Ever wonder what the itinerary for a 10-day kayak trip down the Grand Canyon might look like? Here’s an example sourced from our 2016 trip. We had some long days on the water, but we also had some short ones, and we hiked pretty much every day despite launching on the winter solstice (meaning we had very little daylight). Overall, I really liked this trip’s itinerary, though our longest day (36 miles) was also our flattest day which made it a bit of a struggle.
Day One – Lee’s Ferry to 24.5
- River Miles: 24.5
- Stops: North Canyon, House Rock
On raft trips, it’s not usually a good idea to plan a big day for launch-day — between the ranger talk and all the first-time rigging and de-rigging, there’s not much time left for floating. Kayak trips are a different story. On this trip, we launched after meeting with the ranger and made our way to North Canyon for a short hike. North is a personal favorite — quick scramble brings you up into a short but incredible slot canyon; it’s most similar to Silver Grotto but easier to negotiate. We had lunch below House Rock Rapid (a great night-one camp if you don’t want to go further) and ended up camping at mile 24.5 near a friend’s raft trip.
Day Two – 24.5 to Buck Farm
- River Miles: 17
- Stops: Silver Grotto, Redwall Cavern
Silver Grotto is basically a must-stop, and I’ve only been on one trip where we didn’t stop there. It’s an impressive canyon with a tricky entrance and some swimming required. You can only go up a few tiers before hitting an impassable waterfall; there’s a canyoneering route descending through the canyon though! Redwall Cavern makes a good lunch spot if it works out in your day’s schedule, and it has winter sun in the middle of the day. A relatively short day on the water with a couple stops gave us time to hang out at Buck Farm, a nice debris-fan camp on river right.
Day Three – Buck Farm to Below Awatubi Left
- River Miles: 18
- Stops: Buck Farm (hiked from camp), Nankoweap Granaries
We hiked Buck Farm in the morning from camp and then geared up and paddled to Nankoweap. Buck Farm is a great little canyon, similar to Saddle Canyon before it flooded (summer 2016). The Granaries hike is impressive both in its archaeology and its views; many of the side hikes in the Grand Canyon are up slot canyons that, while impressive, don’t give you views of the river or the Canyon. The Granaries hike gains an impressive viewpoint down a long straightaway in the river corridor.
Day Four – Below Awatubi Left to Upper Rattlesnake
- River Miles: 16
- Stops: Unkar Delta, LCR, Tabernacle (hiked from Rattlesnake camp)
We made fairly quick stops at both the Unkar Delta and the Little Colorado, but for the most part cruised downriver to camp at Upper Rattlesnake. Rattlesnake gets great afternoon winter sun and we took advantage of it to hike The Tabernacle, my new favorite hike from the river. The hike is about 4 miles (round trip) and 2500′ vertical gain; it took us close to three hours.
Day Five – Upper Rattlesnake to Parkins Inscription
- River Miles: 34
- Stops: Clear Creek, Phantom Ranch
This is a great section of river packed with rapids and if you have a group that can move quickly through the rapids, it’s an excellent opportunity to get a lot of miles under your belt. It’s also just an incredibly good day of whitewater with most of the biggest drops of the trip all stacked together from Hance to Crystal. Clear Creek and its neighbor Vishnu Creek are both pretty unique in that they’re slot canyons in the hard-rock section of the canyon. They’re quite different from the slots above and below and it’s worth visiting at least one of the two.
Day Six – Parkins Inscription to Pancho’s Kitchen
- River Miles: 29
- Stops: Elves’ Chasm, Deer Creek Falls/Narrows
Elves’ and Deer Creek are both “must-stops” in my opinion. On this trip we hiked up through the narrows on Deer Creek to the platform; the narrows are very cool, but if you’re in a hurry, just enjoying the falls from the base is a worthy pit stop. Pancho’s kitchen is an awesome camp under a huge overhang with an easy beach for dragging kayaks up.
Day Seven – Pancho’s Kitchen to Below Tuckup
- River Miles: 28
- Stops: Havasu, Matkatamiba
We did a pretty short stop at Havasu this year, paddling up into the canyon and having lunch on the rim. I’ve been on self-supports in the past where we’ve done much longer hikes there; you have to plan your camping accordingly because there is no camping immediately around Havasu. Ledges is a good night-before staging point.
Day Eight – Below Tuckup to Tequila Beach (180)
- River Miles: 15
- Stops: National, Fern Glen
National and Fern Glen are both worthy canyon side-hikes; Fern Glen has an impressive waterfall if it’s been raining. Our plan for this day was to get past Lava and see how much further we made it, but not to stress about it; we paddled Lava and ended up partying for New Year’s Eve with a group that was camped at Tequila Beach, so we didn’t make it much further…
Day Nine – Tequila Beach to Opposite Three Springs
- River Miles: 36
- Stops: Parashant (lunch and afternoon nap)
36 miles is a long day on the water no matter how you cut it and this section of river is one of the flattest parts of the Canyon. That said, including our lunch stop, it still only took 6.5 hours. If your itinerary leaves you a long day like this, don’t stress about it too much. Take some breaks, try to squeeze in a hike, and just keep paddling.
Day Ten – Opposite Three Springs to Diamond Creek Boat Ramp
- River Miles: 10
- Stops: none
I usually try to keep a pretty short day for the last day. De-rigging from a self-support is easier than it is for a raft trip, but it still takes some time and it’s nice to get back to Flagstaff relatively early in the afternoon or evening to try to get your post-trip plans moving.