Night hiking: Beating the heat in Grand Canyon

Below the Tapeats on the South Kaibab Trail is a great place to stop and rest called “Big Shady.” When it is hot, this spot is nice and cool. But folks are here huddled up above the trail in the shelter of a slight overhang in the cliff, trying to stay dry and wishing that there weren’t so many clouds in the sky. Rather odd given that it is the middle of August. But it is 2:30 in the morning and so far the 21 mile rim-to-rim hike across Grand Canyon is unfolding as planned.

With daytime temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer is difficult. Knowledge of the area and planning are essential. For this hike, start in the late evening and count on crossing through the bottom of the canyon when it is relatively cool.

Part of the planning involves figuring out which direction to go. Many argue that hiking north to south is best in that you save yourself from having to hike up an extra thousand feet. But a strong argument can be made that the elevation difference actually favors a south to north itinerary. It is 6.8 miles and 4,200 feet to the north rim from Cottonwood Campground, while it is 7 miles and 4,800 feet to the south rim from Bright Angel Campground.

11:15 is a good time to start down the trail. You will likely have cool temperatures all the way to Phantom Ranch, where the forecast in August is for an overnight low of seventy-five degrees. Although this would seem to be the perfect time to hike, others don’t really seem to get the message. The vast expanse will seem wholly yours.

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