Surely the Grand Canyon has to be one of the most iconic National Parks that this amazing planet we call home has to offer, and the amazing thing about this Park is that just about anyone can find a hike to suit them.
That means that if you have an easy flat hike in mind or have the desire to hike right down to the bottom of the Canyon, you will find the ideal hike waiting for you.
Allow me to give you my recommendations for the best hikes that the Grand Canyon has to offer as well as some Grand Canyon hiking itineraries and plenty of planning tips to really what your appetite for adventure.
Grand Canyon Top Rated Trails
South Rim Trail
This is the spot where a lot of visitors first lay their eyes on the amazing Grand Canyon. There is no shortage of viewpoints and the sight is one that will stay etched in the memory for many years to come.
This paved route is 13 miles long and has lots of shuttle stops along the way as well linking scenic viewpoints with the facilities on offer, such as the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Mather Point and Powell Point along the South Rim Trail offer incredible picture opportunities, and Yavapai Point has to be the top spot for when the sun goes down. The Mather Campground and the Market Plaza are also nearby for facilities and when on the South Rim trail hikers are able to access all South Rim trailheads which lead into the canyon.
The cliffs here are steep so extra caution is needed when exploring and taking photos.
North Kaibab Trail
Being the only maintained hiking trail that provides entrance to the canyon from the North Rim, this trail was constructed in the 1920s. In the same way that the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails do, this trail steeply switchbacks as it makes its way to the Colorado River.
If a day hike on the North Kaibab Trail is what you have in mind, instead of the challenging 14 miles down to the river is it a good idea to make use of one of the scenic turnaround points found along the way, there are plenty to choose from.
When you reach 1.7 miles on the North Kaibab Trail you will pass under the blasted Supai Tunnel, three miles on from this point and you will meet Roaring Springs, providing all drinking water for the park, this is a spot where many choose to turn around and hike back up to the rim.
The North Kaibab Trail has a lot less footfall than its southern counterpart and gives a sense of greater solitude if this is what you are after, some would also say that the most incredible views of the Grand Canyon are found on the way down this trail.
The Manzanita Rest Area found 5.4 miles down the North Kaibab provides season water and the trail goes by the Cottonwood Campground. This is the closest campground to the North Rim and overnight stays require a permit.
At 14 miles, once inside the inner ravine and linking with Phantom Ranch, the trail comes to the river and at this point intersects with the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails.
Bright Angel Trail
With its steep descent from the South Rimand providing views that are nothing short of spectacular and cannot be seen from the rim this has to be the iconic hiking trail of America. Over the course of 9 miles, hikers descend 4,000 feet, the views are incredible and the switchbacks are endless.
The general recommendation is for day hikers to trek part way down the trail only. It can easily take twice the time to hike back up so the two very appropriately named Rest Houses found along the way are great spots to turnaround. Both the Mile-and-a-half and the Three-mile Rest Houses have seasonal wear available, as well as toilet facilities.
Each day pack mules are used on the Bright Agel Trail, both for transporting supplies and for tourist use, when hikers encounter a mule line they need to follow instructions provided by the pack leader.
The Bright Angel Trail is popular for backpackers and those doing long-distance hikes, it is also popular for uphill routes since seasonal water is available. Indian Gardens and bright Angel Campground both provide backcountry camping and Phantom Ranch provide tourists with a unique overnight experience (reservations and permits needed).
Bright Angel Point Trail
For visitors to the North Rim, Bright Angel Point is a standard excursion that provides a relatively easy half-mile trail to what could certainly be called the best views of the canyon. This is a fabulous introductory trail to do as soon as you arrive, especially since it starts at the Visitor Center.
Both at the visitor center and along the way you will find interpretative information, expect to find other hikers along his route all admiring the stunning views.
It was copper miners with their mules that first etched out this route, the steep trail means that it gets fewer hikers than the nearby Bright Angel ad South Kaibab. This is a good choice for a backpacking route as permits tend to be easier to acquire.
At the top of Horseshoe Mesa are some of the most popular camping spots, this is also where you will find historical mining remnants. For those who need a good turnaround spot, Horseshoe Mesa works very well. The Grandview Trailhead provides parking and is found between the Desert View Campground and the Grand Canyon Village.
South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trailhead doesn’t allow any personal vehicles and is known as one of the most popular hikes to enter the canyon.
A shuttle system is used for hikers to get to and from the trailhead and provides transport from the early morning and throughout the day. In fact, for those who want to make the most of this hiking trail, an early morning start is highly recommended.
Over 7 miles this trail drops close to 5,000 feet between the Colorado Rover and the South Rim, no water sources are available and a lot of the trail is exposed to the sun and rock formations. However, these challenges should not put you of a day hike as the route boasts incredible views that cannot be seen from the rim.
This trail has endless switchbacks making it a real adventure down the steep landscape. Good turnaround spots for day hikers are the Ooh-Aah-Point (at 1 mile) or Cedar Ridge (at 1.5 miles), Skeleton Point (at 3 miles down) is also an option and boasts the first view of the Colorado River. Backpackers will find that the South Kaibab trail is a common start point.
Named after Gunnar Widforss, an artist of the early 20th-century who was known for his water colorings of Grand Cayon scenes, this trail is found to the Nort Rim.
It follows the North Rim for around two miles and gives spectacular views of this more quiet side of the canyon.
After this, the trail heads into the shaded forest and after around 5 miles the trail co0mes out of the forest and gives the hikers more canyon views at Widfross Point.
Cape Final Trail
With incredible views, a rather level trail and relatively few people, this Cape Final trail is a four-mile hike on the North Rim. The trail takes hikers through the forest and along the edge of the canyon before reaching the Cape Final viewpoint.
This precipice allows hikers to see a lot of the prominent features of the Grand Canyon, for instance, the Vishnu temple as well as the easter edge of the canyon. It’s a good option for family hikes since the elevation change is not extreme.
This has to be one of the most well-known waterfall hikes the nation over, indeed those enchanting blue waters of the Havasu Falls have been capturing the hearts of residents and visitors for countless years.
The trail is found on the Havasupai Indian Reservation and permits are needed for hikes in this stunning landscape, you will find getting these permits to be highly competitive.
The hike here is a least 10 miles and quite challenging. It is not recommended to make this a day hike, overnight backpacking or mule rides are needed for hikers to see the waterfalls.
This is a different choice for a rim-to-river hiking trail and allows hikers to experience a more solitary experience. This route is only for practiced desert travelers, within the first 2.5 miles the trail drops 2,000 feet, hence the hike back up is certainly a challenging one.
When the park first opened, this was the main way into the Grand Canyon and only a small number of campsites are available on this trail hence most of the foot traffic is day hikers.
A popular turnaround point is Santa Maria Springs which is found 2.5 miles beneath the Rim. Santa Maria Springs has water available although this has to be treated before drinking. The Hermit trail links with the Tonto Trail, this route is a key one that goes across the canyon on the Tonto platform.
For hikers who wish to do the Grand Canyon in a day this trail is an excellent and adventurous choice. The 24-mile trek that links the North to the South Rim has 4,555 feet of elevation gain, if not more, this is only an option for long-distance hikers who have plenty of experience.
It is crucial to have an early morning start, before daybreak if the route is to be completed in a day. For hikers interested in this route, contact with the backcountry information Center will provide more information.
A popular start spot for doing a Rim-to-Rim hike is at the South Kaibab trailhead. Once hikers have made their way down the waterless route to the river they will pass Phantom Ranch and then link on to the North Kaibab Trail taking them to the North Rim.
Working out how to get back to your start point is a logistic that needs to be considered before taking on this hike, either another Rim-to-Rim hike to get back to your vehicle or a rather long shuttle ride which is available from May to October.
Hikes for You
Best Grand Canyon Hikes
- South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
- Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point
- Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs
- Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa
Grand Canyon Hikes for Beginners
- Rim Trail to South Kaibab
- Rim Trail to Bright Angel
- 1.5 Mile Resthouse
- Ooh Ahh Point
- Shoshone Point
Grand Canyon Hikes for Families
- Ooh Ahh Point
- Shoshone Point
- Rim Trail to Bright Angel
- Rim Trail to South Kaibab
Grand Canyon Hikes Away from Crowds
- Rim Trail to Hermit’s Rest
- Shoshone Point
- Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs
- Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa
When to Trek in the Canyon
Are you planning to take a guided trip in the Grand Canyon? Are you going on the trek alone? Well, you need to plan carefully on when to visit. Here’s what you need to know about when to visit the Grand Canyon.
December to February
It is an ideal time to visit the Canyon. You need to be prepared for the winter storms and icy trails. It’s a very quiet time without large crowds so you can enjoy the solitude. The top of the canyon is full of pristine dust that brings out the contrast on the red cliffs found below.
Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails are the best to hike during this time since the rest can be too icy. Bring some hiking crampons with you when you go on the trip. Note that, North Rim is closed for the winter season.
However, there is the winter rim to rim available reaching the North Rim by hiking across the Canyon.
March to May
It is the best time to hike the Grand Canyon. In March and April, the temperatures are quite cool but they become hot in May. However, you can enjoy moderate temperatures for the most part. There is still some winter moisture in spring so you should be prepared for a few icy trails and varying weather.
You can enjoy hiking on the main Corridor trails or the remote options like the Grandview, Hermit, Tanner and New Hance. The North Rim is still closed until May 15 after which the Rim to Rim hikes are available.
June to August
If you are trekking on your own, don’t go in the summer months without a guide. You should stay on the main trails such as North and South Kaibab as well as Bright Angel. Make sure you carry a lot of water for the hike and eat a lot of salty and sweet snacks. In the shade, the temperatures might be 105+ degrees F.
You should hike very early in the morning and later in the evening. Rest in the middle of the day, especially if you are going for backpacking trips. It is also the monsoon season you should expect flash flooding and thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Note that, the Grand Canyon receives 25,000 thunder strikes every year so beware of that. Also, dry streams can transform into raging rivers very fast. Stay away if there is any mention of thunderstorms in the weather forecast.
September to November
Just like the spring season, fall is also a great time to visit the Canyon. During this time, the North Rim is open, allowing people to take the Rim to Rim hike. It is still hot in early weeks of September with the possibility of monsoon rains.
However, it becomes quite chilly in November, especially in the rims. Also, the North Rim closes down after significant rainfall between mid-October to mid-November. All in all, you can enjoy a great hike in the Canyon in November.
More Weather Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon
- Note that, the average elevation in the South Rim, goes as high as 6,800ft (measuring about 2,070m).
- It is higher than any other mountain found in the East Coast of the USA. Therefore, it is colder than expected at the Rim, even during the hot summer months.
- From September to June, the South Rim might be snowing. Don’t go hiking if there is ice or snow on the trails. However, you can do so if you are experienced using microspikes and crampons.
- During the summer months, the South Rim also becomes very hot, about 90F. the temperature rises to 5.5F as you go into the canyon.
- It is not safe to hike at the bottom part of the canyon. The highest temperature recorded at the bottom of the canyon is 120F. You might die if you go hiking in these temperatures.
- Just like any other desert, the Canyon gets quite hot in the day and cold at night. You should visit the South Rim in May and June when it is dry and cool. You should visit the North Rim in late August to early September.
Grand Canyon Planning Tips
The Grand Canyon is divided into two parts which are the North and South Rim. These parks are separated by 11 miles across the canyon. However, you can’t drive through the canyon to get from one rim to the other. Driving from the North to the South Rim takes about 4 hours.
The North Rim is closer to Las Vegas and Zion National Park. If it is your first time visiting the Grand Canyon, you can’t go wrong with the South Rim.
Take about 3 days to visit the South Rim and enjoy the amazing sites as well as hikes. You can add in the Rim Trail hike to the Bright Angel to stretch your legs. Also, you should take about 2 days to hike. You can get around the South Rim using the shuttle buses, especially in the hot summer season.
With regard to accommodation, you should stay at the Grand Canyon Village. However, you should know that the accommodation fills up very fast. If you want a fancy option, you can’t go wrong with El Tovar. Alternatively, you can camp in one of the campsites because it is an affordable option.
If you can’t get any lodging in the Grand Canyon, you can stay at Tusayan, located 10 minutes outside the park. Here, there are some off-brand hotels and chain hotels for the best accommodation close to the Canyon. Even better, there is a free shuttle service to get you into the park from Tusayan.
If you have planned your trip at the last minute, you should call the reservation number by 7:30 am on the day you want to book your accommodation. You might be lucky enough to get a last-minute cancellation.
Don’t forget to buy a National Parks Pass for entry of you and the car, including the passengers into the Grand Canyon. It can also be used to get into any park in the U.S without hassle.
If you want to buy or rent hiking gear, you can’t miss out at the Grand Canyon Village market. Also, you should find a lot of food for your preferences. It’s much better than the supermarkets located at Tusayan.
You can find some cell phone reception at the visitor’s center or lodges but it’s mostly non-existent around the park. The same goes for Wi-Fi. Check the Grand Canyon National Park Updates page regularly. Here, you will find any relevant information such as the closed roads, availability of water or the impassable trails. You will be able to know the conditions on the ground before you get there.
Sunrise and Sunset
The best sunrises you can enjoy at the Canyon are at Maricopa Point, Yaki Point and Powell Point. For the best sunsets, you should visit Hopi Point, Pima Point, Yaki Point or Mohave Point.
Tips for Hiking the Grand Canyon
- Bring a lot of water especially if you are going to hike at the bottom part of the Canyon because you will be extremely thirsty. Bring a water bottle to remain hydrated throughout the hike.
- Rather than eating at the restaurant, you should bring a packed lunch with you. Enjoy a picnic on the rim. Remember, the restaurant prices tend to be steep so you can save a lot of money by packing your own lunch.
- Take your time and walk slowly if you are hiking at the bottom. Use a slow pace and give yourself enough time to avoid rushing. Going too fast means you will be too exhausted and you will drink your water faster.
- You don’t have to go on the bus tour. A lot of people use bus tours from cities like Las Vegas to see the Canyon. They are cheap in most cases but you will enjoy it because the trip will be rushed. You can use a rideshare or rent a car for the best experience.
- Visit during the shoulder season since summers are busy. That way, you can avoid the busy crowds.
- Choose the right hike for a great experience. The Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge takes about 3 miles and is perfect if you don’t have too much time but want to hike.
- Get to the Canyon early since the park is very busy at sunset. If you get there early, you can enjoy the most amazing view without too many people in your way.
How to Stay Safe
- The Grand Canyon might be harsh but it’s safe for hikers. A lot of fatalities are preventable. Every year about 10 to 20 deaths are reported at the Canyon. They include suicide, traffic accidents, natural causes and many more.
- However, recently, a lot of people have died because of taking selfies at the edge and falling. You will be fine if you stay on the official trail. A few hikers also tripped and fell off the cliff.
- When hiking, you should use trekking poles and focus on the trail.
- Avoid hiking when there is ice or snow.
- Always read updates on the park before going on a hike to avoid any dangerous conditions that might lead to death.
- Don’t hike when it’s too hot outside. That’s because your body will not be able to cool itself. Your organs will be cooked inside the body.
- Also, don’t forget to bring a lot of water when you are on a hike. Whenever you are in doubt, always ask the rangers. They can advise on the best hikes to take and at what times of the year.
- Don’t worry about rattlesnakes or mountain lions. Actually, most people have been bitten by squirrels, so there are no dangerous wild animals to worry about.
- If you see any wildlife, don’t approach it. Always give mules right-of-way when on the trail.
- Stand on the cliffside and follow the instructions given by the mule-handler.
- If you are stuck behind them, keep your distance until the mule handler allows you to pass.
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