Have you ever stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon or gazed at a photo and wondered just how “grand” it really is? Sure, the view from the top gives you an idea, but the only way to truly experience the magnitude of the Grand Canyon is to dive in to the bottom! Journeying down to the Colorado River isn’t for the faint of heart; about 5,000 vertical feet discourage most tourists from making the trek to the bottom. Join Kendrick and Mandy on a guided backpacking and camping trip to the depths of the Grand Canyon where we’ll spend four days and three nights surrounded by a natural beauty that most tourists can only dream of.
Our route will take us to the iconic Phantom Ranch nestled at the bottom of the canyon, where we’ll spend two nights in the nearby Bright Angel Campground and have a full day to explore. On our way back to the South Rim we’ll spend a night at Indian Garden Campground and enjoy a side-trip to one of the best inner canyon views there is!
The Grand Canyon has been a huge source of inspiration for us over the years. This backpacking and camping trip gives us the chance to share this breathtakingly scenic place with others. Backpacking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon will test your limits and is only intended for those in good physical condition. On this trip we will provide more services than your typical guided backpacking and camping experience. Our goal is to take people to a place they might not be able to reach on their own and share our knowledge of backpacking, hiking, and camping.
- Guiding services from a company operating legally within Grand Canyon National Park. We have all required Commercial Use Authorizations and backcountry permits.
- Pre-trip review of each individual’s backpack and all the gear they intend to bring.
- Three nights of backcountry camping reservations below the rim of the Canyon
- Transportation to our starting point via the Grand Canyon shuttle bus
- All meals while backpacking
- A dinner at Phantom Ranch Canteen
- A breakfast at Phantom Ranch Canteen
- The remainder of our meals will be camp-cooked breakfasts, lunches, and dinners
- We will provide a dinnerware kit for each participant, which students will carry in their packs. This includes:
- Collapsable plate
- Collapsable coffee/tea mug
- Long-handled spork
- We will set up and take down camp every time, but will take time to teach anyone how to do this, if interested
- We will cook all meals for participants
- One (well, maybe more than one) text to family/friends from the bottom of the Canyon via our Garmin inReach satellite communication device
- 1-2 professional photos of each participant taken by Mandy or Kendrick
What’s optional (These things are available for extra fees)–If you’d like to rent gear or use portering services we can arrange payment for those after your spot is secured:
- +$200 Package Deal — Rentals on all necessary gear for tent camping, including:
- +$65 — Ultralight two-person tent
- +$55 — Down Sleeping bag
- +$35 — Sleeping pad
- +$50 — Backpack
- +$20 — Trekking poles
- +$200–Tent camping gear portered to each campsite and out of the Canyon, including:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Note: If a participant insists on using their own gear and having it portered we reserve the right to refuse carrying it based on size and weight. Our gear is REALLY lightweight and packs down small, which allows us to offer portering services.
What’s NOT included:
- National Park entry fees
- Transportation to/from Grand Canyon National Park
- Any transportation within the park that’s not on the shuttle bus
- Accommodation on/near the rim of the canyon before/after workshop
- Any food/drinks purchased before entering or after exiting the Canyon (even if we meet as a group for these meals)
- Any items for sale at Phantom Ranch not included in the provided meals (snacks, beverages, souvenirs, beer, wine, etc.)
- Portering services of all non-camping gear (personal clothing items, water, snacks, miscellaneous gear, etc.)
About Your Guides
Kendrick Callaway has completed certifications as a Wilderness First Responder and Adult/Child CPR. Kendrick will serve as the lead guide for this excursion. He’s been making annual trips to the Grand Canyon since 2010 when he did his first Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim run (a 42 mile run!). Since that first visit he’s been back to run 100’s of miles below the Canyon’s rim. In February 2018, he did a three-day solo fastpacking trip covering over 60 miles. About a week later he returned with Mandy for an epic 13-day backpacking trip on the inner canyon trails.
Mandy Lea has certifications in Basic First Aid and Adult CPR to assist with our group. She grew up in Colorado and has been camping her whole life, which makes her a wealth of camping and outdoor knowledge. Mandy has photographed the Grand Canyon several times over the years. In 2018, she solidified her love of this place by celebrating Valentine’s Day and her 35th birthday hiking 85 miles over 13 days on some of the most rugged trails the canyon has to offer.
Group Size Limit – 4 Note: The group size is being limited to four participants for the February and March sessions to ensure an experience where everyone gets to know each other. This means we’ll have two guides and four participants, which is a great ratio! Depending on how permitting goes, we may open the November session up to six (6) students.
Other Things to Consider:
Physical Fitness: This is NOT a photography workshop. This is a strenuous hiking experience with three nights of tent camping in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This will be three days of hiking to cover nearly 22 miles of sometimes rocky, uneven terrain. Our first day will descend nearly 5,000 feet over 7 miles, which can be hard on the knees and ankles. We’ll take a rest day at Phantom Ranch before hiking about 4.5 miles and ascending 1,300 feet to our next campground. This day will include an optional (relatively flat) sunset hike of 3 miles with 200 feet of ascent. We’ll finish our canyon experience by hiking the last 4.5 miles and 3,000 vertical feet back to the South Rim.
Altitude: We will be doing strenuous hiking at elevations between approximately 2,000-7,000 feet during this trip. Everyone’s body reacts differently to the effects of elevation. Some people have no problems at all, while others struggle. The most common symptoms of altitude sickness are headaches, tiredness, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. There are over-the-counter medicines to help alleviate these symptoms.
Weather: Temperatures on the South Rim of the canyon can dip down into the 20’s-30’s at night and top out in the 50’s-60’s. At the bottom of the canyon at Phantom Ranch average lows can be in the mid-40’s-low 60’s and highs can be upper 60’s-low 80’s. We will likely experience both the cold AND hot ends of the temperature spectrum. It is strongly recommended to bring warm gear (gloves, hats, warm coats, water/windproof jackets, warm pants, base layer pants, etc.) and dress in layers if you are not used to mountain weather. The sun is also much stronger at higher elevations than most people are used to experiencing—WEAR SUNSCREEN!
Transportation: Participants will be responsible for their own transportation to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. This is a 3-4 hour drive on good paved roads from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. There are several shuttles available between Phoenix and Grand Canyon Village in case you want to save money on a car rental. There are other airport options like Las Vegas.
Insurance (Travel and Search & Rescue/Medical Evacuation): Travel insurance and/or refundable tickets are highly encouraged as weather, government shutdowns, or other factors may cause last minute changes or cancellations to any session of this workshop. Mandy Lea Photo and its representatives will not be held responsible for any losses incurred as a result taking a workshop or cancellation of a workshop. Search and Rescue/Medical Evacuation insurance is another good thing to consider. View our general cancellation policy here.
Recommended Accommodations: Lodging reservations on the South Rim (or elsewhere) before/after the camping portion of this trip are the responsibility of each attendee. To ensure you have a place to stay, please make reservations when completing workshop registration to avoid places filling up.
We recommend arriving early the day before our hiking departure and staying in accommodations in Grand Canyon Village or the nearby town of Tusayan. This will allow us to meet with each student to review their backpacks and gear, as well as have a meet & greet with the entire group. We also recommend staying in either one of these places on the night we exit our hike in the Canyon.
Recommended lodging near South Rim of Grand Canyon:
- Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins — Cheapest lodging on South Rim and closest to our finish location. There are a few other options in Grand Canyon Village, seen here.
9 North Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
Phone: (928) 638-2631
- Maswik Lodge — Nice rooms located near a dining hall, pizza pub, and less than 10-minutes away from our finishing location at the Bright Angel Trailhead.
202 South Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
Phone: (928) 638-2631
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon, Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn, and a few other hotels — all of these hotels are a 10-15 minute drive into the park from the town of Tusayan, AZ
- RV/tent campground with FULL hookups
- Grand Canyon Camper Village located in Tusayan, AZ
- RV/tent campgrounds WITHOUT hookups
- Boondocking (dry camping for free – no hookups) on National Forest land is also available. Contact us if you’re interested in this option!
For this workshop only, we’re giving the option of paying in total or paying a non-refundable deposit, which will secure your spot and ensure it doesn’t get sold to someone else. If you pay the full amount then your work is done! If you choose to pay the non-refundable deposit then here’s what you need to know…
- Non-refundable deposit of $400 (25% of the total cost) is required to reserve your spot.
- Remaining balance ($1,200) is due approximately 60 days before start of workshop
- February 27-March 1 Dates–Full Payment Due January 6, 2020
- March 6-9 Dates–Full Payment Due January 6, 2020
- November 19-22 Dates–Full Payment Due September 19, 2020
- If you must cancel OR full payment is not received by the deadline then the $400 deposit will be forfeited
Our refund policy for this excursion is different from our photography workshops. All student fees include a non-refundable $400 deposit. If you cancel before the final payment date for your session then you will receive a full refund less the non-refundable deposit. If you cancel after the final payment date for your session then you forfeit the total amount of $1,600 (we will refund any fees paid for portering or gear rentals) unless we can find a replacement. If we can find a replacement then you will receive a full refund less the non-refundable $400 deposit.