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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Report from the North Rim
Grand Canyon's North Rim opened May 15 for the 2013 summer season.
The W-4 and W-1 roads are open. Point Sublime and Swamp Point are now accessible. The roads are dry (no mud).The North Rim has had a lot of wind lately and in the remote areas trees could fall and block roads. Check with the North Rim Backcountry Information Center before heading out to a remote trail head. Always be prepared for emergency situations, and carry extra food and water.
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 North Rim Visitor Center and Bookstore, as well as the Backcountry Permits Office through October 31. November 1 through December 1 the North Rim will be open for day use (no overnight parking) only unless snow closes Highway 67 prior to that date. From November 1 through December 1 pay-at-the-pump gas and diesel will still be available and visitors will continue to have access to Point Imperial and Bright Angel viewpoints, as well as the North Kaibab Trailhead. Camping will be available to those that walk or hike in (no car camping) at the North Rim Campground and Yurt, provided a backcountry use permit has been obtained - these permits will continue to be available through the South Rim Backcountry Information Center, and at the visitor Center at Pipe Spring National Monument located in Fredonia, Arizona.
Road Conditions for Remote Trailheads
North Rim: The W-4 and W-1 roads are open. Point Sublime and Swamp Point are now accessible. The roads are dry (no mud). The North Rim has had a lot of wind lately and in the remote areas trees could fall and block roads. Check with the North Rim Backcountry Information Center before heading out to a remote trail head. Always be prepared for emergency situations, and carry extra food and water.
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?
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.
The list below reflects seasonal changes and will be updated when water is turned on or off.
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 first aid kit. Backcountry hikers should always carry extra water.
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.
Bright Angel Trailhead Restoration
Work began September 2012 and is currently in progress. Construction will be ongoing through mid-May 2013. For more information visit www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/const.htm
Bright Angel Trailhead Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Saturday, May 18th, 2013, 4 pm, Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association will dedicate the renovated trailhead for Bright Angel Trail, one of the oldest and best known trails in the National Park system. This renovation encompasses a 3.5 acre area at and surrounding the Bright Angel Trailhead and is focused on creating an accessible and comfortable area for visitors that complements existing historic buildings including the Bright Angel Lodge and Rim Cabins designed by Grand Canyon architect Mary E. J. Colter. Having not had much significant development in the past 100 years, many people have had a hard time finding the trailhead and there was no convenient or comfortable place for people to sit to either enjoy the view or prepare for hikes. The renovation will greatly improve conditions at and around the trailhead, providing a much better experience for park visitors.
North Rim Yurt
The North Rim yurt is closed 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
Winter and Spring 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 closed until mid-May. Permits for the North Rim and the Arizona Strip are available at Pipe Springs National Monument or the BLM Interagency Visitor Center in St. George, Utah.
January and February: A construction crew is replacing an electrical line at Bright Angel Campground; there will be daytime noise and roughly half the campground is closed off. Permits are still available. Upper portions of trails are snow packed and icy. Over-the-shoe traction devices are strongly recommended. Access to South Bass Trailhead may not be possible when snowpack exists, from late December through mid-March. Permits for most areas are available.
March: Bright Angel and Indian Garden Campgrounds are full the last three weeks; some availability between the 1st and 10th. Many sites in threshold and wild use areas are full the last three weeks. Typically spring arrives this month, and the trails tend to shake free from winter's icy grip.
April: Spring is a delightful time of year for overnight hiking, and consequently most corridor, threshold, and wild use areas are at capacity.
May: Corridor campgrounds are full. Hiking outside the Corridor is generally not recommended due to extreme heat, especially later in the month.
June: Submit a written permit request starting February 1st. Hiking outside the Corridor is not recommended due to extreme heat.
July: Submit a written permit request starting March 1st. Generally, reservations are available after the weekend of the fourth. Hiking outside the Corridor is not recommended. It's extremely hot!
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 closed for the season on Monday, November 26, 2012. The park'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 will open for the summer season mid-May 2013 (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.
Tuweep is back to High Clearance RECOMMENDED, 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+.
Yesterday (Aug 29, 2012), storms were active across the region. When possible, 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.
As of today, the Main Street Valley and Sunshine routes are dry into Toroweap Valley.
Travelers should carry:
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.
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.
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.
Hiking Podcast Updated
The Backcountry Information Center has updated the Hiking Podcast with an April 2010 update. 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.
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.
Having difficulties opening the Backcountry Permit Request Form? You must have Adobe Reader version 7 or newer (as of Jan 2011 the current version of Adobe Reader is 10). Get the newest version of the free Adobe Reader.
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?
Kolb Studio was once the home and business of the Kolb brothers, pioneering photographers at Grand Canyon. Today you can visit free art exhibits in the auditorium and shop in the bookstore. The studio is located in the Village Historic District, at the Bright Angel Trailhead. Open daily. More...