So you’re probably thinking – well no duh! – but while this is a given, most canyon visitors are going to be hitting the main trails (Bright Angel and South Kaibab to Bright Angel Campground). Instead, venture away from the hundreds – yes, hundreds – of people you will encounter on these trails and at the campsites and go a bit off the beaten path.
Try a couple nights at Cremation Canyon, Horseshoe Mesa or Hermit Creek. Fewer people equals a truer canyon experience.
But before venturing anywhere below the rim of Grand Canyon for more than one day, you do need a Grand Canyon National Park permit and you MUST do your research. Trail conditions, water availability and difficulty of trails all vary from trail to trail, and a well-researched and planned trip equals a safe trip.
Oh, and for spring permits, you need to apply for them between November 1st and the next several months. If you want to go in March, you must have your request in by 5pm November 1st; for April, by December 1st, etc.
This desert oasis is located west of Grand Canyon National Park on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. While not part of the national park, Havasupai is still part of Grand Canyon.
After hiking 10 miles to your camp, you’ll find 100-200-foot blue-green waterfalls. Voted as one of the best swimming holes in the U.S. and one of the top secret swimming holes by USA Today (well, not so secret anymore), you will want to take a dip in Havasu Creek’s 65 degree water – especially when hiking on warm spring day.
Havasupai can hold up to 350 per night at the campground, and you can get there by foot, horse or helicopter – we prefer your use your feet AND carry your camping gear down with – it is so worth the extra effort. Permits are required and sell out very fast. They are also not cheap – expect to pay over $300/person for a 4-day hiking trip just for the permits. Looking to visit in 2020? Permits come available February 1st, so better start planning now!
You may remember Aravaipa Canyon from our “Top 6 Canyons to Hike in Arizona (Besides Grand Canyon) article. This 11-mile-long canyon in Southern Arizona is an oasis for backpackers found.
Aside for the hike being mostly through the Aravaipa Creek, this riparian paradise is protected by the Nature Conservancy and managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Safford Field Office. Only 50 people are allowed in the entire area per day, with a 3-day maximum stay – this includes day hikers and backpackers. If you are looking for beauty and seclusion, this is the place! But, you do need to make reservations 4 months in advance.
Phoenix is the perfect place to visit in spring. March and April bring temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and just east of the Valley of the Sun is the Superstition Wilderness – over 159,000 acres of beautiful desert, wildflowers, wildlife and trails.
One of our favorite routes is the Roger’s Canyon/Reavis Ranch Loop, where you will encounter 900-year-old Indian ruins, an old apple orchard and a water fall. While you’re out, you might stumble upon the Lost Dutchman Mine, or at least the ghost of the Lost Dutchman. But the best part is, you will likely see few other hikers on the trails.
3. Southern Arizona
There is just too much wilderness in Southern Arizona that is perfect for the spring backpacking trip to just name one place. Some of our favorites include the lower regions of the Santa Catalinas just north of Tucson, Saguaro National Park, and Madera Canyon.
Some of the most beautiful areas of the Sonoran Desert exist in southern part of the state and 100s of miles of trail to get away from the city and into the outdoors. Most of these areas do not require permits or are free-use areas, so planning last minute would not prevent you from being able to go on a backpacking trip.
Just Roughin’ It can help you plan your trip!
With our DIY outfitting services, we can help you plan a route, obtain a permit, help with logistics or outfit your entire trip. Here is some information about our services.