Hiking the Grand Canyon is a mind-blowing experience that challenges hikers both physically and mentally. But hiking the Grand Canyon on your period? Well, that makes things a bit more difficult.
After months of practice and preparation, I was beyond thrilled to start down the Bright Angel trail with two of my besties this past spring.
Unfortunately, an uninvited guest also joined me on the trip, my period. There was no way I could have known it would be that time of month when I reserved our hiking permit, but I was lucky enough to realize before we left that Aunt Flo would be making an unforgettable appearance. Here is what I learned from surviving a bloody seven hour hike down South Kaibab trail, 2 nights camping at the bottom, and a grueling 9 hour hike up Bright Angel trail.
- Follow Your Cycle: I strongly believe that all women should know when they’re next period is. That way you’re never surprised while hiking down into a giant hole in the ground, or you know, with a baby. It’s super easy to keep track of your period, you’ll feel more in control of your body and you’ll always know when to pack protection. All you need is a calendar. Mark off the days that you bleed for a couple months until you see a pattern of how many weeks/days between periods. Then you can easily count ahead as many days after each period to figure out the next time your period should arrive.
- Make A Plan: Figure out what kind of menstrual protection works best for you FOR TRAVELING. It’s awesome if you rock a Diva Cup regularly, but really consider how well that will work with limited access to toilets and clean running water. Personally, I am a cloth pad girl, but the idea of hiking out of the Grand Canyon with a big bag full of bloody cloth pads was not something I wanted to experience. Instead, I opted for a tampon/cloth combo, which meant I still had to hike out a couple re-useable cloth pads but was able to dispose of most of my tampon trash at select garbage cans. The big thing to remember here is that you must hike out all of your trash, unless you can find trash cans, but they are few are far between.
- Research your Path Beforehand: Are there chemical toilets at the rest areas or will you need to bring a shovel to bury your waste? Does the camp ground you’re staying at have a trash can for feminine products (fyi, neither Bright Angel nor Indian Gardens does). I hiked down the South Kaibab trail and was pleasantly surprised to see that the chemical toilets at almost every rest stop had a trash can specifically for feminine productions.
Unload as much of your used period stash here as you can, trash cans are hard to find in the canyon and hiking your trash out is going to seem super unappealing when you start to smell all the bloody tampons in your trash bag. The corridor trails are your best bet for luxurious feminine product trash cans because they are the most frequently hiked trails. Plus, if you do forget to bring tampons, you’re most likely to see other hikers on these trails that you can try to bum tampons off of than if you were on remote trails.
- Bring Aleve: or other cramp relieving drugs. This is a just in case. You probably won’t even need them, I didn’t. The hike down kicked my butt so much that I didn’t even notice cramps.
- Pack Toilet Paper: Yes, many of the rest areas along the corridor trails have toilets, but many of those toilets don’t have paper. One roll among 3 ladies worked fine for us.
- Bring Extra Tampons/pads/menstrual product of choice. They’re not heavy and if you are able to find a trash can to dump your used products, your pack will be even lighter on the hike up.
- Wet Wipes are Your Best Friend: Even a small bottle of hand sanitizer will do the trick. None of the toilets along the corridor trails have sinks or running water. The campgrounds do but as it can take 6-9 hours to hike the main corridor trails, you’ll most likely need to wash your hands before you make it to your final destination.
- Pack Extra Underwear: A few well-meaning male hikers tried to “help us out” while we waited for the shuttle to the trail head by taking lots of things out of our pack to lighten our load. They claimed we only really needed one or two pairs of undies. Taking out all my extra underwear would have lightened my pack, sure, but those guys had no idea how it feels to be able to change into a fresh pair after a long sweaty hike while bleeding. I highly recommend bringing an extra pair or two in case you bleed onto what you’re wearing. Plus, you’ll just feel cleaner, which should not be taken for granted in the Grand Canyon.
I just hiked the bright angel trail to pipe creek beach and then back up in the same day. My family did it with me and they felt fine, but when I got to the bottom I started having seriously bad stomach cramps. I wasn’t supposed to start my period, but I did start it when I got down to the river. I’m wondering if there is any way that my period started early based on the drastic elevation change. It was really weird. I felt fine til I sat down at the river and then my cramps started and hurt sooooo bad. Wondering if you’ve heard about anything weird happening like that…