Aztec Adventures

Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking

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Left Double Quotation Mark

The entire trip I was just in awe of how beautiful it was.



I have never been prouder of myself than when I finally reached the top of the Canyon on our last day.






About Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking

Experiencing the Grand Canyon in winter is special because it offers the best opportunities for solitude and wildlife viewing.  American Bald Eagles, desert big horn sheep, California Condors, mule deer, ring tail cats.  And of course, let’s not forget the amazing geological layers, formed over billions of years which are exposed before our eyes as we traverse 5000 feet up and down the Canyon.  There is no place in the world like the Grand Canyon!

Our goal is to backpack from the south rim of Grand Canyon all the way to the Colorado River and back up again.  No matter how you look at it, we will be descending 5000 feet down into the Inner Canyon and 5000 feet back up.  The scenery will be epic, it will be cold at night especially at the rim and we hope to cover over 30 miles of well-maintained trail.    This trip is a great opportunity for first time backpackers and visitors to the Grand Canyon as long as they are in good physical condition.

Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking

Itinerary

Pre-Trip Meeting: The mandatory Pre-Trip Meeting is held the Monday, the week of your trip, from 6-7:30pm in the Aztec Meeting Center (AMC), right outside the ARC. You will meet the leaders and other trip members, as well as cover all details such as weather, menu, safety issues, and clothing requirements.

Day 1:  Depart SDSU by 6:30a.m. We will drive approx. 9.5-10 hours to the Grand Canyon National Park making stops for two road meals and restroom—gas station breaks.  We will make our first night’s camp in the Mather Campground.  There will be restrooms with water nearby. 

Day 2:  Wake up early cook a nutritious and filling breakfast before loading up our backpacks for the slow, steady and scenic 8 mile descent on the South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground.  We will first pick up our permit and any last minute necessities before taking the Park shuttle to the trailhead.  It is very important that we take our time hiking down this steep trail as it will be a strain on our leg muscles.  The hike will take all day and we will be fortunate to get to camp before dark.  We will have a spacious group campsite with drinking water and restrooms just a short distance away.

Day 3:  Another early morning with a great breakfast.  The plan is to hike to Ribbon Falls following the beautiful Bright Angel Creek for 7 miles of mostly flat terrain.  This is a great hike to stretch our muscles and truly enjoy the inner Canyon. Cook our second dinner together and if energy still exists walk up to Phantom Ranch for hot drinks and socialize with other visitors.

Day 4:  Pack up camp after another great breakfast and make our way along the Colorado River and 4.5 miles up to Indian Gardens along the infamous Bright Angel Trail.  Arrive just after lunch and hike out to Plateau Point for a dramatic view of the Colorado River and hope for sightings of California Condors.  Return to camp and prepare our final trail dinner and snuggle in for a cold night.  Vault toilets and water available.

Day 5:  Pack up one last time after breakfast and hike 5 miles up hill to the South Rim where our van will be parked outside the Bright Angel Lodge.  This is definitely the hardest hiking (but most rewarding) of the trip.  Load van and drive over to Mather Campground for a much needed hot shower.  Once everyone is cleaned up, we will drive to Williams, Arizona (two hours) for an early dinner and afterwards put in a couple more hours on the road to Kingman, Arizona where we will spend the night in an inexpensive motel.

Day 6:  Pack up van, stop for a quick breakfast on the road and be back to SDSU just after 12 pm.



Packing List

We are limited on space, and the less stuff you bring, the less you have to carry around. Ask yourself…What would I want in the coldest weather or the hottest weather? Pack to be prepared for both!

Things that should be packed inside your personal day pack
and kept with you inside the van:

  • Small day pack
  • NO FLIP FLOPS!
  • Money for road meals
  • A warm layer
  • Headlamp
  • Travel size pillow
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Camera

 


 

PERSONAL EQUIPMENT:
  • Sunglasses w/retainer strap
  • Personal stuff — extra contact lenses, chap-stick, sunscreen, baby wipes, baby powder, ear plugs, hand lotion, medications you usually take
  • 2 durable crush proof one liter water bottles or a hydration pack
  • Toilet paper in a Ziploc bag
  • Small, light weight fast drying camp towel



CLOTHING LIST:

HEAD:

  • Wide brimmed shade hat
  • Beanie / stocking cap
  • Bandana

HANDS:

  • Gloves

FEET:

  • NO FLIP FLOPS!
  • Tennis shoes with good ankle support
  • Hiking Socks
  • Hiking Shoes / Boots

UPPER BODY:

  • Cotton or synthetic blend hiking shirt (breathable layer)
  • Cotton or synthetic camp shirt (a clean shirt to wear at camp)
  • Synthetic Long Sleeve Top(s) – Polypro, Capilene, or polyester.
  • Fleece jacket or sweatshirt
  • Sports bra
  • Windbreaker

LOWER BODY:

  • Nylon shorts
  • Light weight long pants/ cotton or synthetic hiking pants
  • Rain Pants (Aztec Adventures can provide this if you don’t have your own!)
  • Sweatpants
  • Underwear
  • Synthetic long underwear (top & bottom)
  • Bathing suit




Personal Equipment:
Provided by Aztec Adventures

  • 20˚ sleeping bag and Thermarest sleeping pad
  • Ground Tarp
  • Tent with rain fly (sleeps 2-3)
  • Head lamp
  • Camp chair
  • Rain gear (if you don’t have your own)
  • Coffee mug, bowl, and utensils
  • Trekking Poles
  • Pack Bag: to hold all of the above items PLUS your personal gear and clothes

Group Equipment:
Provided by Aztec Adventures

  • Expedition First Aid Kit
  • Ground Tarp
  • Stoves, fuel and all cooking gear-pots, pans, utensils, spice kit etc.
  • Repair kit for tents, stoves, packs, etc.
  • Water bags — 2+ gallon bags for camp use
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts
  • Satellite Phone
Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking

Outfitting

We take great pride in the equipment we provide our trip members. We fully realize that sleeping warm and comfortable, staying dry and being able to see in the dark, just to mention a few items, is essential to a successful and safe trip. We carry top of the line tents, sleeping bags, foam pads, backpacks, dry bags, rain gear, head lamps, wetsuits, spray jackets, and much more. The cost of your trip includes group-gear outfitting.

Food

Aztec Adventures aspires towards a sustainable future. We work hard to prepare meals that are nutritious, delicious and sustainable. Most of our menu consists largely of vegetarian meals as we believe eating lower on the food chain is both healthier for us and the planet in the long run. Our primary goal is to expose and educate our trip members to the joys of eating good food while camping and adventuring. We have found, over many years that our trip members thoroughly enjoy the food we prepare and serve and do not miss a meat centered diet. In addition, when travelling by vehicle to and from our outdoor destinations, we make every effort to stop at locally-family owned restaurants and eateries so as to ensure the majority of the money we spend stays in that community and with the family.


Showers will be available only at the end of the trip. Flush toilets and sinks will be available the first three nights only.  The last campsite has pit (composting toilets).  Potable drinking water will be readily available throughout the trip.  Light weight tents, warm synthetic sleeping bags, foam pads and ground tarps will be provided to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. Personal hygiene will be addressed at the pre-trip meeting to keep oneself healthy and clean in the wilderness.


Physical Challenge

All of our Aztec Adventure Outings programs have a level of physical challenge associated with the type of activity. Each program is rated on a scale from 0 to 3. A rating score from 0 to 1 indicates our least strenuous adventure reserved mostly for beginners. Moreover, a rating score from 1 to 2 indicates a moderate trip or intermediate level. (most of our trips align with this rating). Finally, a rating score between 2 to 3 refers to strenuous trip or advanced level. We encourage everyone to find a trip that best suits your skills and abilities. Please note the specific trip notes below and any prerequisites announced for this trip.

Trip Members must be comfortable camping in a primitive environment and have a desire to challenge themselves both physically and mentally throughout the week. Trip members should be in good physical condition for hiking on very steep terrain and capable of carrying a backpack of approximately one third one’s body weight filled with your personal gear as well as group gear (covered at pre-trip meeting). From now until the trip begins, we highly encourage you to get in shape. Locally speaking, if you can comfortably hike up and down Cowles Mountain with a 25 pound pack twice in a matter of a few hours, consider yourself prepared for the hiking portion of this trip.

TRIP RATING 3 out of 3

This is a physically demanding trip covering steep terrain. On average you will be hiking 7 miles per day for 6 hours per day.  Pace of travel is moderate as you will be on a designated trail.  Night time temperatures will drop below freezing and early mornings will require extra energy to get warm and get going.

PREREQUISITES

Each participant enrolled in an Aztec Backpacking Adventure must be able to carry a backpack weighing approximately 50 lbs or carry one third of their bodyweight.


Showers will be available only at the end of the trip. Flush toilets and sinks will be available the first three nights only.  The last campsite has pit (composting toilets).  Potable drinking water will be readily available throughout the trip.  Light weight tents, warm synthetic sleeping bags, foam pads and ground tarps will be provided to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. Personal hygiene will be addressed at the pre-trip meeting to keep oneself healthy and clean in the wilderness.

Emergency Care

In the event of an accident, injury, illness or missing trip member, the leaders of your outing will attempt to provide first aid to the level of their training and arrange search and evacuation assistance when determined necessary. Our leaders may or may not be carrying communication devices and emergency help may be difficult to arrange. Costs of evacuation or search (helicopter, etc.) and of medical care beyond first aid that is provided by the leaders will be the financial responsibility of the ill or injured person. Emergency services in remote areas are costly. Short term medical and evacuation insurance is advised for those without a comprehensive policy. Please check with your doctor if you have any health problems that may interfere with participation.

Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking

Trip Member Expectations:

Our hope is that each trip member will commit to making a positive contribution to our group of 10 to 12. We will travel as one group, and share the work as one collective group. The leaders will at times need to make decisions based on the needs of the group—not the special needs of one individual. This is a group experience and everyone is expected to help with all the camping tasks such as cooking meals, and clean up, setting up camp, and organizing gear. The Aztec Adventures Outdoor Program is all about promoting a healthy social environment where everyone feels comfortable and is included in the process of becoming a close-knit group. Unfortunately, if you are the independent type that prefers to do things alone, our trips may not be a good match for you.

Trip Member Responsibilities:

  • Please accurately and completely furnish all personal information requested on the Medical Disclosure Form.
  • Carefully review all information about the trip. Ask questions if you have specific needs or concerns.
  • Thoroughly understand the physical and mental demands of the outing as well as the risks. Acknowledge and accept those risks to be encountered.
  • Equip yourself in accordance with the packing list and recommendations of the Aztec Adventures staff.
  • Follow Leave No Trace practices and safety guidelines established by the trip leaders and land management agencies.
  • Respect the customs of locales to where we will travel and visit.
  • Always respect the rights and privacy of other trip members.

Since our outings travel in small groups, we have found that all it takes is one person disregarding policy to create a negative and/or dangerous experience for the whole group. Our leaders do not enjoy being disciplinarians, but will take action when someone is jeopardizing the safety of others and ultimately the future of our program. At the leader’s discretion, a trip member may be asked to leave the trip if it is felt that the person’s further participation (or lack of) may be detrimental to the outing or to others. In this case, the excluded person will be responsible for signing an additional liability waiver and covering all costs related to leaving the trip.


EAT GOOD FOOD - all successful expeditions throughout history have depended on good food and ample quantity. Great outdoor leaders take real pride in the meals they prepare and serve to trip members. It is widely agreed upon in our profession that food is one way extraordinary programs distinguish themselves from the ordinary. No matter the weather conditions or physical challenges of any given trip—every trip members’ attitude and enjoyment become more positive when served a delicious meal.

BE KIND - to the natural environment, to each other and the local populace or communities we visit. A commitment to teaching and embracing Leave No Trace principles and practices is vital to protecting our program areas. A perceptive outdoor leader is always kind and understanding, showing genuine concern for trip members’ wellbeing. Kind leaders greet people with a big smile; make a point of immediately learning names, and answer questions cheerfully and thoroughly. They are aware that the outing is the trip member’s big adventure and enters into their excitement—thereby renewing their own. Above all, the perceptive leader knows that sincere kindness is deeply reassuring to our trip members.

TELL THE TRUTH - about our personal limitations and abilities as well as in all of our "programmatic" endeavors. It is very important that leaders possess the integrity to acknowledge what they know and what they don’t know. Only when a leader is aware of their weaknesses can s/he work to improve. It is also vital to the future of our program to act and communicate with the utmost honesty with all of our partners whether they are public land managers, local businesses or our trip members. We strive hard to eliminate all hidden costs from our program fees and promote the facts behind our Aztec Recreation/A.S. budget subsidy.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE - in the lives of our trip members and staff through meaningful and complete outdoor experiences. Every person that makes a commitment to become involved with our program deserves the best effort we can put forth to make their time with us or trip a special experience. Leaders should always expect that the next trip they lead has the potential to make a positive change in their trip members’ lives. Our staff, in turn, should expect that their hard work and dedication will be acknowledged in ways that will continue long after they graduate or move-on from the program.

LEAVE NO TRACE – Aztec Adventure programming is committed to role modeling an environmental ethic and teaching our trip members to minimize their impact. We abide by LEAVE NO TRACE—Center for Outdoor Ethics and regulations of the places our programs visit.

LEAVE NO TRACE is a national and international program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they hike, camp, picnic, snowshoe, run, bike, hunt, paddle, ride horses, fish, ski or climb. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations. For an amazing amount of information visit the Leave No Trace website

Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking

Our trip prices strive to be all inclusive. Round trip transportation, quality instruction and leadership, all meals, including snacks and desserts while in the field, and personal equipment outfitting are included in the cost of the trip. Of course we provide all safety and group gear, along with camping fees and permits. Aztec Adventures receives a small subsidy from Associated Students annually through student activity fees. The subsidy offsets a portion of our administrative costs. Please do not let the price be the deciding factor as our trips have amazing intrinsic value that will provide lasting memories.

In the event you must cancel from your trip the following fees apply:

  • 1-5 DAY TRIPS:
  • 21+ days prior to departure
    75% Refund
  • 15-20 days prior to departure
    50% Refund
  • 0-14 days prior to departure
    No Refund
  • 6-30 DAY TRIPS:
  • 60+ days prior to departure
    75% Refund
  • 30-59 days prior to departure
    50% Refund
  • 0-29 days prior to departure
    No Refund

Transferring from one trip to another is equal to a cancellation and must be done within the aforementioned deadline to avoid loss of fees.

Sometimes we must cancel a program due to low enrollment. In this situation we contact trip members a minimum of two weeks prior to the program and they are eligible for a full refund or credit voucher good for the remaining academic year.

In the event of cancellation due to unforeseeable circumstances (bad weather, natural disaster, or staff emergency), we will make every effort to reschedule the outing. Again, trip members are eligible for a full refund or credit voucher.