Hiking changes coming to the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon wants to change the way backcountry areas are managed as more outdoor enthusiasts take to the park’s open spaces, with proposals that would require hikers using the most popular inner-canyon trails to spend a few dollars on a permit.

Millions of people visit the Grand Canyon each year, taking in the sweeping views from developed areas where they can stroll along the rim, grab a bite to eat and hop on a shuttle bus to other outlooks. Far fewer people venture into the 1.1 million acres that make up the backcountry, including trails below the canyon rim.

Park officials are trying to get a better handle on how many people are walking down trails such as Bright Angel and South Kaibab from the South Rim, and North Kaibab from the North Rim.

Three options for revising a 1988 backcountry management plan include a day-use permit for hiking more than 5 miles below the rim and paying a minimum $5 fee.

Park superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the system would allow hikers to read up on the weather, physical demands of hiking and traffic on the trail to improve their experience. “Our intent is not to prevent them from doing it, and we’re not talking about limits,” he said. “We’re talking about educating them so they know what they’re getting into.”

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