Exploring the Inner Canyon
Of the 5 million people who travel to Grand Canyon each year, fewer than 2 percent spend a night in the inner canyon’s backcountry. Those who do automatically join the ranks of the elite. Time and money, though not absolute prerequisites, help you get here.
If you make it here, you’re most likely one of those admirable sorts with the ability to plan ahead. You need to be relatively physically fit to handle the terrain and temperatures, even if you ride on a raft or mule.
Mental attitude is even more important: Determination, focus, and a sense of adventure can make the difference between a positive experience and an ordeal. You may be here to learn about the canyon, but in the process you’ll learn more about yourself. Exploring the inner canyon may not be for everyone, but for many, it’s an epiphany.
There are no visitors centers, per se, in the Inner Canyon. Even ranger stations are few and far between, some open only seasonally.
All white-water rafting through Grand Canyon put in at Lees Ferry, outside Grand Canyon National Park in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, 15 river miles below Glen Canyon Dam. Lees Ferry is the last developed area river runners will see until Phantom Ranch, nearly 90 river miles away. It has a campground, parking (with a 14-day limit), public phones, a ranger station, toilets, and water.
The nearest visitors center is Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center (9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily mid-Apr.-Oct., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. early Apr. and Nov.), located just south of the intersection of Lees Ferry Road and U.S. 89A, six miles from the campground.
Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground
At the confluence of the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek, accessible by North Kaibab Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and Bright Angel Trail, Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground offer the widest range of services inside the canyon, including pay phones, an emergency phone, a ranger station, toilets, water, showers, and mail service. The Phantom Ranch Canteen sells snacks and a few sundries.
Situated along North Kaibab Trail, halfway between the river and the rim, Cottonwood Campground has an emergency phone and toilets. The campground is open year-round, but the ranger station is staffed only seasonally, and drinking water is available May-mid-October.
Located midway down Bright Angel Trail, Indian Garden has year-round services, including a campground, emergency phone, ranger station, toilets, and water.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition