Magnificent. Magical. Mysterious. Those are all words used to describe hiking in the canyons of the American Southwest. It begins with the Grand Canyon, two billion years in the making, and filters down to the many box canyons and slot canyons scattered across the landscape that few know, and even fewer are fortunate enough to visit.
The exposed rock layers inside these gorges reveal a palette of colors that would give any rainbow a run for its money. The chocolate browns in the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument give way to the pinks and oranges of Bryce Canyon, and the whites of Zion National Park. It is no wonder that Canyon Country often surrenders its name to be simply referred to as, “Color Country.”
The treasures of Canyon Country invite an array of possibilities on foot for adventurers. Guided day hikes reel in the wonders of destinations such as the Golden Cathedral and Calf Creek Falls in a matter of hours. Others like Paria Canyon demand days of exploration with surprises around every twist of the canyon floor and side slots – begging to be discovered. One, Buckskin Gulch with 13 miles of wavy sandstone walls, is considered the longest slot canyon on the planet.
Canyons of the Southwest attract millions of visitors each year. The sculpted hoodoos and eroded window arches of Bryce Canyon National Park are so otherworldly that the trails carry names like the Fairyland Loop. In Zion National Park the watery traipse through the Virgin River Narrows is high on bucket lists for hikers everywhere.
It is in these national parks that Four Seasons Guides prove their mettle – taking their clients beyond the guidebooks, to hidden grottoes, and telling tales that don’t make their way into park brochures. Whether from a lodge, a basecamp or on a backpacking trip, these adventures in the backcountry descend paths into the canyon wilderness that is unspoiled by many footprints.
Any survey of Canyon Country inevitably concludes at the Grand Canyon, 277 miles long and as wide as 18 miles across. Just walking along the North or South rims is enough of a thrill for most of the five million yearly visitors but endless explorations await beneath the rims. Four Season Guides offers plenty of options to reach down a vertical mile into the gaping chasm. There is the iconic Rim-to-Rim trip that goes 6,000 feet down from the North Rim and 4,500 feet up from the Colorado River on the other side. Covering 24 miles, the hike is spread out over four days so that any level of hiker can conquer this trip of a lifetime.
Four Season Guides also maintains a hearty menu of day hikes in the Grand Canyon, led by local experts who know the uncrowded vistas and hidden secrets locked inside these ancient rock formations. No matter what day trip you make below the rim, it won’t take long to learn the biggest truism of canyon hiking – unlike mountain hiking – what goes down must come up. However, you cannot put a value on the memories you will be hauling up and out of the canyon depths.