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Phantom Ranch Geology Tour


  • Wayne Ranney, famous Grand Canyon geologist and author
  • Intricate aspects of Grand Canyon geology
  • "Zoom" out for big picture of Canyon geology
  • Accommodations in the only lodge in the Grand Canyon
  • The comfort of hiking with a light daypack
  • Great meals at Phantom Ranch and on the trail


This trip is an extremely unique opportunity! Wayne Ranney, arguably Grand Canyon's top geologist and natural history author, carves out 3-4 dates per year to join our guests on a hike to Phantom Ranch. With Wayne at the helm though, it's much more than a hiking trip. He will be your group's personal tour guide, enthusiastically showing you the Grand Canyon from a geology and story-telling perspective. Keep in mind there is no where else on Earth that provides as dramatic a look at Time's geological breadcrumb trail as the Grand Canyon. You'll see evidence and hear stories about clashing tectonic plates, 2 billion year old rocks, long-extinct oceans, sand dunes buried by thousands of feet of depositions, mud flats, shallow seas, lava flows, pre-dinosaur life forms, volcanoes, completely eroded mountain ranges, and much much more!
This trip follows the itinerary of our normal Phantom Ranch Tour, which follows the South Kaibab Trail down, provides a layover day near the Colorado River, and follows the Bright Angel Trail back up. Give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information or to begin the process of booking your spot!
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2018 Dates
  • This trip has been discontinued

2019 Dates
  • This trip is being discontinued in 2019
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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to the South Kaibab TH: 15 minutes
  • Hiking Mileage: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 4,800 feet
This Grand Canyon hiking and geology tour begins on the South Kaibab Trail, where we'll immediately begin our descent through layers of deposition 250+ million years old. We will begin by explaining the big picture of Grand Canyon geology, so you have a context to fit the finer details in as you hike. We'll descend the 2+ billion years of geologic history in 5-8 hours, taking breaks to point out intimate details, answer questions and of course eat and rest. Eventually we'll arrive at the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch.
Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 0-7 miles day hiking
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: < 1,000 feet
We'll enjoy a grand Phantom Ranch breakfast this morning at The Canteen, then head out on the day's adventure. This is a layover day and a chance to go on a memorable day hike that will deepen and broaden our journey through time. There are multiple options today that the guide and Wayne will match with the group's interests and abilities. The wonderful thing about the Grand Canyon is that no matter where you go, you're deep inside the world's #1 geologic wonder. So be prepared for an extraordinary day of hiking, learning, exploring, and absorbing the wonder of this amazing place.
Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,500 feet
Today we’ll pack up and make an early departure for the South Rim. Hiking on the Bright Angel Trail along the Colorado River we'll enjoy extraordinary views of the river and the Inner Gorge, which is comprised of chaotic, mashed up rock that tells a story of a very violent geologic past. Eventually we'll emerge from the Inner Gorge and begin working our way through the horizontal depositions of sandstone, mudstone, shale, limestone, and more. The layers go from brown to red to tan to white, even blue, as we work our way through billions of years of landscape history.

Eventually we'll arrive back at the South Rim, where we'll take a few extra moments to reflect on our journey and everything we've learned, before saying our good byes.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Wayne Ranney interpretation of the Grand Canyon's geology
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Grand Canyon hiking guide
  • 2 nights of lodging in the dorms (male/female) or cabins at historic Phantom Ranch
  • Dinners and breakfasts at Phantom Ranch, lunches prepared by your guide
  • Use of a day pack, trekking poles and Microspike crampons during winter months
  • Phantom Ranch mule service to transport extra clothes and personal items (maximum 10 pounds)
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.

Meals: What To Expect

Dinners and two breakfasts will be eaten at Phantom Ranch. Phantom Ranch dinners are pre-ordered and include steak, hikers stew or a vegetarian option. We'll do our best to accommodate your first choice of meals, but it will depend on availability. Also, the choices are served at different times, so if you'd like to eat with others in your group it's best to select the same meals each evening.

We provide the first breakfast and lunches for the trip. For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables. In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Microspike crampons when necessary
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone

What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are three 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

Unless we tell you otherwise, you will meet your guide and group in the lobby of the Bright Angel Lodge at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 5:00 PM the evening before your trip begins. For Private Phantom Ranch Tours your guide can meet you at your hotel in Tusayan or at the South Rim at an agreed upon time.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's rendezvous time and location at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 4 and 7 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will be back to the South Rim normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time) on the final day.

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on this hiking tour is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 7 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in the Grand Canyon

The weather in the Grand Canyon varies tremendously from the rim to the canyon floor, with as much as a 30 degree Fahrenheit difference. For this reason, the Canyon is truly a year-round hiking destination. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures at the South Rim and the Canyon bottom:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
South Rim
Canyon Bottom