Grand Canyon Field Institute March Classes, Hikes & Tours


Introductory Backpack
March 11, 2013 to March 14, 2013

A Grand Canyon hike from rim to river spans millions of years in geologic time and takes hikers from a high-altitude forest to desert lowlands in very short order.  Along the way there is much to intrigue the curious traveler.  Big views, ancient fossils, amazing plants, archaeological sites and pioneer structures are all in plain view, and provide a wide range of topics for your expert instructor to address.  Our introductory backpack begins with a thorough orientation, pack check and afternoon stroll along the scenic South Rim.  The following day includes a 4.5 mile descent of the Bright Angel Trail to the towering cottonwood trees of Indian Garden Campground, home for a two-night camping adventure.  A sunset visit to nearby Plateau Point with its commanding view of the Inner Gorge will cap the group’s inaugural day below the rim.  The following day will feature a backpack-free day hike to the sandy beaches of the Colorado River for a glimpse at the forces that carves this marvel of a canyon.  Depending on group hiking strength and weather, an optional visit to historic Phantom Ranch (several miles upriver) may also be an option.  The final day of class includes a return to the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail at each hiker’s own pace and a proud look back at the canyon that doubled as class room and playground for three splendid days.

Day 1 – Introductions and orientation
Day 2 – Descend Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground; sunset at Plateau Point

Day 3 – Exploratory day hike to Colorado River and Phantom Ranch
Day 4 – Hike to rim and wrap-up session

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Take a Load Off:  Mule-Assisted Backpacking
March 18, 2013 to March 21, 2013

With a little help from four-legged friends, participants in this class descend into the heart of the Grand Canyon for a two-night camping adventure beside picturesque Bright Angel Creek.  This class begins with a thorough morning orientation after which camping gear is taken to the nearby mule corral for next-day delivery to the canyon floor.  The afternoon is spent on an educational walking tour along the breathtaking South Rim.  On the second day of class, participants hike seven miles down the South Kaibab Trail, enjoying a combination of sweeping views and intriguing facts about geology, ecology and human history.  Because pack mules are hauling the bulk of the group’s camping gear and food, participants can devote more time and energy to uncovering the canyon’s secrets.  Upon retrieving their camping gear at historic Phantom Ranch, the class will set up camp for a two-night stay at Bright Angel Campground.  For the remainder of the day and all of the next, the focus will be on learning about the geologic formation of the canyon from the inside out.  The diverse flora and fauna of the canyon and the human inhabitants it has sustained for millennia, will also be discussed at length.  Destinations will likely include the refreshing pools of Phantom Creek, ancient archaeological sites and the tranquil shoreline of the Colorado River.  The class will return to the South Rim via the 10-mile Bright Angel Trail, which reveals its own array of biotic communities and geologic wonders.

Day 1 – Introductions and orientation
Day 2 – Descend South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground
Day 3 – Exploratory day hike near Phantom Ranch

Day 4 – Ascend Bright Angel Trail to the rim and wrap-up session

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Hermit to Bright Angel Natural History Backpack
March 31, 2013 to April 6, 2013

The 26-mile Hermit Trail to Bright Angel Trail loop is one of the more popular hikes for experienced backpackers looking to get away from the crowds.  This splendid route is home to a treasure trove of desert streams, big views, stunning geologic formations and botanical wonders.  This class will incorporate wide-ranging topics and interpretive points of interest to weave the story of the canyon’s past, present and future.  Participants will learn about ecosystem dynamics and functions, and a variety of resource-management issues pertaining to this vast landscape, focusing primarily on the biotic communities of the inner canyon.  After a thorough orientation, the class will descend the historic Hermit Trail and then use the Tonto Trail to proceed upcanyon on subsequent days.

Campsites will include picturesque Hermit Creek, Monument Creek and Indian Garden Campground.  Side hikes will descend through the two-billion-year-old Vishnu Schist en route to the fabled Colorado River, where Hermit and Granite Rapids bear testament to the power and significance of this iconic southwestern waterway.  A final sunset at Plateau Point with a commanding view of the inner canyon will provide a dramatic finale to this classic journey through the grandest of chasms.  On the final morning the class will ascend the historic Bright Angel Trail for a wrap-up session and farewells.


Day 1 – Introductions and orientation
Day 2 – Descend to Hermit Creek Campground via the Hermit Trail
Day 3 – Explore Hermit Creek
Day 4 – Hike Tonto Trail east to Monument Creek
Day 5 – Day hike to Granite Rapids at the Colorado River via Monument Trail
Day 6 – Continue east along the Tonto Trail to Indian Garden Campground
Day 7 – Ascend Bright Angel Trail to the rim and wrap-up session

For further information on gear lists, syllabi, fees, and information, visit the Grand Canyon Field Institute online at

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