The altitude, dry conditions and intense inner canyon heat can test even the best-conditioned and heartiest souls. Visitors intent on making the descent and steep return climb out of the Grand Canyon should consider several important physical and material factors before the hike, and take steps along the way to ensure the experience gets completed in a satisfying fashion.
The National Park Service offers these guidelines for hiking at the Grand Canyon during the summer months:
—Hike plan: Choose a hike suited to your physical limitations and health considerations. Take a conservative approach if you’re heading into the canyon for the first time. If you have a medical condition, such as asthma, a heart condition, or knee or back problems, limit your exertion and exposure to the heat.
—Time: Plan on taking twice as long to hike up as it took to hike down. Allow 1/3 of your time to descend and 2/3 of your time to ascend.
—Gear: Travel light. The heaviest items in your pack should be food and water. Use a hiking stick to take stress off your legs. Wear well-fitting and broken-in hiking boots. Bring a small lightweight flashlight and a change of batteries and bulb. Use sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a hat. Also, bring a map, compass, signal mirror or whistle, first aid kit and water purification tablets. And remember, carry out all your trash from the hike.
—Food and drink: Eat before you are hungry. Drink before you become thirsty. No matter what the temperature, you need water and energy to keep going. Drink 1/2 to 1 quart (liter) of water or sports drink for every hour you hike in the canyon. Salty snacks and water or sports drinks should be consumed on any hike lasting longer than 30 minutes. You need to eat about twice as much as you normally would to meet your energy and electrolyte needs while hiking in the Grand Canyon.
—Pace: Walk at a tempo that allows you to walk and talk at the same time. This is an indication that your legs and your body are getting the oxygen needed to function efficiently. Don’t rush the hike. Even taking baby steps in steep areas allows you to conserve energy and last longer on the trail.
—Breaks: Taking 10-minute breaks during the hike helps remove the metabolic waste products that build up in your legs. Pull up for a rest at least every hour, and sit down and prop up your legs. Use this time to eat and drink. And don’t forget to spend a few moments during brief respites to enjoy the magnificent view.
—Get Wet: Whenever you are near water, make sure that you soak yourself down. This will help decrease your core body temperature. If you hike while soaking wet you will stay reasonably cool.
—Shade: Avoid hiking in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Keep in mind, the deeper you go into the canyon, the hotter the environment becomes. Plan your day so you do not hike between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Take a break near shade and water to avoid the worst heat of day. Enjoy a predawn start and a late afternoon finish. Use a flashlight if you hike out after dark.
Source: National Park Service