The Grand Canyon Association Field Institute is a program of the Grand Canyon Association that was established in 1993 to share the natural and cultural history of the park. The Field Institute offers everything from rim walks to river trips to over 2,000 participants of all ages each year.
No, but Grand Canyon Association members do receive discounted tuition on most Field Institute classes. Members also receive invitations to special classes and events as well as qualify for early registration.
Class size is always limited. A number of the more popular classes tend to fill quickly. We advise you to register as soon as you’ve made your decision. Feel free to contact the Field Institute by phone (866-471-4435) or e-mail email@example.com to receive the latest information on availability for a given class.
As a rule, for all of our Backpacking Classes & Trips and most of Multi-day Rim Classes & Tours, participants must be at least 18 years old. For our Day Hike Classes and Tours participants as young as 8 years old may attend. We do have some discretion concerning ages. Please contact us to enquire.
Your tuition covers the educational content provided by an expert instructor, backpacking and camping permits, camping immediately before or after your class (where applicable), a park entrance-fee waiver and preclass guidance (sent digitally) including gear- and food-planning lists specific to your class. Select premium classes may include meals, lodging, gear and mule pack service where indicated. Check specific classes for other items covered by your tuition. Transportation to and from Grand Canyon National Park and backpacking equipment are not included unless specifically noted.
Within a few days of submitting your registration, you will receive a confirmation e-mail containing information about training, gear recommendations and food planning, an Assumption of Risk form, a Health Questionnaire, and a Lodging Reservation form if pertinent. Thirty days before the start of your class you will receive a second e-mail containing a preclass letter and entrance fee waiver, syllabus, campground reservation form and any other last-minute paperwork.
Most Field Institute classes begin and end at Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The South Rim can be reached by plane, car, bus or train. Many people fly to Phoenix and rent a car for the four-hour drive. Air service is available from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Grand Canyon National Park Airport, located 10 miles from the South Rim; call Scenic Airlines (800) 634-6801. Shuttle bus service is available from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Flagstaff or Williams by calling Arizona Shuttle Service at (877) 226-8060. For those driving to Grand Canyon, the Field Institute encourages ride-sharing with fellow classmates; please call us to explore this option at (866) 471-4435. Also, Grand Canyon Railway runs from Williams, Arizona, once a day.
Expect the unexpected! Weather conditions vary greatly at the Grand Canyon, so be prepared for all conditions in all seasons. Classes are conducted rain or shine. For road and weather information call the NPS information line, (928) 638-7888, and follow the prompts for the most recent road condition updates. Check weather link for Grand Canyon South Rim weather.
Average Temperatures and Precipitation (Fahrenheit and inches)
Hiking is an integral part of practically every class, so you must be in good physical condition to attend. Backpacking outings require an even higher level of fitness. If you wish to attend a backpack or river trip, you will be required to complete a Health Questionnaire (see one here) before your space in the class can be confirmed. The Health Questionnaire process is an integral part of online registration. For any outing, if you are unprepared or appear physically unable to complete the required activities, trip leaders have the right to ask you to leave the class in order to ensure the safety of the remaining members of the group. We strive to accurately represent hiking distance and elevation changes within the class syllabus.
We provide complimentary, tent-only campsites (for participants only) for most of our classes at a shared campsite in a developed National Park Service campground. If you would like to camp, you must complete a Campground Reservation form - which is e-mailed to enrollees with the final class information packet - at least 14 days in advance of the class start date.
On the South Rim, a limited number of hotel rooms at Maswik Lodge are available for participants of most of our classes. If appropriate for your class, we’ll send you the necessary Lodge Reservation form after you enroll.
For R.V. campers, you must make your own arrangements.
It is imperative that you come well prepared for a hiking trip. If you are backpacking for the first time, we highly recommend that you read a backpacking book and/or find some informational videos online (see the Hiking Grand Canyon Video) in advance. Backpacking trips are planned for all levels of skill, ranging from physically fit beginners (or for those wanting to refresh their skills) to advanced hikers who are in excellent physical condition and have previous multiday backpacking experience.
Typically our classes have an initial orientation day, which allows us to get to know each other and go over the class, gear and food. Hiking days normally involve comfortable distances of up to 10 miles. Our instructors aim to have the group arrive at camp each day with plenty of time to hold a short lecture and perhaps an evening stroll. Often a base camp is established, allowing the class to embark on a series of educational day hikes.
Unless specified in the class description, you are responsible for bringing and preparing your own food. Guidance on this note will be provided in your preclass materials, including recommended food and cooking equipment.
The start times vary depending on the type of class and start location. For all the classes that begin and end on the South Rim, we aim to begin the first day of class at 10 a.m. (Rim-to-Rim classes excepted; these start at 8 a.m.) so participants can use www.arizonashuttle.com to get to the park instead of driving. If you need help planning your travel, please give us a call (866) 471-4435 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about specific start times.
The end times vary from class to class. Most of our well-traveled corridor trips returning from Indian Garden or Bright Angel Campground end mid afternoon. Some of the more remote classes might not have you back until early evening. Nearby lodging recommendations accompany all the class details so you can rest before starting home.
You are welcome to park your car close to the Field Institute’s classrooms at the nearby Backcountry Information Center parking lot. No fee is charged. Extra luggage can be stored at the Field Institute office. We have lockers available for smaller valuables such as laptops, cell phones, keys, wallets and purses.
Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
Repackage food to minimize waste.
Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
In popular areas:
Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
In pristine areas:
Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find
Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The most common critters are rock squirrels, ringtail cats, mice and ravens. All of them are looking for your food. We have critter sacks available to store your food at camp. Cottonwood, Bright Angel and Indian Garden Campgrounds have metal containers in which food can be stored.
Grand Canyon is home to biting and stinging critters, from red ants to rattlesnakes and scorpions. It is extremely rare to see such animals, let alone be bitten or stung, if you follow good Leave No Trace practices. Your instructor can provide specific guidelines.
Composting pit toilets are available in the Grand Canyon backcountry. Toilets can be found at most Grand Canyon trailheads, along the main Corridor trails and at some of the remote backcountry camp areas. Most of Grand Canyon National Park is, however, without any toilet services. Solid human waste needs to be buried in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp areas and trails. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished. Bring extra plastic bags to pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. If you have any questions, speak with your instructor at the beginning of your class.
There is potable tap water along the main Corridor trails, including at Cottonwood, Bright Angel and Indian Garden Campgrounds. The pipeline that supplies the water is 40 years old and does break occasionally. At more remote camps, a pump-style filter is suggested, with chemicals as a backup.
During the peak spring-summer-autumn period, potable water is available at a number of inner-canyon locations:
North Kaibab – trailhead, Supai Tunnel, Roaring Springs and Cottonwood Campgrounds, Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground
South Kaibab – trailhead
Bright Angel – Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, Three-Mile Resthouse, Indian Garden, Plateau Point
Sturdy hiking boots that are well broken in are necessary for all backpacking and multiday trips. Buy them one-half to one size larger than your street shoes to allow for swelling and thick socks. Sneakers with good traction are suitable for our family day classes.
Yes. We regularly plan and lead custom adventures for travel and tour companies, churches, universities, friends and families who come as a group. Contact us via e-mail at email@example.com or by calling (866) 471-4435 to arrange a special adventure for your group with one of our expert instructors. There are size limits depending upon where the class is held.
Unless otherwise specified, you will receive a full refund less an administrative fee of $75 per person if you cancel at least 30 days before the class begins. No refunds will be made for cancellations received less than 30 days before the class start date. As a nonprofit organization on a tight budget, the Field Institute cannot make exceptions to this refund policy for any reason, including personal emergencies or weather. For that reason, we strongly urge you to obtain trip cancellation insurance through your local travel agent.
If the Field Institute must cancel a class, you will receive a full tuition refund. We will notify you at least 30 days before the start date if we find it necessary to cancel. Classes using commercial river outfitters or collaborations with other organizations may have a special refund policy that will be set forth in preclass materials.
We aim to process refunds within 5 business days. Your credit card company or bank may take additional time.
Most Field Institute classes involve travel through rugged terrain in which there are real dangers. The Field Institute takes the management of our activities with respect to these dangers very seriously. Good physical conditioning and a positive mental attitude are essential. Each student plays an important role in the success of a Field Institute class.
With few notable exceptions, all overnight classes in the backcountry require that you carry your own gear, sleep outdoors, prepare your own meals and care for yourself in weather conditions that can be extreme. Wilderness activity involves hazards to even the most experienced hiker/backpacker: rockfall, flash floods, lightning strikes (to name a few) can happen with little or no warning. Activities ranging from simple day hikes to multiday backpacking can, due to error in judgment or the unpredictable forces of nature, become dangerous and potentially life threatening.
Our classes are often conducted in remote areas in which travel can create complex emergency situations that have no simple solutions. Many medical incidents may be treated in the field (sprains, blisters, diarrhea, etc.). A more serious incident, such as a fracture, will require evacuation of the patient to a medical facility at their own expense.
Most Field Institute backcountry classes are equipped with electronic communication devices for life-threatening emergencies, but this does not guarantee reliable communication from the field. Radios and portable phones can be unreliable depending on terrain, atmospheric conditions and other variables. Classes that are within a two-hour walk/drive to emergency phones do not typically include an electronic communication device.
It is important that you understand that there are risks. Some adventure programs say that they can guarantee your safety. The Field Institute does not. The risk of injury, even serious injury or death, is unavoidable in the outdoor environment in which we teach. We strive to teach students how to identify hazards and adapt behavior during each class, as well as for a lifetime of enjoying the outdoors.
Before you arrive, thoroughly read all materials we send you, and do not hesitate to call us if you have questions: (866) 471-4435.