GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Arizona - There aren’t words or pictures that can do justice to the Grand Canyon. It’s one of those landmark destinations that really needs to be seen in person to fully capture the magnitude of the region. Whitewater rafting, kayak and canoe trips down the Colorado River, the aquatic corridor that runs through the canyon, have been popular for some time now, but with a growing SUP river and whitewater scene, paddle boards are becoming more prominent. Last week we caught up with Markus Leppaenen, an experienced kayaker from Time4Charity, about his 25 day SUP-Kayak camping trip down the Grand Canyon.
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- Take some time to do your homework. As beautiful as the grand Canyon is, it’s not a pack-and-go mission you can do on impulse
Get a permit to paddle - see the National Parks Service for varying prices - depending on your trip length
- The terrain ranges from beginner-friendly flat water to intense rapids that should only be attempted by experienced paddlers
- It’s right up there with the most legendary camping trips anywhere in the world
Words by Markus Lepaenen
“As a half Finnish guy, I have to say the sauna we had with us on the trip was the blast! Secondly taking along the stand up paddle board was the best idea ever. Every rapid (even small riffles) were exciting. The nature/scenery is gorgeous in the Grand Canyon, so every single day was a present.”
Summer - Scorching weather (see Arizona climate), chilly water
Fall - Still pretty scorching, chilly water
Winter - Temperate and beautiful with chilly water
Spring - Warm weather, chilly water
My girlfriend and I were going down the canyon for our first time, but our friend Mike has gone down multiple times before and always in the summer, when it’s warmer. From now on he said he would just go in the winter. According to him the winter has the most pros:
1) You can make bonfires in the winter, which make the whole experience more "romantic" and outdoorsy.
2) In the winter you can stay a longer period of time in the canyon - the maximum is 25 instead of 16 days in the summer.
3) With those extra days you can have more layover days at certain camps and therefore venture on more day hikes on your trip.
4) Sleeping in the winter is more easy as it is not so hot as in the summer where you sometimes have to put wet linen over you in order to be able to sleep.
1) In the winter you should wear a very good drysuit and wear double woolen socks as the feet get cold first. Thick neoprene mittens for windy/cold days are very helpful as well.
2) I would also strongly suggest to bring along a spare paddle.
3) In the winter it gets dark early so either bring some games to play or a kindle with some good books.
4) Bring loads of handcream as your skin dries out extremely during the trip.
5) Bring a Raft To Transport gear. If you would want to do a SUP only trip through the canyon, it’s challenging to get all the gear with you. Probably I would go with towing a gear-board behind your own SUP - we took a raft with us. If there is any SUP company who wants to sponsor a SUP only trip down the canyon, I would be ready to go! I did not find it a real extraordinary physical challenge, for sure you have to be fit and a good swimmer if you fall while going through one of the big rapids.
Wear a leash. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, have a kayak paddler behind you, so he can fetch the board out of an eddy - if you get separated from your board or it gets pushed in an eddy.
To read a fully detailed account of Markus’s trip, check out the Time4Charity website.
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