If you’re considering one of Grand Canyon Whitewater’s Hike In or Hike Out trips (that’s our 6-day and 8-day oar trips and our 4-day and 5-day motorized trips), hiking should be on your list of favorite things to do! These trips require a nearly 8-mile hike into or out of Grand Canyon, either at the front end of the journey or at the conclusion of your white water raft trip, and they definitely require some physical preparation, as well as some gear that will make it a much more pleasurable experience.
First off, if you’re hiking into Grand Canyon at the start of your raft adventure, we strongly recommend hiking poles. If you’re booked on a different type of hike-intensive trip and you’re wondering whether you should bring your poles … that’s a personal call. I like to have my hands free for balance on the daily side hikes, so I don’t like to carry poles. Some people do like to use poles on all their hikes. If you’re comfortable using hiking poles, feel free to bring them on the river with you! The guides can find a place to store them on the boats so you don’t have to worry about fitting them in your provided dry bag. Just don’t forget to grab ’em before you leave the river!
What about special hiking shoes? Well, if you’re hiking in or out of Grand Canyon, you will want to have a pair of dedicated hiking shoes for that hike. I like to hike in comfortable running shoes, rather than heavier/stiffer hiking boots, but that’s also a personal preference. If your river sandals are really, really, really well broken in, you probably can get away with using those on most of the daily side hikes … but we’re betting there will be at least a few side hikes where you’ll be glad to have an alternative to your sandals. Again, these don’t have to be anything fancy — just a beat-up old pair of sneakers is perfectly appropriate, as long as they still have some decent tread on them.
Special daypack for those side hikes? Again, personal call. If you have a small CamelBak or something like it, sure, those can be handy on hike-intensive trips. It’s nice to have a hands-free water source sometimes. But do you need a daypack like this? Nah. We want you to bring some type of water container — whether that’s a bladder/hose system like a CamelBak or just a Nalgene bottle that you’ve looped a nylon strap through and slung over your shoulder is up to you. The guides will carry snacks for sharing on the longer day hikes, so you don’t really need to worry about bringing your own food on those. The guides also have a small first-aid kit they bring on these longer day hikes. So, really, the only thing you might need a daypack for (other than for water) is for little odds and ends: a place to stuff your camera or your fleece, if you get hot, or a place to carry your sunscreen. Not exactly necessary but, if you want to bring a small daypack, go for it.
The hike will be more enjoyable and less painful if you prepare and get in shape for this part of your adventure. The hikes into and out of Grand Canyon are a test in endurance and in strength, so it’s important to incorporate both cardiovascular and resistance training into your workouts. At least one month before you set off on one of these Grand Canyon raft tours, start training for your adventure.
- The best practice is the real thing: hiking. Make sure your hikes are long and on a fairly steep incline. Hike in the shoes you plan to bring on your river trip, and wear your backpack.
- If there aren’t any appropriately difficult hikes in your area, pick some other aerobic workouts. Cycling, jogging and running (especially on an incline).
- Combine these cardio workouts with some simple strength-building exercises and you’ll be ready to go. Squats, lunges and calf raises – and lots of them! – will best prepare your body for a Grand Canyon hike. Perform multiple sets of these exercises each day (consider adding hand-held weights as well).
This is an amazing, bucket-list hike, but what you get out of it is directly proportionate to what you put into it. You’ll definitely enjoy the challenge more if you get in shape for it!