Rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running, which also includes rim-to-river-to-rim and rim-to-rim-to-rim, is not new in Grand Canyon National Park but has been increasing in popularity over the last several years. The NPS estimates that up to 800 people are traveling in the inner canyon during peak weekend days in spring and fall. Of that, 400 to 600 people are hiking or running rim-to-rim in a single day. The activities take place on the Bright Angel, South and North Kaibab Trails (known as the corridor trails). These trails provide diverse recreation opportunities for hikers, backpackers, mule riders, and runners.
Increased day use on these inner canyon trails has resulted in increased user conflicts. Other issues related to inner-canyon use include abandoning or caching gear on the trails; increased litter, including human waste; crowding at restrooms and attraction sites; an overburdened waste water treatment plant; vehicle congestion and crowding at trailheads; and general concerns over trail courtesy with other visitors. Park rangers are also seeing an increase in un-prepared and injured rim-to-rim participants resulting in additional search and rescue responses, which then results in an overall delay of all search and rescue operations.
The NPS is currently revising its 1988 Backcountry Management Plan through the preparation of an environmental impact statement. Organized, non-commercial, rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running, are among the uses that will be addressed in the plan. The park expects to release a draft plan this fall for public review and comment. Special Use Permits will be issued for rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running to protect park resources and the public interest until the plan is completed. Park staff will continue to monitor this activity and any associated impacts and may implement changes through the interim permit process if necessary.
Organized groups, including non-profits, conducting rim-to-rim and extended hiking and running will be required to obtain a Special Use Permit. Information about Special Use Permits for these activities, including permit applications and fees can be found on Grand Canyon National Park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/sup.htm.
Generally, any group, regardless of size, which has advertised to the general public, required individuals to sign up prior to participation, or that has an organizer who has been compensated for their services, including subsidized participation, will be required to obtain a Special Use Permit. Commercial rim-to-rim day use will not be authorized. The NPS will not limit the number of permits issued; however, group size, under a permit will be limited to 30 individuals, including organizers. A permittee or their organization (club, non-profit, group, etc.) will be allowed to obtain one permit per day. Permits will include guidelines built on the Leave No Trace principles to help protect park resources and enhance the experience and safety of all trail users.
“With rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running increasing in popularity, we needed to find an interim solution that would give us the tool to educate hikers and runners on best practices until we have a longer-term solution in place,” stated Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga.
Park rangers encourage all visitors who are planning a hike in Grand Canyon National Park to learn more about Trail Courtesy Practices That Leave No Trace and How to Hike Smart. Information about these practices can help save park resources and lives, and can be found at http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/courtesy.htm and http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/hike-tips.htm.
All inner canyon users are encouraged to participate in the planning process for Grand Canyon’s Backcountry Management Plan. To follow the process click on the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca.
For questions about Special Use Permits, please call 928-638-7707.