Best Hiking Trails in Grand Canyon National Park
One of the most famous and visited of all U.S. national parks, Arizona's Grand Canyon deserves to be on your short-list of must-see places. A whopping 277 river miles long and a mile deep, it's one of the most — if not the most— impressive canyons in the world, even if it's not the longest nor the deepest. The enormity, colors and textures awe the mind.
The Grand Canyon is a pretty big deal. And with its popularity comes crowds, long lines, and booked-up accommodation, especially in the summer and during school holidays. Plan your visit in advance, and we highly encourage you to avoid the rush and go during the low season. At any time of year, it's a good idea to check current conditions.
The Grand Canyon National Park is separated into three main areas.
The South Rim
The South Rim is open year-round and receives the most visitors. Due to congestion, consider using the free shuttle bus in the summer to get the best experience of the park, operating on four routes. Here's a Pocket Map of the area to help you get oriented.
Planning on visiting during peak season? Check out the National Park Service's handy South Rim Crowding: A Survival Guide.
Looking for an alternative to driving into the busy park? The Grand Canyon Railway runs restored locomotives from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon Village, and is a fun way to see the area. A roundtrip adult ticket will run you between $67 and $219, depending on how much you'd like to splurge.
The North Rim
Due to snow, the North Rim is only open May 15th to October 15th, and getting there from the South Rim is no walk in the park. Your options are to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim on a (fantastic) 21 mile trail, or to drive the 5 hours around. However, only about 10% of visitors go to the North Rim, so if you're not into crowds, consider a visit to the “other side”. Here's the Pocket Map to get you started. Plan your North Rim visit, camping options and more, here.
The Colorado River — Canyon Floor
Be warned! There are no easy trails to the canyon floor, and a hike down isn't for the weak-kneed (nor is a day-hike down and back recommended by the park). Over 250 people get rescued each year, so think twice before wandering down (and if you're not up to the challenge, stick to the trails above the rim). There's plenty to hike, like Ribbon Falls from the North Rim, and along the length of the Corridor Trails, mentioned below. Alternately, some choose to paddle in while others catch a ride on the back of a mule — either one is an adventure in itself.
Designed by Mary Colter and built in 1922, Phantom Ranch sits at the bottom like an oasis providing food, water and shelter to those exploring the depths of the canyon. As one of the most unique experiences in the whole park, early planning is essential. Hoping for your chance to visit? Submissions to the Phantom Ranch lottery are accepted over a year in advance (15 months! Yes, plan that early).
There are three campgrounds below the rim, all accessible by one of the three Corridor Trails. Bright Angel Campground is less than a half mile from Phantom Ranch and has year-round potable water. It's situated near the end of both the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kabob Trail. Indian Garden Campground, known for its riparian life, is 4.8 miles below the South Rim along the Bright Angel Trail. Cottonwood Campground is 6.8 miles below the North Rim along the North Kaibab Trail. Planning a hike into Grand Canyon? Check out this great PDF brochure on the three Corridor Trails and get information on planning and prep, elevation, hiking times, water stops and more.
Looking for a different kind of travel experience? Check out the Grand Canyon's mule trips along the South Rim, North Rim, and yes, even to the canyon floor. Just note there may be height and weight restrictions, and possibly a certain level of English proficiency required depending on which trip you're signing up for (sounds like a strange requirement, but apparently Grand Canyon mules understand English commands).
When to Go
Try March through May and September through November to avoid the crush of humanity, but also to beat the heat. From June to August, temperatures are often recorded in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom of the canyon. Note that the North Rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th each year.
Like most U.S. national parks, fees apply. Check out the National Park Service's fee-free days, or get information on permits and entrance fees here. Heading into the Grand Canyon's backcountry? Find everything you need to know, here.
Like most U.S. national parks, dogs are only permitted on a leash up to 6 feet. Though dogs are generally not allowed on national park trails, you're in luck at the Grand Canyon! Here, dogs are allowed to accompany you on the South Rim Trail — all 13 miles of it. Just make sure not to follow any trails below the rim. Options are more limited on the North Rim, and dogs are only allowed on the short Bridle Trail.
Get the full scoop on the Grand Canyon's pet policies and lodging options, here.