Best Grand Canyon Hikes

Best Grand Canyon Hikes

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most renowned hiking destinations in the world. Part of the reason for that is the sheer number of spectacular hiking options there are. With many trails, and then many variations on how to hike those trails, what one ends up with is an overwhelming number of possibilities, and it can be difficult to decide what hikes, exactly, to do.

This page features what we consider the best of Grand Canyon hikes - both single day hikes and backpacking trips. We've also included a brief summary of what to wear and pack for the various options, but please keep in mind that the season you're visiting will have a huge impact on how to best prepare, and it's important to do your research and show up ready to go!

Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point
Bright Angel Trail

The Bright Angel Trail is Grand Canyon's most popular trail, and it's also the Park's first major trail. It was developed by 19th century Canyon entrepreneur Ralph Cameron along an ancient Native American route to Indian Garden, a spring-fed oasis where the Havasupai tended seasonal gardens.

The trail switchbacks down a broad, open fault line with phenomenal views and dizzying drop-offs for 3000 feet before leveling off to Indian Garden. At Indian Garden the trail splits with one arm heading to Plateau Point which is 1.5 miles farther.

Plateau Point is at the edge of the Tonto Plateau looking directly down on the Colorado River from the top of a sheer cliff. It is the best viewpoint reachable on a 1-day hike.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 12
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 3000 feet
  • Trailhead: Bright Angel
  • NPS Shuttle to Trailhead: yes
  • Bathrooms: 1.5 mile resthouse, 3 mile resthouse, Indian Garden
  • Water: 1.5 mile resthouse, 3 mile resthouse, Indian Garden
  • Trash: pack out
  • Available as guided tour: yes
South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point is a wonderful day hike that follows a route the National Park Service dynamited out of the cliff walls a century ago. It is a mesmerizing trail with some of the best views in all of Grand Canyon.

The trail switchbacks steeply at first, then traverses a long, exposed ridge through the upper layers of the Canyon. After 1.5 miles you come to Cedar Ridge, which has bathrooms and is an excellent turnaround point for a shorter hike.

Below Cedar Ridge the trail traverses below a butte and finally comes to Skeleton Point, which is a wonderful place for a picnic lunch or break before tackling the long hike back to the trailhead.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 6
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 2000 feet
  • Trailhead: South Kaibab
  • NPS Shuttle to Trailhead: yes
  • Bathrooms: Cedar Ridge (1.5 miles down)
  • Water: none
  • Trash: pack out
  • Available as guided tour: yes
South Kaibab - Tonto - Bright Angel Loop
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A more demanding hike but well worth doing if you're fit and adventurous is to hike down the South Kaibab Trail, across the Tonto Trail, and up Bright Angel Trail. This hike gets you the amazing views of South Kaibab (see description above), then a wonderful stretch of solitude as you hike west across the Tonto Trail (mostly flat), and finally an exciting hike up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim Village.

The best way to do this hike is to drop your car off at the Backcountry Information Center (easy to find with the map you receive when entering the Park), and take the NPS Hikers Express Shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. You'll hike down South Kaibab, turn west on the Tonto Trail, then come up Bright Angel and walk back to the Backcountry Information Center (1/4 mile).

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 12.5
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 3000 feet
  • Trailhead: South Kaibab
  • NPS Shuttle to Trailhead: yes
  • Bathrooms: Cedar Ridge, Tip Off, 1.5 mile resthouse, 3 mile resthouse
  • Water: 1.5 mile resthouse, 3 mile resthouse on Bright Angel Trail
  • Trash: pack out
  • Available as guided tour: no
Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa
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The Grandview Trail is a more serious trail than either South Kaibab or Bright Angel and should be treated as such. There are no water sources and no bathrooms, and the trail is steep and more rugged.

The Grandview Trailhead is east of Grand Canyon Village and the South Kaibab Trail on Desert View Drive. The trail is very steep to start and also exposed with narrow sections near sheer drop-offs. It is not a good trail to do with young children!

The trail drops continuously, with phenomenal views the entire time, down to Horseshoe Mesa where the remnants of 19th century miner Pete Barry's copper mine ruins are still visible today. You can hike to the edge of the mesa for amazing views, enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade of a juniper.

The way back is to head back up the Grandview Trail the way you came. Be prepared - it's a demanding hike out with no water and little shade!

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 6+
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 1800 feet
  • Trailhead: Grandview
  • NPS Shuttle to Trailhead: no
  • Bathrooms: none
  • Water: none
  • Trash: pack out
  • Available as guided tour: yes
Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs
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The Hermit Trail is several miles west of the South Rim Village and is only accessible by NPS shuttle. The trail begins at Hermits Rest, which has water and bathrooms. You'll begin by switchbacking through the Kaibab Limestone layer and then down through the Coconino Sandstone layer, with expansive views into a broad valley called Waldron Basin.

If you keep your eyes out, or are on a guided tour, you can notice one of the coolest fossils in Grand Canyon in these intial switchbacks - 265 million year old footprints from an ancient sand dune on a large, flat chunk of Coconino Sandstone.

The trail winds down to Waldron Basin, then out to the edge of a precipitous drop-off, where the trail goes left or right. Right takes you to Santa Maria Spring, left takes you to Dripping Springs.

Turn left and follow the trail over exposed, exciting sections of hiking above a 500 foot drop into the Hermit Creek drainage. Dripping Springs is a charming oasis in a juniper-studded side canyon (no potable water). Enjoy a snack or picnic lunch and then return the way you came.

This hike is a rugged, demanding hike that will test most people. Be prepared for the long hike back to the trailhead!

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 7
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 2600 feet
  • Trailhead: Hermits Rest
  • NPS Shuttle to Trailhead: yes
  • Bathrooms: none
  • Water: none
  • Trash: pack out
  • Available as guided tour: no
Day Hikes: What to Wear and Pack
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It's critical that you're prepared for your Grand Canyon hike with the appropriate gear, food, water and clothing. The summer temperatures will be very hot mid morning and later. Winter temperatures can be quite cold, especially if it's windy. So you'll want to consider the time of year in determining what to wear and pack.

Year round you'll want at minimum 3 liters of water, twice the amount of snacks and food you'd normally eat on a hike, sun protection, a wide-brimmed hat, rain gear, hiking shorts or pants, and sturdy hiking shoes. In summer it's best to wear cotton because it absorbs body moisture and keeps it close to your skin, cooling you off. And in summer you'll want exra water (1 liter for every hour of hiking). In winter, it's important bring extra layers, floves, a warm hat...etc. and 3 liters of water is sufficient for most hikers.

Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
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Grand Canyon National Park is home to some of the most unique and spectacular hikes in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with stunning views, geologic history, and incredible hiking and backpacking for visitors who want to have an active, adventurous experience.

Guided Grand Canyon treks include permits, local transportation (excluded on certain tours), meals, gear, risk management systems and professional guides, allowing guests to make the most of their visit to the Canyon, focus 100% on enjoying their experience, and do it all with an increased level of safety and comfort.

GRAND CANYON ADVENTURE TOURS

  • GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic adventure deep in the Canyon's wilderness.
  • HORSE-ASSISTED TRIP: on this trip to the bottom of the Canyon, guests hike with light day packs and camp near the Colorado River.
  • PHANTOM RANCH TOURS: this tour (limited dates) goes to the bottom of the Canyon where we sleep 1 or 2 nights in the Phantom Ranch Lodge 5 minutes from the Colorado River. Showers, A/C, heat...etc.
  • ALL-INCLUSIVE HIKING PACKAGES: inn-based and camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of the Grand Canyon.
  • DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day at Grand Canyon on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park's best trails.

Rim to Rim
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Rim to Rim is Grand Canyon's most famous backpacking trip and justifiably so. It is truly a novel experience to start on one side of the Canyon and finish on the other! It can be done in approximately 20 different ways, and we're going to summarize the best options as succinctly as possible here. Also, the North Rim is closed early November through May 14, so it cannot be done during that timeframe.

On the north side you will be hiking the North Kaibab Trail, as it's the only option. On the South Side you will be hiking either the South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails (Bright Angel adds 2.5 miles but has water, shade and a campground at Indian Garden.)

You can do the trip in 2 days, 3 days or 4 days, and you can do it South to North, or North to South. Campgrounds are Cottonwood (on the north side), Bright Angel (at the bottom), and Indian Garden (if you hike Bright Angel Trail.)

You will need to be shuttled on the front end or the back end of your trip. Trans-Canyon Shuttle offers pickups and dropoffs at the necessary trailheads.

The other logistical consideration for the Rim to Rim is obtaining a permit, which is very competitive. Read more about Grand Canyon backpacking permits.

You can join this trip as a guided tour, in which case gear, meals, permits, and transportation are handled for you.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 21-24
  • Days: 2-4
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 4500/5500 feet
  • Trailheads: North Kaibab, South Kaibab or Bright Angel
  • Campgrounds: Cottonwood, Bright Angel, Indian Garden
  • Available as guided tour: yes
South Kaibab - Bright Angel Loop
South Kaibab Trail

While not the most famous, this is arguably the most classic backpacking trip in Grand Canyon. It follows the two most famous trails in the Park: South Kaibab and Bright Angel. The best way to do this trip is to go down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel. Following is a detailed description of how to do this trip.

Park your vehicle at the Backcountry Information Center (easy to find with the map you receive when entering the Park) and take the NPS Hikers Express Shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. There is water and a bathroom at the trailhead. Descend the South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campround (7 miles, 4500 feet of elevation loss.) Spend one or two nights at Bright Angel Campground. A fantastic 12-mile day hike can be done up the North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls.

You'll leave Bright Angel Campground and hike on the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground, where you can spend another night. You'll finish on the Bright Angel Trail to the trailhead and you can easily walk to the Backcountry Information Center (1/4 mile) to where you vehicle is parked.

The other logistical consideration for this trip is obtaining a permit, which is very competitive. Read more about Grand Canyon backpacking permits.

You can join this trip as a guided tour, in which case gear, meals, permits, and transportation are handled for you.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 16+
  • Days: 2-4
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 4500/4500 feet
  • Trailheads: South Kaibab and Bright Angel
  • Campgrounds: Bright Angel and Indian Garden
  • Available as guided tour: yes
Indian Garden Overnight
Bright Angel Trail

This trip is excellent for first-time Grand Canyon backpackers and families. It can be done as a one night trip or two nights with a layover day and a day hike to the Colorado River.

Park at the Backcountry Information Center (easy to find with the map you receive when entering the Park) and walk to the Bright Angel Trailhead (1/4 mile.) Descend Bright Angel to Indian Garden (4.5 miles, 3000 feet elevation loss.) Indian Garden is a wonderful oasis with clear, cold water gushing from springs, a shady grove of cottonwood trees, bathrooms, potable water and nice campsites with picnic tables and rain shelters.

After camp is set up, a must-do evening hike is out to Plateau Point (1.5 miles each way). The trail splits from the Bright Angel Trail just below Indian Garden campground. And for a great day hike, if you're doing a 3 day trip, you can hike down Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River (3 miles each way with 1500 feet of elevation loss/gain.)

You'll hike back out the Bright Angel trail to the trailhead and walk back to the Backcountry Information Center (1/4 mile.)

The other logistical consideradtion for this trip is obtaining a permit, which is very competitive. Read more about Grand Canyon backpacking permits.

You can join this trip as a guided tour, in which case gear, meals, permits, and transportation are handled for you.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 9+
  • Days: 1-3
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 3000+ feet
  • Trailheads: Bright Angel
  • Campgrounds: Indian Garden
  • Available as guided tour: yes

Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa
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The first thing to know about this trip is it does not reach the Colorado River. The second thing to know about this trip is it's one of the highest quality adventures in the Grand Canyon you can do in 2 or 3 days, especially if you'd like a taste of the wilder side of the Canyon. The third thing to know is it involves dry camping, so you'll have to carry dromedaries to carry water up from Paige Spring or Hance Creek.

There's no shuttle to Grandview Trailhead, so you'll have to drive there and park (it's east of Grand Canyon Village on Desert View Drive.) Follow the Grandview Trail 3 miles to Horseshoe Mesa down countless switchbacks; past narrow, exposed sections of trail; and across a long, rugged traverse of a massive side slope.

Set up camp at one of several designated sites on the Mesa. Then go check out the ruins of Pete Barry's 19th century copper mine and cabin, or hike to the edge of the Mesa for one of the best views you'll ever see.

If you're doing this as a 3 day backpacking trip you can enjoy a long day hike down to Hance Creek, where you can fill up water. Or you can do a shorter hike to Paige Spring for water. Both of these options are off the east side of the Mesa on an obvious trail.

On your final day you'll turn around and hike back to the trailhead up the Grandview Trail.

The other logistical consider for the Horseshoe Mesa backpacking trip is obtaining a permit, which is very competitive. Read more about Grand Canyon backpacking permits.

You can join this trip as a guided tour, in which case gear, meals, permits, and transportation are handled for you.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 6+
  • Days: 1-3
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 2000+ ft
  • Trailheads: Grandview
  • Campgrounds: Horseshoe Mesa
  • Available as guided tour: yes
South Kaibab - Clear Creek
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This trip combines popular corridor trail hiking with off-the-beaten-path, more remote backpacking. It also provides access to the tallest waterfall in Grand Canyon, Cheyava Falls (over 800 feet high, flows primarily in the spring.)

Park your vehicle at the Backcountry Information Center (easy to find with the map you receive when entering the Park) and take the NPS Hikers Express Shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

Hike down the South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground (7 miles). Either camp at Bright Angel or hike up the North Kaibab Trail 2/3 of a mile to the Clear Creek Trail and take it to the right. It climbs up to the top of a plateau where you camp after 2 miles. Of course, you'll have to camp whereever your permit has you reserved (see below.)

Whether you camp at Bright Angel or on the Clear Creek Trail, the next morning continue on the Clear Creek Trail to Clear Creek (8 miles from Bright Angel). Camp at Clear Creek and get permits for a layover day so you can hike up canyon and see Cheyava Falls, which flows primarily in the spring.

You'll return the way you came, or you can hike out Bright Angel Trail instead of South Kaibab Trail. If you hike Bright Angel, you can spend another night at Indian Garden instead of Bright Angel Trail, or both, making it a 6-day trip.

The other logistical consider for this trip is obtaining a permit, which is very competitive. Read more about Grand Canyon backpacking permits.

HIKE STATISTICS

  • Miles: 37-40
  • Days: 4-6
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 5000 feet
  • Trailheads: South Kaibab or Bright Angel
  • Campgrounds: Bright Angel and Clear Creek
  • Available as guided tour: no
Backpacking Trips: What to Wear and Pack
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Being prepared for your backpacking adventure is critical to do it safely and comfortably. Basic gear like a backpacking tent (lightweight), sleeping pad, sleeping bag, backpack, camp stove and fuel, pots and pans, knife, matches, utensils, 1st aid kit, water bottles and repair kits will be necessary. In addition you'll need a water filter for pulling water from Clear Creek (purification tablets will work also.)

For clothing you'll want hiking shorts or pants, sturdy shoes, 2-3 pairs of wool or synthetic socks, a cotton shirt, warm layers of fleece or wool, rain gear, a wide-brimmed hat, a warm hat, extra shirts and underwear, and camp shoes or sandals. You'll also want sun screen, bug repellent, sunglasses and toiletries.

This is not necessarily a complete list. Plan with thought, pack with focus, and play with intention!

Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
hiking tour company

Grand Canyon National Park is home to some of the most unique and spectacular hikes in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with stunning views, geologic history, and incredible hiking and backpacking for visitors who want to have an active, adventurous experience.

Guided Grand Canyon treks include permits, local transportation (excluded on certain tours), meals, gear, risk management systems and professional guides, allowing guests to make the most of their visit to the Canyon, focus 100% on enjoying their experience, and do it all with an increased level of safety and comfort.

GRAND CANYON ADVENTURE TOURS

  • GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic adventure deep in the Canyon's wilderness.
  • HORSE-ASSISTED TRIP: on this trip to the bottom of the Canyon, guests hike with light day packs and camp near the Colorado River.
  • PHANTOM RANCH TOURS: this tour (limited dates) goes to the bottom of the Canyon where we sleep 1 or 2 nights in the Phantom Ranch Lodge 5 minutes from the Colorado River. Showers, A/C, heat...etc.
  • ALL-INCLUSIVE HIKING PACKAGES: inn-based and camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of the Grand Canyon.
  • DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day at Grand Canyon on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park's best trails.