Grand Canyoning
April 14, 2006 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I need some help finalizing plans for a Grand Canyon trip. I'm just having some trouble finding good solutions for a couple things. I've checked out two of the better previous Grand Canyon askme's (4 days in Las Vegas and Grand Canyon and Grand camping?) but I still have some questions based on my specific trip.

My girlfriend and I are flying into Vegas late evening (land at 9:30pm or so) May 9th (coming from DC, if it matters); the entire purpose of the trip is the Canyon (or surrounding area), and we have little to no interest in staying in Vegas (we've both been there before). We have camping gear, and want to do as many nights camping as we can. Our schedule right now consists of camping at Havasupai Reservation (Indian reservation) on the nights of 5/11, 5/12, and 5/13. We fly out (of Vegas) at 12:30AM on 5/16. So, I have a few questions:

First, when we get into Vegas should we just go straight from the airport to pick up our rental car, and start driving at night? We're thinking about driving to the Grand Canyon Caverns & Inn, and spending (what's left of) the night there. Is driving overnight like that a bad idea? One of the earlier questions linked above noted spending the night at Boulder City; better or worse idea than mine?

Second, where should we try to spend the night of 5/14? Some more background on our trip, and our original plans (since the answer to this question might involve changing other nights, too, which I'm not against). We definitely definitely want to spend time at the Grand Canyon itself. Our original trip plan was to go to the South Rim, and then take a 3-day hike through to the North Rim. Unfortunately, there's no transportation from the North Rim back to the South Rim until 5/15...grrr.... Our next plan was to hike in from the South Rim, and go down to the river, camping for a night or two at some of the campgrounds. But, apparently we had to send our application in more than 4 months in advance (not that I'm bitter or anything)... So, that fell through, which is how we ended up with three nights at Havasu.

What do you think is the best way for us to spend that other night (5/14)? Is there any other way you can think of where we would be able to obtain camping permits, besides the standard application procedure?

We're also thinking about getting one of the helicopter rides out of Havasupai (save us the 8 mile hike, plus it'd be neat). Comments?

And should we try to schedule in time to hit Hoover Dam on the way back to Vegas?

Hopefully this all made sense. I'll participate in the thread as much as possible to clear up anything that may be confusing...

Thanks a ton for any suggestions.
posted by inigo2 to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Boulder City is OK; there is a motel in Peach Springs if I recall right, which gets you further along.

Hoover Dam - I think you see as much as you need to driving across. The delays can be awful - last week nose to tail after 10am on a weekday.

Your other day - you might camp at one of the landings off highway 93 from the Dam to Kingman, right on the river. Say Willow Beach.
posted by A189Nut at 12:43 PM on April 14, 2006

Best answer: The night before you begin, try to be as close as possible. The Peach Springs place is the only thing nearby and I would try that. I stayed in Laughlin the night before (because casino rooms were dirt cheap) but we had several hours of driving before we hit the trailhead, and in May, that means enough time for the air to really heat up.

I remember the trip into the canyon wasn't very difficult terrain-wise, but it was ungodly hot because we didn't start out until 10am or so. I would have liked to sleep in Peach Springs, get up at 5 or 6, and hit the trailhead by 7am.
posted by mathowie at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2006

Driving time from Las Vegas to Peach Springs - maybe 90 mins if I recall right. A lonely road at night.
posted by A189Nut at 1:29 PM on April 14, 2006

There are some permits available on the day of (in person only). When I went during the summer I was assured that I would be able to just pick up a permit at the top when I arrived - however that was in July, too hot for most people. I went in late April earlier in the same year and there were much more people. I imagine permits were more scarce. The permits are limited in number (to keep environemental impact of campers under control) and go on a first-come-first-served basis. You could however call the permit people and ask them about your prospects of picking one up.

When I went in the summer I didn't end up camping at all though - due to an incredible stroke of luck I wound up staying at Phantom Ranch instead. You should look into this; call and ask if they have any spots. It's guaranteed to be booked but cancellations do happen (it happened to me!) and there is no better place to stay.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:31 PM on April 14, 2006

Response by poster: The day-of permits is something we had heard about, and something I'm curious about -- anyone know (even roughly) the chances of getting one? Worst thing would be to sit around there all morning trying to get one, and then get denied... I'll try calling the National Park people, too, but I've had some trouble getting through when I called in the past.

Is the Hualapai Lodge Peach Springs the Peach Springs hotel people above mentioned?

I've read about the Phantom Ranch, but would prefer to do camping. Of course, the Ranch is better than not getting in there at all, so I'll give them a call. Thanks for that thought!
posted by inigo2 at 1:44 PM on April 14, 2006

Best answer: How about spending the night at Bryce Canyon? and then driving southern Utah to check out Zion on the way back to Vegas?
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:50 PM on April 14, 2006

Yes, that is the motel
posted by A189Nut at 3:47 PM on April 14, 2006

A lonely road at night.

But a gorgeous drive if you love the desert (we were just through there a couple of days ago). There'll be a nearly-full moon that night.
posted by Lazlo at 9:30 PM on April 14, 2006

Best answer: So, that fell through, which is how we ended up with three nights at Havasu.

There is probably nothing you're going to regret about that. :)

The night before you begin, try to be as close as possible.

I second this. In fact, I would recommend getting there *earlier* than 7. Maybe even 4:30. I'm a slow hiker, tho'. Your mileage may, literally, vary.

We're also thinking about getting one of the helicopter rides out of Havasupai (save us the 8 mile hike, plus it'd be neat). Comments?

That hike out can be truly wearing unless you're in very good shape, plus the helicopter ride could be fun. But if you're looking for another good way out, you may just want to send your backpack up the trail on a horse or burro. It's cheaper, and is probably enough to make the hike back pleasant instead of strenuous.

Also, if you do decide to hike out and carry your pack, and you're not in the highly fit category... you can make things a bit easier on you by leaving the evening. I've come out both in the evening and in the morning, and the nice thing about the evening is that it gets progressively cooler as you get progressively more tired and the trail gets progressively steeper. The downside of leaving in the evening is that you'll be tired when you get there and may not want to drive.

How about spending the night at Bryce Canyon? and then driving southern Utah to check out Zion on the way back to Vegas?

Without air transportation across the Canyon, this means a lot of driving. From the Havasu trailhead, you'll be probably at least 6 hours of driving to Zion National Park if you go through Vegas.

However, it's probably only a little longer to head loop up through Paige / Kanab and come from the east side into Zion -- and you could stop off at the South Rim along the way!
posted by weston at 10:29 PM on April 14, 2006

Also -- there are two minor but still (IMHO) interesting places of desert-y goodness near Las Vegas: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Valley of Fire State Park. Fun for an evening/morning near Vegas.
posted by weston at 10:31 PM on April 14, 2006

Willow Beach - appears you can't camp there officially. Shame.
posted by A189Nut at 5:50 AM on April 15, 2006

Response by poster: Just got back yesterday, thanks everyone for the advice. I'll post a follow up in a bit with a quick summary of what we ended up doing (once I clean up at work a little bit......coming back from vacation stinks).
posted by inigo2 at 6:49 AM on May 17, 2006

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