Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

On the Bank of the Colorado River – Grand Canyon Day Three

Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, you can see the Colorado River at the bottom. The river seems impossibly far away, surrounded by the vast, wild beauty of canyon walls.

I never imagined I’d stand on the bank of the Colorado River looking out of the Grand Canyon instead of in. On day three of our REI Adventures trip, that’s just what we did.

Leaving Hance Creek

We drank coffee and ate breakfast while we broke camp just after sunrise. The group wanted to get to the day’s destination, the Colorado River, in plenty of time to play in the water and celebrate reaching the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Gaining elevation as we hiked up from Hance Creek, we returned to Tonto Trail and headed toward Mineral Canyon.

Back on Tonto Trail
Love the contrast of dark rocks and greenery

We crossed paths with a solo backpacker, an older gentleman with an air of quiet happiness and a carved walking stick. He spoke fondly of a group of women backpackers he’d camped near the previous night, saying, “They were nice” with a smile on his face.

Rest in the Rocks

The day’s hike included a 1,140-foot elevation loss over rocky terrain. I often had to put both of my hiking poles in one hand so I could free the other for scrambling over rocks. It was so much fun, even more adventurous than day two’s obstacle course. It was also tiring and I was glad we stopped often for breaks. Taking a cat nap in the rocks hit the spot.

Another fun obstacle course

Getting Closer To the River

At around mile 4, we caught the day’s first view of the Colorado River. A relieved cheer went up through the group–we were getting closer! Excited talk of chilling out by the river rose amongst the hikers. I kept looking for another glimpse of the river, willing it closer even as I focused on enjoying every second of the hike.

The river beckons
Almost there, partner

Neighbor For the Night

Reaching the bank of the Colorado River, we whooped and hollered with happiness and relief. This was it, the highlight of our amazing trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Now we could kick off our hiking boots and relax into the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Our guides led us along the sandy bank to our campsite right by the river. After dropping off our gear, we each sought our own way to celebrate and decompress. For some, it meant picking a quiet, shady spot by the river to reflect. Others immediately got in the water. The water was so numbingly cold, you could only stay in for a few seconds. It felt invigorating and refreshing after the long day’s hike.

Wait, we get to camp right by the Colorado River?!?!
River hair, don’t care

Always More To Explore

After the initial rush and hubbub of getting to the river, a quiet fell over the camp. Several of us stretched out on tent ground tarps right on the sand. Still wet from my dip in the river, I put my cap over my eyes and dozed in the April sun, lulled by the sound of the river.

In about an hour, our guides roused us for a group walk along the river. We enjoyed taking our time, sans backpacks, wandering along Hance Rapids and snapping pictures.

Hance Rapids

Popcorn and Sunsets

It was an early night for us all. Tomorrow we’d hike all the way out of the canyon, starting at sunrise.

Dinner on the third night was tacos followed by a smorgasbord of dessert snacks. Our guides wanted to lighten their packs of the group goodies they’d carried and we were happy to help. We munched on popcorn, M&Ms, and chocolate-covered fruit while we watched the sunset.

Over the course of the trek, the group had learned that Bryan and I do open mics. They asked us to sing a song and we were happy to oblige, joking that we should have brought our guitars along. He and I sang an Americana song, acapella, as the light faded in the world’s best outdoor amphitheater.

Then we all went to sleep, ditching our tents for the night, sleeping cowboy-style under the stars.


Day Three Stats

6.5 miles
Elevation loss 1,140 feet

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