Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids: We Make it to Phantom Ranch
Cottonwood Campground to Bright Angel Campground at Phantom Ranch
If you want to see where we went on our 4,750 mile road trip route for our Utah National Parks and Grand Canyon Adventure, click here to read the full itinerary.
On our hike from the North Rim the day before, we chatted with a hiker doing a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike meaning he left from the South Rim and was hiking to the North Rim where he would catch a shuttle back to his car on the South Rim. While a rim-to-rim hike is only 25 miles or so, driving from the North Rim to the South Rim is a 220 mile journey in order to get around the huge canyon. For this reason Dave and I had decided to make our hike into the canyon an out and back route from the North Rim via the North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch at the canyon floor and back up the North Kaibab Trail where our car was. However, when the kids realized the difference between our route and a rim to rim route they were inspired to want to hike from one rim to the other and they started begging us to change our plans. As Dave and I fell asleep in Cottonwood Campground, we whispered about whether this change was even possible due to the specifics of our backpacking permit as well as the problem of our car being parked at the North Rim. We fell asleep thinking about it.
Down the North Kaibab Trail
The next morning we woke up early to my watch alarm at 5:30 AM in order to hike as much of our route to Phantom Ranch early in the day before the canyon really heated up. We had a little less than 8 miles to hike as we packed our tents and gear in the early dawn. As we finished packing up and were eating our Clif Bar breakfast, Dave threw out an idea- we could change our plans and hike out via the Bright Angel Trail if a couple things worked out. First, in order to solve the lack of a permit to camp at Indian Garden about halfway up the Bright Angel Trail on the way to the South Rim, we would have to hike the entire 9.3 mile route in one day. Second, using the phone at Phantom Ranch, we could try to reserve a campsite or hotel at the South Rim for when we came out of the canyon. Third, if both of these things were possible, he would rest for the night after our hike out and leave as early as possible to do an entire rim-to-rim hike from south to north in one day in order to get back to our car. He would then drive back to the South Rim to pick us up. This is one of the things I adore about Dave, he always pushes himself when it comes to his family. He is amazing! The kids were all for this plan but I was worried that it was too much for Dave to take on in the high summer temps. I also was worried that 9.3 really difficult straight up miles would be torture for the kids. Since we weren’t even sure we would be able to find lodging on the South Rim we hiked out of Cottonwood on a beautiful morning unsure of what we would be doing.
This part of the North Kaibab trail was much less steep as we were already fairly deep in the canyon and our knees and feet were thankful. By the time we got on the trail the sun had risen and it was already starting to get warm as we hiked. It was a beautiful and peaceful hike, much less challenging than the day before and without the many steep drop offs on the upper portion of the trail. This made for a relaxing and fun day and we all really enjoyed it.
Heading to Phantom Ranch
The North Kaibab Trail is an amazing hike and let us really experience just how big the Grand Canyon really is. From this point we could see how tall the canyon walls were around us and sense how deep we were inside of it. The immensity of it made the experience that much more special and we felt in awe as we hiked through the morning. The hike the day before had taken much longer than we had anticipated as the steep drop offs made us all slow down in order to be careful but the terrain this morning was much less treacherous so we were able to hike at a quick pace. We stopped for lunch after a while at a large flat rock hanging and enjoyed an extended break.
Once finished with lunch we got back on the gorgeous trail continuing our journey to Phantom Ranch. We all were in high spirits and though tired, hiking felt great. It was definitely heating up and we made sure to drink plenty of water and Gatorade throughout the morning.
Around one, we came upon the sign saying we had arrived at Phantom Ranch. We were beyond excited! After using the restrooms we headed towards Bright Angel Campground to pick out a site. A few sites were already occupied but we had our choice of several and we chose a nice one right on the Bright Angel Creek. We were all pretty tired from the heat so tried to get our camp chores done quickly so we could have time to relax. Once our camp was set up, we headed to Phantom Ranch Canteen which felt like an oasis in the dry heat of the canyon where we all enjoyed lemonade, iced tea, bagels and apples in the cool air conditioned room. It’s amazing how delicious simple foods taste after a long hike! While we only ate snacks here, Phantom Ranch also serves breakfast and dinner which must be reserved in advance. We hung out for a while in the canteen and played cards and Jenga. Once we were cooled off, the kids and I walked the short trail back to our site where we spent the afternoon exploring the area and playing in the creek. Dave went to use the phone to try to find a South Rim place to sleep. Phantom Ranch is a wonderful place and we felt lucky to be there. And our dream of hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim with kids seemed like a real possibility!