Column: Hiking Dripping Springs Trail in the Grand Canyon

'Hiking Arizona'

As we reached the Rim, on our hike up Bright Angel Trail, we overheard numerous people expressing their impressions of the Grand Canyon. My daughter said to me, “You really can’t say you’ve seen the Grand Canyon until you’ve seen it from below.” So, my goal is to encourage you to hike below the Rim of the Grand Canyon and now is the time, while it’s a refrigerator rather than an oven. It’s also much less crowded now.

But, where to begin?

You could drive to the bottom from Peach Springs, but this is about hiking, not driving. You could read about it. It has its own Dewey Classification Number just like Shakespeare (917.9132). So you don’t even have to look it up. You can just “hike” right to it in the library and you’ll find a tremendous number of titles devoted to this World Heritage Site.

Some books are devoted solely to hiking in the Canyon, like Grand Obsession by Harvey Butchart who hiked thousands of miles there. Lots of titles focus on its geology and some hikers spend quite a bit of time on this topic, such as The Man Who Walked Through Time by Colin Fletcher. Other titles talk about running the river or how people have died while exploring its inner reaches on foot or by boat, such as Sunk Without a Sound by Brad Dimock. In my opinion, the greatest adventure story centered in the Southwest is John Wesley Powell’s telling of his river trip through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

Finally, many authors of hiking guidebooks include it on their list, such as Robert and Martha Manning. Both of their books include trails in or on the Rim of the Canyon. For example, in Walks of a Lifetime they talk about the Rim Trail which runs through Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim between Hermit’s Rest and Yaki Point.

In their other book, Walking Distance, they include the North and South Kiabab Trail(s). Along with the Bright Angel Trail, these routes constitute the “corridor trails” through the Grand Canyon. They are well-marked, easily accessed, and physically challenging. However, since I favor a quieter wilderness experience, I urge you to consider the more “primitive” trails, such as the one to Dripping Springs.

DRIPPING SPRINGS

Since visitation drops off considerably in the winter, you can drive to Hermit’s Rest beginning Dec. 1. That’s the trailhead for the Hermit, Boucher, and Dripping Springs trails. The advantage of hiking this trail is that it is less crowded, does NOT go all the way down to the river, and it is well-marked and easy to follow. Therefore, if you are looking for a short Canyon hike that is off the beaten path with a rich history, this is a good one to consider. It’s about six miles roundtrip and involves some 1,400 feet of elevation change. As with so many things in life, hiking in the Canyon is a little more complicated than just showing up. So, we’ll zoom in on some of the aspects peculiar to Canyon hiking next time.

In the meantime, as the New Year approaches, our thoughts often turn to making healthier choices. So, the Prescott Valley Library is offering a Healthy Hiking workshop on Jan. 9 and one of the hikes included is Dripping Springs. It’s free and offers more in-depth information on this awesome trail so you can kick-start 2018 for a healthier you.

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.