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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Another winter storm is predicted for this weekend (Dec 7-8) and we expect some more snow, so trail conditions will likely change.
Conditions below as of Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Grandview Trail: Two inches or less of snow is on the ground at the trailhead. Ice and snow are on the trail down to the Coconino Saddle. Very icy and slick conditions, strongly recommend using over-the-shoe traction devices.
Tanner and New Hance Trails: Snow and ice for at least the first mile, over-the-shoe traction devices are strongly recommended.
South Kaibab Trail: About a half inch of snow is on the ground. Snow and ice on the trail until just above Ooh Aah Point. Over-the-shoe traction devices are recommended.
Bright Angel Trail: Dusting of snow at the trailhead. There is a compact layer of snow and ice for the first mile. Over-the-shoe traction devices are recommended.
North Kaibab Trail: A small section of the North Kaibab Trail below Supai Tunnel was damaged in September 2013 due to heavy rain. The North Kaibab Trail is currently open to hikers but not to stock below Supai Tunnel. Hikers should use caution. The damaged section is very narrow, but passable. The trail crew has installed a handline to assist hikers when crossing the narrow section. The handline stretches across the length of the washout, and then some (about 15 to 16 feet). The damaged section will not be repaired until spring 2014.
When hiking in winter be sure to visit the Winter Hiking webpage for winter hiking information. Weather and road conditions can be found at www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/weather-condition.htm
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.
Report from the North Rim
The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is closed for the season. It will reopen mid-May 2014.
The North Rim's group campsite and a yurt can be reserved throughout the winter months. You must obtain your backcountry permit prior to arrival. The North Rim is only accessible via inner canyon trails from the South Rim or by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing from Jacob Lake (a 45 mile trip).
The North Rim will open for the summer season mid-May 2014 (usually May 15th). Locations near the 8,000 foot level such as Pt. Sublime, high elevation access to Nankoweap, and the North Bass Trailhead will not be accessible until road beds have dried and downed trees have been removed, often in late May, but possibly as late as mid-June.
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
Drinking Water in the Cross-Canyon Corridor
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.
Road Conditions for Remote Trailheads
After heavy rains, usually during the summer (July and August) and winter (December through March) months, expect impassable backcountry roads. If clear skies abound after the rain, then it is often just a matter of days until the sun dries everything out. Sometimes, heavy rain can lead to flooding, which can cause erosion of the roadbed and can delay access.
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.
Summer and Fall 2013 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.
August: Permits are easily obtained last minute at the park. There are very few hikers in remote areas. Most summer use occurs at the inner canyon campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood). Warning: elevated hiking risk due to extreme summer heat. High temperatures at the bottom of the canyon in the shade range from 100°F to 115°F (35°C - 42°C). Low temperatures at the bottom of the canyon range from 70°F to 80°F (20°C - 25°C). Flash flood and lightning risks remain high until the end of the monsoon, usually in early September.
September: This month marks the traditional start to the busy fall hiking season even though the average temperature is still near 100°F (38°C) at the canyon floor. Thunderstorms are possible the first half of the month with the second half trending towards dry. Bright Angel Campground is full, no advance reservations available.
October: One of the most desirable months to hike in the canyon, often dry with temperatures usually in the 80sF (27°C) at the canyon floor. Be prepared to share the trail. Bright Angel Campground is full, no advance reservations available.
November: A pleasant month to hike. Chance of precipitation increases, but still more dry than wet with temperatures often in the 70s F (21°C) 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. Bright Angel Campground is full the first week of the month.
Options for hikers who are unable to obtain a backcountry permit in advance:
North Rim (Kaibab Plateau / Highway 67 / North Kaibab Trailhead): The last day for most concessioner services and regularly scheduled ranger-led programs will be October 15, 2013. The National Park Service will continue its operations, including the Backcountry Permits Office, through October 31. November 1 through December 1 the North Rim will be open for day use only (no overnight parking) unless snow closes Highway 67 prior to that date. Starting November 1, camping will be available to those that walk or hike in (no car camping) at the North Rim Campground, provided a backcountry use permit has been obtained prior to arrival.
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.
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
Public Health Alert - Rabies
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 and will likely run its course. To reduce your risk of injury or illness from an animal encounter (fox, bat, elk, mountain lion, squirrel) please follow these simple guidelines:
For more information read the Public Health Rabies Site Bulletin.
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.
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 1 pm 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)
Did You Know?
President Theodore Roosevelt said of Grand Canyon, "Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American should see."