The Adrenalist

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Grand Canyon Backpacking’s Biggest Secret: The Off-Season Permit



The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous landmarks in North America, and for good reason. It is said that the Canyon is so breathtaking that it’s impossible to prepare yourself for the sight. It’s no wonder that so many weekend adventurers line up to obtain a Grand Canyon backpacking permit for permission to camp anywhere on the park’s public grounds. Unfortunately, this is far from an easy process. The application must be submitted at a precise window 4 months in advance of your trip, and the Grand Canyon reviews the applications in a random order. It takes weeks until your notified of your status, and it can be months or even years before you hit the jackpot. You can skip the wait-list and the months of waiting for a Grand Canyon backpacking pass with this simple secret: the off-season permit.

True Adrenalists can hit the Grand Canyon in the off-season to obtain a backcountry pass, you just have to be willing to prepare for the conditions. In July, the temperature on the canyon floor is around 110 degrees. Exposure and poor planning on campers’ parts lead the park service to helicopter out several hikers every year. If you’re fit and able, and up to it, this is perfect time to go to the Canyon on a whim. You can drive out, show up at the Ranger’s office in the morning and find yourself camping by the afternoon.

January is another ideal time to grab a Grand Canyon backcountry permit, when few dare to brave the colder temperatures. At this time of the year, temperatures at the rim are in the teens, and the floor is not much warmer. You’ll have to carry a lot of cold weather gear, since hypothermia can creep up without you realizing. Be prepared to hike through the snow up and down. Remember, snow is slippery and the canyon is deep, so watch your step and wear the right footwear so you don’t fall. Available water pipes are frozen, so don’t forget to carry along your own water for hydration.

Backpacking the Grand Canyon in the off-season may seem difficult, but that’s part of the challenge. Embrace it. With a little preparation, off-season camping is perfect for the Adrenalist looking to avoid the rush and embrace the canyon’s beauty.

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