Hiking through the Grand Canyon to the finish of the AZT | Mile 683-782 | Arizona Trail #11

Hiking through the Grand Canyon to the finish of the AZT | Mile 683-782 | Arizona Trail #11

Wow, it’s time for the Arizona Trail finale! I’m hiking through the Grand Canyon to the Utah border.

Zero in Grand Canyon National Park

I sleep badly during the first night at the Mather campground in the Grand Canyon. A lot of cars are passing, and I see lights all the time. Very different from camping alone next to the trail. It’s no surprise that I’m up early. Besides buying food, my most important job today is to charge all my electronics and that is also the most annoying. Charging my power bank alone takes half a day, so at 7 am I am sitting next to the building with showers and laundry staring at the light of my power bank. I would have preferred to see the Grand Canyon haha!

Did you miss my previous travel journal? Read it now: Hiking from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon | Mile 560-683 | Arizona Trail #10

I’m a bit bored, so I check to see if any cheap rooms have become available in any of the hotels on the rim, and to my surprise, the cheapest room in the Bright Angel Lodge is suddenly available. I make a reservation immediately and then my charging problem is solved immediately, yes!

This allows me to do some sightseeing for the rest of the morning and that’s amazing. I travel by shuttle bus through the park, visit the famous Mather point, and go all the way to Hermits Rest in the far west. The view of the Canyon is different and impressive every time.

After a long morning out exploring, I’m exhausted and I chill at the campground until I can check in at the Bright Angel Lodge. There, to my great surprise, I was upgraded to a larger room and I even see a little bit of the Grand Canyon from my bed. Wow! And that for the cheapest room in the park, not bad!

That night I sleep like a log and therefore get back to the trail well rested. I pick it up again at the Mather campground and first walk two miles to the Kaibab Trailhead. Along the way I see several elk and deer, they are incredibly tame here.

Elk in Grand Canyon National Park

Hiking down into the Grand Canyon on the Kaibab Trail

At the trailhead it is very busy, many people go into the Canyon here. And it is amazing! The further south I go, the quieter it gets. At some point, I feel like I’m hiking all alone in the Grand Canyon. This is an amazing experience. The views are breathtakingly beautiful.

After hiking for about four hours, I am at the bottom of the canyon at the Bright Angel campground. Here I meet a number of other hikers and we have a very pleasant afternoon and evening. On the bottom Grand Canyon. I can’t believe I’m writing this down, it’s surreal.

It is warm at the bottom of the canyon and because of that, I sleep very restlessly. I set out at 6 o’clock in the morning. It will be quite the climb to get out of the canyon again and it will be warm today.

Climbing to the North Rim

It’s a gorgeous trail along the river and I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. Although the trail goes up, it is so gradual that I hardly notice it. It gets a bit steeper after Cottonwood Campground. Not much further is the Manzanita rest area, with delicious fresh tap water. The water does not have to be filtered here, there is delicious mineral water coming from the tap. I’m taking a long break here, it’s a wonderful place!

Then the real climb starts. The path goes up considerably, is very steep at times and there are many switchbacks. Although I have not climbed much in recent weeks, I notice that my legs can handle it well. It is certainly not easy, but also not as hard as I expected. And those views!

Just after 2 pm, I arrive on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and I almost burst into tears. I did it! It’s still quite a walk to the campground (it’s not officially open yet, but hikers get a permit) and I’m the very first. The hiker site is right on the rim and from my tent, I have a good view of the Grand canyon. So cool! Slowly more hikers arrive and we chat about this fantastic day until sunset.

And then I get sick…

Unfortunately, the next day is not so great. I start coughing that night, my throat is sore and everything hurts. I have a very slow start today. I am having a hard time, but after a cup of tea and some aspirin, I start hiking. I make a quick stop at the administration building. Here I can refill my water bottles and there is a restroom with hot water where I freshen up.

It is 8 o’clock before I finally start the trail. Gone are the beautiful views, I’m back in the woods. Not long ago this section was still covered with snow. Hikers who were here 2 weeks ago could not hike the trail but had to follow the road. Luckily for me, most of the snow is melted now. I like that I can hike the actual trail, although there are many fallen trees. Sometimes it is a puzzle, do I have to go over the tree, under it, or can I go around?

Fortunately, I manage to hike some miles, although it doesn’t go that fast and I feel crappy every now and then. So bummed to feel so bad during the last days of the trail. At one point there is a clearing in the forest and I am standing at a beautiful rim. I run into Chickadee here, the woman from Montana I’ve seen every day for the past week. Together we enjoy the beautiful view. It’s like a combination of Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands National Park. Gorgeous!

I feel like my body doesn’t want to hike anymore and this seems like a great place to camp, even if it’s only 4.30 pm. Nice and early in bed, a cup of tea, reading a book, eat some noodle soup. I am asleep at half past seven.

Popping pills on the trail

I sleep pretty well that night, though I have to take off or put on some clothes because I’m either overheated or freezing (yup, I think I’m really sick). I start hiking around 7 in the morning. It is the same as yesterday, with a lot of forests and climbing over fallen trees, but the trail is easy to follow. I do notice that I have trouble with every climb, I can barely breathe and have to stop all the time. Whether that’s because I’m sick or because of the altitude (we’ve been hiking at 8000-9000 feet for days), I don’t know.

Arizona Trail sign in Northern Arizona
Because I’m sick, I hardly take pictures. A shame, because it’s such a beautiful trail!

At the end of the morning, I take a break with Chickadee and meet a few new hikers. I push myself (thanks to some pills) to hike a whopping 20 miles. Again I pitch my tent before 5 am and I sleep before 7.30 pm. I really hope I feel better tomorrow.

Sick on the Arizona Trail
Luckily I always have tea with me.

This night I’m not crazy cold or sweaty, I guess that’s a good thing! Unfortunately, I’m still coughing a lot. A little before 7 I’m back on the trail and that goes quite well. It’s not that exciting today, it’s an endless forest. I see Chickadee a few times and then some weekend and day hikers.

At one point there is a whole part through a burned-out forest. A bit creepy, but because of the flowers that bloom there, it also has something beautiful.

Towards the end of the day, my whole body hurts and I look for a camping spot. A perfect place for the last night on the trail is hard to find, so I just put it next to the trail between some trees.

Last night on the Arizona Trail

An unexpected reunion

The moment I want to go to sleep I hear a few people talking and I recognize Cruise’s voice. They don’t come any closer, so I get up and investigate. Chickadee and Cruise appear to be camping 50 meters away from me, what a coincidence! We chat for a while and then I quickly dive back into my sleeping bag. Unfortunately, I hardly sleep that night, because there happens to be a little hole in my air mattress. Luckily, it’s my very last night on the trail. Every 2 hours I have to inflate it again and that causes a lot of coughing. I’m sure you understand that I don’t feel too well in the morning.

Anyway, with only 15 miles to go, I’m not going to stop. So after taking some aspirin, I pack up and go. The first challenge is to find water. There is a water tank in about 2 miles and it is off the trail. There seems to be a path, but I can’t find it. So follow my GPS, and hike straight through the bushes. How adventurous on this last day! Of course, I don’t see that path until I’m right next to the source, haha! I filter as quickly as possible, there are so many mosquitoes here. And via the path, I am back on the trail in no time. I’ll make it to the end with this water.

The next ten miles are a bit boring, a dry landscape with some barren trees and the occasional cactus. I see more and more cacti again now that we come into a lower elevation. In the last two days, I’ve descended from 8000 feet to 4500 feet. It actually feels a bit like the circle is complete, I started between the cacti and now they are coming back.

In tears to the finish line

On the last five miles I run into Cruise, he is also excited to finish today. Then the landscape finally begins to change. In the distance I see large red mountains, Utah is right there! I forget that I don’t feel well at all and enjoy the beautiful views. After many switchbacks and a short climb, I suddenly find myself at a campground. I realize that the end of the trail is near and tears well up in my eyes.

A few minutes later I see the monument and I’m totally bursting out in tears. I really did it! Chickadee and Lynne (the trail angel who picks us up) are already there. They take pictures and I get something to eat and drink (fruit, freshly baked cookies, and juice). Not much later Cruise also arrives. The three of us pose in front of the monument and then get into the car for the drive to Kanab. This adventure is suddenly over. wow. This went by so fast! An unforgettable hike.

My journey is not over with finishing the Arizona Trail, I still have about a week and a half before I go back to The Netherlands. And that’s a good thing because it turns out that I’ve been hiking the trail with covid for the last four days. More about that in the next travel journal.

Next journal: San Diego, Las Vegas, and going back home | Arizona Trail #12

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Co

Hi! I'm Co from The Netherlands and slightly addicted to travel. I leave my home country at least six months a year to hike a long-distance trail, explore amazing European cities by train, or for an unforgettable USA road trip.

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