From Zion to Arizona: Backcountry Permits for the Grand Canyon.

On day 6, we woke up and went back into Zion to explore for the last time. We did the leisurely Narrows Riverwalk, a short walk to the entrance of the narrows. You can take the paved route above the river or the carved out trail that follows the river all the way down, both are equally easy. Here, you will see people set up by the river painting the scenery, and even wild turkeys roaming around and drawing a crowd. Unfortunately, the Narrows were closed due to high water levels so we couldn’t check that hike off of our list, but we got to walk to the beginning and see the slot canyon which was pretty cool. 

Kim posing on the Riverwalk!

The end of the Riverwalk, the beginning of the Narrows. 

After we did the short walk, we packed up our stuff and got ready for the next leg of our trip. We were heading to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but we didn't know when or where we would make camp…yet. Alex, Kim, Matt, Jamie, and Mandy all packed up in one car to drive to Arizona to apply for a backcountry permit for Cottonwood Campground. Cottonwood lies at the bottom of the South Kaibab trail, with only 12 sites that can be used by permit only.

Permits can be applied for online at https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm. However, we called two months ahead of our trip to obtain more information and we we found out that every site at Cottonwood was reserved for our wanted date. They told us to show up in person the day before and apply for the lottery in case there is a no-show, then we would get their spot. So, we took the chance! When Alex, Kim, Mandy, Matt, and Jamie arrived at the North Rim, they applied to be on the waiting list. They then found out that there was one person ahead of them and would have to wait until the next day to find out if they got the spot or not. 

We chose the North Rim because of its solitude. Of all the people who visit the Grand Canyon each year, only ten percent choose to go to the North Rim. This rim offers only one lodge, and very little civilization around it. It is closed during the winter each year, so to see this gem means to take the road less traveled at the right time. We were not disappointed in our decision! 

ARIZONA —> While some of our group was handling the permit situation, they found that the temperature dropped more than they had anticipated on the way to the North Rim, making it far too cold to camp since a lot of their gear and clothing was still with Blake and I in our car. It started snowing on the way up, and only got colder from there. And this is in the last week of May! They ended up getting a motel room in the empty town of Kanab while waiting for the permit situation to play out. 

UTAH —> Meanwhile, we stayed back because Phelan was arriving at the St. George Airport in Utah the next day! Since we had the whole next day and half to ourselves, Blake and I drove back to St. George and revisited Snow Canyon State Park. Once there we hiked shorter trails such as a small slot canyon called Jenny Canyon (red rocks in photos) , and the incredible White Rocks Trail. The White Rocks trail we perfect for scrambling, exploring, and climbing any rock that tickled your fancy. 

The White Rocks in Snow Canyon.

Top of the White Rocks.

ARIZONA —> Back at the North Rim, the other half of our group explored the many overlooks of the North Rim, such as Point Imperial and Bright Angel. 

 UTAH —> We ended up camping in the group lot at Snow Canyon, which offered immaculate campgrounds with hot showers and clean water. The rangers were extremely friendly and really cared about making sure everyone was taken care of. We spent the night eating dinner and bird watching, listening to all the cool bird calls going on in the canyon (side note: we ended up meeting a couple who was there to look for all different species of birds and reptiles, and they pointed out every species of bird to us!).  We took showers, spent a solid hour and a half taking everything out of our van and reorganizing in preparation for Phelans arrival, and crawled into our tent for the night. The canyon was extremely windy overnight, but nothing we couldn't handle!

ARIZONA —> The North Rim crew had an awesome evening taking in the sites, eating an awesome dinner of comfort food in a warm lodge, and sleeping off of the ground for the first time in over a week. They prepped to wake up early the next day to head to the visitors center and see if they won a permit for Cottonwood so that we could not only see the canyon, but hike into it and camp at the bottom.