A Grand Canyon Thankgiving

South Kaibab Trail
Stellar view of the Grand Canyon from the South Kaibab Trail


Simon: Yeah, those rocks are laughing at me, I could tell. Me and my worries, it’s real humorous to that Grand Canyon. Hey, you know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow that’s chewing its cud next to the road that you ride by at 70 miles an hour.
Mack: [laughs] Small.
~from the movie “The Grand Canyon”

Day 1: Day Hike – South Kaibab Trailhead to Bright Angel Trailhead

Trip Details

LENGTH 20.1 miles, shuttle trip
ELEVATION LOSS AND GAIN – 4,699 loss, 4,433 gain
TRAILHEAD Beginning at South Kaibab Trailhead, ending at Bright Angel Trailhead
DIFFICULTY Strenuous up and down on well-maintained trail
BEST TIME TO HIKE Spring and Fall
WATER Bright Angel Campground and Indian Gardens Campground, filtering not necessary
TIPS Apply for your backcountry permits early, for available walk-in permits be at the South Rim Backcountry Office before 8:00am to get in line, bring microspikes (traction device for feet) for ice on the upper portions of trails during the early spring and late fall, no permits are required for day hikes, take gear and clothing for all types of weather and extremes, it can be very hot or cold, snowy, windy, icy, or rainy
RESOURCES Hiking Grand Canyon National Park Falcon Guide , National Geographic Trails Illustrated – Grand Canyon Bright Angel Map – AZ , Grand Canyon Backcountry Permits
Viewing the Grand Canyon at least once in a lifetime should be on everyone’s bucket list.

The view from the South Rim is unique, easily assessable by all, and down right mind blowing. The expanse, mystery, and ever changing weather and light has a way of putting everything in perspective. It is nature’s gift.

Last month after the revelation that my son, Grant (some of you know him by Silly Chili) has never been to the Grand Canyon, it was decided for my husband, Dan, daughter Bryn (some of you know her as Stealthy) and myself to spend Thanksgiving in the canyon. Apparently, visiting and hiking in the park is very popular during Thanksgiving week. It took some time to find available lodging and most of the backcountry permits were full. I ended up making reservations at the Red Feather Lodge, a 15-minute drive to the South Rim for the first couple of nights and decided to take a chance and get a walk-in backcountry permit for an overnight backpack. The plan worked perfectly.

Hike Description

We hit the South Rim Backcountry Office at 7:45am to wait in line. After talking to a very helpful and informative ranger and taking into account the incoming storm predicted for the next day, we came up with a great itinerary and the necessary overnight permit.

Because Grant had not experienced the Grand Canyon, we all agreed we needed to day hike the main corridor where most visitors travel on the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails. Our day hike started with a free shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. The hiker shuttle stops right in front of the backcountry office.

At 10:00am we started down the South Kaibab Trail. This is a late start for this hike and I would highly recommend getting on an earlier shuttle. The hike is long and strenuous. Our day took us down  4,700 feet to the Colorado River with a quick visit to the famous Phantom Ranch, we then headed along the river to connect with the Bright Angel Trail, then hiked up 4,400 feet, and ended at the Grand Canyon South Rim Village at 5:30pm. During the day the weather was pleasant and comfortable, but toward the end, it was dark, freezing and snowing. A day of extremes.

I am pretty sure Grant at the end of the day felt like he had the full Grand Canyon experience.

Trail Map and Elevation Profile



The Hamiltons
The Hamiltons – A very fun and organized family we met on the shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead
South Kaibab Trail
Open expansive views on well-maintained trail
South Kaibab Trail
There are many viewpoints along the route
Looking down at Bright Angel Campground and the Colorado River
Looking down at Bright Angel Campground and the Colorado River
Colorado River
Colorado River
Heading up the Bright Angel Trail
Heading up the Bright Angel Trail

More Photos of the Day


Days 2 and 3: Backpack – Grandview Trailhead to Horseshoe Mesa

Trip Details

LENGTH 8 miles
TRAILHEAD Grandview Trailhead
DIFFICULTY Steep and strenuous, easy route finding
BEST TIME TO HIKE Spring and Fall
WATER No water sources on this trip
RESOURCES Hiking Grand Canyon National Park Falcon Guide , National Geographic Trails Illustrated – Grand Canyon Bright Angel Map – AZ, Jan’s Jaunts Blog 

Day 2 Hike Description

Due to stormy weather, cloud obscured views, and freezing conditions, our plan for an early start was axed. Our little group took full advantage during the storm to check out the visitor’s center, bookstore, and the stores and lodges at the Grand Canyon Village. We even cooked a hot lunch right on the rim, thanks to my Jetboil Stove.

At about 2:00pm, the storm cleared a bit and we decided to go for it. Donned in full winter and rain gear, we headed down the steep and exposed Grandview Trail. Because of the storm, we had the whole trail and canyon to ourselves. It was really nice.

Our intended itinerary was to hike down to Hance Creek and spend the night. But after gawking at one dramatic rainbow, cloud formation, and light change after another, we decided to stop while we still had a bit of daylight at Horseshoe Mesa. It was a good thing because just as we set-up camp another storm blew in. Horseshoe Mesa is a large camping area 4 miles down with toilets and no water. We had the place to ourselves.

Before the trip, I spent some time at home planning for this night’s on-trail Thanksgiving feast.
Dinner menu: chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes with cranberries and green beans topped with french onions, complete with pumpkin pie for dessert.

My jetboil backpacking stove did a bang up job roasting marshmallows with the help of a Yucca plant screwer. Thanksgiving dinner that night was hot, delicious, filling, and downright amazing. A hit and a memory maker for sure.

Trail Map and Elevation Profile



Grand Canyon Bookstore
Exploring the bookstore during the morning snowstorm

Snow on the South Rim
Shelter from the snow on the South Rim
Grandview Trail
Grant climbing on rocks at the Grandview Trailhead
Grandview Trail
Heading down the steep, exposed, and slippery Grandview Trail
Rainbow in the Grand Canyon
Storm clearing for a brief moment
Grandview Trail
Almost to Horseshoe Mesa
Freezer bag Thanksgiving Dinner
Freezer bag Thanksgiving Dinner


Grand Canyon ~ Horseshoe Mesa
Eating Thanksgiving dinner ~ Horseshoe Mesa


More Photos of the Day


Day 3 Hike Description

After a very windy and rainy night and 12 hours in a tent, the storm cleared.  We leisurely enjoyed the pre-dawn and sunrise over hot coffee, packed up and headed back out. Our little private Thanksgiving overnight in the Grand Canyon ended up a huge success with so much to be thankful for.  As we hiked up the trail, we met many day hikers coming down, and the trailhead parking lot was packed with lines for the potty. We spread our wet gear out, popped some refreshments, tore open a bag of Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving flavored potato chips, and laughed.

Trail Map and Elevation Profile

Horseshoe Mesa
Grant climbing up to the top of the mesa before sunrise
Sunrise ~ Grand Canyon
Zpacks Solplex
Bryn celebrating spending her first night solo in a tent ~ Zpacks Solplex Tent


More Photos of the Day


  1. I’ve only flown over the Grand Canyon and I have job training at some point in the future in Arizona. I can’t wait to spend time there as it’s definitely a bucket item list. So you have any recommendations for must see spots for weekend hikes?

  2. Christy – I had the privilege of visiting the Grand Canyon once, and thought the beauty from my vantage point was amazing, even thought the day before getting there I fell and broke my right ankle. So, my trip was cut short, but seeing these wonderful pictures of what you experienced makes me hungry to go again. Congratulations on this fabulous adventure!

  3. Absolutely beautiful scenery! My wife and I are flying to AZ in a couple weeks and we are very excited to hike the Grand Canyon. Have fun and stay safe! 🙂

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Thank you Joel. The Grand Canyon IS very unique. Hope your weather is not too hot and you have a wonderful trip.

  4. Looks like a great trip. I love how you packed Thanksgiving dinner!

  5. What a great experience with your family. Wonderful photos.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Great to hear from you. It looks like California is getting a good start to winter with rain and a little snow. Let’s cross our fingers it continues. Hope you and your family are well. Happy holidays!

  6. Good to see you and Dan are still Rockin’! And your son and daughter are a chip off the old block.Great photo’s and write up Christy, keep Rockin’ I have my own stove system now, take a look.http://www.storminstovesystems.co.uk
    regards stormin’

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Stormin’!!!! So glad you hear from you, my Scotland friend. Congratulations on your new business. What ingenious stove systems you have created with lots of options. Maybe someday our drought California will end and we can use alcohol stoves again. Wishing you success in your business. Thank you for sharing. I will never forget your fun hospitality and delicious bacon butties.

  7. Your pictures never disappoint Rockin! Visited Bright Angel while on a Colorado River Raft trip in June and it was a bit warmer :). Want to return to see the canyon in different types of weather and your pictures just confirm that to be a good decision!

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Quite a bit warmer, I can only imagine. How different the experience of floating through the canyon, in contrast to walking down and back up. There are not many places that have the possibility of completely different experiences from day to day and season to season. I guess that is why it has the ongoing draw. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Bill Brokob

    Very cool.Love the pictures. A bunch of us did the Kaibab/Bright Angel loop while training for the Mexican volcanoes so we carried our climbing gear including ice axes and crampons. People laughed at us on the way down but on the way back up an ice covered Bright Angel trail we were very popular as we pulled people back onto the trail 🙂

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Mexican volcanoes? Bill, I just love that! Man, oh man that particular day hike with full heavy packs WOULD be the ultimate training for really anything. It can get VERY icy at the top of those trails. I’ll bet you guys became best friends to those hikers quickly. I am assuming your Mexican volcano trip was a success? Thanks for sharing.

  9. Great pix as always. Remember where you were last Thanksgiving? The Hike Inn doors are always open for America’s best looking family. BTW, consider Big Bend in Texas for a future trip.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Ah glad to hear from you, Richard Judy, author of one of my favorite hiking fictions, THRU An Appalachian Trail Love Story. Best looking family, you are funny and kind. Big Bend has been recommended to me many times by very reliable sources. I am putting it on my wishlist now. Hope your family is doing well and you are out there enjoying nature. Thank you for your words and friendship.

  10. Silky (Sniffer)

    We were there in early October for the first time in 30 years. Back then we hiked down to Horseshoe Mesa and camped a night. Thanks for sharing your trip. GCNP never disappoints regardless of the weather. We’re going back to Hike Inn for Christmas.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      The short trip down to the mesa is very dramatic. I have heard it can get very busy and full of people. Bad weather keeps people away, but those that do go have great rewards. Was it the same after 30 years? the same personal impact?

      Now that would be a fine place to spend Christmas at the Hike Inn! That was so fun last Thanksgiving and such a special time and place. We loved it and hope to go back again. Thanks for following along!

  11. Mark Goldfain

    Great report … full of amazing helpful detail, as always! What a super way to spend Thanksgiving. Your full family shot = 4 good-looking models for the outdoor life. My favorite shot is “Grant climbing on rocks at the Grandview Trailhead”, because the cloud backdrop is so freakin dramatic. But others are classicly spectacular views of the canyon, so I’ll have to look at a couple of them on a full-sized monitor. The shot of Bryn in her solo tent … is that a TarpTent Notch? I recently got one and I love it.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Hey, Mark you liked the same shots I favored the most. The clouds in the photo of Grant made it crazy drama. Although, to get that shot he had to do quite a bit of climbing and at that moment he was contemplating jumping out to the next rock. I yelled, “NOOOOOOO!” and took the shot.

      The tent Bryn camped in is the Zpacks Solplex that I used all last summer with success. The night was very blustery and it was a good thing we reinforced all the stakes with BIG rocks. My hiker friend, Lovenote has the Notch and loves it. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Thanks for the great trip report. Definitely a unique holiday and another one of your memory book. Yesterday we got permits for our GC trip next Easter: hike down to Phantom, next day out and back to Ribbon Falls, next day hike out. It will be a first time to the bottom for Kathryn and our friends.

    Hope to see you in Mammoth some time this season.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Thank you for nudging me ahead on this! Congratulations on getting your early permit. Readers, I hope you are listening. Michael is getting backcountry permits for next Easter break now! They fill up early for the main corridor in the Grand Canyon. Kathryn will have such a great time and what a nice itinerary you have planned. I have not been to Ribbon Falls, but I hear it is beautiful and worth the short trip off the North Kaibab Trail. We are heading to Yosemite for another Rosander 3 day adventure during Christmas break. Let me know when you will be at your Mammoth retreat and you just might see us. 🙂

  13. Awesome. Love the opening shot. My daughter and I hiked down the S Kaibab trail and camped at Phantom and then up Bright Angel the next day the summer before last. Probably my favorite hike ever. So magnificent. A funny story was when she used that last toilet on the way down Kaibab there was a big thermometer that read 110 degrees on the deck. She came out from the inside after using it and exclaimed…”It’s so much cooler out here!” Great pictures as usual!

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Now that is a fine Grand Canyon story! That canyon is unforgiving and harsh, but so mystical. I just watched the latest episode of “This is Us”. A quote from the show was “The Grand Canyon does not disappoint.” I think that sums it up nicely. Happy Holidays to your family.

  14. Gorgeous photos! Yep, on my bucket list.

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