When you think of the Grand Canyon National Park the first thing you probably think of is a huge hole in the ground. And you’re not wrong, it is a massive hole. Stretching 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and at its deepest point it’s over a mile down (6,000ft to be exact).
But aside from visiting the Grand Canyon to awe at this colossus of nature, there are also a lot of amazing Grand Canyon trails that you can explore. Hiking at the Grand Canyon is not only a fun way to stay fit and active, but it also gets you off the main tourist trail and gives you a different angle to admire the canyon from.
Best Grand Canyon Trails
Grand Canyon Rim: Mules to Mather Point
Elevation Gain: 367ft
Route Type: Out and Back
For those looking for an easy, paved, wheelchair and dog friendly Grand Canyon trail then this is the one for you. Long enough that you get a sweat on, but minimal elevation climb and simple enough that you won’t get lost. It’s one of the more popular trails, so you’ll likely encounter some crowds soaking in the sights.
South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge
Elevation Gain: 1095ft
Route Type: Out and Back
This trail might be shorter than hiking the Rim, but don’t let that fool you. This 2.8mi out and back hike has triple the elevation gain in half the distance of the previous hike. It’s a popular trail for people looking to get off the main tourist routes, so it will still be populated on a busy day, but not overcrowded like the easier trails. All along the trail you’ll get amazing views.
You start by hiking down, so remember that when you’re planning to come back up. Some of the best viewpoints are at Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge. You can continue on the hike to make it longer, but remember to pack accordingly. There are no water fill up stations and the elevation climbs in the heat can be exhausting. This trail does not allow dogs.
Bright Angel Trail to Bright Angel Campground and River Trail
Elevation Gain: 4980ft
Route Type: Out and Back
This one is for those long haul hikers who really want to get out for the day. Rated difficult for both its elevation gain and length, this hike should only be for those looking to really stretch the legs with a challenge.
Phantom Ranch is a good turn around point, which puts the trail total at closer to 22mi for there and back. The trail starts by going down, so remember that when you’re 11 miles in and turn around to start climbing back up. Although the trail is mostly long and the elevation climb is gradual as opposed to sudden, strenuous climbs. It’s reported that there are spots to refill water along the way, but do your research and never rely completely on that fact.
Grand Canyon Hiking Tips
Whether you’re hiking at the Grand Canyon or anywhere else in the world it’s important to stay safe on the trails. Here are our four best hiking tips for making sure you get home safely from your hike.
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Always tell somebody where you’re going, regardless of whether you’re hiking solo or in a group. If you’re going alone this is especially crucial because if something happens to you then it’s important for someone to know where you are if you suddenly don’t return. Even if you’re in a group, make sure that someone who isn’t on the hike knows that you all went out that day.
This applies for both long hikes and short hikes. While it might seem more obvious if you’re heading off on a long, overnight hike, this can be equally important for a quick 2-3 mile hike. All it takes is one small deviation from the trail and a badly twisted ankle and you could be in some trouble.
Pack Trail Supplies
While you don’t need to lug around a 50L backpacking bag on your next casual hike, you should always carry the right trail supplies for what you’re expecting to do. Energy bars, sunscreen, water purifying tablets/devices, trail mix, a rain jacket; these are all things to consider depending on where you’re going.
And always carry more water than you think you’ll need, especially in hot climates. The Grand Canyon can get well over 100F and has been known to melt people’s boots on their hike. Do your research and know what the weather is doing, so you can pack accordingly.
Stay on the Trail
Stick to the path! It might be appealing to get that extra special selfie or take a photo from a unique angle, but designation trails are there for two main reasons. First, they’re there to protect the native flora and fauna.
Humans already have a huge impact on the environment and local animal populations, so don’t contribute even more by wandering around and damaging nests, burrows or other areas that animals call home.
Secondly, and most importantly for you, is that trails are there to protect you! The Grand Canyon sees around a dozen deaths a year. Not all of those are from people falling down the canyon, but it does happen. All of the people that have fallen down the canyon have either wandered off trails or tried to get that special picture just a little closer to the edge than planned. No picture is worth your life.
Time Your Hike
Research the trail length and difficulty and factor that into your own personal fitness, weather and time of day. Don’t take off on a five hour hike if you know the last few hours are going to be in the dark. That’s a ‘getting lost’ disaster just waiting to happen.
If you can avoid it, try to time your hikes so you’re also not hiking during the hottest part of the day (11am-2pm). On hot days try to set out in the early morning to beat that midday sun.
Keeping these tips in mind, you should be good to go to hike some beautiful Grand Canyon hiking trails!