Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Sign in to follow this  
Katy

Grand canyon hike with kids?

Recommended Posts

Someone in my family wants to hike the grand canyon rim to rim in one day.  This was YouTube inspired.   As DH said last night, "That's like hiking a whole marathon in a day, but with huge elevation and temperature changes, at altitude and in high heat."

As far as I can tell, DH is right.  It's about 22 miles, down 4800 feet, up 4800 feet, and starting at 7000 feet. He's been there and had family members do the whole thing, but I think he just went down on a 3 mile day hike when he was a kid.  I've never been.

Have any of you trained for this hike at a low elevation and managed to complete it in a day, especially with kids?  Everyone I know who's done it lived and trained at altitude, and was already in phenomenal shape.  Do you think backpacking in, camping, and then climbing out in the morning would be doable?  What's the youngest age to attempt more than 3 miles with?  How hard is it to get camping spaces?

I did a marathon once, years ago.  I printed out an 18 week training plan and followed it, and did fine. But this is much scarier, not the least because I've found minimal training plans online.

We're sort of leaning towards saying wait until 16 and do a whitewater rafting trip, but at the same time I don't want to discourage a plan if it's doable.  I'm also one of those people who is much more motivated by a end goal than I am just day to day exercising, so it might be more motivating for the whole family.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve hiked 22 miles in a day, not at elevation, without a mile increase in elevation. It is exhausting. 
 

My kids are good hikers.  We hike about weekly, but not at elevation. I’ve been hiking with my kids since before the youngest could walk. A couple years ago my then 6 and 8 year old hiked 9 miles in a day and were absolutely worn out. it was cold that day and it was challenging terrain, but I decided I wouldn’t push them like that again. 5-6 miles in decent weather is our sweet spot. If it’s hot or rainy or cold 3-4 miles is better. I have an acquaintance who regularly hikes double digit hikes with her similarly aged children and they enjoy it. I guess part of it is personalities of the family.
 

I have a 12 year old who wants to do similar backpacking trips. He is motivated and with training I think he would be fine doing a 3 day trip like that. Exhausted yes, but ok. I would want him to wait until he’s older though. 


What about compromising? You or your  husband and the interested child do the backpacking trip while the rest of you do day hikes or picnic in the area? 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like an exciting adventure. Why not consider a guided tour and do it as a family and enjoy the experience over a few days? Experienced tour guides could give you ideas on appropriate age for youth, as well as the fitness requirements for youth and adults.  Simply the logistics of an expedition like this would be complex enough for me to want some support for transportation, safety equipment and camping equipment. It's a very specialized location and you want this to be a positive experience for everyone. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a strenuous hike in one day and I would not want to do it with a kid. It's just very long, and I don't see the point in pushing a kid. Also, you'd have to hike back, or organize a car shuttle. I just recently did South Rim to bottom and back to South Rim. That's something my kids could have done as early teens. The problem with a 22 mile hike is that you can't do it in winter when temperatures are best because you don't have enough daylight hours; you have to hike part of the time in the dark with a flashlight. And you definitely don't want to do it in the summer because of the heat.

The earliest age my kids managed to hike more than 3 miles was at age 4. We hiked every weekend; it's a matter of training.

Camping in the GC is by permit. Very hard to get a permit for the corridor trails. Easy to get one for one of the wilderness areas. Much more rewarding.

I would start by regular hiking and doing the occasional backpack (again, while I backpacked for the first time with an 18 mo old, that's not fun. It becomes fun when they carry their own stuff, age 11 or so.) And then work up to more ambitious hikes.

Edited by regentrude
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did not go North to South rim, but have done a South rim to river to South rim in a day with my 11 year old. I am forgetting the trail names but think we went down Bright Angel and up South Kaibab. Maybe the other way around. My husband has done north to south rim in winter.

There are many many signs warning you not to try it.

We trained in Alaska and my 11 year old was exceptionally fit with a tough mindset. I would not have done it with my two other kids.

It took us a little under 8 hours.

Edited by GoodGrief1
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, GoodGrief1 said:

I did not go North to South rim, but have done a South rim to river to South rim in a day with my 11 year old. I am forgetting the trail names but think we went down Bright Angel and up South Kaibab. Maybe the other way around.

you probably went the other way. It makes more sense to go down S Kaibab because that has the larger elevation difference (trailhead is 200 ft higher than Bright Angel) and up Bright Angel which is also not as steep

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It wouldn't be hard to do some local-to-you test hikes and get a feel for it. It is like climbing a mountain in reverse. The people in Phoenix that I knew that did this trained like you would for a long race with lots of build-up hikes, always carrying a pack to build endurance, that kind of thing. It is a huge physical effort and people try and fail preteen and then need very expensive retrievals.

Hiking 20 miles in a day even when only carrying water and basics is tricky. My DS did that recently for scouts and they started early and finished in the dark. He was ok, but some kids and adults were really struggling - and that would have left them 2 miles down in the canyon!

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The youngest people I've known (one was my step-brother) to do it before sunset were Boy Scouts in their mid to late teens who did a lot of hiking and played sports.

We always do training/audition hikes with new to us hikers before inviting anyone on a more strenuous hike: short length with moderate incline, medium length and flat, medium length with more intense incline, long length flat, long length with moderate incline, long with more intense incline.

We watch and listen for physical strain and psychological state at each stage.  If both seem solid we invite to the next level.

I haven't done that particular hike.  I did the Havasupai Falls hike in the Grand Canyon which isn't as long or intense an incline. 

Be forewarned, getting permits can be a real challenge.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, SusanC said:

It wouldn't be hard to do some local-to-you test hikes and get a feel for it. It is like climbing a mountain in reverse. The people in Phoenix that I knew that did this trained like you would for a long race with lots of build-up hikes, always carrying a pack to build endurance, that kind of thing. It is a huge physical effort and people try and fail preteen and then need very expensive retrievals.

Hiking 20 miles in a day even when only carrying water and basics is tricky. My DS did that recently for scouts and they started early and finished in the dark. He was ok, but some kids and adults were really struggling - and that would have left them 2 miles down in the canyon!

 

We do hike for fun in other seasons, even in hilly terrain.  We usually put the little ones in backpack carriers in hilly areas, and in spring/summer/fall I make sure we walk for at least half an hour in the morning every day unless it's storming or so foggy it's dangerous (our neighborhood does not have sidewalks).

I just have serious doubts about even attempting it in a single day.   We can't go to a theme park and spend most of our time standing in line without needing some mid day breaks.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
44 minutes ago, Katy said:

We do hike for fun in other seasons, even in hilly terrain.  We usually put the little ones in backpack carriers in hilly areas, and in spring/summer/fall I make sure we walk for at least half an hour in the morning every day unless it's storming or so foggy it's dangerous (our neighborhood does not have sidewalks).

I just have serious doubts about even attempting it in a single day.   We can't go to a theme park and spend most of our time standing in line without needing some mid day breaks.

If your kids are not used to all-day hikes, no way would I even attempt something like this. And "hilly" terrain isn't even remotely comparable to grueling 5,000ft elevation difference  where the uphill comes at the end of the hike - and not, as on a mountain, in the beginning. i am not just talking about the kids, but the grownups.

20+ miles is serious. You want to build up to that. Once you routinely hike 14 mile dayhikes in moderately hilly terrain without it registering as strenuous, you can begin to consider training for such a thing. I'd start by hiking up mountains, to get the hard part out of the way and have the easy part last. GC is the reverse. If you're starting from a baseline of half hour good weather strolls, there is no point in aiming for something like this in the near future. Why not just go and build some hiking stamina in enjoyable ways?

Edited by regentrude
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The National Park Service strongly advises against doing a rim to rim hike in one day, says  "being unprepared can have catastrophic results", and you should spend a year preparing. My kids are experienced hikers, but I would underestimate their abilities when hiking in the Grand Canyon.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How many miles and hours on flat terrain can your kids walk without complaint?

Also, be aware that people living at low altitudes can really struggle with high altitudes.  I have a Dramamine patch I wear behind my ear when I hike at 5,000+ ft. It's good for 3 days. That might sound low to people living at higher elevations, but when you've lived near sea level where the air is so think you can cut it with a knife, it can be a serious strain to your system hiking at 7,000 ft. Without the patch I'm puking in the bushes and dizzy much of the way.  With the patch I'm fine. You don't want to find that out for the first time on a long hike.  I found out on a 6 mile hike.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We hiked to the bottom via the south Kaibab trail, that took about 5 hours. We spent the night at Phantom Ranch and hiked out via the Bright Angel trail the next day, that took 11 hours. We were not as physically prepared as we could have been, but we didn't secure our final spots and know we were for sure going until 2 days before. Mindset is super important when attempting this. 

I would not attempt this in one day with kids. Getting permits to camp is the tricky part. If you are flexible and have a few days to spend there, you can attempt to get walk up permits. 

 

The girls were 10 and 11, but have been hiking since they were babies and had done some longer hikes with elevation changes prior. 

The canyon can be brutal weather wise. In winter you need traction spikes for the top mile and a half of trail. In summer, it is hot and unforgiving. 

 

One day we want to do a RtoR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a reasonably fit teen, I hiked to the bottom of the Bright Angel trail in the middle of summer (so 120 degree heat at the bottom), and it was brutal.  There is no way I'd attempt double that (with the extra half uphill) with children.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, regentrude said:

you probably went the other way. It makes more sense to go down S Kaibab because that has the larger elevation difference (trailhead is 200 ft higher than Bright Angel) and up Bright Angel which is also not as steep

I think you are right. It's been 11 years. 🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will say this: my daughter and I were/are pretty serious hikers. I had done hikes with longer distance with a similar amount of elevation gain plus some additional challenging elements (like fording a hip deep glacial river.) I had run a marathon that year.  Even so, Grand Canyon was tough. For the last mile or so we were stopping about every hundred feet.

One challenging element is the difference in climate between the rim and the river. It was temps in the low 30s when we arrived at the trailhead that morning, and easily in the 80s at the river. And that was April. It will be way hotter at the river between May and October.

And breathing in the dust kicked up by the mules at regular intervals was rather unpleasant, lol.

If anything goes wrong there, it is an expensive rescue.

It's not impossible but it's not an easy family hike either.

 

Edited by GoodGrief1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
40 minutes ago, GoodGrief1 said:

One challenging element is the difference in climate between the rim and the river. It was temps in the low 30s when we arrived at the trailhead that morning, and easily in the 80s at the river. And that was April. It will be way hotter at the river between May and October.And breathing in the dust kicked up by the mules at regular intervals was rather unpleasant, lol.

We did it in once in December and then again this January, and that was almost perfect - except for the short days and the ice at the rim; needed crampons for the first portion, especially since it was still dark. 15 degrees at the rim, 30s at the bottom, (high of 48, but we were there at 10am when it was still chilly and in the shade). No mule dust. This time, the round trip took us about 8+ hours; 25 years ago we did it in 6.5 hours. But that's two fit motivated 20somethings, no kids, and we pretty much ran all the way down.
But again, for the OP: that's only 16.5 miles and 4.300 ft; the North Rim is higher and the R to R is 6,000 ft down. And you can't do it in winter since the NR is closed and you can't get to the trailhead. You'd have to start at the SR and do RtoRtoR. Ouch.

Edited by regentrude
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve been down South Kaibob, two nights at Bright Angel, one night at Indian Gardens and then finished BA trail to rim. I would feel confident with my kids now 12 and 14 doing a similar trip. My trip was end of Sept, the last week before water shutoff. We had snow while camping at the rim and a thunder storm at the base, which created possible flash flood warnings. It was an amazing hike, and the most important lottery I’ve ever won. Our dates were only flexible by a few days. I’d love to take my kids but we are currently unable to travel during the school year. I would have confidence in their skills because we frequently backpack with them. However, so far our backpacking trips have had multiple lakes and rivers to filter water. We having been saving Bryce and Zion or similar trips until at least after 2021 when we think they will be large enough to support more water weight in their packs.

Edited by Acorn
I had to correct the campground names.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Katy said:

Someone in my family wants to hike the grand canyon rim to rim in one day.  This was YouTube inspired.   As DH said last night, "That's like hiking a whole marathon in a day, but with huge elevation and temperature changes, at altitude and in high heat."

As far as I can tell, DH is right.  It's about 22 miles, down 4800 feet, up 4800 feet, and starting at 7000 feet. He's been there and had family members do the whole thing, but I think he just went down on a 3 mile day hike when he was a kid.  I've never been.

Have any of you trained for this hike at a low elevation and managed to complete it in a day, especially with kids?  Everyone I know who's done it lived and trained at altitude, and was already in phenomenal shape.  Do you think backpacking in, camping, and then climbing out in the morning would be doable?  What's the youngest age to attempt more than 3 miles with?  How hard is it to get camping spaces?

I did a marathon once, years ago.  I printed out an 18 week training plan and followed it, and did fine. But this is much scarier, not the least because I've found minimal training plans online.

We're sort of leaning towards saying wait until 16 and do a whitewater rafting trip, but at the same time I don't want to discourage a plan if it's doable.  I'm also one of those people who is much more motivated by a end goal than I am just day to day exercising, so it might be more motivating for the whole family.

 

Have you contacted the Backcountry office for information?  https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm   They could answer a lot of your questions for you. 

My sons have done rim to rim a few times, ranging in age from 10-18, so i don't think it's as scary as others are saying.   I think making it a two day trip is a better idea.  How old are your kids?  I'm concerned that you are only asking about stamina for a 3-mile hike.  Rim to Rim is no joke, and being able to do three hilly miles isn't a good barometer to determine readiness for a GC hike.

Also, I think the whitewater rafting trips are booked years in advance.  If that's something you really want to do, make that booking ASAP. 

Good luck!  Have fun!  Be safe!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, regentrude said:

But that's two fit motivated 20somethings, no kids, and we pretty much ran all the way down.
But again, for the OP: that's only 16.5 miles and 4.300 ft; the North Rim is higher and the R to R is 6,000 ft down. And you can't do it in winter since the NR is closed and you can't get to the trailhead. You'd have to start at the SR and do RtoRtoR. Ouch.

 You can get there in the winter but it is more complicated. My husband did it in the winter when we lived in the area. I had to drive him and his friends to a remote spot, then they skied the rest of the way in. And of course they had to haul the skis for the entirety of the hike.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

The National Park Service strongly advises against doing a rim to rim hike in one day, says  "being unprepared can have catastrophic results", and you should spend a year preparing. My kids are experienced hikers, but I would underestimate their abilities when hiking in the Grand Canyon.

Living just 2 hours or so away from The Canyon we know quite a few people who have hiked rim to rim but only with extensive, tough training. We also know a handful of nutso, young adults/older teen boys who did it in a day. How they pulled it off we have no idea but we have never encouraged our own kids to attempt such a thing. Hiking the Canyon takes really serious planning and endurance. I would not attempt it with children - heck at my age and with my "tennis" knees I wouldn't attempt it at all, lol! I'd be one who had to shell out a pretty penny to be rescued.

 

Quote

Do you think backpacking in, camping, and then climbing out in the morning would be doable? 

This was the plan for the group of moms/teen girls who went a couple of years ago. My dd says she is so very glad they decided to spend an extra night at the bottom just exploring and relaxing before heading back up. For her the trek out wasn't so bad but going down...she's glad she trained for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What part of the country do you live in? There are so many wonderful places for backpacking, what about trying a less ambitious family trip first? I assume the child wanting to do the rim to rim has done some backpacking in the past?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone.  I don't generally post the ages of my kids online, I just value privacy more.  Maybe not so much from the regular members, but we've done a fair amount of foster parenting over the years and I feel like posting specifics would open us up to other problems, especially if we do it again in the future, and I anticipate we will. I value venting here too much to risk it.

We go hiking all the time, backpacking sometimes, but generally 6-8 miles or less at a time and not at altitude or with steep grade changes.  I told the child that this was a wonderful dream, but that the other kids aren't old enough or trained enough, and reminded them of the shopping trip last fall when they complained about sore feet after only 3 hours. And while we do know a man who's done rim to rim in less than 6 hours I had to explain that it wasn't typical.  That person lived near there, at altitude at the time, had a highly physical job, was in amazing shape, and there were extenuating circumstances (an early snowstorm in the forecast) that made him hike it faster than usual even for an athlete.

I'm open to the idea that some kids over the age of ten go for a 3-4 day backpacking trip in a few years, but not now.  We don't live that far from one of the national scenic trails so we could regularly practice backpacking more over the summer and see how we do.  Maybe even section hike parts of it. Frankly I think a rafting trip, while more expensive, would be more fun. The highest rapids that kid has been Class III on a YMCA canoe trip though, so we'll see.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't read all the comments. My sister lives in AZ and has hiked rim-to-rim four times. Her dh goes every year and one time went rim-to-rim and back again. (She called him a weirdo.)

Here's the thing: my sister says most people are terribly unprepared b/c they just don't understand what the heat in the Grand Canyon can do to people. (My sister trains for over six months in Tucson heat before she did the rim-to-rim. Plus she had her dh -- an experienced Grand Canyon hiker -- by her side.

She actually practices eating and drinking when she's hiking even if she doesn't feel like it. She says that it's important to know what you'll eat when you're stressing your body like that. And she says it's different for everyone.

They do it in a day -- sort of -- she says they start at 2 a.m.

Have you seen this story? An amazing Boston Marathoner died in the Grand Canyon three months after she did the Boston Marathon.

I don't mean to be a downer, but the stories my sister has told me through the years are scary.

Alley

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...