Hiking the Grand Canyon
If there is one thing the Grand Canyon can be counted on to provide – it is inspiration. Visitors arriving for their first glimpse at one of the true wonders of the natural world will want to walk as far along the South Rim as time and energy permits – the entire Rim Trail runs for 13 miles. Others will be inspired to hike below the rim and for them, there are a few trails suitable for day hikes into the 277-mile long gash in the earth’s crust. Still, others will aim for the ultimate hiking adventure – descend one vertical mile to the Colorado River and climb back up the other side. Let’s take a look at each of these Grand Canyon hiking options.
Along the Rim
You do not need to tackle steep trails to be overwhelmed by the majesty of the Grand Canyon. Hiking trips on the Rim Trail travel on paved and graded dirt paths that are ideal for any level of outdoor enthusiast. As the trail twists along the canyon edge, the views are constantly shifting and the angles of light hitting the canyon provide fresh Kodak moments at every turn.
Along the Rim Trail, the Colorado River shows itself way down below, and hikers are treated to up-close views of historic canyon buildings dating back nearly to the national park’s beginnings almost 100 years ago. Best of all…after a spirited hike along the Grand Canyon South Rim there is a shuttle bus to catch back to the starting point.
There are three trails best suited for day hikes that drop from the South Rim into the canyon, with the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trail being the best known and most-traveled. Picking its way down the canyon from the most western access point is our favorite – the Hermit Trail. Constructed by the Santa Fe Railroad over a century ago, this historic trail, where some of its original cobblestone construction is still intact, is populated by many more pinon pines and junipers than people.
The destination is either Santa Maria Spring at 2.5 miles or Dripping Springs at 3.5 miles. The Hermit Trail serves up its share of steep climbs on its way, one-third down the Grand Canyon, but also offers level stretches of trail as well. Bighorn sheep, deer, Stellar Jays, and maybe even a seldom-seen California condor may be part of this memorable day hike.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon backcountry is sure to test even the most experienced trail tramps’ physical and mental endurance. Reaching the bottom of the canyon will require a climb of nearly 5,000 feet to return to the rim, and there are not many hikes comparable to that sort of elevation gain. Our guides are experts in setting a proper pace that will conquer the task safely and efficiently. They will also wisely outfit your hike for the temperature changes, sun and winds that visit the canyon interior.
Even though the distance covered on our most popular Grand Canyon backpacking tours is under 25 miles, a Four Season Guides’ backcountry excursion will spread across three or four days. This ensures a pace that is manageable for average hikers, so almost anyone can soak in the once-in-a-lifetime sunrises and sunsets experienced deep inside the Grand Canyon. You can choose from a backpacking exploration or a lodge–based tour to the world-famous Phantom Ranch – the only developed accommodations beneath the rim of the Grand Canyon. Supplies are still shuttled to the basecamp by mule at this location. The leisurely three-day schedule makes this trip suitable for intermediate hikers and offers plenty of options for your time on the floor of the world’s most magnificent canyon landscape.