On a weekly basis, we get calls and emails from potential guests who would like to go on a hiking tour with us BUT they do not want to carry their gear.  Well, aside from the standard response of “that’s not roughin’ it,” we find ourselves explaining why we don’t offer mule, horse, llama, dog, bear, ape, gerbil, marmot or sasquatch supported hiking trips.  Yes, other guide services offer it. That doesn’t mean we have to as well.  It’s just not who we are, and we LOVE to see the elation in our guests’ faces when they complete their hikes with only their two feet and the verbal support of the guide and their fellow hikers.  There is nothing more fulfilling than such an accomplishment, and we know 90% of those who want their gear carried for them are fully capable of carrying their own, since whether you carry or not, you still have to train!  So, to make this simple, we have put together the top 6 reasons we do not, nor will we ever, offer animal supported tours.  These are in no specific order.

1.  It is better to Leave No Trace.  Your feet leave little impact on the trails in which we travel.  Hoofed animals, however, impact the trails greatly. When used daily for every person who wants a horse or a mule to carry gear, the consequence is the rapid erosion of these trails, thus requiring continuous and costly maintenance. On the corridor trails of the Grand Canyon alone (South and North Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails), the park spends over $3 million annually for trail maintenance but only receives about half of that from entrance fees, concessionaire fees and other trail maintenance fees.  Additionally, very large ruts are created by continual usage from pack animals, making trails much more difficult to hike.  On top of all of that, mules and horses have to poop and pee somewhere, right?  Well, they don’t use bathrooms.

Hiking Grand Canyon with backpacks2.  There are many more places to explore than just where mules and horses can go.  When hiking in National Parks, there are very few places pack animals are allowed to go.  For that matter, most places do not even have pack animals available, so unless you have one in your back pocket or know someone who has a horse he or she can lend you, you will be limited to only a few trails, routes, wilderness areas, and national parks.  Carry your own backpacking gear and the great outdoors will be open to you to go anywhere – more places to see and fewer people to have to share it with.

3.  As an extension to number 2, Grand Canyon trips are very limited if you do not carry your gear.  Grand Canyon is one of the few national parks to offer the option to get a pack mule to carry your gear.  So instead of 40 lbs., you might carry 15 lbs. of food, water and essentials you need to hike into and out of the canyon.  This means you cannot take a rim-to-rim hike period, as the mules can only descend and ascend the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, both of which are on the South Rim of the Canyon.  On the South Rim trails, the mules cannot stop and drop off your gear half way.  You are committed to hiking back from bottom to top in one day instead of having the flexibility of breaking the hike over two days, with shorter hikes and more opportunities to just stop and look around at the wondrous Grand Canyon! From the North Rim, mules only carry people and only go as far as Supai Tunnel, which is about two miles into the canyon.  So while you could have your gear meet you at the bottom, you have 14 miles of hiking to meet up with it. That is a long hike from the North Rim looking only at your feet with no spare time to stop, look around, take it in, and actually seeing the very place you are hiking to see.  Our motto – DO MORE, SEE MORE!

4.  We don’t believe in limitations.  If you are able to hike without a full backpack, you are able to hike with one (barring any medical reason, that is).  Why limit yourself with what you think you can do and just take that one extra step to open up a whole world of FUN!  It just takes a bit of extra training, but it WILL be worth the effort.

Hiker in the Grand Canyon

5.  We specialize in backpacking, not mule maintenance. We are not trying to be the company for everyone. We give our guests the best guided backpacking trips to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, because that is what we know and where we excel.  You wouldn’t want your bank teller giving you advice on investments, right?  Yes, a teller has a job dealing with money, but they don’t have the expertise on what stocks your should buy.  Likewise, you also don’t want a company that specializes in lodge-based, mule-supported civilization trips organizing your middle-of-nowhere backpacking-in-the-great-outdoors trip, either.  Additionally, any pack animals we would need to use do not belong to Just Roughin’ It. Therefore, we cannot always vouch for their treatment as can be seen with the pack and riding horses in Havasupai. The problem of abuse is not new and is why we have not used horses as part of our trips since 2008, but the issue has received much recent press.

6.  I may have alluded to this a few places but – FEWER PEOPLE!  Where there are pack animals, there are more people.  Carry the gear yourself and you can go as far as your feet can take you, including away from everyone else.  Isn’t that why we venture into the backcountry in the first place?