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Old 12-30-2014   #1
Aflo's Avatar
Nederland, Colorado
Paddling Since: 06
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 35
Grand Canyon - Trip Planning Help Needed

Hey all,
I am in the extremely early stages of trying to figure out how to plan and execute a GC trip. Does anyone have any pointers? How much the trip will cost provided we did non-commercial and somehow got a permit.


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Old 12-30-2014   #2
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
Time of year and # of day will be a huge variable for cost estimate? Personal gear or rented from outfitter? Gourmet, middle ground or budget food?

Shuttles and NPS fees are about the only set figures. $100 per person NPS. Shuttles from Lees Ferry to takeout run from about $300 per vehicle (plus tribal fees) or $1300 for a 14-passenger van between points. Tribal fees change annually but add up fast if taking out at Diamond but that still my preferred route.

For our private, non-rental and shuttling 2-3 vehicles commercially costs us about $700-$1000 per person, as each trip was different lengths (18 to 28 days) and number of people (7-10).

Those number don't include alcohol, getting to meeting points (like flights and gas), investment in personal gear, etc.


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Old 12-30-2014   #3
kayakfreakus's Avatar
Steamboat, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 887

Good info there, you can go as bare bones or as extravagant as you want. Agree with 700-1000 should have you dialed. Do it right is my opinion.
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Old 12-30-2014   #4
Las Vegas, Nevada
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 97
More Planning Info

I think you will find everything you need and more here on the River Wiki:

Get your group together, dial in some dates and get in the lottery in February! Good Luck!!!
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Old 12-30-2014   #5
Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 129
I led a GC trip 3 years ago. It was a full 16 person trip that launched September 3rd for 21 days, takeout at Pearce Ferry. Cost was around 1200 dollars a person. This included all the park fees, rental of 4 rafts from Moe, lodging before and after the trip for one night, and cocktails for happy hour each day.

As for tips, if I had it to do over I would take a small white board with me and write on it the following things each morning (or maybe the night before).

Who's doing food today:
Likely stops for the day
Hikes we will do
Ideal campsites for the night.
Likely mileage completed today

I'd do this for two reasons. With my group I found most people were just happy to be on the River and didn't have much comment on what we did each day, so rather than soliciting information and trying to make a group decision, I'd just decide and let people come to me with suggestions/changes. Secondly, I go so tired of answering those questions 8 or 9 times each morning as invariably, someone would ask, and I'd answer, then someone else would ask the same thing 5 mins later.

Finally, we did the night float to Pearce. It was a highlight for our group. Super fun last night on the river and felt quite safe. Granted, I slept, but the people who stayed up said it was fine.
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Old 12-30-2014   #6
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 187
"As for tips" - commercial or private, big group or small (although smaller ones are easier to gather...) - there's always that 5-10 minutes in the morning at breakfast or evening/dinner or after dinner buzz where YOU - the TL/permit holder - lay out the day's or next day's itinerary and possible game-changers (any scouts, which take longer than you plan, ALWAYS), and ask for input. Weather is BIG determinant, but in the Grand it's usually more a matter of getting everybody on the same page for where to stop for lunch (or not) and which hikes/pauses you want to hit. You'll either establish good communication between trip participants early, or not at all...
Rest of advice above seems reasonable. $1k per person is middle of the road as of 2014, you can hit below or above that depending on lots of factors - shuttles, alcohol consumption/sharing, foodie food are in descending order of impact...
Don't cheap out. For most, it's a once in a lifetime experience - for some, stuff happens between GC trips, but those are how you track your life.
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Old 12-30-2014   #7
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 187
Sorry, should have capitalized: ASK FOR INPUT. Although if you're aware, as TL should be, you likely will know in advance, at least after the 3rd/4th night...
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Old 12-31-2014   #8
Anchorage, Alaska
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 56
Outfitting yourself or using outfitter?

Lot's of great advice here. If you are using your/participant boats and all assorted equipment and you are doing your own food buying you will reduce the cost - a lot. The $1000 dollar number is a good estimate - somewhat high IMO but not overly so. If not, you can go to most of the outfitter sites and get a sample invoice. For example, we take many extended expedition trips in Alaska and our food bill is usually around $10/person/day - and we eat well. A comparative menu from an outfitter will be about double that for the same eats. PRO in Flagstaff has an easy to follow sample invoice. Of note here is the outfitter will also do the cooler/ice/packing - that's a big deal - but it ain't free.

I've done three trips - Dec/Feb/Mar - the cost before beer/wine/whiskey and local hotels/meals was about $1500/person. But, we rented more boats than were really needed - we all like to row. The website will help you figure that out. In our situation, our pre-trip locations prevented us from bringing our own boats. While the outfitter cost more it proved to be so simple compared to doing our own logistics - especially on our first trip - that we all felt it was well worthwhile. As a side note. We worked through PRO in Flag on each trip. I spoke with them early in the process and learned about their discounts. By being a member of GCPBA, putting ten percent down and reserving at least 6 months in advance I saved 30% on everything except food - cool.

Whatever route you choose, good luck with your permit.
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Old 12-31-2014   #9
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 130
I've done a half-dozen private trips (not rowed any yet) and have formed some opinions ...

1. Don't bring 16 people. It's too many. I think 10-12 is the ideal number. I can't say why exactly.

2. Don't do organized lunches, where you stop and set up a table and lay out some food. Have each person bring their own lunch, which will typically be something like backpackers eat: nuts, fruit, plus maybe some cold stuff like hummus. Pull over and eat it on the boats.

3. Don't all the non-rowers ride on the same boat every day. Mix it up some. Better way to get to know people. Some couples may demur.

4. Seems to me like an average cost, for a trip where an outfitter does the meals, is $1200 (per person) or so. But I'd recommend going with a plan where participants are divided into two-person teams, each responsible for about three camps' worth of meals (dinner and the next morning's breakfast). Ideally they're a couple or close friends and plan and shop for the meals together, and carry all the ingredients on their boat (or the boat of the boatman member of the pair, see #3). Although the outfitters provide great food, I've found that meal prep goes FAR smoother with the self-done plan. No searching around to three different boats trying to rustle up all the ingredients. No confusion about the cooking. Plus, it's much cheaper. I'd put the average cost of such a trip well under $1000.
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Old 01-01-2015   #10
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 493
Well, yes, getting a permit is going to be pretty important. The suggestion to check out GCPBA and RRFW is a good one. You don't mention what your river experience level is, but another good idea is to have someone on you trip that has experience on the GC or multiday raft trips.

Our first trip (and 1st multiday trip ever) was a 21 day in '06 and we used PRO for gear and food pack. The gear was first rate and the food was good on most accounts. The TL/PH was vegetarian and requested the veggie/meat combo meal plan. Everyone should have reviewed the menu more carefully and requested changes. Which PRO is more than willing to do. All and all, with the exception of a couple of meals my wife and I were fine with the menu. Meal prep was labor intensive. I can't say if the other DIY outfitters are the same. It cost us $1200 ea for everything but beer and transportation to Flag. I should mention that on this trip there were 5 guys that had been down the GC many times before and it was a huge plus to learn the ropes from them.

On our own '09 16/18 day GC trip, we had our own catarafts by then and everyone we invited had their own gear. We rented a expedition water filter and a groover riser from PRO. We pre-prepared a lot of meals and met in Page and shopped for the balance of the food at Safeway, where they let us stick our pre frozen coolers in their walk-in. The cost of that trip was $650 for folks taking out at Diamond Creek and $600 for those of us taking out at Lake Mead. We ate very well. Everyone went all out on their menus.

Good luck. It's a hell of a great trip. We heading back in April and are also in the mists of prepping for it.

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