Grand Canyon trip, Royal Arch

I have spent 15 nights camping below the rim in the Grand Canyon. The Canyon has three main corridor trails, the Bright Angel, the South Kaibab, and the North Kaibab. Most people who visit the Canyon don’t hike below the rim. Of those who do, ninety percent hike the Corridor Trails. We avoided those.

The Royal Arch Trail is a primitive trail. The authorities only allow a specific number of overnight hikers in zones on primitive trails. Permits were obtained six months prior to the hike. The Royal Arch Trail descended the Canyon through a slot canyon that ended at the Royal Arch, a free-standing rock arch that spanned the slot canyon stream. The stream then passes over a waterfall and ends up at the Elves Garden grotto before entering the Colorado River. The trail requires a short rappel after the arch. After reaching the Colorado River, the trail follows the river to the South Bass Trail that leads back out of the Canyon.

The group included Brian, who was terrified about the rappel, Steve, Bill, Don, and me.

We flew into Phoenix and rented two cars to drive up to the canyon. Finding the trailhead took a bit of trail finding as the washboard rutted dirt roads were not well marked. We got lost and had to back track numerous times in the 35-mile trip and arrived in the dark. The plan was to camp on the rim and then enter the Canyon the next morning. We set the tents up under the light from the rental car headlights. In the confusion, one of the cars got locked.

The lights were on and the doors locked. We were a good hour drive from any civilization. A few other cars from earlier hikers shared our parking area. With no way to unlock the car, the decision was made to break a window. We picked what we thought would be the least expensive window (we were wrong) and broke it out. The next morning, we covered the window opening with plastic and parked the car as close as possible to the other car so that the door could not be opened.

The first day of the hike required hiking along the scree slope of the desert like Esplanade desert to the head of the Royal Arch Creek. The following day, we entered the slot canyon and descended by climbing down truck sized boulders, lowering down our packs with strapping, and wading across pools. This did not require any route finding as there was only one way to go. The course was demanding, and we were surprised when we saw dog prints in the sand. Who would bring a dog down here? The canyon at some points was only a few yards wide. At one point, we found a plastic bag with grass growing out of it.

After struggling down the slot canyon, we ended up at the Royal Arch. It was majestic. The arch was massive and under it was a flat rock bottom with the stream that created it chiseled in the surface. We set up our tents under the arch. A few hundred yards past the arch, The stream fell over the cliff.

The next morning trail led to the rappel. Above the rappel was a shelf that was about five feet wide and twenty feet long. The view up and down the canyon from the face of the cliff was spectacular. At the end of the shelf, a metal loop was bolted into the rock. We fashioned a harness out of some strapping and one at a time rappelled down the cliff face.

We camped down at the edge of the Colorado River and the next morning hiked up to Elves Chasm. The grotto is moss covered and resembles an Elves home.

We passed another group at the Colorado River and discussed our experiences coming down the canyon. They informed us that the dog prints we saw were mountain lion prints.  The plastic bag with grass growing out of it was the stomach of a deer that the mountain lion had killed. The grass was eaten by the deer prior to its demise and subsequently sprouted.

The trail followed down the Colorado River to where it intersected with the South Bass Trail, a rim to river trail. We followed the trail back down to the river where we spent the afternoon at on oasis by the river that was surrounded by cliffs, had a sandy beach and a cold waterfall.

Brian, Steve, and I stripped down and dove into the Colorado River. The 55 degree water temperature was numbing and made swimming like swimming through Jello. The muscles would not work.

The hike out was tiresome as typical. We took our obligatory post hike group picture and faced the music regarding our car window.