Re-Greening the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14271A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Enjoy the South Rim's many activities
  • Restore critical native vegetation in a national treasure
  • Enjoy a community of like-minded people


  • Abundant meals
  • Attentive leadership
  • Tools and instruction from Canyon experts


DatesMay 18–24, 2014
StaffBruce Kanarek

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Trip Overview

The Trip

A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt said of the Grand Canyon: "Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work upon it, and man can only mar it."

Roosevelt was right. Today, the burgeoning masses of visitors to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon have contributed to an alarming decline in the native vegetation -- especially on the South Rim. This service trip offers an opportunity to help reverse that decline. 

The Project

Our mission is to assist the Park's Science Center with its vegetation management efforts. We never know where we may be asked to work -- sometimes it is along a stream, a railroad track, or a breathtakingly scenic area at the edge of the South Rim. We may assist with the critical tasks of gathering seeds and removing invasive species, and almost always there is planting or nursery work that needs to be done. All of our projects are under the direction of the Park's knowledgeable experts.

Past trip participants who subsequently returned to the Canyon report a tremendous feeling of satisfaction at seeing the cactus or yucca they planted in years past flourishing in the sun, or at seeing a fence they constructed successfully rerouting Park visitors away from a degraded area.


The group assembles at Mather Campground, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, at mid-afternoon on day one. Arriving earlier in the day allows you to settle in and acclimate to the significant altitude. Our first group meeting is at 4 p.m., followed by supper. Our workdays generally last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- with water breaks and a lunch break -- so you will have a few hours at the end of the day for exploring.

Some of the activities available during free time include exploring the historic Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim, hiking, or just relaxing and absorbing the sublime vistas. All participants will have an additional day off during the week. And the moon will be full, so expect dramatic Canyon views!



Getting There

Phoenix, Arizona -- approximately 3.5 hours south of the Grand Canyon's South Rim -- is the easiest carpool connection. You do not need a car while in the Park -- there is a free shuttle bus. Some walking is required to reach the bus stops from the campground. If we are in a remote location, the Park will provide transportation.

Please let the leader know your travel plans as soon as possible. The leader will provide each participant with a list of people wishing to carpool. Your mode and cost of transportation to the starting point is not included in the price of this trip and is your responsibility.

Accommodations and Food

The first meal is dinner on day one and the last meal is lunch on the last day. Hearty menus are planned to keep up our energy. Vegetarian and other special dietary needs can be accommodated, but must be communicated to the leader when applying for the trip.

Meals are prepared by one of the leaders and assisted by trip members. Food selection and food transport will be done by the leader.

Trip Difficulty

Respecting the 6,950-foot elevation, being relatively physically fit, knowing your limits, and being mentally capable of "going with the flow" are the requirements for this moderately strenuous trip. Experience with tools and equipment is not necessary, but helpful. The leaders can often structure the work to accommodate more minor physical challenges. Leader approval is required for all participants.

If you are unaccustomed to carrying a day pack with food and water, wearing hiking boots, and working in the sun, this trip may not be for you. Hats, water containers, sunscreen, and leather-palmed work gloves are necessities. You must bring personal water containers, and you must carry two quarts of water with you at all times. Temperatures are extremely variable; daytime temperatures may be cool to warm, but very cold nights and mornings can be expected.

It may rain torrentially, so a waterproof tent and tent fly are critical!

Equipment and Clothing

You should bring your personal items, a tent, a warm sleeping bag, a positive attitude, and a willingness to meet new people, explore a new place, and learn more about this magnificent park. A detailed equipment list is provided in your information packet once you are approved for the trip.


There are numerous publications about the Grand Canyon. Do not overlook the least expensive source: your public library. Inquire about the Southwest, Ancient Pueblo, Four Corners Region, Native Americans, Pueblo cultures, geology of the area, etc. Knowing more about this beautiful place beforehand will definitely enhance your experience.


The Vegetation Team relies almost exclusively on volunteers to complete its work in caring for ALL of the Park's visited areas -- a huge task. Without participation from groups like ours, visitors would experience a Park entirely devoid of vegetation along the Rim and well-traveled areas. Our work helps ensure that future visitors will see native vegetation.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Bruce Kanarek (at left in photo), along with his husband Larry Keller, has co-led 20-plus service trips in the Southwest, most in the Grand Canyon. He deeply enjoys building community and it shows -- repeat participants are common. Expect a team building focus, a real get-away from your day-to-day life, lots of encouragement, caring safety reminders, a fair amount of laughter, and lots of respect for diversity. Bruce and Larry live in Chicago, travel two weeks a month, and believe every moment in life counts.


Larry Keller (at right in photo), along with his husband Bruce Kanarek, has co-led 20-plus service trips in the Southwest, most in the Grand Canyon. He deeply enjoys building community and it shows -- repeat participants are common. Expect good, plentiful food, lots of encouragement, caring safety reminders, a fair amount of laughter, and lots of respect for diversity. Bruce and Larry live in Chicago, travel two weeks a month, and believe every moment in life counts.

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