What is a typical day on a Hatch river trip through Grand Canyon like?
No day is typical in the Grand Canyon! As a general guideline, we wake early, have breakfast, load the boats, and leave camp before 8:30 AM. From there we may run either a few or several rapids and then stop for a side hike up to a beautiful waterfall or an Ancestral Puebloan ruin. Then we have a beachside lunch and relax for a while before boarding the boats for more eye popping whitewater. We may stop for another short hike if time permits or we may head straight to camp.
Arriving in camp between 3:00 and 5:00 PM, the boats are unloaded, and you are free to choose where you are going to sleep and set up your camp, take a swim, or come down to the kitchen to enjoy some appetizers. Dinner is served around seven, after which you can relax and gaze at the star filled canyon sky. Then off to bed, so you are well rested to do it all over again tomorrow!
Please refer to your specific trip type and length of trip to check out a sample itinerary.
Can I request a specific stop?
Absolutely. If there is a specific place you want to go or a specific type of stop you prefer (such as longer hikes or good locations for swimming) talk to your guides about your preferences.
Be warned, though, that we can never guarantee a specific stop. Variables such as weather and environmental conditions, guest safety, crowding, abilities and preferences of group members, and other unpredictable factors impact guide decisions about which sites to visit and which must be skipped. The bottom of Grand Canyon is filled with so many treasures, that if you miss one spectacular stop, you can be sure another is waiting around the corner!
What is camping like along the Colorado River? (HINT: It’s not “glamping!”)
Guests on Hatch trips are an integral part of making things run smoothly, so be prepared to lend a hand. We strive to accommodate everyone from the most experienced hikers to first time campers, from the youngest guest to the oldest, so if you need a little help, just ask!
We usually pull into a sandy beach or rock ledge camp between 3 and 5 pm. First thing upon arrival, guides and guests work together to form a fire (or "duffel") line and unload all the gear from the boats. Once everything is unloaded, guests are free to go stake out their own bit of sand and set up camp while our guides begin preparing the evening meal.
If you, like most guests, are planning to sleep under the stars, you'll stake out the perfect spot, spread your ground cloth out, and set up your cot (for motorized trips) or sleeping pad (for oar powered trips) while the guides are cooking. If you're planning to use a tent in case of inclement weather or even just for changing, setting that up while you still have some light is probably a good idea. Either way, we recommend that you keep your sleeping bag and pillow inside your closed dry bag until you're ready to sleep so no curious critters decide to make themselves at home.
When you're all set up, feel free to socialize or offer to lend a hand in the kitchen. After dinner, everyone will help wash the dishes so they're ready to go for breakfast in the morning.
In addition to pitching in with camp set up and boat loading/unloading, you're camping, so you'll need to be prepared to go without some of the amenities you are used to at home. Check out our blog post about common guest complaints to understand some of the conditions you'll need to prepare for.
What are the bathroom facilities like?
When you aren’t in camp…
You’ll make “pit stops” along the river about every hour to hour and a half to stretch and take a bathroom break. At these stops, the women will typically go one direction and the men go another and everyone has an opportunity to relieve themselves directly into the river. Toilets for solid waste are not available during the day, but in case of an emergency, guides have waste disposal bags available for guests to use should they need to.
When you are in camp…
Your guides will set up toilet facilities in a secluded area shortly after arriving in camp. These will be the last thing taken down in the morning. We recommend scouting out the facilities in the daylight so you can find them more easily after the sun sets.
The toilets are "groover" style—essentially metal boxes with a bit of chemical in the bottom and toilet seats on top. Toilets are dry, meaning that everyone urinates in the river and all other “business” is taken care of at the toilet. We’ll teach you our handy “key” system so you don’t have to worry about privacy. There is plenty of toilet paper stored near the toilets, and hand washing stations will be set up nearby, so there’s no sacrificing hygiene while on the river.
Some of our female guests have expressed concern about urinating in the river at night as river access can be more difficult for them than it is for our male guests. If you are concerned about this, consider bringing a female urinal or “pee pod” on the trip to help—it works basically like a funnel allowing women to pee into the river from a more upright position.
For even more bathroom details, check out this blog post: Let's Talk About Bathrooms
What are your rafts like?
Hatch s-rig rafts are constructed of military spec neoprene rubber creating a highly stable and safe platform for navigating whitewater on the Colorado River. The pontoon design, first used in World War II, was the beginning for motor raft design. It has gone through many modifications and a great deal of evolution over the decades into a highly customized craft capable of safely carrying up to 16 people for extended periods of time.
The main section of our boats consist of specially designed self-bailing aluminum frames to carry all the food and gear for extended trip lengths allowing passengers to have all the creature comforts required for today’s camping trips. At over 35’ in length and 16’ in width, they are exceptionally capable crafts for all water levels and conditions experienced in Grand Canyon.
The power plant is a 30 horsepower four-stroke outboard motor meeting the stringent standards from the EPA for emissions and sporting ultra quiet exhaust. At 56 decibels, they are so quiet that most of the time you can’t even hear them while underway. We continually strive to minimize our Eco Footprint.
Hatch oar boats are made from tough hypalon rubber that can withstand the fun and abuse the Colorado River through Grand Canyon dishes out. At 18 feet long and 8 feet wide, these boats are perfect for up to five people including a guide.
With self-bailing floors and custom frames, these are the most comfortable rowboats on the water, capable of hauling your necessities for up to two weeks at a time.
What are the hikes on a Hatch river trip like?
Typically, a trip includes between two to three side canyon excursions per day. Some of these stops will likely be hikes rated somewhere between “moderate” to “strenuous” in category and length. Most trails within Grand Canyon are not maintained, and many are through creek beds, or up the talus slopes of the canyon’s walls. All hikes on Hatch trips (with the exception of the Bright Angel Trail for Upper and Lower Canyon guests) are optional. Your guides will describe trail conditions before leaving and you can decide whether you want to participate.
Check the Physical Requirements page in your Activity Manager under “View Info and Documents” for suggested pre-trip conditioning activities you can do to be better prepared to participate in all the physical activities on your trip and enjoy all that Grand Canyon has to offer.
Upper and Lower Canyon guests:
Guests on Upper or Lower Canyon trips will be REQUIRED to hike either into or out of the Canyon on Bright Angel Trail. This hike is both mandatory and strenuous, and requires guests to be in excellent physical condition. Review your Physical Requirements page carefully to ensure that you are prepared to participate in this hike prior to joining your trip.
What are the rapids like on Grand Canyon raft trips?
Rapids in Grand Canyon are rated using a different scale than many other rivers with white water. In most places, rapids are rated using the International Scale of River Difficulty which uses 6 levels to indicate rapid difficulty (levels 1-5 are for easy through expert, while level 6 is reserved for extreme/exploratory rapids), but the rapids of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon are rated on a scale of 1-10. A level 10 in Grand Canyon would be roughly equivalent to a level 5 on the international scale. On a trip with Hatch, you will have an opportunity to experience the full range of that scale, traversing various rapids that rate all the way from level 1 to level 10 and everything in between. (Keep in mind that this scale represents technical difficulty to navigate rather than rapid size.)
As for what you will feel while traveling through the rapids, that can vary as much as their ratings. Some rapids are big and bouncy, some are small and bumpy, and some will try to push your boat sideways or encourage it to spin. Our guides are experts at navigating even Grand Canyon’s most difficult rapids, so follow their lead and you’ll be in safe hands.
Some folks wonder if the rapids change seasonally due to factors such as snow melt or stormy weather. The answer to that is… not so much. The Colorado River is dammed upriver from Grand Canyon National Park to create Lake Powell, so the water that flows through this section of canyon changes with dam releases rather than seasons and will vary week to week throughout our rafting season. Higher water level does not necessarily equate to bigger rapids, though. While some rapids get bigger with more water, others will wash out and become less intense. It all depends on what is going on underneath the surface. Sometimes major storm events will even cause changes to the rapids if they manage to push boulders around or alter other features that contribute to the rapid.
What will the water levels be like on my trip?
The amount of water flowing through Grand Canyon is dependent upon how much is released through Glen Canyon Dam. These releases change throughout each day based on power needs. Additionally, there are sometimes experiments to study or attempt to alter the environment below the dam for specific purposes. (Examples include high flow experiments for beach building or constant flows to encourage breeding of native insects.)
For more information about Glen Canyon Dam's operations and the specific conditions you can expect on your trip, visit the Bureau of Reclamation's website: https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/gcd.html
What is the weather like in the Grand Canyon?
No matter where you go, weather is notoriously unpredictable. Grand Canyon is no different, so take these guidelines with a grain of salt and prepare for the worst when packing. Be sure to check the weather immediately before your trip so you can make last minute adjustments. Make sure you’re seeing the weather for Phantom Ranch for the most accurate information:
Phantom Ranch, AZ
36.1 degrees N; 112.09 degrees W
Avg High 87°F
Avg Low 56°F
Avg Precipitation .47”
April comes at the tail end of winter on the Colorado Plateau, so it’s not unheard of for there to be wintry storms up on the rim. Inside the canyon, you will be thousands of feet lower in elevation, so you are more likely to see spring flowers blooming than snow, but you should be prepared for the possibility of a chilly trip. Hatch provides April trips with additional and warmer camping gear, and you should plan to do the same with your personal gear. Swap out a lightweight fleece for something a little heavier, bring warmer clothes to wear in camp, and consider a medium weight set of rain gear instead of the lightweight we normally recommend. Check out our blog for more ideas how to pack on cold trips, check out our blog. If you still have questions, you can always reach out to our office.
Avg High 92°F
Avg Low 63°F
Avg Precipitation .36”
May can sometimes act like April and sometimes like June, so it’s best to be prepared for either. Most of the time, May is pleasantly temperate, and because it falls at a less rainy time of year, you’re more likely to be rafting on a clear blue river than you will be later in the year. Very occasionally, a late season cold front will make the May weather turn stormy and cold, so check the weather diligently before your trip and be prepared to swap out some of your gear for warmer items.
Avg High 101°F
Avg Low 72°F
Avg Precipitation .30”
June’s average 101 degree sunny days are a draw for many Hatch guests looking for the perfect summer climate. June tends to fall before the Colorado Plateau’s monsoon season, so it, like May, tends to be a good time to raft on a clear river. Once in a while, the heat in June will spike, so it’s good to be prepared for the possibility of highs well over 100 degrees if you are traveling at this time of year. Lightweight and light colored long sleeves and long pants can help keep intense sun at bay, and soaking items in the cool river water before you put them on can create an evaporative cooling effect if your trip falls during one of these heat spells.
July & August
Avg High 106°F (July) / 103°F (Aug)
Avg Low 78°F (July) / 75°F (Aug)
Avg Precipitation .84” (July) / 1.04” (Aug)
July and August are both the warmest months on average and those with the most rainfall. They mark monsoon season in the Grand Canyon, so if there was ever an opportunity to see the spectacular waterfalls forming over the edges of the canyon’s Redwall Limestone, it would be during one of these months. Don’t let the potential for rain scare you away, though. Monsoon storms in this area tend to form quickly, fall heavily, and disappear quickly. It’s not common for a storm to last much more than an hour, maybe two if it’s really persistent. And, although it may be stormy in the area, the chances that a storm will stay above your narrow slice of canyon for long are not high. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have your raingear at the ready just in case. Area storms at this time of year are likely to produce flash flooding in the side canyons that will wash sediment into the main channel of the river turning it into the classic “muddy Colorado River” you may have heard of Powell rafting down.
Avg High 97°F
Avg Low 69°F
Avg Precipitation .97”
By September, most of the monsoon storms have passed and the temperature has cooled a bit bringing the canyon closer to May-like weather. If you enjoy more temperate weather, this is another great time to get out and enjoy the Colorado River. We only offer trips for about half the month, so if this is your preferred time, you’ll want to check for available dates a little earlier.
No matter what the weather is like when you go, it’s important to remember that the river maintains a constant temperature of around 47-52 degrees. Be prepared for cold splashes any time of year!
Is there cell phone service in the Grand Canyon?
There is usually good cell service at both Cliff Dwellers Lodge and the South Rim. Beyond that, don’t count on it. You aren’t likely to get good service until after you’ve left Bar 10 Ranch. Trust us, once you’re in the canyon, you’ll be glad your experience can’t be interrupted by phone calls, messages, or emails.
We don’t recommend bringing your phone at all, but understand that some people want to have them handy upon return and will take a chance with them on the river. If you do this, make sure your device is waterproof or in a good waterproof bag in the middle of you night duffel and be careful. The elements can be unkind to electronics in the canyon.
Will I have an opportunity to fish?
Although we don’t recommend approaching your Grand Canyon rafting trip like it is a fishing trip, many guests have taken the opportunity to fish while traveling with us. Here are a few things you need to know if you’re thinking about fishing on your Hatch trip:
- You may only fish from the shore when the boats are stopped, never from a moving boat. (Your lunch stop can be a good time for fishing or you might choose to opt out of a side canyon excursion to stay behind and fish.)
- The rod you bring will need to be either telescoping or collapsible in order to store it on the boat.
- You will be required to purchase an Arizona fishing license. Lees Ferry Angler shop at Cliff Dwellers Lodge has them available for purchase.
- All fishing is catch and release.
Is it safe?
Nothing in life is completely safe, but safety is definitely first and foremost on our agenda. We want you to have a great time and doing that means paying attention to your well-being. Prior to your trip, we provide you with information about expectations and risks so you can assess whether this trip is a good fit for you before you commit. Once you join us, you will take part in an extensive safety orientation detailing proper life jacket use, boat safety, correct riding positions, and hiking guidelines. Every trip has a full first aid kit, safety equipment, and satellite telephones for emergency use, and all of our guides are required to obtain Wilderness First Responder, CPR, and Food Manager certifications. We also design most of our equipment ourselves, using our years of experience and expertise to devise safe, efficient equipment.