Best Hikes in Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon of Colorado is certainly the best known and most extraordinary park in the USA. It is in any case the most visited park in the American West, receiving more that 4 million visitors each year. Are you planning to visit the Grand Canyon and are now looking for all the important information, the best tips, the backpacking trails and hikes in the gorge that you can do in one day?

In this article we have put together the most beautiful hikes in the Grand Canyon National Park and our best tips for hiking in the Grand Canyon.

Also read the best times to go to this national park.

Best day hikes in Grand Canyon

If you decide to do hiking during your visit to the Grand Canyon, remember to check the website of the Grand Canyon National Park or the visitor center of the park for the current conditions.

An overview of hiking in the Grand Canyon and the latest information and notifications from the National Park can be found in below links:

The most popular hikes in the Grand Canyon are, of course, those that you can complete on a single day and that still give you some insight into the depth of the gorge.

However, the day hikes to the most beautiful vantage points in the Grand Canyon National Park are no less beautiful and can also be done by inexperienced hikers. So if possible, you should do several hikes during your visit to get the best possible insight into the Grand Canyon.

Best day hikes in Grand Canyon South Rim

We start with hiking in the most popular part of the national park, the South Rim. The “southern edge” of the Grand Canyon is open all year round, can be reached from Las Vegas in a few hours and is one of the most visited attractions in the USA.

Here you will find many hiking opportunities for every taste and level. But some of the hiking trails and the Grand Canyon Village are also quite busy with tourists.

01. Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden

  • Total length: 9.3 miles or 15 kilometers
  • Difference in altitude: 3060 feet or 933 meters
  • Time required: 5+ hours

hiking-the-bright-angels-trail-grand-canyon

The Bright Angel Trail is undoubtedly the best-maintained path down into the depths of the Grand Canyon. It is also the only hiking trail into the gorge that has regular drinking water stations, toilets and rest houses that provide shade. The hike leads you slowly from the end of the Grand Canyon Village down serpentine paths into the gorge. In the morning you often have to share the hiking path with mules that carry the tourists down.

The Bright Angel Trail leads down to the Colorado River and can also take you across the river to the north shore. But the entire hike is only recommended for experienced hikers in moderate temperatures. The Grand Canyon National Park has set up several warning signs in many places of hikes down to the Colorado River in one day, because every year dozens of hikers collapse midway through their attempt.

grand-canyon-warning-sign-for-hikers

Based on your fitness level you can decide whether a hike to the Indian Garden is not enough for a day. This remarkable oasis halfway to the bottom of the canyon is a good turning point for a day hike assuming you start climbs early in the morning.

Going down to the Colorado and back is extremely strenuous, because the difference in elevation is about 1400m and the temperature keeps increasing the deeper you go into the canyon.

If you plan to descend to Colorado river via Bright Angel trail, do it over 2 days, staying overnight at the Bright Angel Campground (in this case you must obtain a backcountry permit, see the NPS website) or at the Phantom Ranch. A very good idea is to descend by South Kaibab Trail in the shade in the morning and climb up by Bright Angel Trail  where water points available. If you have any doubts, just do part of the trail:

  • to 1.5 mile Resthouse (5 km round trip)
  • to 3 mile Resthouse (10 km round trip)
  • to Indian Garden as recommended above (14.5 km round trip)
  • or to Plateau Point (19 km round trip)

Note that on average it will take you twice the time to climb up than to go down. For example, if you take 2 hours to descend to Indian Garden, then by rule of thumb you will take 4 hours to climb up.

02. Shoshone Point Trail

  • Total length: 2.2 miles or 3.5 km
  • Height difference: 98 feet or 30 meters
  • Time required: 1 hour

view-from-shoshone-point-grand-canyon

You can access the most scenic spots in the Grand Canyon by shuttle bus or in your own vehicle. However, during summer months the view points are run over by tourists. If you like it a bit quieter then you shouldn’t miss this short hike to Shoshone Point. It is a great place to view the sunset at the Grand Canyon.

At mileage marker 246 of Desert View Drive you will find a small, parking lot with a signpost, from which a forest road with a side barrier leads directly to Shoshone Point. This hike is relatively unknown and is therefore one of the most beautiful and quietest points to enjoy the view of the Grand Canyon.

You can also rent this spot for events and celebrations.

03. South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point

  • Total length: 1.8 miles or 3 km
  • Difference in altitude: 690 feet or 210 meters
  • Time required: 2+ hours
South-Kaibab-Trail-between-Ooh-Aah-Point-and Cedar-Ridge
South Kaibab Trail between Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge

Just like the Bright Angel Trail, the South Kaibab Trail leads down to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. However, the South Kaibab Trail is significantly steeper, and therefore a little shorter than the Bright Angel Trail. It offers numerous spectacular views down into the canyon. In the first few meters you meet other hikers here regularly, but those who follow the trail further down after the great view at “Ooh Aah Point” are often on their own.

All important information and an overview of the distances to the South Kaibab Trail can be found below:

The trailhead of the South Kaibab Trail is on the way to the viewpoint at Yaki Point and can only be reached by the shuttle bus from the Grand Canyon National Park. It is not possible to park your vehicle at the trailhead. Even though it is much quieter than the Bright Angel Trail, there is no shade or drinking water facilities along this trail.

Anyone who follows the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point is at least a good two hours on the road, which can be done well even in summer temperatures with enough drinking water and sun protection. This hike is very difficult (same elevation as Bright Angel Trail) and it can be very hot in summer with 10 ° C more at the bottom of the canyon than at the top of the canyon. If you intend to hike this route, then leave early with lots of water, at least 4 liters per person as there are no water points on this trail, and do not try to go back and forth within the same day.

It is possible to sleep at the bottom of the canyon at Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch. A very good idea is to descend by South Kaibab Trail in the shade of the morning and go up by Bright Angel Trail  where water points are available.

view-from-skeleton-viewpoint
South Kaibab Trail – Grand Canyon NP Skeleton Point

It is possible to go beyond the Ooh Aah viewpoint on the Kaibab trail and hike until other viewpoints such as:

  • Ooh Aah Point (1.8 miles or 3 km round trip)
  • Cedar Ridge (3.1 miles or 5 km round trip)
  • Skeleton Point (6.2 miles or 10 km round trip. Colorado is visible shortly after Skeleton Point)

04. Rim Trail

  • Total length: 13 miles or 21 km
  • Difference in altitude: 262 feet or 80 meters
  • Time required : 4.5 hours

If you don’t dare to hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon or the weather is simply too hot for it, then the Rim Trail is a great alternative along the edge of the canyon, going past numerous spectacular viewpoints. The Rim Trail, despite its length, can be covered within 4 hours even by inexperienced hikers.

grand-canyon-south-rim-detail-map
Map of the various viewpoints on the south rim trail

Note that it is relatively flat. The Rim Trail is therefore an ideal hike for young and old alike, to get a detailed insight into the canyon in one day. The best part is that and the length of the hike can be flexibly determined and you can end your hike at any of the numerous shuttle bus stations that you pass during this trail.

05. Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs
  • Total length: 6.8 miles or 11 km
  • Difference in altitude: 2625 feet or 800 meters
  • Time required6+ hours
hermit-trail-hiker-descending
Hiker nearing Cathedral Stairs while descending the Hermit Trail. Photo by Michael Quinn.

If you like uncrowded trails and are not afraid of a strenuous hike, then the Hermit Trail down to Dripping Springs is just the right Grand Canyon day hike for you. From the end of Scenic Drive, you start from Hermits Rest into the depths of the Grand Canyon and enjoy magnificent views on this lonely hiking trail.

All the important information about this hike and an overview map can be found here:

For the complete hike you usually need 6 to 7 hours. At the end of the trail you encounter a beautiful little oasis with a small “dripping source” in the depth of the Grand Canyon. Since you have to overcome a good 2600 feet (800 meters) in altitude, you should start the hike early in the morning, rest at lunchtime and then hike back in the afternoon when the sun is not so strong.

06. Grandview Trail to Coconino Saddle

  • Total length: 2.2 miles or 3.6 km
  • Difference in altitude: 1210 feet or 370 meters
  • Time required: 4+ hours
Grand-Canyon-from-Grandview-Point-panorama
Grand Canyon view from Grandview Point

The Grandview Trail, which is located at the viewpoint of the same name along Desert View Drive on Grand Canyon South, is also ideal as a summer hike down into the Grand Canyon where the depths start. You reach the Coconino Saddle after about 1.2 miles or 2 km on the Grandview Trail and with an ascent of over 980 feet (300 meters) this is a good point for a 4 to 5 hour Grand Canyon hike.

All information and an overview map of the Grandview Trail down into the Grand Canyon can be found below:

There are no drinking water taps here either, so you should only attempt a hike like this early in the morning. The path leads down a very steep but also picturesque route into the canyon and was once an old supply route for mine work within the gorge.

While you meet some other hikers in the first hundred meters, this trail becomes very quiet afterwards. But you may still meet a handful of backcountry hikers who spent the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Day Hikes on the Grand Canyon North Rim

Even though the south rim of the Grand Canyon is much more popular, the secluded North Rim of the national park has a lot to offer. It is open from mid-May at the earliest and closes before winter in mid-October. Although the North Rim offers significantly less infrastructure than the South Rim, it is also much quieter and less crowded.

If you plan to return to the Grand Canyon after covering the south rim, heading to the northern parts is a great idea, for there are excellent hikes in this region of the Grand Canyon too.

07. Widforss Trail

  • Total length: 10 miles or 16 km
  • Difference in altitude: 1050 feet or 320 meters
  • Time required4+ hours

grand-canyon-view-from-widforss-trail

Just like the Rim Trail on the Grand Canyon South Rim, the Widforss Trail on the Grand Canyon North Rim leads past and up the edge of the canyon. With a length of almost 10 miles (to and fro), hardly any ascents can be mastered. The hike leads along the Kaibab plateau through the typical pine forests and therefore offers a shady spot in many places even on sunny days.

All the important information about the Widforss Trail along the north rim of the Grand Canyon can be found below:

Along the Widforss Trail you can always enjoy great views and a look at striking rock formations within the Grand Canyon, such as the “Wotan’s Throne”, Brahma and the “Zoroaster Temples”. If the length of the hike is too long for a day, simply turn around at any point and return to the Grand Canyon North Rim Village.

08. North Kaibab to Roaring Springs

  • Total length: 9.3 miles or 15 km
  • Difference in altitude: 1570 feet or 480 meters
  • Time required: 7+ hours

The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained hiking trail that goes from the bottom of the gorge up to the North Rim. It starts from a small hiking parking lot, north of the Grand Canyon Lodge. Since the northern edge of the canyon is significantly higher than the South Rim, the North Kaibab Trail is also one of the most difficult paths for Grand Canyon hiking, where you go through all the climatic zones of the Grand Canyon on a steep hiking trail.

All important information about the North Kaibab Trail with an overview of the distances can be found here:

The impressive waterfall of the Roaming Springs can be reached after about 7 kilometers on the North Kaibab Trail, which is a very demanding hike with the ascent that is to follow. Therefore, you wanted to start this hike as early as possible and take a generous break in the midday sun.

09. Cape Final Trail

  • Total length: 4.3 miles or 7 km
  • Difference in altitude: 426 feet or 130 meters
  • Time requiredfrom 2 hours

The hike to the Cape Final is certainly one of the most beautiful hikes that you can take on the North Rim. It takes you through beautiful pine forests directly to the eastern edge of the Walhalla Plateau and offers enchanting vantage points on the rock formations of the Vishnu and Jupiter temples in the east of the Grand Canyon.

You will find the starting point for the hike on Cape Royal Road. Exactly 12 miles after the intersection with Point Imperial Road, on a small car park, the hiking path leads into the forest. With a backcountry permit, you can also sleep in a tent at Cape Royal, which is a really unforgettable experience.

Muti-day hikes in the Grand Canyon

In addition to the day hikes in the Grand Canyon, you can of course go on  hikes lasting multiple days in the gorge. But a backcountry permit, which is not easy to get, is necessary on all common routes.

All information about backcountry permits is available on the official Grand Canyon National Park website.

For a multi-day hike into the depths of the gorge, you should definitely have enough experience with hiking in the south-west United States, since the hikes in the Grand Canyon are usually very remote and it is difficult to contact help in emergencies. Otherwise there are also guided hikes, which are not cheap, but are also suitable for beginners.

10. Rim to Rim hike

A hike from the South Rim to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park is a fantastic experience. However, you need a reserved place to stay in the gorge, and arrange a transfer back from north rim to the south rim or vice versa. Going on guided tours are the easiest way to overcome these hassles.

This hike itself connects the South and North Kaibab Trail to form a multi-day hike through the Grand Canyon. As an alternate, you can take the not so steep Bright Angel Trail, which we have described above.

11. Escalante Route (Backcountry)

The 53 km Escalante route through the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful, but also the most remote routes in the depths of the gorge. You can only get drinking water on this multi-day Grand Canyon hike from the Colorado River, which is why prior planning is essential.

All information about the hike on the Escalante Route through the Grand Canyon National Park can be found below.

The hike usually starts at Lipan Point and leads down through the Banner Trail and after 3 nights via the Grand View Trail back out of the canyon.

12. Havasupai Falls (First Nations Reserve)

The multi-day hike down to Havasupai Falls is no longer within the limits of the Grand Canyon National Park. But it takes you to one of the most beautiful places at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In recent years, however, it has become very popular, so it is no longer easy to get one of the coveted overnight permits.

All important information about the hiking trail down to Havasupai Falls and reservations can be found in links below.

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