Hiking The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim (With a Guide)

A few weeks ago, we ran the account of National Geographic Kids‘ staffer Margaret Krauss’s Rim to Rim hike through the Grand Canyon. Well now National Geographic Books Production Manager Lisa A. Walker has just completed the same hike, but she traveled with Four Season Guides, and she shared her experience with us.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I could hear my yoga instructor quietly chanting over and over in my head… along with the click, clack, click, clack, of my hiking poles against the rock and soil. I had to be getting closer to the top, but I didn’t dare look up too far, for fear of breaking my slow but steady stride.

“Mules coming!!” I could hear our guide Bob yell from the path below. I maneuvered my body and my pack as quickly as I could to the inside of the switchback wall, carefully balancing the weight of the load up against the rock so I could face out to see the oncoming mule pack and the mule riders. It was cooler now as we neared the top and I felt a slight chill through my sweat-soaked layers of nylon and polyester. The scent of wet earth and mule manure wafted through the air as the thumping hooves made their way towards us. As they passed, a large brown eye briefly met mine and we shared an unspoken moment of respect for the load on our backs and the path yet to conquer. With a signal from Bob, we quietly resumed our climb.

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It was almost incomprehensible just how far we had come in only four days, and it was almost over. A small group of strangers, now fast friends, we had already hiked all the way from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, with only five miles left, well maybe two now, to go. I owed a lot to our guide, Bob. Not just for the cooking of the meals, the carrying of our pots and stove, and his endless knowledge of rocks and plants, but for his constant motivation and encouragement. It really went a long way through the bouts of pouring rain, achy muscles and knees, and the weary mind. “I just love weather,” he proclaimed, on the evening of day two, as we sat hunched over eating our dinner with a cold wet downpour upon us once again, “it doesn’t really rain enough here in Arizona.”

But it didn’t rain the whole time we hiked and once we arrived at Plateau Point on day three, just in time to see the sky finally clearing and a gorgeous sunset, it really began to sink in. I couldn’t believe we were really here, and that we had made it this far. I felt a little envious of our guide, for it was “just another day at the office” for him. We should all be so lucky.

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Once we finally reached the top of Bright Angel trail, it was a proud and even tearful moment. As I hugged my new-found friends goodbye, I took some comfort in knowing we would keep in touch and it certainly wouldn’t be my last trip to the Grand Canyon.

Getting There: Four Season Guides operates out of Flagstaff, AZ. Owner and lead guide Brian Treacy is a pleasure to work with and will answer every question/concern you have, right down to how to train and the right hiking boot. Definitely check them out!

Photos: Lisa A. Walker