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.