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Phantom Ranch Day Hike
Grand Canyon National Park
May 28, 2018
by Michael Humphrey
  USGS Map 

Saturday, May 26:

We start the weekend with an early morning drive up to Flagstaff. We are early enough that the traffic for the holiday weekend has not started.

The parking lot at Walnut Canyon was just filling up, but the park rangers directed us to other parking spots. We get to Walnut Canyon and learn that, due to high winds expected later, the trails will close at noon. So we get everyone together and start down the trail.

canyon
Starting down the trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument.
sign
For the persons who have not arrived yet, we give them a call to tell them to get there before noon. This is a nice trail that is paved for the most part. The views are great, with you being able to see over the whole Walnut canyon area. You can even see the trail that is in the bottom of the canyon that is accessible off the Arizona Trail. The trail winds around the ridge with many cliff dwellings that are just off the trail. There are signs telling us not to climb on the walls, but some of the dwellings you can walk into.

We can also see across the canyon where there are dwellings. From the booklet that the rangers gave us, depending on the season the tribe would live on the sunny side or the shady side. The main dwellings are on the sunny side, which is the side that has the trail. On the way back we meet the last of our group. They got on the trail before noon. As we go up we meet the rangers following the last persons allowed on the trail. We talk to the rangers for a while about the area. Then we wait at the top for the last of our group.

hikers
Sure, we had a good time at Walnut Canyon.

We enjoy the short top of the rim trail, which gives great overlooks into the canyon.

view
From the Rim Trail at Walnut Canyon.

Then we head off for lunch at Fat Olives, and a very good lunch. The wind during lunch does pick up and howl though the trees, so we almost move off the porch and into the building. After lunch it is time to travel west to the Lava Cave, which is a short 1.5 miles one way.

group
Overlooking the Lava Cave.

For persons that have never been in a cave with just flashlights, it is a great treat. The cave is just a long tube, so there is no way to get lost. Most of the passage is over 8 feet tall, with a few places that get down to 5 feet.

cave
Entering the Lava Cave.

Some of the persons want to see the primitive part, so we loop around a side tunnel that you have to crawl though. The crawl part is short at about 100 feet and leads you back to the main tunnel. We then exit the lava tube and off to our B & B house. We have a potluck dinner to finish the day.

Sunday, May 27:

We start early for this hike. Need to be at the shuttle stop before 5 AM. This will be a long day with 17 miles of hiking, plus 5,000 feet of down followed by 5,000 feet of up. The Rim to the Colorado River and back to the Rim in one day is a very strenuous hike. We take the early Kaibab Shuttle to the trailhead.

bus
This bus will take us to the trailhead.

This is the Arizona Trail’s path to the Colorado River. The path follows a ridgeline down, so you get the Grand Canyon to the left, front and right of you.

view
Early morning in the Grand Canyon.

There are three groups of us, one going to the river, one going to Skeleton Point and one doing the Rim Trail. At the start there are 12 of us. Mark doing the Rim Trail stays at the top while 11 of us head down. There are many places to take pictures on this trail. The first place where you can see both east and west is Ooh Aah Point.

hikers
Trailblazers at Ooh Aah Point.

This point gives the first grand views of the canyon. From now on as you move deeper into the canyon you get to see even more great views. Here there are views both down and up. The trail is 2 donkeys wide, so plenty of space.

view
The South Kaibab Trail goes all the way down.

We all have knee braces and hiking sticks, because the downhill is very tough on the knees. There is no water on this trail, but there are rest areas: no need to find an off trail area to go. We do take our time going down, with so many good picture spots.

view
Cedar Ridge has a fantastic view.
Li
The day is sunny, so the canyon is lit up.

We continue our journey down to Skeleton Point where we say goodbye to two more of our group.

They will start the journey back to the rim. We also say hello to a mule team going up the trail. The Kaibab trail is the supply route for Phantom ranch. After Skeleton Point the trail drop steeply down, only the 9 hard core member of the group go on.

group
Trailblazers at Skeleton Point.
view
... and the trail goes down from there.

The Colorado River looks small from here, but is getting bigger as we head down. From the Tip Off point you get to do many switchbacks down to the Black Bridge.

river
First view of the Colorado River.
trail
Down from the Tip Off.
bridge
The Black Bridge is the only place where mules will cross the river.

The Black bridge is unusual in that the south side goes straight into a rock face. They had to cut a tunnel though the rock to connect the trail to the bridge. In the summer time you can find many hikers in the cool tunnel, before they move on to Phantom. The deer feel safe here in Phantom, so keep your food stored, they may want something other than grass. 235_Deer

deer
The deer feel safe here at Phantom Ranch.
lunch
We continue to Phantom Ranch to eat our lunch and have our lemonade.

After hiking for 5 hours it is good to sit, have ice cold lemonade and whatever we packed for lunch. Phantom has flush toilets, with sinks for washing your hands and face. The Arizona Trail continues past Phantom and on up the north rim. We spend some time here, put our feet into Bright Angel Creek, and refill our packs with water for the uphill climb.

river
From the silver bridge you can see the rafts going down the river.
bridges
Looking back you can see both bridges, the only way across the river within the park.

The first part of this climb is the toughest part, because it is hot, through sand dunes and the longest stretch between rest stations. We finally get to Indian Garden.

climb
The first part of this climb is the toughest.
garden
Indian Garden, which has shade, water, toilets and benches to rest on.

We stay here for about an hour to let the sun move over and put shade on the trail. The thermometer at Indian Garden reads in the high 90s. From here on there is water and a rest station every 1.5 miles. You only need to carry 1 to 2 liters of water between stations. The Bright Angel Trail spends a lot of time in a canyon, so the views are not as good unless you look back. At the end of a switchback, where it gets to the edge of the canyon, you can get great views.

Indian
Looking back at Indian Garden.
garden
Cheer up!  You’re almost out of here.

Everyone get to the top and we take the shuttle over to where we left the cars. Everyone then goes back to the B & B to finish off the potluck dinner and get a good night’s rest.

Debbie was the first one to the top.

Monday, May 28:

No alarm clocks for today. We just have to get out of the house by 11:00 AM. Time for everyone to do the zombie walk to get the legs moving again. Everyone has a good breakfast, and then it’s back to the heat of Phoenix. To get the legs working again we take a walk around the area and find some llamas eyeing us.

llama
Some llamas eyed us.

This was a very tough hike, but the pictures of the views do not do it justice. It is hard to take a 360 picture of the canyon.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated June 20, 2019