Why I Had a Terrible Time Hiking the Grand Canyon

I’m pretty sure I got PTSD* from hiking in the Grand Canyon.

My friends wanted to go on the Bright Angel Trail, one of the most strenuous, tourist-unfriendly hikes in the park (albeit one of the most iconic ones but that is besides the point).

The hike stretches over 8 miles and misleads you into thinking everything is fine because you start off descending into the canyon and who doesn’t like going downhill? When I started I was practically skipping down the steps—gravity, my pal, was doing the work for me. But 4,380 feet later, I hit the bottom and realized I was screwed because I had to climb 4,380 feet back up.

Within 5 minutes of the ascent—it was the least steep part too—I could feel my breath getting heavy and my calves getting sore and an inner panic alarm going off, saying “You’re screwed, you’re screwed,” in a sing-songy voice as if my body’s signs of physical fatigue didn’t make that clear enough.

*This is not meant to trivialize people with PTSD. It was used as a rhetorical device.

It wasn’t my fault.

In fact, my friend Keishel and I didn’t want to go all the way down to the bottom of the canyon. Our group stopped halfway and the both of us were perfectly fine with turning around and heading back up, but alas we were outnumbered (read: we succumbed to peer pressure).

The only consolation was we both had each other while suffering through the uphill climb, trailing the end of the group.* We shared looks of disgust (as if saying “Why did we let ourselves get into this?”) followed by despair (“I want to cry because this is never going to end”) and bitterness (“I’m getting myself a Starbucks frappuccino and a massage after this and no one is going to stop me”). We were so naively happy in the photos below–pre-hike, of course.

*Actually, Keishel had her boyfriend, Peter, too. He could’ve totally ran to the top but stayed back with the both of us and offered to carry our stuff and gave us water. #RealMVP

For a month after, going up any incline brought back memories of Grand Canyon.

But, I’ll admit, I was nowhere near prepared to hike the amount I did. I hadn’t been doing any exercise (one of my friends, Anelia, ran 5 miles a day so it was no wonder when she finished the hike first) and did not think I would have to climb the equivalent of 430 stories in one day. At least I have nice photos to compensate for the pain (there were some pretty amazing views, too, I guess).

So, some advice for going on any hiking trip:

1. Know what hikes you want to go on. Whether they’re nice and flat or steep and unholy–pick your battle. If you’re going to a national park, there are guides on specific trails that detail the distance, duration, and height. Be sure to check them out first (click here for a guide to Grand Canyon hikes).
2. Make sure you’re physically prepared to go on those hikes. 
You don’t want to end up like me. If you’re going on a particularly grueling climb, start prepping weeks before by adding incline to your treadmill routine or doing sets of lunges to beef up those calves and hamstrings.
3. Go with friends who are equally as fit (or unfit). i.e. find a Keishel who will trudge along with you (love ya, K).

Photo Credits: Dominique and Keishel

1 Comment

  1. […] past March, my friends and I took a road trip to Arizona expecting the sun, the warmth, and the good ol’ Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, on one of the days, we were transported to the set of Narnia. I tried to escape the […]


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