Grand Canyon Challenge
3 nights | 30 miles | Colorado River
MAR, APR, MAY, SEPT, OCT, NOV
Starts in Flagstaff, AZ
Trek nearly a mile below the rim backpacking rugged Grand Canyon terrain to sleep and swim on secluded beaches of the Colorado River.
Leave everyday constraints behind and get inspired on a three-night, four-day Grand Canyon Challenge backpacking trek. Renew the spirit while hiking a mile below the rim backpacking rugged Grand Canyon terrain. Sleep and swim on remote beaches of the Colorado River. Each of our spring and fall guided backpacking trips traverse 25-30 miles of some of the most remote, least-traveled routes in the Canyon. Our treks are all inclusive, easy to join, and open to fit and motivated individuals of all ages and experience levels. Just bring your personal items, positive attitude, and be ready for an experience that can inspire for a lifetime.
- Roundtrip transportation between Flagstaff, AZ meeting point and your trailhead
- Guided 3-night, 4-day trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back
- Opportunity to sleep on the beaches of the Colorado River
- All meals and snacks while in the back-country
- Backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad if needed
- Personalized pack-check prior to departure
- Group gear and equipment
- Flexible cancellation policy
- Inspiration for a lifetime
What’s not included
- Lodging in the front-country, pre- or post-trek
- Meals in the front-country
How it works
A $500 deposit is required upon registration with balance due 60 days prior to event. Treks dates may be adjusted +/- one day until permits are finalized 4 months in advance of departure (when Grand Canyon permits are issued). Maximum group size of 11, including two guides. An additional 5% charge will be applied when your reservation is made to offset new fees mandated by National Park Service. Private customized Grand Canyon backpacking trips available via TSX Pods. Cancel up until the day of the trip without the risk of lost money. View cancellation policy.
All of our Grand Canyon Challenge experiences traverse remote and rugged South Rim inner-canyon loops between the Rim and River. Routes utilized include the Hermit-Bright Angel loop (30 miles), Hermit-Boucher loop (26 miles), and New Hance-Grandview loop (22 miles). Select trips may utilize the Escalante Route between Tanner and New Hance (27 miles). Please note mileage is not indicative of difficulty! Individual experience levels, group size, as well as permit allowances, will determine which routes will be run on which dates to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for all. You may also opt into or out of our Escalante Route experience by request. While the exact distance, camp locations, and direction of each trek may vary, here is a representative itinerary.
Evening before departure, pack-check overnight in Flagstaff
On the evening before your trek start date, we’ll convene at 6:00pm for a one hour group orientation and pack-check in the main lobby of Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, AZ. At orientation we’ll hand out backpacks, tents and sleeping bags to those who requested them. We’ll also get to know our team, preview the trail and talk safety.
Day 1 – Intense downhill
After reconvening in the lobby of Little America Hotel, Flagstaff at 5:00am, we’ll head out to the trailhead where our hike begins with a steep 3,000′ descent toward the Tonto Platform, an inner plateau within the Canyon roughly 1,000′ above the Colorado River. Travel on day one will be slow and methodical as we manage the variables of rugged trail, steep descents, limited access to water and changing temperatures. Expect 8-10 hours of trail time (including breaks) from start to finish for the 7 to 9 mile day.
Day 2 – Undulating trail
On day two the trail typically undulates until we drop below the Tonto’s ledge, above the gorge floor, and into one of the many side canyons and washes that lead to the Colorado River. A quick descent will bring us to a creek bed floor which we will follow out to the Colorado River and camp.
Day 3 – Moderate uphill
After a leisurely evening, or morning by the river, we’ll retrace our steps then continue up and onto the Tonto trail. This day typically offers some of the most impressive views of the Grand Canyon. While hiking the Tonto you can see a thousand feet down into the inner gorge, thousands of feet up to the Canyon’s rim, and miles across the Canyon divide within the same breathtaking glance.
Day 4 – Intense uphill
An early, before-sun-up start will move us up and into the multi-layered, multi-colored walls of the Grand Canyon as we climb almost 4,000 feet to exit the trail and return to civilization. After celebrating as a team, we’ll return to Flagstaff, then home to brag.
Trek date confirmation
We apply for Grand Canyon permits through a lottery system on the 1st of the month, four months in advance of our planned trek date. Permits are typically issued and within two weeks of submission. You’ll receive an email from us as soon as the dates for your trek are confirmed. Once confirmed, you can start making plans for transportation and pre-trek/post-trek accommodations.
Pre and post trek accommodations
Secure a lodging reservation in Flagstaff, AZ as soon as your trek dates are confirmed. You can request a TSX “corporate rate” at Little America Hotel (flagstaff.littleamerica.com / 800.865.1401) in Flagstaff. We will be hosting our pre-trek orientation at the hotel and will depart from the hotel on the morning of our hike (prices typically $125-$175 with discount). The nearby hotels on Lucky Lane are also a popular option and within walking distance (prices typically $75-$105). If you plan on staying somewhere else, that is ok with us! Let us know where you end up and we’ll do our best to accommodate.
If traveling by air, Flagstaff is the preferred airport. There is a free hotel shuttle to Little America Hotel from the Flagstaff airport. If flying into Phoenix, consider taking a shuttle or bus to Flagstaff, or renting a car. Reserve your shuttle spot in advance with Groome Transportation (groometransportation.com or 928.350.8466), or book your Greyhound Bus seat from Phoenix to Flagstaff in advance. You may also be able arrange customized shuttle service with Uber or Lyft.
When scheduling flights or planning your drive, please allow enough time to arrive no later than 7pm the evening before your trek begins so that you can attend the pre-trek orientation (typically scheduled between 6:00pm-7:00pm at the Little America Hotel, Flagstaff lobby).
We plan on exiting the trail between 12pm and 2pm on the last day of the trek. However, the last day is always uphill, and there can be some variability based on individual fitness and preparedness. Please plan your return transportation accordingly. If flying out of Flagstaff on the same day, we suggest scheduling flights for departure no earlier than 4:50pm. Staying one additional night on the South Rim or in Flagstaff, and departing the following day is also popular option.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Don’t own a backpack, tent or sleeping bag? We provide all major gear for those who request it at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like stoves, food, water filters, first aid and more. Your guides will do the cooking and dishes. Just show up with your personal items ready to hike!
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