Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is the trip of a lifetime

Because it’s one of the most famous national parks in the country, hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a prize on most outdoor lovers’ lists, and overnight permits must be secured well in advance. Getting to the bottom is like stepping back in time—two billion years back in time—to be precise.

To reach your destination, you have to descend nearly a vertical mile along precipitous switchbacks sliced into the very edge of the rust-colored canyon walls.

Most begin their trek on the South Kaibab Trail, a steep gash on the eastern edge of the gorge that plummets 4,860 feet to the Colorado River below. The sun played funny games with our eyes. Shadows move and fade.

Down through layers of bright-red dirt. Down through cracked blue rocks like broken robin’s eggs. Down past mule trains and men wearing unironic cowboy hats. It is like hopping into a time machine to the Wild West.

You camp at the famous Bright Angel Campground, a small cluster of 33 sites with surprising amenities for the backcountry. Flush toilets, sinks with running water, food-storage lockers, and picnic tables are all a stone’s throw the campsites.

One of the great wonders of the Grand Canyon is Phantom Ranch, situated at the intersection of the North and South Kaibab Trails. It’s near impossible to score one of its coveted cabins or dorm rooms via the lottery, but hungry campers can make a reservation there for breakfast or dinner.

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