Alan asked us: For the Upper Canyon 6-day oar trip with the hike out, how close to the Bright Angel trail will we camp on the last night? Is there an option to skip the big breakfast and hit the trail early (e.g., 5:30 AM)?
A lot of things come into play on the final morning of your raft trip. The National Park Service only allows rafters to camp in designated campsites, which are staggered in an (approximately) 8-mile corridor leading up to Bright Angel Trail. We are all gunning for the site closest to the trailhead that best accommodates our group size. There are 16 of us commercial outfitters and, while all 16 of us aren’t likely to be on the river at the same time, a handful of us will — along with any number of private raft parties. So there is often some fierce competition for those good campsites. That being said, we absolutely canNOT afford to pass up decent sites, which might be a bit farther from the trailhead, with the hope that there will be one incredible, open campsite right at the base of Bright Angel Trail! If we pass a good campsite and get all the way down to Bright Angel, only to find all those campsites are full, we can’t just turn around and go back upstream to that open campsite we saw a few miles back. If your guides see a good campsite in that corridor, they’ll take it!
The farthest you might camp from Bright Angel Trail is probably about an hour or hour-and-a-half boat ride away. The guides will do their absolute best to get you and your fellow campers up early, but they only have so much control over when you actually break camp. Rafters are often reluctant to say goodbye to Grand Canyon and their new friends on that final day, so it can be challenging to get folks moving.
We absolutely do not, under any circumstances, recommend skipping breakfast that morning. You DEFINITELY do not want to set out on that trail (nearly 8 miles and ALL uphill) without getting a very hearty breakfast in you first. You’ll need it!
Usually, the best we can do is get you started on the trail between about 7 and 8 a.m. During the hotter months, the guides try even harder to get an early start.