Hiking in The Grand Canyon: an Introduction

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Are you planning to hike The Canyon? If so, you’re in the right place for some local knowledge. Whether it is your first time – that once in a lifetime trip, or if you are returning, this blog will give you the information you need to make your experience the best it can be! That’s my purpose, that and having a blast along the way.

Initially I’ll provide an overview. I want to give you an idea of what to expect, a grounding. That will be this post. I’ll then dig a little deeper and take you down specific trails and provide detailed information on what you can expect to see and experience. I’ll also provide current and local knowledge, tips, and the odd reference or two that will make life easier.

A view into the canyon from Shoshone Point on the South Rim

Lets start with some numbers. In 2017 6.25 million people visited The Grand Canyon Nation Park. Let that sink in. It’s greater that the population of Scotland. The park boundary starts at Lees Ferry and ends at the Grand Wash Cliffs. That’s a cool 277 river miles long. It gets to 18 miles wide, (it’s more typically 10 miles from South to North Rim), and it’s a mile deep – that’s a vertical mile, not a trail mile!

Where do most visitors go? They go to The Grand Canyon Village and Visitor Center and the many spectacular look out points accessible by car or Shuttle Bus on the South Rim. Some hike along The Rim Trail and fewer again hike down a small part of the trails into the Canyon and back. Where do most hikers go? They hike down and up the “Corridor” trail system, (I’ll come back to this in a second).

So we have a vast and wonderful expanse that most people don’t visit and that has a trail system that allows us to explore the inner canyon from both the South and North Rims. Let’s get started!

There are seven main trails from the South Rim into the Canyon. The trails, west to east:

  • Boucher Trail
  • Hermit Trail
  • Bright Angel Trail
  • South Kaibab Trail
  • Grandview Trail
  • New Hance Trail
  • Tanner Trail
A look into some trails

We’ll start with the Corridor. This consists of three main trails, two from the South Rim: Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail. One from the North Rim: North Kaibab Trail. These trails are the main arteries from the rims to the river and for those who want a challenge they provide the routes from Rim to Rim (R2R). There is a suspension bridge and the foot of both Bright Angel, (Silver Bridge), and South Kaibab, (Black Bridge), that take you over the Colorado to the North Kaibab.

Corridor Trails to the Colorado and R2R

Bright Angel Trail is the Park’s most popular trail for a number of reasons: the trailhead is in Grand Canyon Village therefore easily accessible; the switchbacks on the initial descent, (and eventual ascent), are relatively forgiving; there are several obvious destination points with Summer drinking water; it has an oasis and campground at Indian Gardens; it follows a canyon so typically has shade; and it is a spectacular trail with spectacular views.

South Kaibab Trail is the shortest route to the river, not the easiest. It is steep and open, it follows the crest of a ridge for most of it’s distance. Other than early morning, that means exposure to the sun for most of the trail. There is no water on the South Kaibab until you cross the river at the bottom – just short of 7 miles and just short of 5000ft descent. I’m underselling it, I love this trail, the views are overwhelming. There are a couple of obvious turnaround points for a dayhike: Cedar Point, Skeleton Point, and The Tipoff.

I’ll hike down both these trails and the others from the South Rim before digging a little deeper…

Patrick

References I use.

  • Grand Canyon National Park. Sky Terrain Maps, 4th Edition
  • Hiking The Grand Canyon. John Annerino. The Sierra Club
  • Hiking Grand Canyon National Park. Ron Adkinson. A Falcon Guide

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