A Grand Canyon winter run

Looking north. The one and only, The Grand Canyon

Looking north. The one and only, The Grand Canyon

A week off and a short flight recently brought Julia and I southbound, to one of the most amazing places on Earth, the Grand Canyon. After a bit of pre-trip planning, we concluded that car camping on the South Rim and venturing out for a couple of runs would be an effective way to see a lot of the canyon in our short 3-night January stay. This was my second trip in over a decade and Julia’s first glimpse of the area. The inexpensive flights came with the small price of landing us in Phoenix, where we rented a car and then drove north, through Flagstaff and onto the canyon. We didn’t mind at all, as we drove through the desert and iconic Saguaro on the way to higher, colder elevations.

Julia amongst the big Arizona Saguaro

Julia amongst the big Arizona Saguaro


Sunset just north of Flagstaff (photo: J)

Sunset just north of Flagstaff (photo: J)


We arrived in the dark on our first night, and embraced the cold evening with a nice campsite fire after enjoying a margarita and our second Mexican meal of the day. We awoke well before dawn the next morning to run the South Kaibab to Bright Angel. Our proposed round-trip to the canyon bottom and back was to be a bit over 16 miles with the 5000′ descent being mostly along the steeper and more direct South Kaibab ridge. Coming up the Bright Angel is a different experience altogether, with it being less steeply graded and a lot more wet. There are a few springs and even waterfalls at this time of year along the BA. It is quite the vibrant side canyon, providing a great counterpoint to the dry South Kaibab.

Looking down along the iconic South Kaibob trail

Looking down along the iconic South Kaibob trail


One of many water crossings in the Bright Angel side canyon (photo: J)

One of many water crossings in the Bright Angel side canyon (photo: J)


Bright Angel watershed (photo: J)

Bright Angel watershed (photo: J)


We ended up adding a few miles to our trip by rallying out to Plateau Point. Once refueled and rehydrated at the verdant oasis of Indian Garden, we agreed that this little side-trip was pretty much obligatory given that we had already come this far. It’s not that often to get these trails mainly to ourselves and in great running condition. So three more miles of sublime desert single track and a direct overlook of the muddy Colorado was our fine reward.

Julia running superb singletrack en route to Plateau Point

Julia running superb singletrack en route to Plateau Point

The muddy Colorado from Plateau Point

The muddy Colorado from Plateau Point

After our brief detour, it was onward and upward for the last five miles and 3000′. Fairly reasonable given the many mule switchbacks that lazily wind their way to the South Rim. By this time we could feel the legs starting to weigh but the scenery and solitude in such ridiculously outlandish country was enough to sustain. The last stretch went by easily and with much appreciation for the day. I’d like to give a big word of congrats to Julia for cruising on her longest run to date. Twenty miles in total and an experience not to be forgotten. Well done, J!

Julia. On the way to her longest run yet

Julia. On the way to her longest run yet

We experienced temps ranging from highs in the 50°s F to lows in the 20°s. From bluebird to overcast and even a a couple inches of snow fell one evening. Perfect running and hiking weather for the Canyon. Both Julia and myself used running vests from Ultimate Direction, much to our satisfaction. In these we carried wind pants and wind shirts, nanospikes, gloves and buffs, fuel for the day (mostly chews, gels, and bars), P&S camera, a liter of water apiece in soft-sided bottles (refilled along the way), a map, and a small emergency/FAK.

Julia along the Colorado. UD Ultra Vesta in tow

Julia along the Colorado. UD Ultra Vesta in tow

The only bit we didn’t need were the nanospikes, as nearly all of the trails that we encountered were free from snow and ice. Truly a pleasure. We did some hiking, sightseeing, and good eating for the remaining two days along the South Rim. Took in as much as we feasibly could during our short stay in such a large and intricate place. It was a wonderful trip and one that I imagine will trickle back to us for years to come.

In duplicate. Along the North Kaibob trail (photo: J)

In duplicate. Along the North Kaibob trail (photo: J)

Sightseeing. Desert View (photo: J)

Sightseeing. Desert View (photo: J)

Westward from Hermit's Rest. Look close, the Colorado's down there

Westward from Hermit’s Rest. Look close, the Colorado’s down there

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