Selfie while hiking the Grand Canyon
Western US Travel Diary

Day 2: Hiking the Grand Canyon, South Rim

On the agenda for day two was hiking the Grand Canyon. Not the whole canyon, just a small piece.

Of course, as I always do on trips, I woke up at the crack of dawn. Except, I woke up at the Eastern crack of dawn, so it was 4:00 am here. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I just started getting ready for the day.

When we arrived last night, it was pitch black. So where the Grand Canyon was, it just looked like a whole lot of nothingness. This morning, it was a whole new world of picturesque beauty.

It was so breathtakingly beautiful it looked fake! I kept taking picture after picture all day hoping to capture the jaw-dropping spectacular views as I was seeing them with my own eyes; no picture can do this place any justice.

First thing on our list this morning was to figure out the best hikes for us to do. We walked over to our concierge where they whipped out a map and started showing us where to go. We ultimately decided the 1.5 mile stretch of the Bright Angel Trail going down into the Grand Canyon would be our first hike.

They warned us that the trail might be icy in some spots and we should consider purchasing crampons (chain things you hook on your shoes to give you better traction). Us being super informed southern hikers opted out. Big mistake.

Before we started hiking the Grand Canyon, we packed a bag with lots of water, protein bars, and extra layers of clothes just in case we got wet.

Here’s what I wore:

  • 1 pair of regular socks, 1 pair of long wooly socks, hiking shoes
  • 1 pair of thin, fleece-lined leggings, under another pair of thicker fleece-lined leggings, under a pair of jeans
  • Long sleeve t-shirt under an insulated long shearling-lined jacket
  • Chunky scarf
  • Gloves
  • Earmuffs

Current elevation: 6,890 ft ; current temperature: 30

Our adventure hiking the Grand Canyon started around 8:45 am. We had the trail pretty much to ourselves which was awesome. As we started down, there were some really icy spots and we started to regret our decision not to get the crampons. But we kept thinking the further down we go, the less snow there would be. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

The start of our journey

About halfway down the trail, there was a really steep switchback completely covered in ice. We had just watched a couple walk up with crampons and hiking poles and they struggled. We had the disadvantage of walking downhill and didn’t have any sort of handicap to help us along the way.

I didn’t even give Mother Nature the chance to claim me as a victim; I got on all fours and slid all the way down the hill on my hands and feet (crab style). The hikers that just passed us thought I had fallen and were telling another couple to watch out because they just saw a girl slide all the way down. Little did they know it was intentional. The tricky thing about this ice was some of it looked exactly like the rocks we were using to keep traction. We’d come to a section that looked like all dirt, so we wouldn’t be as cautious, then BAM we were sliding.

Crab-crawling down the icy trail

We reached the rest area around 11:00 am (2hrs 15min). Even though we were going downhill, the ice proved to be quite a challenge. The rest area was an interesting experience. We walked up to the “toilets” since we were doing our best to stay hydrated on the way down. They were holes covered by a seat behind wooden doors; so gross, but very necessary. The stairs up to the potty holes were an adventure in themselves; super steep and covered in ice. So basically, you really had to need a restroom if you wanted to get to these things.

Us with the rest house in the background

Current elevation: 5,673 ft; current temperature: 41

We hung around this area for a few minutes to eat a protein bar, drink water, and prepare for our journey back. This gave us the opportunity to hear a couple of stories from some hikers that just made it to the rest stop after camping at the base of the Canyon the night before. So incredible especially in this weather. They said the creepiest thing about sleeping in the Canyon were the deer that would sneak around their tent at night. They also said it was extremely cold, obviously.

I was nervous as we started hiking up the Grand Canyon because of the ice, but it was actually a lot easier. Our feet had a lot more traction which meant we made it back up a lot faster (although, much more exhausted). We made it back by 12:00 pm.

Click here for more tips and advice about visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter.

Something I love about going to famous places known across the world is interacting with people from all over the world. We wanted our picture by the Bright Angel Trail sign, but there was a family of Chinese tourists there, so we hung back and waited our turn. We saw them struggling trying to get their picture, so Eric asked them if they wanted some help. They didn’t speak a word of English, but we were able to take their picture for them and we got a picture in return, all with hand gestures and smiles.

The picture the nice dad from China took for us

We made our way over to Maswick lodge for a quick bite to eat and a well-deserved beer. The pizza was terrible, but we were ravenous so it really didn’t matter. We each tried a local Grand Canyon beer. I had the pilsner and Eric had the IPA.

We didn’t pass any mules on the trail, so I was determined to find their pens. Luckily, they were right around the corner from Maswick. We walked over and there were a ton of them!

A lady walked up and told us she had just seen some elk behind the stables, so of course, that was our next stop. It was a mom and her 5 babies stealing the hay meant for the mules. It was lunch time and it was all just sitting there so why not. So cute! (My phone died at this point so no pictures. Sorry!)

It was only 11:30 pmso we decided to suit up and head out again on a different {less strenuous} trail.

The rim trail is literally a trail along the rim of the Canyon. It’s paved, so much less of a {treacherous} adventure than Bright Angel. There was still lots of ice, but at least here we could go off trail and walk in the snow instead. This was a neat hike. There were several lookout spots along the way where we could walk out and get some intense majestic Canyon views. At one point, we had hiked up a good bit and were able to see all the way to the San Francisco Peaks.

Our plan from the start was to hike around 1.5 miles, then take the shuttle back to the Grand Canyon village. We got to the 1.5-mile mark and decided to go just a little further to the 2-mile mark; so glad we did. The view from the Maricopa lookout was by far the best we had seen from the 5 or so lookout points we had already passed. We had to walk far out on a cliff that hung over the Grand Canyon. I think Eric is secretly trying to force me to get over my fear of heights with this trip. That lookout was serious business.

Don’t judge our selfie stick. This thing was a lifesaver since we were mostly alone on the trails.

It was around 3:30 pm, so we decided it was time to head back. We made our way to the bus stop where we discovered our 2nd big mistake of the day: not checking the bus schedule. The bus line that goes along the Grand Canyon rim trail stops November 30th. I am SUCH a planner and Eric usually covers all his bases; how did we manage to not figure this out ahead of time?!

There was no way around it, so on we went 2 miles back to the Grand Canyon village. We were both feeling exhausted, in pain, and dumb, but I turned to Eric and asked, “If we had known there was no bus, would we have done this hike to Maricopa?”

“No way”

So I asked, “Was it worth it?”

His response, “Absolutely.”

See, everything happens for a reason.

We made it back around 4:45 pm just in time to watch the sunset over the Grand Canyon. It was so amazing how the colors changed in the Canyon so quickly with deep reds and purples. Stunning.

After the sunset, we decided drinks were in order. We headed to the bar where people were lined up to get espressos and hot chocolate. We sat at the bar, ordered some guacamole then Eric got a beer and I got a glass of wine.

About 10 minutes later, an older couple asked if they could sit next to us. We said absolutely! We got to talking with them and it turned out they were certified organic dairy farmers from Iowa and worked for the Organic Valley co-op. They told us all about organic dairy farming and how extensive the process was; some interesting stuff! It was so neat to talk to the people who were literally providing dairy to more than half the country. We had an awesome conversation with them. Truly wonderful people.

We were supposed to go eat dinner at the restaurant at our lodge, but we were walking zombies when we left the bar. After hiking a total of 7 miles and changing elevation by 2,000 ft on one of the trails, we were spent. Not even the allure of a hamburger and fries was going to pull us from our toasty cabin. So we made our way back, took quick showers, and called it a night by 9:30 pm. I’m shocked we even made it that late.

Tomorrow, we’re catching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon then making our way to Vegas late morning.


Lauryn Blog Signature




Have you read Day 1 yet? Get caught up here: Day 1: Traveling from Atlanta to Las Vegas

Continue reading my Western US Diary here: Day 3: Traveling from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

7 thoughts on “Day 2: Hiking the Grand Canyon, South Rim”

  1. Wow! What a fabulous trip you are having! Lauryn, I absolutely love reading every single word of your blog! Had no idea what a great writer you are. You have me captivated, laughing, entertained and make me feel that I’m right there with you with your detailed descriptive narrative! I just love it!

    1. Thank you!! I always forget the little things that happen on trips so I wanted to make sure I captured it all this time.

  2. Pingback: Visiting The Grand Canyon, South Rim in The Winter | LE Travel
  3. I have finally taken the time to open the blog of your trip to the Grand Canyon and it blew me away. I read every word. Not only is your story beautifully written, it couldn’t be more informative and extremely interesting. It could be published, it is so well done. I love the way you started the story with warnings you received about undertaking this trip in the winter that was followed by the “good and “not so good” things you discovered as you went along. I thought including a photo of the view from your room was perfect to illustrate why it wasn’t worth spending extra the extra money for that view. The photographs were spectacular; I especially liked the one taken of you two at sunrise. It was all so well organized, not just the story of your adventure in the Canyon, but in Williams, AZ and Las Vegas. My suggestion would be to someday see the Canyon from a raft in the Colorado River. We did a seven day trip down that section of the river and it was so spectacular, it was almost a spiritual journey. Thank you so much for sharing your blog with us. We would love to see more of them from your future travels.
    Grandma and Grandpa

    1. Thank you so much! We definitely want to go back one day to experience the Canyon when it’s warmer and from a different vantage point. Rafting sounds amazing! Love you both!

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