Flagstaff to Grand Canyon National Park

April 28th-May 2nd, 2021

After two days in Flagstaff, enjoying some family time, and waiting out the snow I jumped back on trail headed for the Grand Canyon. Where the trail crosses Route 66 I stopped for a coffee and enjoyed my coffee as I walked north through town into Buffalo Park. From Buffalo Park the trail heads into the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks, and begins to climb towards the Arizona Snowbowl. That evening I camped in the ponderosas not far from the base of the ski resort.

North of the San Francisco Peaks there are some amazing views looking back towards the mountains. For the southbound hiker the approach into Flag must be amazing. I had a nice little surprise when I got to Babbit Ranch. This stretch is mostly road walking as you traverse through private land. Someone was kind enough to drop off some trail magic beers at the beginning of the road walk. I enjoyed a cold beer for breakfast before heading out for the road walk. Thank you!

Trail magic for breakfast!

North of Babbit Ranch we got our first glimpses of the Grand Canyon. Off in the distance you could barely make out the colorful rock walls of the canyon. As we approached the canyon the views got better and better. We climbed the Grandview Lookout Tower and had amazing views of the canyon.

Conveniently the trail crosses the hwy just north of Tusayan. As the ultimate tourist trap Tusayan is geared towards the millions of tourists that visit the South Rim every year. In spite of this I found Tusayan to be a worthwhile stop for a thru hiker. I didn’t commit to a full resupply as I’d already planned to resupply when I got to the south rim. I did spend a few hours in town enjoying cold drinks from the grocery store, a hot pizza, and even hit up the RV park for a much needed shower and laundry.

Dropping into the Canyon on the S. Kaibab Trail.

The forecast for the day called for over 100 degrees at Phantom Ranch. Thankfully there is a nice swimming hole just after crossing the black bridge. We jumped into the cold water and then made our way to Phantom Ranch for a cold drink. At the ranch we lounged in the shade avoiding the hottest part of the day. The ground squirrels around Phantom Ranch are next level thieves. If you turned your back for even a second they’d chew a hole through your backpack. We took turns guarding our packs from these little devils. Turned out that squirting water from our water bottles was a decent way to fend off their incessant attacks.

100 miles to go!

It was getting late in the day as I approached Cottonwood campground. Just before the campground there is a short side trail that takes you to Ribbon Falls. I decided to take the 20 minute detour and I’m really glad that I did. Ribbon falls is a special place. To be in such a spectacular place, all alone, watching the evening light move along the canyon walls was magic. I walked up behind the waterfall and looked out towards the inner canyon. Not sure exactly how to put it into words. For a short time standing there in the fading light all was right with the world. I didn’t want to leave. Eventually I pulled myself away from the moment and headed for camp.

Ribbon Falls
Behind Ribbon Falls

That evening there were 6 thru hikers that camped in the group site, at Cottonwood campground. While we still had 100 miles to go, the trip was starting to feel like it was nearing completion. We’d hiked 700 miles and made it to the bottom of The Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world. That evening the 6 of us sat around the picnic table and shared stories of our adventures.

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