Hiking Grand Canyon from Rim to River: An Adventure to Phantom Ranch

Hike and learn about the ancient landscapes of the Grand Canyon on some of its most awe-inspiring trails. Plus, spend two nights within the Canyon at historic Phantom Ranch!
Rating (4.93)
Program No. 8144RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Grand Canyon - South Rim
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Lodge check-in available by 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This physically strenuous program involves elevation gains up to 4,500 feet (equivalent to 341 stories) carrying a 15 to 20-pound pack up to 9.5 miles. There will be a practice hike on Day 2 for the Group Leader to assess each person’s ability level. Failure to complete the practice hike satisfactorily will prohibit continued participation. If you have concerns about your ability to participate successfully in this program, please see alternative suggestions on the Road Scholar website for other programs that hike the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon winter hiking can be more challenging because of the chance of snow, ice, and cold. Feel free to bring your own ice-walkers. If needed, in-step crampons will be provided. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a lodge café, we’ll have a plated meal featuring entrées, dessert, access to a salad bar, and non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead.

Packing Techniques, Hiking Ethics & Safety, Practice Hike
Grand Canyon - South Rim
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Walking/hiking approx. 5 miles throughout the day: morning approx. 2 miles roundtrip; about 2 hours along rim, mostly flat paved trail. Practice hike is approx. 2 miles roundtrip; about 2 hours; steep, uneven, rocky trail; elevation change of roughly 2,000 feet, with packs. Attendance and performance, with all necessary gear, to Group Leader’s satisfaction is required for participation in subsequent hikes. Failure to satisfactorily complete practice hike will prohibit continued participation.

Breakfast: In the lodge café, we’ll have a breakfast buffet featuring a variety of hot and cold items, plus a choice of coffee, tea, juice, or milk.

Morning: Remaining in the café after breakfast, we’ll gather with our Group Leaders for a short discussion session that will cover gear packing techniques, "leave no trace" ethics, and hiking safety. Afterwards, we’ll join our Group Leader for a hike along the rim to acclimate to the elevation and prepare for our upcoming hike into the Canyon. Along the way, we’ll engage in a discussion of the area’s geologic and natural history.

Lunch: At the lodge café, we will have a buffet including soup, salad, entrees, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Afternoon: With our Group Leaders, we’ll set out on a practice hike down into the canyon with full packs. Descending over 1,000 feet into the canyon along the Bright Angel Trail, we’ll reach our turning point, and hike back up to the rim with minimal stops to rest. Along the way we will see the Historic Kolb Studio, several geologic layers in the rocks, and continue our discussion of both human and natural history at the Grand Canyon. Upon reaching the top, we’ll have time for independent exploration. You may wish to return to the Historic Kolb Studio to look around inside. Please note: The practice hike is important for the Group Leaders to assess everyone's ability to safely complete the hike. If you do not attend and complete the practice hike to the satisfaction of the Group Leader while carrying the weight you will be carrying on subsequent hikes, you will NOT be allowed to hike to Phantom Ranch the next day.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions for you to explore.

Evening: At leisure. You may want to walk a short way to the Shrine of the Ages Auditorium where a National Park Service Ranger will give a presentation on a Grand Canyon-related topic. Alternatively, you may wish to go to bed early in order to rest up for our big hike down tomorrow. Be sure to prepare for an early start in the morning.

Hike to Phantom Ranch
Phantom Ranch
Phantom Ranch

Activity note: Use of park shuttle bus; riding approximately 3 miles on way; about 1/2 hour. Hiking approximately 7.5 miles throughout the day, with packs; between 6 and 8 hours; steep, uneven rocky trail; elevation decrease of roughly 4,800 feet.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the lodge, we’ll board the park’s shuttle bus system, and travel to the South Kaibab Trailhead where we’ll begin the day's long, rewarding hike to Phantom Ranch with our Group Leaders. Our first stop will be Ooh-Aah Point—you'll know why they call it that when we get there. At Cedar Ridge, while someone guards your pack from the marauding squirrels, we’ll follow the short path to see the protected outdoor fern fossil exhibit, originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and recently restored. Afterwards, we’ll continue down past Skeleton Point and the switchbacks in the Redwall, a geological feature made of redwall limestone, to our lunch location near the Tonto Trail Junction. Stopping periodically along the way, we’ll discuss geology, ecology, and human history.

Lunch: Along the trail, we will have sack lunches including a sandwich, chips, and fruit.

Afternoon: Continuing our hike, we’ll make our way into the Inner Gorge and across the Colorado River to Phantom Ranch where we’ll check in to our cabin.

Dinner: At Phantom Ranch, we'll enjoy a meal served family-style including a salad, entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to attend one of the two seasonal National Park Service programs presented by Park Rangers on a variety of regional topics. One will take place in the afternoon and the other in the evening. Alternatively, perhaps you’ll take some time to gaze at the stars or visit the Phantom Ranch Canteen.

Layover Day, Choice of Elective Hikes, Free Time
Phantom Ranch
Phantom Ranch

Activity note: Two possible hikes, each between 2 and 3 miles; between 2 and 3 hours, with day pack; steep, uneven, rocky trail; elevation change of between 200 and 1,000 feet depending on hike chosen.

Breakfast: At Phantom Ranch, we'll enjoy breakfast served family-style including an egg dish, breakfast meats, pancakes, and fruit, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Take the relaxing layover day in the depths of the canyon at the Phantom Lodge to enjoy as you wish. For those who want to join, our Group Leaders will set out on elective hikes including the Bridge to Bridge Loop and the Clear Creek Trail to Phantom Overlook or beyond, depending on group interest. Alternatively, you may wish to spend some time by yourself to absorb being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon by sitting by the creek, walking down to the Colorado River, taking photographs, and just relaxing.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: Free time. This time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You may wish to hike part way up the North Kaibab Trail or just kick back and look at one of the world's true wonders.

Dinner: Phantom Ranch family-style meal.

Evening: Afterwards, we’ll have a short group meeting to discuss the logistics of the hike up tomorrow. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and hiking transfer back up to the canyon rim in the morning.

Big Climb to The Rim, Farewell Dinner
Grand Canyon - South Rim
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Hiking approximately 9.5 miles throughout the day, with packs; between 6 and 9 hours; steep inclines uphill, uneven and rocky trail; elevation increase of roughly 4,500 feet.

Breakfast: Early Phantom Ranch family-style meal.

Morning: Upon check-out from the ranch, we’ll gear up and hit the trail with our Group Leaders to begin the big climb up to the rim. The hike will last throughout the day and will rise 4,500 feet over 9.3 miles. We’ll start by crossing the Silver Bridge and hike on the River Trail built by the CCC. At the mouth of Pipe Creek, we’ll meet the Bright Angel Trail and continue up to the improved Devil's Corkscrew (it is not nearly as steep as it used to be) until we enter the Tapeats Narrows and pass the Great Unconformity.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: Carrying on, we’ll hike up the Bright Angel Trail, travel across the Tonto Platform, and go up Jacob's Ladder to the top of the Redwall and the 3-Mile Resthouse. Don't forget to glance up at the sky for a possible condor sighting and back towards the Inner Gorge for a perspective on how far we have come. As we get closer to the rim, we’ll feel the sense of accomplishment grow until we finally reach the top. Upon arrival, we’ll check back in to the lodge and enjoy some time to relax and freshen up with a well-deserved shower before a short vehicle transfer to dinner!

Dinner: At a nearby restaurant, we'll enjoy plated meals for our celebratory dinner with an entrée and side, plus a choice of coffee, tea, or water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Once back at the lodge with our Group Leader, we will have a program wrap-up and reflect on our experiences. Share some of your favorite experiences and accomplishments from the program with new Road Scholar friends. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes, Independent Departures
Grand Canyon - South Rim

Activity note: Lodge check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After breakfast, we’ll meet once more as a group to reflect on our adventure and extend farewells. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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