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Archive for April 12th, 2010

Road Conditions for Remote Trailheads – date posted Apr 12, 2010

Posted at April 12th, 2010
Posted by Zion National Park Motel
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Thunder River access (Apr-12-10):  Hikers can drive to within about 5 miles of the Bill Hall and Thunder River trailheads. The road is not drivable past the intersection of Forest Roads 425 and 427 (per Fredonia Field Office, North Kaibab District).

The big story of the day is the huge snowpack on the North Rim and the effects this will have on access to backcountry roads and trailheads this spring. Much depends on unpredictable factors such as daytime high temperatures and the potential for additional precipitation. In general, North Rim hikers can assume vehicle access along dirt roads to remote trailheads will open later than usual this year and that travel along the upper few miles of canyon trails may be snow covered or icy for the next several weeks.

Vehicle access along Forest Road 328 to the South Bass trailhead has become pretty reasonable for a competent high clearance backcountry vehicle, although all it would take is additional snow or rain to make this road difficult for even the best 4-wheel drive.

The Swamp Ridge Road to the North Bass trailhead, famous for deep drifts and downed trees across the road, might not open until late May or even early June. Forest Road 610 to the upper Nankoweap trailhead may open a little sooner, but not much. Forest Road 22 and 425 to the trailheads at Monument Point and Indian Hollow may open by sometime in late April or early May, but at this time all we can do is guess.

Hikers considering traveling dirt roads to remote trailheads should contact the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest at 928-643-7395, the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest on the South Rim at 928-635-4061 or the Backcountry Information Center for current conditions.

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It is not uncommon for trees to fall and block access to remote trailheads. When you encounter a road blocked by fallen trees, what should you do?

  • Report the location and diameter of the tree to Grand Canyon park dispatch (928-638-7805) as soon as possible. The park will assign staff to clear the road.
  • If an appropriate (not blocking the road and not damaging vegetation) place to park is available, park your vehicle and continue to the trailhead on foot.
  • Do not drive off-road attempting to bypass the obstacle, doing so can cause resource damage.

Early Spring in the Canyon – date posted Apr 12, 2010

Posted at April 12th, 2010
Posted by Zion National Park Motel
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The winter of 2010 was remarkable, with more snow than we’ve seen for at least 25 years. But the days are getting longer, a few brave plants are starting to show and, for today anyway, spring seems just around the next bend.

Most of the snowpack has melted along the South Rim and backcountry travel is becoming easier, but 8 to 10 feet of snow, more in places, remains on the North Rim and the runoff over there has only just begun, so access to remote north side trailheads may open late this spring

Conditions below the rim are close to ideal right now, and, as a result, demand for permits is at an all time high. Advance reservations for the primary corridor campgrounds, such as Bright Angel or Indian Garden are fully booked through about the middle of June and the demand for last minute walk-up permits far exceeds the supply. As the result, hikers wishing to obtain walk-up permits should contact the Backcountry Information Center upon arrival to get their name on the waiting list. Assume the strong possibility of a two to three day wait before actually getting a permit.

Oppressive summer temperatures are just around the corner. As May fades into June, taking precautions against the heat is essential. It could even become a matter of life and death, but we’ve got a few more delightful weeks of spring to enjoy before the arrival of extreme heat.

Regardless of the season there are critical things hikers need to be aware of. All inner canyon trails are characterized by steep, rocky, unrelenting descents that seem to go on forever, so constant attention to your footing is required. If you want to admire the view, stop walking. Trying to walk and gawk at the same time is an invitation to a nasty fall.

Trekking poles significantly reduce strain on knees and legs and are always a good idea. When the trails are slick poles are invaluable.

Even with the availability of piped in drinking water on the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails, corridor hikers still need to carry extra water. We recommend at least 3 liters per person during spring and as the days warm up this recommendation will increase to 4 liters. This should be adequate to get you between the water sources while allowing a little extra for unforeseen circumstances. Hikers are encouraged to carry some form of water purification as a back-up system against the possibility of water pipeline problems, or in case ground water is needed to supplement the supply in your pack.

And, last but not least, we want to be sure and mention the potential critter problem in the primary corridor campgrounds and urge hikers to be sure to use the food storage boxes provided at each campsite. There’s nothing there that will hurt you–it’s just small mammals of various sorts–but they are ruthless and relentless in pursuit of your food and it’s pretty much a question of use the food boxes or risk damage to your gear and the loss of your food. No food boxes are provided at more remote campsites outside of the corridor trail system, but the animal problem will almost certainly persist, so campers at commonly used threshold and wilderness campsites will need to provide their own animal-proof food storage.

Springtime hikers will do well to keep an eye on the National Weather Service website, weather.gov which offers daily 7-day forecasts for both rims as well as the canyon floor.

North Rim Closed for the Season – date posted Apr 12, 2010

Posted at April 12th, 2010
Posted by Zion National Park Motel
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State Route 67 and all services on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park are expected to re-open for the 2010 season on May 15, 2010.

The North Rim campground is currently available for winter camping, but is only accessible via inner canyon trails from the South Rim or by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing – a 45 mile trip from Jacob Lake. To camp at the North Rim during the winter months, visitors will need a backcountry permit, which can be obtained from the Backcountry Information Center located at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Backcountry permits for North Rim winter camping are also available at Pipe Spring National Monument in Fredonia, Arizona, or at the Bureau of Land Management District Office in St. George, Utah; however, you must obtain your permit in person and several days in advance at these locations.

Potential North Rim campers be forewarned: the North Rim is at elevations between 8 and 9 thousand feet. It’s cold over there, and in some years snow depth reaches spectacular proportions.

Drinking Water outside the Cross-Canyon Corridor – date posted Apr 12, 2010

Posted at April 12th, 2010
Posted by Zion National Park Motel
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The moisture laden winter has produce one very positive effect: the ephemeral, seasonal springs that dot the inner canyon are flowing now and will probably continue to flow for the next few weeks. Water issues in most parts of the canyon have temporarily receded into the background, with one important exception: the side canyons between the Little Colorado River and Mineral Canyon are dry, leaving the Colorado River as the primary source, and the spring snowmelt is introducing heavy sediment loads creating a brown, muddy, and difficult-to-purify Colorado.

Hikers should make every effort to obtain recent confirmation of water availability and become familiar with routes to the river before starting any hike.

South Kaibab Trailhead Access – date posted Apr 12, 2010

Posted at April 12th, 2010
Posted by Zion National Park Motel
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Hikers must access the South Kaibab Trailhead by shuttle bus. There are two options.

  1. A special early morning “hiker’s express” shuttle leaves the Bright Angel Lodge and then picks up passengers at the Backcountry Information Center before going directly to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Parking is available at the Backcountry Information Center.
  2. The Kaibab Trail Route shuttle leaves Canyon View Information Plaza and the first stop is South Kaibab Trailhead.

Visit the Shuttle Buses page for schedules and more info.

Hermit Trailhead Access – date posted Apr 12, 2010

Posted at April 12th, 2010
Posted by Zion National Park Motel
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From Mar. 1 to Nov, 30, Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles. A numerical code is required to open the gate giving access to Hermit Road. Hikers with a valid backcountry permit who are beginning or ending their hike via the Hermit Trail will be permitted to park at the Hermit trailhead. The Backcountry Information Center will provide the gate access code when the backcountry permit is issued.

The Hermit Shuttle between South Rim Village and Hermit Rest and the Hermit trailhead is operational Mar. 1 to Nov. 30. The bus runs every 30 minutes between 4:30am and 9:30am, every 15 minutes between 9:30am and sunset, and every 30 minutes between sunset and one hour after sunset. The Hermit Shuttle is free.

Weather dependent, Hermit Road is open to all private vehicles Dec 1 to Feb 28. Be aware that in wintertime inclement weather can cause Hermit Road to close with little notice as storms move through the area. Always check with the Backcountry Information Center regarding the wintertime status of Hermit Road.