaus, mesas, buttes, and chiseled rock features, it’s hard to really put everything into perspective. The only way to truly understand is to head below the rim on foot.

From Zion, we headed South through Page and made a stop at the Desert Watchtower to get our first glimpse of the Big Ditch. Then we drove through the Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim and camped outside of the park in a dispersed camping area just north of Tusayan. We spent a day resting before we started our 34 mile, 2 day trek.

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The Hermit Way

We rose early and drove out to Hermit’s Rest. With our permit, we were given the gate code and access to a pretty drive that otherwise demands a shuttle. Along the way, there are 8 stops with some of the prettiest views of the canyon. We parked in a gravel lot past the gift shop and started down the Hermit Trail. As I have written before, this is one of the best parts of the canyon. It is mostly skipped over and you will find none of the crowds that plague the main canyon.

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After a steep initial descent, the trail becomes more gradual, following the contour of the canyon. It lopes around several points with majestic views, before again descending rather steeply through a series a small switchbacks known as the Cathedral Stairs. At the bottom you reach a level section known as the Tonto Platform. This runs almost the entire length of the canyon and acts as an intermediary between the rim of the canyon and the river below.

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We headed East on the Tonto trail for a few miles before setting up camp at the Monument Creek camping area. Other than a couple from France, we had the area to ourselves. Nearby was the named small creek which we filled our water bottles from, ate dinner, and called it a night.

The Tonto Trail & The Hike Out

To avoid being out on the trail in the blaring sun, we woke up at 4AM and got a move on. We caught a nice sunrise and also a rainbow as storm clouds lingered to the West.

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Thankfully the clouds kept it rather cool as we navigated the shade-free emptiness that is the Tonto Platform. We did have some great views of the architect of this whole masterpiece: the mighty Colorado River.

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After several miles, the Tonto Trail intersected the Bright Angel Trail and we began our ascent out of the canyon. Despite having a nagging injury to her foot, Glenna pushed through and we emerged out of the canyon in the early afternoon. It had been her first trip below the rim. For me it was much shorter than my RIM-RIM-RIM treks, but beautiful all the same.

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It was yet another chapter in my Grand Canyon story; one that is nowhere near complete.

Written by Jake G

I’m a 26 year old who loves to hike, bike, backpack, and explore the outdoors. I’m a Midwesterner who currently resides in sunny Arizona. I hope to inspire others with my adventures and maybe give some advice for your future vacations. Follow me as I travel around the country and...
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