Grand Canyon Hiking
The Grand Canyon is a hiker's mecca. From towering Ponderosa Pines and expansive vistas, to the awesome Colorado River and some of the world's most amazing geology this is a destination one could spend a lifetime exploring. The Grand Canyon has over 400 miles of trails, and the possibilities for off trail hiking are limitless.
Day hikes, multi-day hikes, and month long expeditions are all available for those who are ready for the challenge of hiking the Canyon. A leisurely hike along the rim, a three mile day hike on the South Kaibab Trail, or a three day trip to Havasu Falls - it's hard to know where to start with a place that is made up of over one million acres, and has more life zones in a seven mile hike than all of New York state. Waterfalls, caves, a harsh desert and a mighty river with limitless superlatives... well, you see what were trying to say...
The majority of Grand Canyon trails are found on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (most of which have access year round), and the North Rim, which has seasonal access from mid-May until the first snow falls. There are also quite a few trails around the Marble Canyon area. Trails in the western Grand Canyon are limited, and access can be difficult, so be sure to do some research before you venture out this way, or go with a qualified guide.
All Grand Canyon day hikes are permit free and you can hike to your heart's content so long as you dont stay overnight. Overnight backpacking, however, has a strict and limited permitting system, and all hikers must obtain a backcountry permit at the Backcountry Registration Office before setting out on a multi-day hike.
Popular Trails, Loop Hikes and Campgrounds
Bright Angel Trail (Mileage/Elevation/Water)
1.5 Mile Resthouse: 1.5 miles/5720 ft/Water May-Sept (potable)
3 Mile Resthouse: 3 miles/4920 ft/Water May-Sept (potable)
Indian Gardens: 4.5 miles/3,800 ft/Year Round Water (potable)
Bright Angel Campground: 9.3 miles/2,400 ft/Year Round Water (potable)
Phantom Ranch: 9.6 miles/2,546 ft/ Year Round
The Bright Angel is the Grand Canyons most popular hiking trail, and has been used to hike below the rim since the Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the area thousands of years ago. The Bright Angel Trail starts on the South Rim next to the Bright Angel Lodge and is a popular trail for short day hikes, as well as multi-day backpacking trips to Bright Angel and Indian Gardens Campgrounds. From the trailhead there are several stops with water and restrooms, including: 1.5 Mile Rest House, 3 Mile Rest House and Indian Gardens. Indian Gardens is where most Grand Canyon day hikers turn around, especially in the summer heat. After Indian Gardens you can take an extended day hike to Plateau Point, hop on the Tonto Trail, or continue on the BA Trail to Bright Angel Campground. The next 5 miles of trail will take you through some beautiful narrows, down steep switchbacks, and along the Colorado River to the suspension bridges that cross it. The Bright Angel has several pictographs along the trail, and offers a good chance to see California Condors and Big Horn Sheep.
South Kaibab Trail (Mileage/Elevation/Water)
Trailhead: 0 miles/7,200 ft/Water Mat-Sept (potable)
Ooh Aah Point: .5 miles/6,320 ft/No Water
Cedar Ridge: 1.5 miles/5,200 ft/No Water
The Tipoff: 4.4 miles/4,000 ft/No Water
Bright Angel Campground: 6.8 miles/2,400 ft/Year Round (potable)
Phantom Ranch: 7.2 miles/2,546 ft/ Year Round (potable)
The South Kaibab Trail was built for expansive vistas, and its these vistas that make it one of the most popular and most beautiful trails in the Park. The trailhead is located east of Grand Canyon Village, and is typically accessed via the Parks free shuttle system. This steep and rugged path is named after the Paiute Indian word for the Grand Canyon: Kaibab, meaning "A mountain turned upside down". The trailhead is located at an elevation over 7,000 feet, and youll descend seven miles through the Canyon en route to the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Canyon. Ooh Ah Point, Cedar Ridge, Skeleton Point and "The Tipoff" are some major stops along the trail before you reach the Black Bridge, and cross the Colorado. After crossing the bridge, its a short hike to reach Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch.
North Kaibab Trail (Mileage/Elevation/Water)
Trailhead: 0 miles/6,860ft/Water Not Available
Supai Tunnel: 2.0/ 6800/Occasional Seasonal Water (potable)
Roaring Springs: 4.7 miles/ 5200 ft/Water May-Sept (potable)
Cottonwood Campground: 6.8 miles/ 4,080 ft/Year Round Water (purification needed Oct 15-May15)
Ribbon Falls: 8.3 miles/ 3720 ft/Year Round Water (purification needed)
Phantom Ranch: 13.7 miles/2,546 ft/ Year Round (potable)
Bright Angel Campground: 14.1 miles/2,400 ft/Year Round Water (potable)
The North Kaibab Trail starts from the Grand Canyons North Rim, an area of Aspen groves, Alpine meadows, and solitude - a very different experience from the South Rim National Megalopolis. The North Kaibab is also the trail Canyon hikers use when setting out on a Rim to Rim hike. The trailhead is a short hike or drive from the North Rim Lodge and North Rim Campground. A pay shuttle from the South Rim to North Rim is available from Mid May until Mid October for hikers doing a Rim to Rim. The first good views are a mile and a half down the trail at Coconino Overlook. Another half mile down the Kaibab is the Supai Tunnel rest stop. From Supai Tunnel its 2.7 miles to Roaring Springs and an additional 2.2 miles from here to Cottonwood Campground, the only campground on the North Kaibab trail. Heading down Canyon from Cottonwood is a beautiful stop called Ribbon Falls before you walk the next six miles to Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground.
Grand Canyon Loop Hikes
Bright Angel Loop
The Bright Angel Loop is the classic Grand Canyon backpacking trip. Starting on the South Kaibab, you will descend 5,000 feet on a trail with some of the most awesome views in Grand Canyon National Park. After a night in the Bright Angel Campground, youll make your way up the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens. This beautiful campground is only a short hike from Plateau Point, one of the best views in the inner Grand Canyon. The last day of the trip continues along the Bright Angel trail to the rim. Your hike back to the rim of the Grand Canyon is a great opportunity to spot wildlife, and observe rock art on a path used since the time of the Ancestral Puebloans.
Distance: 17mi/27km (not including day hikes)
Elevation Change: 4380ft/1335m
Number of Days: 3-5
Rim to Rim
From the South Rim, the North Kaibab trailhead is ten miles as the crow flies. This 24 mile hike is one of the Grand Canyons most popular backpacks, and the only backpack that allows you to go from Rim to Rim without the aid of a raft. Beautiful North Rim scenery, Ribbon Falls, the Colorado River and Plateau Point are just some of the highlights on this Grand Canyon backpacking trek. Cottonwood Campground, Bright Angel Campground and North and South Rim trails can all be experienced on this all-inclusive Grand Canyon hike.
Distance: 24mi/38km (not including day hikes)
Elevation Change: 5800ft/1783m
Number of Days: 4-6
If you're looking for an easier, more family oriented backpacking trip to Grand Canyon National Park, Indian Gardens is good bet. First time backpackers in Grand Canyon will not only enjoy the beautiful scenery and shorter hike, but also the opportunity to hike to the Colorado River with nothing but a day pack. The Bright Angel trail is a good place to spot wildlife, as well as examine several pictograph panels right off the trail.
Distance: 9mi/14km (not including day hikes)
Elevation Change: 3060ft/933m
Number of Days: 2-3