backpack to tanner beach
Duration: 2 days/1 night
Distance: 18 miles round-trip
Elevation Change: -4,900' to Tanner Beach
Trailhead: Tanner Trailhead
Planning a trip for late fall nearly anywhere can be tricky as the weather is completely unpredictable in most locations. In late November the Grand Canyon can see snow and ice or it can see warm, sunny days that call for shorts and a t-shirt. Since I always abide by the adage "plan for the worst, hope for the best" I anticipated we would see snow in the canyon and the steep trails would be ice-covered and dangerous. We packed our microspikes and I reserved a permit for the Horseshoe Mesa campsite, a 3.5 mile hike that was a relatively safe option compared to the trails that wound their way all the way to the canyon floor. As our trip approached it became increasingly evident that we would be treated to fair weather while in the Grand Canyon so we decided to change our plans so we could make it all the way to the river and spend a night at Tanner Beach!
Planning your hike to Tanner Beach
Are permits required? Yes. This trip requires a backcountry permit for zone BB9 (reserve HERE). Backcountry permits in Grand Canyon National Park are available for reservation on the 1st of the month 4 months prior to your trip date (e.g. if you wanted to go on a trip on May 20 you could reserve your permit on January 1st). You can either fax or mail the permit in. Permits cost $10 plus $8 per person per night.
How to get to the Grand Canyon and the trailhead: This hike originates on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The nearest major airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, it is 273 miles away and requires a 4.5 hour drive. Flagstaff has an airport as well and is only a 1.5 hour drive from the South Rim but flights are usually much more expensive.
Inside the park the trailhead is located at Lipan Point, about a half hour's drive from the Visitor Center. The parking lot is small so it is best to get there early. Once parked, you can find the trailhead just a few paces back down the road on the right side.
When to go: Spring and fall. Unlike trails originating from the North Rim this trail is accessible year-round, however, extreme caution needs to be taken in the winter and summer months. In the winter the trail can get icy and dangerous falls become a possibility. In the summer intense heat can make the trail unbearable. The park service notes that this trail is unusually hot, even by the Grand Canyon standards so spring and fall are the ideal times to hike this trail.
Special notes: There is no water source on this trail until you reach the Colorado River so make sure you bring enough to get you through the 9 mile hike. Interestingly enough the park service also asks that, once at Tanner Beach, you urinate directly into the Colorado River. Scientists have determined that this is less harmful than having hikers urinate on the soil or vegetation. There is also a pit toilet located near the beach for number twos.
Gear to pack: