Hiking Trips In Grand Canyon

Hiking Trips In Grand Canyon

If you love hiking, then you would love to visit the Grand Canyon. Each year there are millions of travelers coming here to stand at the edge of a spectacular natural wonder of the globe. They want to gaze out at the large space and to feel awed and humbled.

There is another way to experience the Grand Canyon.


The Grand Canyon boasts hundreds of miles of hiking trails that can take you on a variety of adventures, ranging from one-day dips beneath the rim to seven-day adventures that take you to the Colorado River and back and everything in between. Planning though is key because the Grand Canyon averages more annual helicopter rescues than any other national park in the world. Planning is also important because it’s a competitive game trying to get permits.


So here are some guidelines:


First decide which trail(s) you would like to hike. If you’re new to the Grand Canyon I recommend staying on the corridor trails for your first round; that means the South Kaibab, North Kaibab, and Bright Angel Trails. If you’re feeling more adventurous the Hermit, New Hance, Grandview, Tonto and Tanner Trails are all excellent tastes of the wilder side of the Canyon.


Second decide when you want to hike the Canyon. The best times, because of winter storms and scorching summer temperatures, are from mid March to mid May, and from mid September to mid November. Summer temperatures can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and winter storms can drop a foot or more of snow at the rims.


Third secure your permits. Permits become available four months in advance on the first of the month. For example, if you want April permits they become available on December first. You secure permits through the Backcountry Office at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Their phone number is 928-638-7875, but you’ll have to fax your permit request in to the office. Their fax number is 928-638-2125.


You’ll find out about ten days later if you received your desired permits.


Once you have your permits it’s time to plan the specifics. First you have to get yourself to the Grand Canyon. The best way to do that is to fly into Phoenix or Flagstaff and rent a car. The best place to stay before your trip is in the small town of Tusayan, a short five minute drive from the South Rim Village. The hotels in Tusayan are more affordable than the hotels at the South Rim and often have more availability.


For gear, you’ll need backpacks with a minimum of 4,000 square inches of packing space, a sleeping bag rated at a maximum of 30 degrees, sleeping pads, tents, cooking stoves, cooking pots and pans, food, water containers, first-aid kits, extra clothes, blister precautions, and possibly a satellite phone.


If you’re an experienced backpacker, this is a pretty common list and won’t be a problem. If you’re not, you may consider going on a guided tour where they take care of the permits, supply all the gear and food, and equip you with a professional Grand Canyon hiking guide. Either way, it’s a peak experience and the adventure of a lifetime!


For information on guided tours to the Grand Canyon, see the Wildland Trekking Company’s Grand Canyon Hiking Tours.

For information on guided hikes to other destinations, see Wildland Trekking’s homepage.

For information on obtaining permits in the Grand Canyon for your own hiking trip, see the park service’s Backcountry Permit Page.

Grand Canyon Hiking

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.

Which Track?

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.