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Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 6:01 am
by johnnyo979
Will I have to obtain a permit way before the hike and schedule my appearance at the Grand Canyon on that given day? Or will the Grand Canyon rangers allow me special treatment since I will be an Arizona Trail hiker? If I get into the canyon do you think some canyon hikers will allow me to share their camp site?

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 8:06 am
by chumley
The Grand Canyon has a very helpful website that explains all their regulations.

http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/o ... hiking.htm

AZT hikers are no different from anybody else. You need a permit if you are spending the night in the canyon.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 8:34 am
by JimAH
I just talked to two different members of the GC backcountry office about this. On January 1, I faxed the backcountry office a permit request for May dates. Then, I waited. Five weeks later I still hadn't heard. So, I sent and e-mail and called. The call revealed that my fax was not received (despite getting a fax confirmation). I later received a separate response to my e-mail from a different staff member. It was consistent with the advice I was given on the phone. The e-mail said:

"I will just say right off the bat, though, that we will make every effort to get you into the canyon as soon as possible once you get here. The fact is, it would be pretty hard to nail your date of arrival down here anyway, due to all the various possible things that could slow you down between here and Saguaro, so it doesn't seem like you would want that stress of feeling like you needed to get here by a certain date.
We get a fair amount of AZT hikers, and we get them into the canyon in a realistic time frame. There is a stock use site down at both Bright Angel and Cottonwood Campground, and unless there is a stock group already in there, we can almost always get you into one or both of those sites very soon after arrival here at the South Rim."

I take from that that I'll need to present myself at the Backcountry Office and, while it might take a day or two, they'll find room for me.

Hope this helps. It was a major concern for me too.

btw -- I requested a permit to camp at Saguaro NP's Manning Camp last week and got it almost immediately. So, they seem to have availability.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 9:31 am
by cavaroc
I've read on blogs and journals that people hike to the GC without a reservation anywhere, then see what's available within the next couple of nights. My understanding is that it only takes a night or two for something to open up. That's my plan at least, since I have absolutely no idea when I'll be getting there, nor do I want the stress of feeling like I need to be on a certain pace or at a certain place by a certain time.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 10:25 am
by chumley
For me, planning is as much fun as the journey, but I know that's not true for everybody. So for those who prefer, here's a quote from the NPS website. The other answers in this thread fit within this policy. Is there a chance that you could get a special exception? I wouldn't completely rule it out. But it's unlikely that the NPS would tell you that ahead of time, and they'd be less likely to guarantee it, or want you to post online "they said they would do this for me..."
Last Minute Permit for Corridor Campgrounds
A limited number of last minute walk-up permits are available at the South Rim and/or North Rim Backcountry Information Center for Corridor Campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood Campgrounds). These permits are issued in person only, are for one or two consecutive nights, and cannot be purchased more than one day prior to the start of a hike.

Last minute permits are issued by the Backcountry Information Center, located inside the park on both the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily, year round, for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center (located in the administrative building) is open daily mid-May to mid-October for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.

Waitlist
You can stop by the Backcountry Information Center at any time during open hours and request a waitlist number. This number is valid for the following morning and will be used to determine priority of service. At 8:00 a.m. Backcountry Information Center staff will call waitlist numbers. When your turn comes you can request a permit, exchange your number for a new waitlist number good for the following day, or simply ask questions. You may participate in the waitlist for as many consecutive days as is convenient.

Waitlist numbers are issued by the Backcountry Information Center, located inside the park on both the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily, year round, for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center (located in the administrative building) is open daily mid-May to mid-October for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.

Following is an example showing how the waitlist can be used to secure a lower number for the next day and increase your chances of obtaining your desired permit. This is an example of how the process works in the busy season. It's rare to wait longer than this scenario, and it can be faster than this. Backcountry Information Center staff can give you a much clearer picture of how long the potential wait time will be once you arrive. During the busy season it is rare to get a last minute permit the same day.

Last minute permit and waitlist example:
Day 1, Tuesday: You come to the Backcountry Information Center at 11 a.m. and request a permit for Bright Angel on Wednesday night and Indian Garden on Thursday night. No permits are available. You join the waitlist for the next day and are assigned #10.
Day 2, Wednesday: You return at 7:59 a.m. Unfortunately by the time Backcountry Information Center staff reaches your waitlist number, all Corridor Campground permits have been assigned. You exchange today's waitlist number for tomorrow's waitlist number; you are #2.
Day 3, Thursday: You return at 7:59 a.m. You obtain a permit for Bright Angel on Friday night and Indian Garden on Saturday night, hiking out Sunday morning.
Another option you may wish to consider is staying in a dorm at Phantom Ranch. Those accommodations are managed by Xanterra, not the backcountry office. There are occasionally last minute cancellations that leave some beds open. Check at the front desk in Bright Angel Lodge for availability.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 11:37 am
by johnnyo979
JimAH,

If that's the case did they say that I still need to apply for a permit? Or are they cool with just trying to get me in?

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 12:10 pm
by Sredfield
I'd give the Back Country Office a call from, say Flagstaff, and let them know about you and when you plan to arrive. Many people w/i the NPS understand the thru hiker dilemma and will do what they can to accommodate. South Rim isn't a bad place for a zero day while you wait. If timing is right, you can get to Tusayan, get a room, then hike to South Kaibab trail head the next day, checking in at the Back Country Office on the way, take the shuttle back to your room for another night, Hopefully by then you have accommodations below the rim.

Don't forget whatever permits you need on the north rim, it's ten miles of park from the North Kaibab TH to the park boundary and open camping on the North Kaibab Forest.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 08 2016 6:26 pm
by cavaroc
Awesome info! Thanks for the clarifications.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 09 2016 12:04 am
by JimAH
@johnnyo979
When I learned my original request had not been received, I put in a new request for any open days at either bright angel or cottonwoods between 4/18 and 5/16 (plus a night on the north rim). They said nothing was available below the rim in that range. Therefore, I doubt applying for an advance permit below the rim at this point will be much help.

Instead, I believe we'll need to follow exactly the procedure Chumley quotes from the NPS site. I suspect their comments to me weren't intended to imply a "special deal" for thru hikers per se but rather to reassure me that they can usually get individuals seeking short stays in pretty quickly via the waitlist process. That said, I really appreciated the reassurance and their very supportive attitude. 700 miles is a long-time to worry about getting stuck in the home stretch. I look forward to thanking them in person.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 09 2016 8:52 am
by hikeaz
If you are not hung up on doing the exact AzT, one option could be to head to Tanner Beach or Hance Rapid for a night and hitch a raft ride down to Phantom. It would be doubtful that you'd need to wait more than a day and you would be IN the Canyon vs. the hoards of the Rim. It would add another facet to your trip too.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 09 2016 10:36 am
by johnnyo979
How far out of the way is it to take hikes on some of the beautiful Indian reservation properties? Such as some of their picturesome waterfalls?

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 09 2016 11:18 am
by cavaroc
If you're referring to Havasupai, that's pretty far out of the way - a separate trip (but worth it). I'm shooting for two nights at Phantom Ranch to try to and do a day-hike from there before continuing up to the north rim.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 09 2016 11:34 am
by johnnyo979
Thanks Cavaroc I always get a lot out of your posts.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 09 2016 8:22 pm
by johnlp
You might consider doing the whole thing in one day. 21 miles.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 14 2016 4:37 pm
by BillCarlinOFR07
@cavarocI would be very interested in how that turns out. The most reliable thing about me is my unreliability so waiting a couple of days is fair reconciliation for me.
Peace!

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 18 2016 8:37 am
by haolenate
cavaroc wrote:If you're referring to Havasupai, that's pretty far out of the way - a separate trip (but worth it). I'm shooting for two nights at Phantom Ranch to try to and do a day-hike from there before continuing up to the north rim.
Except they are now fully "booked" until after Labor day... I'm tempted to just go without a res and suffer the 100% penalty by the tribe (I did another post asking if they have EVER turned someone away for not having a res)... 1st year in many I've never had reservations set :( :( :(

:scared:

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 18 2016 9:35 am
by Espi
I asked them about this at the back country office as well as the ranger down at Phantom on my trip last weekend.. They both said they make special exceptions for AZT thru hikers and have fit them in.

The ranger at the ranch said they will sometimes combine them with others at sites or will put them up in the mule pens.

From my conversations it seems that the park understands that schedules and permits need to be flexible for thru hikers and it sounded like they have been accommodating to this in the past and will continue to be.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 18 2016 9:47 am
by chumley
@Espi
This kind of thing leads to trouble. For example, if a random hiker is seeking a permit for a one-night stay at the last minute because they got a rare day off from work on a rainy day (for example) why shouldn't they be given similar special exceptions?

As the popularity of the AZT grows and the number of thru hikers increase, this will become an issue. In the eyes of the NPS, what makes one visitor different from another? Their activities before entering and after leaving the park, or their reasons for being there at a previously unspecified day and time should have no bearing. In theory. :M2C:

One would hope the revised backcountry plan will be addressing this as I think it will become a larger and larger need over time.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 18 2016 9:55 am
by Espi
@chumley

I agree 100% and actually got into that same discussion. I am sure it will get abused. With the unexpected weather over the long weekend.. There was a line of folks at the BC office that friday morning at 7:30am. All of them were last minute folks that wanted to get a last minute permit.

Its going to have to be addressed by them in the future.. walking a couple hundred miles before showing up at the canyon shouldn't get you special privileges over someone that drove a couple hundred last minute cause their meeting got canceled.

Re: Grand Canyon Access? Camping?

Posted: Feb 18 2016 10:00 am
by Espi
Another interesting thing that came up.. In the peak season.. they over book the ranch by about 25%.