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How to Hike the Grand Canyon

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Default How to Hike the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a large canyon located in the US state of Arizona. Hiking the Grand Canyon is a rigorous activity that will require adequate preparation to ensure youíll be taking just enough for your intended hike. Having proper rest breaks, hiking at a steady pace, staying hydrated, well fed, and following outdoor safety precautions and the parkís rules, will guarantee you a successful trip hiking at the Grand Canyon.


EditChoosing Which Trails to Hike
  1. Start with the Rim Trail if youíre new to hiking. Most of the trailís are paved, providing an even hike for those not used to being out in the wilderness yet.[1]
    • Shuttle buses operate along different lengths of the trail, allowing you to choose which parts of it you want to hike.
  2. Experience Widforss Trail for sights of both canyon and forest. The trail should take around 4-6 hours to complete a round trip, perfect for a day hike. Fossils embedded in the limestone rocks are on display, along with the numerous species of wildlife that inhabit the trail, such as deer, bobcat, and wild turkey.[2]
    • Ample views of the San Francisco Peaks away line the horizon for a breathtaking backdrop to your hike.
  3. Try Grandview Trail if youíre an experienced desert hiker. This trail is exposed along the canyon, with areas featuring extreme drop-offs without a guard rail, large gaps between solid ground, all on a steep incline at a high elevation. Various destinations on the trail lie at different lengths into it, such as Coconino Saddle in, Horseshoe Mesa at , Page Spring at , and the most difficult area to reach, Cottonwood Creek at in. Youíll descend up to nearly into the canyon from the trailhead depending on how far you go in.[3]
    • The upper sections of the trail can be particularly icy during the winter months and early spring. Practice extreme caution during these times, and use over-the-shoe traction devices to achieve better footing.
  4. Do an overnight hike on the North Kaibab Trail. The entirety of the round-trip from the trailhead to the Colorado River is , with the trail descending over the course of it. Other destinations along the way are Roaring Springs, a round-trip that will take you a full day to hike; Supai Tunnel with a round-trip; or Coconino Overlook, a round-trip. Day hikes beyond Roaring Springs are not recommended, with hikes starting before 7 AM to avoid walking during the hottest part of the day. [4]
    • This trail is used by mules, who are given the right of way before the hikers.
  5. Take the Hermit or South Kaibab Trails for winter hikes. Due to the layout of these trails, both are easier to hike during the winter months thanks to minimal ice formation along most of, or all of their lengths. South Kaibab Trail initially will have icy conditions for the first ľ mile, but once youíve made it below that area known as the Chimney, ice is more periodic. Hermit Trail features milder conditions as you descend, especially after the first Ĺ mile, after which you move behind the Coconino Sandstone that blocks snow and ice.[5]
  6. Choose a shorter trail if youíre looking for a quick wilderness outing. The Grand Canyon has several shorter length hikes available, such as the Cliff Springs Trail, the Cape Royal Trail, the Bright Angel Point Trail thatís round-trip, and the shortest of all, Roosevelt Point Trail at round-trip. Cliff Springs Trail can be hiked in about an hour, while the rest can be completed in 20-30 minutes.[6]
    • The Cape Final and Point Imperial Trails are slightly longer at each, being able to be completed in around 2 hours.
EditMaking Preparations for the Hike
  1. Obtain a permit if you plan to stay overnight during your hike. Overnight trips in the back country in the Grand Canyon require a backcountry permit, while same-day hikes and other activities do not. Neither does staying at a developed campground on the North or South Rims of the canyon, or a dormitory or cabin at the Phantom Lodge.[7]
    • A permit application is available at the following URL: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisi...it-request.pdf. Directions on how to submit the application are on the top of the first page of the form.
    • While the South Rim has only 5 hiking trails, the North has 13. If you decide to hike the North Rim, which is not used by most hikers, take into account the colder climate there. The North Rim receives over twice as much snowfall annually as the South Rim.
    • The North Rim has an open season from May 15 to October 15 each year, and will require a proper backcountry permit to use during the winter months.[8]
  2. Take plenty of food to last you the hike. Keeping cool in the canyon requires a lot of energy, so you should be eating around twice as much as you do on an average day while hiking in the Grand Canyon. Eat a healthy breakfast, and then regularly eat throughout the hike foods high in carbohydrates and electrolytes: cereal, jerky, dried fruits and vegetables, granola or energy bars, nuts, and other trail mixes. For overnight hikes, bring meat pouches or canned meat, pasta and rice, pancake mix, or dried soups and dehydrated foods you can cook on a stove.[9]
    • Consume salty snacks and water or a sports drink on any hike that lasts longer than 30 minutes.
    • Bring MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) if you wonít have access to heat.
    • If youíre considering bringing a stove and fuel to cook with, keep in mind its extra weight. If itís summer when youíre going, a cold meal may be better and can save you the extra weight youíd have to carry in the heat. During winter months however, a stove and warm meals may prove necessary, as fires are prohibited in the backcountry.[10]
  3. Carry a gallon of water for every day of the hike. On very hot days, which are frequent in the summer, drink at least of water or a sports drink for each hour that you intend to hike. On more temperate days, youíll want to drink of water for each day of the hike. Drink regularly rather than waiting to feel thirsty before you do.[11]
    • If you collect water while out hiking, make sure itís free from contaminants by treating it with iodine tablets, a filter, or boiling it beforehand.
    • Stay hydrated enough so that urination is occurring regularly and is not dark in color.
  4. Pack only the essentials to keep your bag as light as possible. While out hiking, the water and food you carry with you should be the heaviest things in your pack. Although itíll be needed for winter months, if you decide to carry a tent during the summer, consider a light sleeping bag or just a sheet. You should also always carry staples such as sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, a compass, a whistle, containers or sacks for your food, garbage bags, toilet paper, and a trowel to dig a hole and bury your excrement in.[12]
    • Take a trail map and a compass or GPS device. The trail map will guide you during your hike and the compass or GPS device will help you navigate if you become lost.
    • Pack a bear canister. This is a food-storage device that will help keep any form of wildlife from eating your food.
    • Bring hiking poles during the winter for help with your footing on icy paths.
  5. Dress lightly for hiking during the summer. Youíll want to wear a pair of sturdy hiking boots and socks made out of wool, and have a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Wear shorts and short sleeves for activities during summer months (donít forget the sunscreen!) that are made out synthetic materials that will breathe, wick moisture, and dry quickly.[13]
    • Temperatures in the summer often exceed .
    • Bring a rain jacket to keep yourself dry during sudden rainstorms that can erupt.
  6. Dress in layers and winter accessories during the colder months. Although Arizona has a reputation for being hot, parts of the Grand Canyon are also subject to very cold temperatures. You may need thermals, jackets, gloves, scarves or gaiters, and a hat. Dress in long ********* or tights, then add mid layer pieces like fleeces, sweaters, and hiking pants, following with any additional heavy jackets, coats, or snow pants on top. Wear waterproof boots to keep your feet dry from the snow.[14]
    • There are temperature extremes in the Grand Canyon and the higher elevations receive plenty of snow in the colder months, with winter temperatures occasionally falling below .
EditHiking the Grand Canyon
  1. Travel to the South Rim for a wider variety of activities to choose from. Not only is there hiking, but you can visit the visitor center or geology museum, take a raft trip on the Colorado, or learn about the nature and history of the park in a ranger program.[15]
    • You can either drive there yourself, or other options include taking one of the daily shuttles that run from Phoenix and Flagstaff, a Greyhound bus, a one-day tour, or even a train and connecting bus service from Flagstaff or Williams, Arizona.[16]
  2. Go to the North Rim for a more remote experience. Although the North Rim is less visited than the South, it has more trails to hike than the South, and you can still easily get there by driving. Otherwise, a reservation can be made on the Trans-Canyon Shuttle that runs between the North and South Rims from May 15 to October 15.[17]
    • The Trans-Canyon Shuttle makes its trip once a day, lasting around 4 Ĺ hours each way. A limited schedule is also available from October 16 to October 31.
  3. Take into account the time to hike into the canyon versus hiking out. A rule of thumb is that 1/3 of your time on a hike is spent descending into the Grand Canyon, while the other 2/3 is spent coming back out. You should give uphill hikers the right of way, and bring a small flashlight if you need to keep hiking after the sunís gone down.[18]
    • Use a trail map that you brought with you or obtain one at Grand Canyon National Park before you begin your hike.
  4. Hike at a comfortable pace to keep from wasting your energy. You want to make sure that youíre getting enough oxygen to sustain yourself throughout the entirety of the hike, and not waste it all at once. Go at a slow, even pace to keep your energy up, making sure your breathing is regular, not too shallow or deep.[19]
    • If youíre able to talk while you hike, youíre hiking at a perfect pace.
  5. Take a 10-minute break every hour of your hike. While on break, prop your legs up on a rock or ledge, and take the time to eat some food, drink something, and marvel at the beauty of the Grand Canyon.[20]
    • If you stay on schedule and donít linger too long, regular breaks will not slow you down over the course of your hike.
EditFollowing Canyon Rules and Safety Measures
  1. Split longer hikes up over multiple days. Most hiking paths from the South Rim to the Colorado River in the canyon are 7 to 9 Ĺ miles in length. It will take most people 4 or 5 hours to descend down into the canyon, and another 7 to 8 to return back to the rim. If you have a backcountry permit, camping overnight is highly recommended, otherwise youíll be hiking in the dark, a highly dangerous activity.[21]
    • Not factoring in elevation changes on your body or not taking breaks to eat and drink regularly can severely impact how long a hike will take.
  2. Be cautious of poor hiking conditions before departing. Check the weather report as close as possible to the time you begin your hike and reconsider taking a long hike if harsh weather is predicted. You should not hike during the hottest part of the day from 10 AM to 4 PM during the summer, nor during a thunderstorm due to risks with lightning strikes and flash flooding.[22]
    • Flash floods can occur at any time of the year, but are most frequent from May to September. In addition, they can also cause rock slides to occur, so be mindful of your environment to avoid them and stay safe.
    • Donít stand where rocks have previously fallen during a rock slide.
    • Current weather and road conditions can be found by calling 928-638-7496, or visiting the National Park Serviceís website at https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvis...-condition.htm.
  3. Keep food off the ground in animal-proof containers while at camp. If youíre leaving your pack unattended for any length of time, place your food in nylon stuff sacks before hanging them from tree branches. Alternatively, just keep all food in storage containers until you use it. This will prevent small animals from eating your supplies and possibly damaging your pack.[23]
    • Do not feed any of the wildlife, or leave food unattended to be eaten by it. Violators will be given citations.
  4. Carry a trash bag to put all your waste in. Leaving any materials from supplies behind, including used toilet paper, is littering in the Grand Canyon. You are expected to take any trash you have from the canyon to disposal facilities back on the rim.[24]
    • While at camp, make sure to hang your trash bag with the food sacks when unattended.
  5. Tell someone your hiking plans in case something happens. Let them know where your destination back on the rim of the Grand Canyon will be after you come back from a descent, and what day you should be arriving back home. If youíll be in a group, give them the name of the trip leader or permit holder if you arenít. If you happen to be injured, lost, or sick while out on a hike, someone will then be able to contact the proper rescue services to come help you.[25]
    • Be sure to contact the person once you arrive back safely to let them know youíre alright. The National Park Service is not accountable for the cost of rescue efforts sent out on your behalf, necessary or otherwise.
  6. Give the right of way to the mules you encounter. Mules are available to be ridden into the Grand Canyon, and they share the hiking trails with everyone else. When letting them pass by, step off the trail away from the edge of the canyon towards the uphill side, while standing perfectly quiet and still so as to not disturb them.[26]
    • Wait to return to the trail until the last mule has gone past where youíre standing.
  • Although you will be hiking in a canyon, your hike will begin at an altitude of to above sea level. It is highly likely that you live in an area that is lower than this, so the oxygen supply will be less than you are accustomed to, which will make breathing difficult.
  • Over 250 people every year require rescue from the Grand Canyon.
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