Grand Canyon Hiking
To truly experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, hiking from the rim to the river can be a rewarding and life-changing adventure.
The hike from the canyon rim to the floor of the valley and back up again can be tackled by most relatively fit people – even the novice hiker. Make no mistake, it is a tough hike but you don’t need to be an athlete to complete it successfully.
It is possible for an experienced hiker to trek to the bottom and back up the other side in one day, however, if you have the time available try to plan your hike over three or more days to make the most of this experience.
During the planning process for your trek you might want to read some of the many books available on Grand Canyon hiking. There are also videos/DVDs available and any of these resources will start to give you an idea of the trail you might prefer to take from the rim to the canyon floor and back up again.
It is a popular idea with hikers to begin their descent from one rim, hike to the floor of the canyon and then hike out on the opposite side.
This particular hike poses the problem of where to leave your car; or more importantly, how to get back to your car it you exit the canyon on, say, the south rim, and your car is parked on the north rim. The distance from the south rim to the north rim is only about ten miles as the crow flies but it is a 220 mile car trip! Some hikers arrange to swap car keys with a group hiking in the opposite direction. If this option isn’t available to you, there is a shuttle that runs between the two rims.
You can choose a guided Grand Canyon hike or a self-guided hike. If you choose a self-guided hike you must start out with a good map. There are many different maps available and you’ll want to ensure that your map covers the trails you wish to hike plus the campgrounds.
When To Hike
Let’s start with when not to go Grand Canyon hiking! June, July and August are scorchingly hot and should be avoided. The north rim and all its facilities are closed from mid November to mid May. The most pleasant time of year to attempt a Grand Canyon hike is mid May to early June and late September to mid November. An advantage of trekking in the spring is the presence of many beautiful wildflowers on the canyon floor.
From the north rim the only track to the canyon floor is the North Kaibab Trail. It is approximately 13 miles from the north rim to Bright Angel Campground and the trail descends 5400 feet. There is reliable water available. From the south rim there is a choice of the South Kaibab Trail which is 5.6 miles and descends 4500 feet, or Bright Angel Trail which is 9.7 miles in length and descends 4260 feet. There is reliable water on Bright Angel Trail but there is no water available on South Kaibab.
Because of the lack of water and the steepness of the gradient, South Kaibab is recommended as a descent track rather than a climbing track.
For hikers who choose to hike from the south rim to the canyon floor before returning to the south rim, descending via the South Kaibab Trail and climbing out via the Bright Angel Trail is a good option.
Serious backpackers who are prepared to carry a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment and food along with their drinking water, extra clothing and toiletries can stay in any of the campsites. For those hikers who’d like a little more comfort at the end of the day, Phantom Ranch, a historic National Park lodge built in the 1920s stands alongside Bright Angel Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. They serve simple but hearty meals and this is a great place to relax before the climb back to the rim and the conclusion of your Grand Canyon hike.
Alison Stevens is an online author and maintains The Hiking And Camping Website to assist hikers, campers and backpackers to choose the right equipment.