There’s a surprisingly common debate about what’s the best way to experience the Canyon. When I tell people I'm doing a 10-day Grand Canyon trip, I often get a response along the lines of, "Why? I'd want to spend as much time in there as possible."
The answer is, of course, yes, we'd all like to spend as much time in there as possible. But there are a few things missing from that assessment.
First, doing a self-support trip allows you to go just about every year. I've been on seven trips in the last eight years—four kayak, three raft. Winter permits are a dime a dozen and taking 7-10 days off work is a lot easier than 28. Self-support kayak trips are usually logistically easier to pull off than a big rafting trip, which makes it possible to go on short notice. In other words, apply for those cancellation permits!
Second, kayaks move fast. Really fast. On my most recent trip (this past Christmas), we would typically get on the water between 10 and 11, do a lunch stop, paddle a bit more, go for a hike, and end up at camp before dark after traveling 25-30 miles. We did some shorter days and one longer day, but we had time for one or more hikes every day. We passed a couple raft trips that were doing a lot less hiking than our group was, despite being on much longer trips. The overhead of setting up and breaking down camp, the slower pace on the water, and the typically larger group make it hard to make miles on a raft trip.
The more you go, the more you get to be in the Grand Canyon. I’m just trying to get as much time in there as I can before they put in that tram to the LCR!