How does the permit system work on a guided trip?
Backcountry campsites in Grand Canyon National Park are not guaranteed until the park issues permits through a lottery system. Our team submits requests for permits 4 months in advance on the first day of each month. Based on the permits secured, trip dates will be adjusted on the web within the first week of the month.
To apply for a permit the Park Service requires that we have a minimum of one registered guest, so it is beneficial to register 5 months before your departure month (please reference the helpful table below). We have great success with securing permits, but if we are unable to book dates that work with your schedule we will provide a full transfer or refund of your deposit ($500 per person). Because most backcountry campsites in the Grand Canyon accommodate 5 guests, small groups (5 or less) have a higher success rate than large groups (6 or more).
Additionally, to increase your chances of getting permits for your trip we encourage you to provide backup dates and itineraries. It’s best if your backup dates are as broad as possible, and they do not have to match up with website dates. “Anytime in the month” or “anytime from the 15th to the 30th” are excellent examples of backup dates, but even a day or two of flexibility is helpful.
When should I book my trip?
It's best to plan your trip far in advance. Here's how to read the following list: book your tour in the first month, for dates in the second month. Example you'll want to book your September trip as early as January.
Is there a minimum or maximum amount of people for each trip?
Each trip requires a minimum number of participants for departure. Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA) reserves the right to cancel scheduled trips that do not meet minimum sign-up requirements (usually 4 guests). We will however keep you informed well in advance of your trips departure. We generally make a final decision about a trip 30 days in advance of the trips departure.*
Can we reserve one of your regularly scheduled dates exclusively for us?
Yes! As long as there are no other customers booked on that date – it is yours. There may be an additional charge depending on your group size.
Grand Canyon Campgrounds: Main campgrounds in the Grand Canyon such as Bright Angel, Indian Gardens, and Cottonwood all have assigned, separate tent sites with poles to hang your pack on, metal ammo canisters to keep food in, and a picnic table. Bright Angel Campground also includes indoor, running water bathroom and dishwashing facilities but no shower facilities. Indian Gardens and Cottonwood Campground both have composting toilets. Drinking water is available in all main campgrounds during “non-freeze” seasons. Backcountry campsites vary greatly but most are fairly primitive. We will provide you with an REI Quarter Dome 2 person, or 1 person tent that works great to balance functionality and weight.
What are bathroom and shower facilities like?
Trailside toilet facilities are composting toilets and are located strategically along the trails we hike. Most national park toilets are stocked with toilet paper, but it is always nice to have your own roll in your pack. Ask your guides for helpful hints and etiquette for using these toilets and what to do should you need to go at times when they are unavailable. While at any main Grand Canyon campground such as Bright Angel, Indian Gardens, or Cottonwood, you will find running water bathroom facilities but not shower facilities. Backcountry campsites are primitive, often with no bathroom facilities at all.
What if I have a medical condition? Can I still register for your guided backpacking trips to Grand Canyon?
If you have any physical or psychological medical conditions, it is very important you let us know well before departure. Trip leaders have the right to deny participation to anyone at any time during the trip if they feel the trip member is mentally or physically incapable of continuing and/or if a trip member’s continued participation jeopardizes the group’s or his/her own safety. Under either of these circumstances, refunds are not given.
All guides carry a basic first aid kit for emergencies. Your guides do not carry prescription medications. Please be aware that hospital facilities for serious medical problems may be a long way away, that a doctor may not always be available, and that evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. By signing our release form, you agree to pay for emergency evacuation and emergency medical care should the need arise. No refunds are given if you should have to leave the trip.
What if I have dietary restrictions or special requests?
Please let us know if you have any specific dietary needs or requests (i.e. vegetarian, glutenâï¿½ï¿½ free, allergic to nuts, loves hot chocolate, etc.) We make every effort possible to accommodate these requests. Meals are a healthy mix of fresh and backpacker-friendly foods that accommodate the full range of dietary needs and replenish all nutrients lost to a day spent exploring the canyon.
What are the trails like?
The corridor trails of the Grand Canyon are some of the best in the world. For Bright Angel, and North and South Kaibab, they are well maintained, wide enough for multiple lanes of “traffic”, and are routinely patrolled by NPS rangers. On average they descend at about 500 to 800ft per mile, and consist of sections of gradual incline/decline and sections of stairs. If your trip takes place on the slightly more adventurous trails such as Hermit or Grandview trail, you can expect slightly narrower, steeper, and more inconsistent quality in some sections of trail.
Before embarking on any Grand Canyon hiking or backpacking trip you should feel confident in your ability to walk uphill for up to 8 hours. We recommend doing some significant training before you join us, as your trip will be far more enjoyable if you do not have sore muscles or blisters. As always, you should consult with your physician before commencing with a new workout program.
How much weight will I have to carry?
The average weight carried by our guests is between 30 and 40lbs. Depending on your equipment and preferences, your personal gear will likely make up about 15-25lbs of your total load. You can also expect to carry about 5-6lbs of water, and 5-8lbs of shared group gear.
How should I train for my Grand Canyon backpacking trip?
Of course it is always advisable to consult a physician before embarking on any new training program. In order to get the most enjoyment out of your Grand Canyon trip, you need to begin a training regimen that starts easy, and builds up incrementally as your departure date approaches. The best possible training involves mimicking your upcoming trip as much as reasonably possible. Practicing not only the anticipated mileage, but uphill and downhill hiking WITH a weighted pack will serve you well on your trip. Understand that Grand Canyon backpacking trips generally involve 6-8 hours of all uphill or all downhill hiking. If you can’t find a natural environment near you to recreate this, find a set of stadium bleachers, stairs, or set a treadmill on max elevation and up AND down on one of these with a weighted pack. Two important things often forgotten are flexibility and rest. A regular stretching routine and plenty of rest between training sessions are the keys to staying healthy and uninjured. Hydration is another area that is often overlooked. It may sound strange but you may have to “train” to feel comfortable drinking the 5-8liters of water per day necessary for ultimate comfort on your Grand Canyon backpacking trip. Upon registering for the trip, we will provide you with more detailed suggestions to build your own training plan. As with any of your questions, feel free to call us at any time to get personal feedback on training for your adventure.
Will we get wet during the hikes?
Only by choice – you may dunk in some of the tributary creeks such as Bright Angel and you may want to soak your feet in the Colorado River. We require protective footwear at all times when wading or refreshing in the creeks. Guides are always available to assist with any stream crossings you might encounter.
Should I bring my own snacks?
Plenty of food and snacks will be available to you at all times during the trip. However, you are welcome to bring snacks that you prefer.
What about drinking water?
Our guides provide bottled water for all guests at the beginning of the tour. You will need to keep the bottles we provide and refill them at locations along the trail and at Phantom Ranch. If you have a Camelbak or similar hydration pack with a water bladder/reservoir, we recommend you bring that and fill it each day.
What should I pack?
Clothing: During most times of the year, you will spend nearly all of your vacation in shorts and t-shirt. Lightweight, quick-drying fabrics such as nylon, fleece and other synthetic materials are preferred. Cotton, especially denim, is not recommended as it retains heat and moisture. Of course, comfortable cotton is great for nighttime and sleeping apparel. You can see a suggested packing list on each trip page on the website and we will also provide a detailed packing list upon registration.
Detailed weather information can be found on the Grand Canyon Natural History page.
Gear: All “group gear,” including stove, water purifier, and cooking utensils, is provided, and will be used by the guides.
What if I want to use my own gear?
It is unnecessary to bring your own as we include premium gear with your reservation. However if you still desire to do so, we're good with that. Bringing your own gear does not change tha cost of your trip
What if I have my own tent?
Although a tent is provided for you on this trip, you are always welcome to bring your own. Understand that your guide may encourage you to use our tent instead if yours is not suitable for the weather and terrain to be encountered. Bringing you own tent will not result in any change in pricing for your trip.
What happens in the case of an emergency?
If there is an emergency and you need to be reached, your friends or family should contact Arizona Backpacking immediately. We will then contact the trip leader if the group is not inside the canyon. If the group is inside the canyon we will contact the National Park Service which will attempt to deliver a message, however only in dire emergencies.
You are not required to tip, however it is customary. AOA prides itself on our outstanding crew and our attitude about customer service. The guides expect to meet and even exceed all your expectations. They appreciate gratuities and always divide them equally. If you feel the service provided has been outstanding, the standard gratuity is 10-15% of the trip price. Tipping is at your discretion and this information is provided only as a suggestion.
If you are traveling alone we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. A limited number of single accommodations are available, and are assigned only as necessary and upon special request.
We recommend your airline flights be scheduled to arrive the day prior to your trip start date and depart the day after your last trip date. Flights can be booked to arrive and depart from Phoenix SkyHarbor International Airport (PHX) in Phoenix, Arizona. AOA cannot be responsible for penalty fees or additional airfare costs as a result of trip cancellations or changes to our itineraries.
Where from and when do we depart?
Each tour is different and meets/departs at varied locations. You will be given specific instructions and directions with your paid confirmation.
When will we return? When should I schedule my flight home?
You are encouraged to not schedule your flight home for any earlier than 7:00-8:00pm on the last day of your tour. Please consult with your reservation staff to verify.
Where should I stay pre- and post-trip?
Pre- and post-trip lodging is not included in the cost of the trip; depending on the actual rendezvous/departure location you are urged to make your hotel reservations as far in advance as possible to avoid any last minute travel challenges.
Arizona Backpacking Company