Critical Backcountry Updates: Including Trail Closures and Restrictions
Average temperatures, weather information and road conditions can be found on the Weather Conditions page.
Backcountry Status Updates (listed by date posted):
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Portion of Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch to be Replaced
Grand Canyon National Park will begin replacing a portion of the Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch beginning on Monday, January 26, 2015. It is currently anticipated that construction will be complete by the end of July 2015. During this time period all hikers and backcountry users should expect to encounter detours, possible delays, and closures while traveling near the construction zone. Visitors should follow all posted signs, detour routes, and verbal instructions of personnel on-site.
Hikers and backcountry users should be prepared treat creek water while in the inner canyon. Construction will require intermittent shutdown of the pipeline temporarily shutting down the drinking water system along the corridor trails. All hikers should check in at the Backcountry Information Center, prior to starting their hikes, for up-to-date information on trail conditions, construction detours, and water availability.
Phantom Ranch, the Cantina, and the Bright Angel Campground will all remain open during construction. Visitors to the Phantom Ranch area should be aware that work may take place between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on any day of the week. Moderate daytime noise and dust impacts are expected due to the construction activities and associate equipment use.
Individuals who have campground reservations and have questions about impacts of construction work on their trip should contact the Backcountry Information Center at 928-638-7875. Guests with advance reservations at Phantom Ranch should contact the Xanterra Central Reservations at 1-888-297-2757 with any questions about their reservations.
Shoe transaction devices and hiking poles recommended. Before starting your hike, stop by the Backcountry Information Center for the latest trail conditions.
Hiking the Corridor? Be sure to visit the Trail Courtesy Practices That Leave No Trace webpage.
Hikers without a permit can stop by the Backcountry Information Center to request a last minute permit. Last minute permits and waitlist numbers are issued by the Backcountry Information Center, located inside the park. 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 is open daily from mid-May to October 31 for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.
Organized Group Rim-to-Rim and Extended Day Hike/Run: Any organized, noncommercial, group conducting rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running, including rim-to-river-to-rim, and rim-to-rim-to-rim in the inner canyon is required to obtain a Special Use Permit from Grand Canyon National Park. The inner canyon is defined as the area below the Tonto Platform (Tipoff and Indian Garden) from the South Rim and below Manzanita Resthouse (Pumphouse Residence) from the North Rim. Any group, regardless of size, which has advertised to the general public, required individuals to sign up prior to participation, or that has an organizer who has been compensated for their services (including subsidized participation in the activity), is required to operate under a Special Use Permit. For more information visit www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/sup.htm
Drinking Water in the Cross-Canyon Corridor
Grand Canyon National Park will begin replacing a portion of the Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch beginning on Monday, January 26, 2015. It is currently anticipated that construction will be complete by the end of July 2015. Read the section titled "Portion of Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch to be Replaced" on this page for more info.
Purified drinking water is usually available year-round at Bright Angel and Indian Garden Campgrounds and at Bright Angel and South Kaibab trailheads.
Grand Canyon's water supply comes from Roaring Springs, a natural spring located approximately 3,500 feet below the North Rim. Water is delivered via an aging pipeline that suffers multiple breaks a year. When the pipeline breaks, water stops flowing to the North and South Rims and sites along the way. Although large storage tanks provide ample water to rim locations, while the pipeline is being repaired water may or may not be available below the rim in the cross-canyon Corridor. Please remember, when hiking below the rim a method to treat water must always be part of your hiking gear.
The list below shows if water has been turned on or off for the season (IF THE PIPELINE IS UNDERGOING REPAIRS WATER MAY BE OFF TEMPORARILY)
Seasonal water stations are usually turned off for the winter sometime between Oct 10th and 30th dependent on location and associated temperatures.
Water available (year-round) on the South Rim at the Backcountry Information Center in the lobby. Water available (year-round) on the North Rim outside the Backcountry Information Center. Additional water bottle filling stations can be found on the Go "Green" and Refill Your Water Bottles web page.
Plan Ahead and Prepare: A backup method to treat water, should the pipeline break, must always be included as part of your hiking gear. Backcountry hikers should always carry extra water.
Report from the North Rim
The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is closed for the season. Arizona State Route 67, leading to the North Rim closed on December 1, 2014. State Route 67 and all services on the North Rim are expected to re-open for the 2015 season on May 15, 2015.
The North Rim campground and yurt will still be available for winter camping and are accessible via inner canyon trails from the South Rim or by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing- a 45 mile trip from Jacob Lake. To stay at the North Rim during the winter months, visitors will need a backcountry permit, which can be obtained from the Backcountry Information Center located at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Permit requests can be faxed year-round to (928) 638-2125. Backcountry permits for North Rim winter camping are also available at Pipe Springs National Monument in Fredonia, Arizona and the Bureau of Land Management Interagency Visitor Center in St. George, Utah.
North Rim Yurt
The North Rim yurt is open for reservation.
The North Rim yurt, placed near the North Kaibab Trailhead, can be reserved from December 1 to April 15. The yurt accommodates six people and is outfitted with a table, chairs, and wood-burning stove. A portable toilet is nearby. Required permits are available through the Backcountry Information Center. For more information see www.nps/gov/grca/planyourvisit/winter-recreation.htm
Public Health Alert - Rabies
October 2014: A bat recently removed from an area along the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park has tested positive for rabies. All visitors to Grand Canyon, including those who are recreating in the backcountry and on the Colorado River, are reminded to be aware of their surroundings and be alert to potential interactions with bats or other wild animals. Those individuals who are camping in the backcountry and along the river should strongly consider using a tent while sleeping to prevent any contact with bats or other wildlife. As a precautionary measure, anyone who comes into contact with a bat should notify a park employee and see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. (more info)
July 2014 a bat captured at Tusayan Ruin/Museum on the South Rim tested positive for rabies. A second bat found dead on the North Kaibab Trail a few days later also tested positive for rabies. (more info)
Site Bulletin, Bats at Grand Canyon (pdf file)
Additional information about bats and rabies can be found at www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/bats.html
A fox exhibiting abnormal behavior was euthanized in November 2011 near Phantom Ranch along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Earlier that month, another fox collected near Phantom Ranch tested positive for rabies.
Rabies is considered a natural wildlife disease. To reduce your risk of injury or illness from an animal encounter (fox, bat, elk, mountain lion, squirrel) please follow these simple guidelines:
Fall / Early Winter 2014 Backpacking Season
If you would like to make an advance reservation to camp in the Grand Canyon, we need at least three weeks’ notice. If your planned hike is less than three weeks away, come in person to the Backcountry Information Center and request a walk-in permit. Availability of last minute permits is dependent on the season. The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open year-round. The North Rim office is open from mid-May to October 31. Permits for the North Rim and the Arizona Strip are also available at Pipe Springs National Monument or the BLM Interagency Visitor Center in St. George, Utah.
October: One of the most desirable months to hike in the canyon, often dry with temperatures usually in the 80sF (27C) at the canyon floor. Be prepared to share the trail.
November: A pleasant month to hike. Chance of precipitation increases, but still more dry than wet with temperatures often in the 70s F (21C) at the bottom of the canyon. Cottonwood trees turn brilliant yellow along inner canyon stream corridors. Short-lived ice may cover roads and trails after an early winter storm passes over.
December: True winter weather sets in and snowpack begins to develop above 8,000 feet. Winter gear, including over-the-shoe traction devices, should be the norm. The North Rim will not be accessible by vehicle.
Options for hikers who are unable to obtain a backcountry permit in advance:
North Rim (Kaibab Plateau / Highway 67 / North Kaibab Trailhead): The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is open for the summer season from May 15 to October 31, 2014. November 1 through December 1 the North Rim will be open for day use (no overnight parking) unless snow closes Highway 67 prior to that date. Visitors will continue to have access to front country access points such as Point Imperial and Bright Angel viewpoints and the North Kaibab Trailhead (overnight parking allowed with a backcountry permit). Remote backcountry access points such as Widforss Trailhead, Point Sublime, and North Bass will be accessible weather permitting and with a valid permit. Access to Cape Royal and Cape Final will be restricted. The North Rim campground will be closed to car camping but a few sites remain available to backcountry travelers with a valid backcountry permit.
Starting September 1, 2014 a backcountry permit is required for all campers who wish to stay at Tuweep Campground. Permit requests can be made on the first of the month four months prior to the proposed start date through the park's backcountry reservation system. The cost for a Tuweep backcountry permit is a non-refundable fee of $10 per permit plus $5 per group per night. Visitors may also be able to obtain a walk-up permit, up to six days in advance and based on availability, by visiting Pipe Spring National Monument in Fredonia, AZ or at the St. George Public Lands Visitor Center in St. George, UT. For more information about the permit process or to submit a permit request, please visit www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm
Tuweep is at High Clearance REQUIRED, its usual condition. Please see photo for any clearance concerns.
There is a HIGH likelihood for multiple flat tires from sharp rocks. Travel SLOW to mitigate tire damage. Carry multiple spare tires and/or a vehicle air compressor and tire plugs. When available, a tow truck runs $1,000-$2,000+.
When possible, during summer monsoon season travel during the morning hours since storms cycle through in the afternoon and evening.
Be prepared to spend the night in your vehicle in the event you become stuck. Carry sleeping bags, food, and extra water.
Travelers should carry:
For Tuweeep info visit www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/tuweep.htm
Drinking Water outside the Cross-Canyon Corridor
Hikers should make every effort to obtain recent confirmation of water availability and become familiar with routes to the river before starting any hike. Contact the Backcountry Information Center for recent water reports.
Water available (year-round) on the South Rim at the Backcountry Information Center in the lobby and at Hermits Rest (near the other public amenities). Water available (year-round) on the North Rim outside the Backcountry Information Center.
Additional water bottle filling stations can be found on the Go "Green" and Refill Your Water Bottles web page.
Road Conditions for Remote Trailheads
After heavy summer rain (July and August) or winter snow (December through March), expect impassable backcountry roads. If clear skies abound after the rain or snow, then it is often just a matter of days until the sun dries everything out. Sometimes, heavy rain or melting snow can lead to flooding, which can cause erosion of the roadbed and can delay access. Snow accumulations have been very low in 2013/2014, so lower elevation dirt roads may be accessible.
Other considerations for visitors travelling on remote backcountry roads include high clearance, such as may be needed on Forest Road 328 to South Bass Trailhead (limestone ledges) and on the final approach to Toroweap overlook (sandstone knobs and ledges).
Finally, consider elevation of the road that you will be travelling on, especially during the winter months. Roads in the 6,500 to 8,000 foot range may be impassable due to a snowpack, where lower elevations roads (below 6,000 feet) will see deteriorated road conditions due to rain.
Always check road conditions with the Backcountry Information Center before heading out to remote trailheads, tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, and be adaptable and prepared for the worst. High clearance, four-wheel drive is usually recommended for roads to remote trailheads.
It is not uncommon for trees to fall and block access to remote trailheads. When you encounter a road blocked by fallen trees, what should you do?
Hiking Podcast Updated
The Backcountry Information Center has updated the Hiking Podcast. The most recent podcast covers some tips for hiking in the extreme heat of the inner canyon; tips that can mean the difference between an enjoyable hike and a potentially fatal one. Visit the Grand Canyon Podcast Directory (www.nps.gov/grca/photosmultimedia/podcasts.htm) for more information or to subscribe. Additionally the update can be heard on the Backcountry Audiocast page (www.nps.gov/grca/photosmultimedia/bc_audiocasts.htm). A transcript of the update is posted on the Backcountry Audiocast page.
Be Aware of Lightning Danger
Summer storms in the southwest are often accompanied by potentially deadly lightning. Visitors walking and hiking in the park are reminded that if they can hear thunder, they should consider ending outdoor activities. If the sound of thunder follows a lightning flash within 30 seconds, seek shelter inside a building or vehicle. If this is not possible, move well away from high points such as ridges and the edge of the canyon. Do not seek shelter beneath tall trees.
For more on how to be "lightning smart" read the Lightning Danger Site Bulletin.
South Kaibab Trailhead Access
Hikers must access the South Kaibab Trailhead by shuttle bus. There are two options.
Visit the Shuttle Buses page for schedules and more info.
Hermit Trailhead Access
From Mar 1 to Nov 30, Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles. A numerical code is required to open the gate giving access to Hermit Road. Hikers with a valid backcountry permit who are beginning or ending their hike via the Hermit Trail will be permitted to park at the Hermit trailhead. The Backcountry Information Center will provide the gate access code when the backcountry permit is issued.
The Hermits Rest shuttle between South Rim Village and Hermit Rest and the Hermit trailhead is operational Mar. 1 to Nov. 30. The bus runs every 30 minutes between 4:30am and 9:30am, every 15 minutes between 9:30am and sunset, and every 30 minutes between sunset and one hour after sunset. The Hermit Rest Shuttle is free. Visit the Shuttle Buses page for schedules and more info.
Weather dependent, Hermit Road is open to all private vehicles Dec 1 to Feb 28. Be aware that in wintertime inclement weather can cause Hermit Road to close with little notice as storms move through the area. Always check with the Backcountry Information Center regarding the wintertime status of Hermit Road or call 928-638-7496 for updated road conditions.
Backcountry Management Plan
Backcountry Management Plan Summer 2012 Update Newsletter posted online at www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/bmp.htm
Grand Canyon National Park has started work on a Backcountry Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. The park's existing Backcountry Management Plan was completed in 1988 and needs to be updated to comply with current National Park Service laws and policies and the park's 1995 General Management Plan.
Development of a revised plan provides an opportunity to look at alternative management strategies for protecting park resources and values while providing for a variety of visitor experiences within the backcountry. Once completed, the revised Backcountry Management Plan will guide management decisions regarding the park's backcountry and wilderness resources into the future.
Learn more about this planning effort at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/grcabmp.
How to contact the Backcountry Information Center:
The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily mid-May to October 31 for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.
Backcountry Information Center staff answer information telephone inquiries at 928-638-7875 between 8 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. This telephone number is for information only.
Email the Backcountry Information Center
FAX number for permits is 928-638-2125
Backcountry Permit Request Form (PDF file) NOTE: This is a printable form only. You must print the form, fill it out, and then fax/mail it directly to the Backcountry Information Center. We recommend you read the seasonal update before submitting your permit request.
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Trip Planner (2mb PDF file): The information in this newspaper can assist you in obtaining a backcountry use permit.
Video: Hiking Grand Canyon, Prepare for Backpacking. This video is designed to help you plan for and enjoy your hike into the canyon's harsh, yet fragile, environment.
Video: Leave No Trace. All Grand Canyon backcountry users are asked to follow Leave No Trace principles. The goal is to have minimum human impact on the canyon as a result of your trip.
Hike Smart: Be sure and listen to the Hike Smart Podcasts! (transcripts available)