Post Updated!- The NPS has initiated a New Process to get a Grand Canyon Backcountry Permit. Click HERE for more information!
Best advice I can give for getting a Grand Canyon Backcountry Permit? Pick your dates early and apply for a permit on the first possible day which is the first of the month, four months before your planned hike. So for us that meant waking up in the middle of the night in February to apply for our permit for our trip in June. See the details of our 4,750 mile road trip route for our Utah National Parks and Grand Canyon Adventure here.
Getting a Grand Canyon Backcountry Permit:
When we started planning our family trip to Grand Canyon National Park we knew we wanted to backpack into the canyon so that we could more fully experience the park. Because so many people want to hike and camp inside the canyon, the park service has implemented a system which grants campground permits for the various campgrounds under the rim. A link to the National Park Service Grand Canyon backpacking permit site is here. You can obtain a Grand Canyon backcountry permit in person with a written request at the park ranger stations but this wasn’t an option for us since we live in Ohio. You can also send in a Backcountry Permit Request by mail or fax on the first of the month up to four months in advance of your planned hike. The Grand Canyon Backcountry permit request has space for you to pick your first, second and third choice for itineraries. Since we had specific dates in mind for when we wanted to camp in the canyon, we knew we needed to send in our request the first possible day. Our first choice requested itinerary was starting at the North Kaibab trail head at the North Rim, stopping our first night at Cottonwood Campground, our second night at Bright Angel Campground at the canyon floor, and our third back at Cottonwood on our way back up to the North Rim. As we all know, the early bird gets the worm so on January 31st, we woke up in the middle of the night so that we could fax in our permit request at 12:01 mountain time on February 1st. Once sent you just have to wait to find out if your Grand Canyon Backcountry permit request was approved. I was thrilled when my credit card was charged a day or so later which let me know our request had been successful!
A couple of weeks later we received our Grand Canyon Backcountry permit in the mail showing my name, party size and where we would camp each night which we were required to keep with us at all times during our hike. I attached mine to the back of my pack. Also included with our permit was a DVD from the Park Service which detailed ways to stay safe while inside the canyon. The video had tips on drinking enough water, eating enough, hiking at times other than the hottest middle part of the day, wearing appropriate clothes and what to do if you come across someone who needs help. We watched it as a family since I wanted everyone to understand the dangers associated with our hike. With 4 kids hiking with us in the summer heat I wanted them to have a healthy fear of the canyon. They don’t call it Grand for nothing! The National Park Service website also offers tips on staying safe in the canyon with pages specific to Summer Hiking and Winter Hiking.
To further plan for our hike we read several books that were very helpful. A couple of my favorites are Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide: Grand Canyon National Park and Hiking Grand Canyon National Park: A Guide to the Best Hiking Adventures on the North and South Rims. Another fascinating book was Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon which was very helpful in showing me how to keep our family as safe as possible while hiking.
I also bought a several books for the kids to help them better understand our upcoming visit. Some of their favorite fiction stories about the Grand Canyon are Brighty: Of the Grand Canyon and Canyon Echoes:Red Rock Mysteries #8. There are also numerous books which help explain the geology of the park and we enjoyed Grand Canyon National Park: True Books. Other books that were both educational and fun for our kids were “Hey Ranger!” Kids Ask Questions About Grand Canyon National Park and Who Pooped in the Park? Grand Canyon National Park: Scat and Tracks for Kids.
We all were getting pretty excited about our upcoming adventure and I can tell you it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
To read about our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike with kids, click here.
Have you hiked the Grand Canyon with kids? What was your favorite part?