Hiking the Mighty Grand Canyon

There’s no better way to personally experience the magnificence of the Grand Canyon than with a Grand Canyon hiking trip. Hiking the canyon allows visitors to explore the nooks and crannies of the abyss as well as observe canyon wildlife in their natural habitat. And the best part? Anyone can hike the canyon, for the sheer size of it lets hikers customize their routes according to interest and ability.

Hiking Permits

Permits are not required for day hikes but are mandatory for those camping overnight or hiking below the rim in the backcountry. Permits cost $10 with an additional $5 fee per person. Arriving without a permit is not recommended; most hikers reserve their permits four months in advance. Contact the Backcountry Information Center at (928) 638 7875 between the hours of 1 PM and 5 PM for more information.

Planning a hiking trip

The National Park Service advises awareness when planning your Grand Canyon hiking trip. It’s important to pick the right time of year; though spring and fall are the most pleasant times to hike, the North Rim is closed from mid May to mid October. Summer temperatures in the canyon can be brutal, rising well over 105°F (40°C).

Day hikes are an easy way to experience the canyon. The National Park Service recommends estimating how many hours you plan to hike, then turning back after you have hiked one third of that estimated time. Pack at least three quarts of water per person.

Grand Canyon hiking tips

Drink plenty of water and drinks that replace electrolytes in your body

Never hike during the hottest parts of the day from 10 AM to 4 PM

Eat salty food and carbohydrates whenever you take a drink

Hike in the shade and rest often in the shade

Do not attempt to swim in the Colorado River due to its swift currents and freezing temperatures

Emergencies

The National Park Service does their best to educate hikers on how to prevent an emergency but accidents do happen; the over 250 people who are rescued from the canyon every year will attest to that. In the event of an emergency, the park service provides ambulance service by helicopter. These evacuations are not to be taken lightly; expect to pay $2,000 or more per flight as the helicopter must encounter uneven terrain and dangerous wind currents on its journey.

South Rim hiking trails

Easy: the Rim Trail runs from Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Rest. Enjoy a quiet hike with views of the inner canyon and take advantage of the shuttle buses whenever you feel like a ride.

Challenging: hikers can tackle a few miles on Bright Angel Trail or head for the full 12 mile roundtrip; the trail is partially shaded and water seasonal. The steep South Kaibab Trail starts south of Yaki Point and must be accessed by shuttle bus. There’s no water and little shade so be prepared to carry a sufficient water supply.

Very strenuous: the steep, unmaintained Hermit Trail begins at Hermits Rest; hike 4.5 miles roundtrip to Santa Maria Springs or 6.5 miles roundtrip to Dripping Spring. Pick up the extremely challenging Grandview Trail at Grandview Point and hike two miles roundtrip to Coconino Saddle or 6.4 miles roundtrip to Horseshoe Mesa. Hiking boots are recommended.

North Rim hiking trails

Easy: Cape Final Trail, Cliff Springs Trail and Point Imperial Trail are all four mile round trips hikes. The trails follow along the rim to offer great views; Point Imperial trail passes through areas of forest burned in the Outlet Fire of 2000.

Challenging: Widforss Trail and Ken Patrick Trail offer 10 mile roundtrip hikes that afford forest and canyon views.

Very strenuous: North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained trail that descends into the canyon from the North Rim. Do a short hike of 1.5 miles roundtrip to Coconino Overlook or four miles roundtrip to Supai Tunnel. Experienced hikers can tackle the 9.4 mile roundtrip to Roaring Springs; hikers are advised not to try to hike beyond the Springs in one day. The most challenging route is to the Colorado River and back; this 28 mile trail descends 6,000 feet in elevation and hikers are strictly advised not to attempt to hike there and back in one day.