As my hike to the Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch gets closer
, I've done more preparation for the adventure.
The hike consists of two trails: the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail
for the hike down, the 10-mile Bright Angel Trail
for the hike back up. Given it's shorter distance, one would initially think that the South Kaibab Trail would be the better choice for the hike up, but there are a few reasons why this routing is used and recommended by the National Park Service.
The South Kaibab Trail is shorter because it's steeper, and while this doesn't make it a much of a joy for the downhill section, it would make going uphill even tougher, obviously — it's like going up the Manitou Incline vs. Barr Trail. Also, the Bright Angel Trail has shaded areas and fresh water, making the more strenuous and longer uphill section somewhat more comfortable.
The Phantom Ranch, located at the confluence of the Bright Angel and Phantom Creeks, was built in 1922, although, there's evidence that the location was used by Native Americans going back as far as 1050. John Wesley Powell, during his historic rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, was the first non-Native American to set foot at the site in 1869. It became popular with prospectors in the 1920's and exploded as tourist attraction after the prospectors left. The site now consists of a number of stone and wood buildings including cabins, men's and women's dorms, a dining hall, medical facility and even a helipad. Reservations are required to stay at the ranch, and are typically sold out over a year ahead of time.
As a photographer, I'm planning on taking plenty of pictures while on the trail and at the bottom, and the timing couldn't be better. The weekend of my trip coincides with the new moon, and while that means there won't be any full moon pictures, conditions will be perfect for taking photos of the Milky Way while it's overhead. (I learned how to take those kinds of photos earlier this year and look forward to putting that education to good use.)
As you can tell, I'm planning to make this trip more than just a hike.
Some local trails news:
Last year I wrote about hiking the Elk Falls Overlook Trail at Staunton State Park,
the newest in Colorado's state park system. It's a gem of a park and continues to add outdoor recreation opportunities. I recently returned with a few friends to explore the new Chimney Rock and Elk Falls Trails, the latter of which takes hikers to the bottom of Elk Falls.
The trails are excellently constructed, and although the flow over the falls was much less than it would be during the spring, it was still pretty impressive. From Elk Falls we hiked to the Elk Falls Overlook, then back to the trailhead for a total of about 12.5 miles. Other trails have been built or re-routed and more trails are planned. Many of the trails in the park are multi-use, so bring your bike or your horse if you prefer.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: email@example.com.