Hiking The Grand Canyon Essay, Research Paper
Hiking the Grand Canyon
I spent 5 years traveling America and have been to 40 states. I kept a detailed
journal of my travels. One of my favorite places I visited was the Grand Canyon.
My husband and I took an 18-mile day hike. We spent the night in Flagstaff and
arrived early at the South Rim entrance. Of all of the pictures I have seen of the
Grand Canyon, I was truly surprised by how many trees and how green the Grand
Canyon was! I was really expecting a big barren red hole, but trees were
everywhere. The panorama over the edge of the rim was overwhelming.
We wanted to start our hike from Yaki Point at the South Kaibab Trailhead a few
miles east of Bright Angel, and hike back up Bright Angel Trail, which emerges at
Bright Angel Lodge. We took the free shuttle bus, which 45 minutes later took us to
within 2 miles of the trailhead. We hiked from there until reaching Yaki Point at an
elevation of around 7,200 feet.
Once there, looking over the edge of the Grand Canyon is amazing,
breathtaking, and unbelievable! I didn’t get a true feel for how large and astounding
the Grand Canyon is until I started to hike into it. South Kaibab Trail is 6.3 miles to
the bottom and is one of the few trails in the park that follows the ridge lines instead
of the canyons, it is very steep. This allowed us to see up the top and below to the
bottom almost the whole way. In fact, just a few hundred yards into the descent, we
saw the Colorado River almost a mile below.
It made me feel like I had been thrust into the middle of the Canyon very quickly.
The trail was not on the edge of a sheer cliff drop-off, but injury was certainly likely
if one took a tumble off the trail. The terrain is rugged, but the trail is well groomed.
As we descended further, we encountered markers that had been placed by the
Park Service providing geology lessons as we passed from one layer of rock to
another layer. The two changes that struck me the most were a brief white strip
that contrasted sharply against the bright red layer below it. The other was an area
near the bottom where lava had filled fissures of previous rock formations leaving a
striking vertical red-and-black striped pattern. All together, in our hike from top to
bottom, we traveled 6.7 miles, 5,000 vertical feet and 1.5 billion years of geological
Upon reaching the bottom, we crossed over the Colorado River on a suspension
footbridge. Once on the north side, the trail runs west to where we came upon an
Anasazi Indian site. Only the foundation of some buildings and some old stone tools
remained. The Anasazi were the ancestors of the Hopi and other modern Pueblo
Further along River Trail, we came upon a marker relating the adventures of
Captain John Wesley Powell, the leader of the first expedition to explore the Grand
Canyon. Powell accomplished this feat by traveling in small boats down the
We crossed back over the Colorado River via the second suspension footbridge
where we could see through the bottom directly into the river. Once across the
bridge, we found ourselves a few rocks to sit on, ate lunch, watched the river rafters
go by, and rested.
Then we continued west for another mile or so. The trail remained level, and at
first, we spent a lot of time walking along the river’s edge through sand deposits left
from centuries of water pounding on the rocks. Actually, all of the trails were rather
sandy, much to my surprise. This was due, we later learned, to the many sandstone
formations comprising the Grand Canyon geology. Finally, Bright Angel Trail broke
off to the left (south) and we began ascending. Once we started up the trail, we
entered what seemed like a whole new world. When we began the ascent I had
forgotten we had run into some fairly steep switchbacks because I was too busy
looking around at the scenery. It was spectacular looking down at the trail we had
Bright Angel Trail follows Garden Creek, which flows, from the South Rim, running
through its own little “mini” canyon within the Grand Canyon — Garden Creek
Canyon. We lost sight of the Colorado River pretty quickly. Bright Angel Trail was so
green. The canyon was filled with Cottonwood trees for miles of the trail, which
crosses over Garden Creek several times.
One time, I crossed over the creek for a picture next to an old ranger station that
was not in use anymore. The area looked like a scene described in a romance novel
or a travel brochure. The creek was just shallow enough with little rocks protruding
from the water to allow me to cross to the other side without getting my shoes the
least bit damp. The little crooks in the red walls of the Canyon were filled in with
young cottonwood trees providing ample shade and contrasting colors. Even the old
Ranger station looked like it was posing for a postcard picture.
There are apparently not many indigenous animal species viewable in the Grand
Canyon because of the many people. However, we saw big-eared deer, I think they
are really called mule deer and big-eared squirrels, too. I wanted to see some of the
Bighorn Sheep to see if they had big ears, too, but none appeared.
We rested and refilled our water at Indian Gardens. It was a wonderful little rest
stop/campground about 4.5 miles from the top.
The last three miles of the hike were really amazing. Sometimes I wondered how
we were going to get over that cliff that was overhanging us, and then I would look
at where we had come from. We saw the trail we had just hiked descending for
what seemed like miles. The last mile and a half Mother Nature really saved the best
for last and put on one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen!
We were on the last set of switchbacks, so we were able to watch over our
shoulder as the long rays of light from the sun were turning everything red, pink,
and fuchsia. Cameras cannot capture what the eye can see. I had seen some of the
rock formations before in pictures, but the splendor of the real thing is unbelievable.
We arrived at the top just as the sun went down.
Hiking the Grand Canyon was an amazing experience I recommend to anyone who
has the ability to do it. One cannot see what the Grand Canyon is about from the
top. When you hike into the Canyon you come to fully appreciate the awesomeness