grand canyonHIKES AND TRAILS

Grand Canyon Hikes and Backpacking Trails

Grand Canyon Hikes and Backpacking Trails

The Grand Canyon is a hiker's mecca.  From expansive vistas and the Colorado River to backcountry waterfalls and some of the world's most amazing geology, this is a destination you can spend a lifetime exploring. The Grand Canyon has over 400 miles of trails and day hikes, rim to rim backpacks and month-long expeditions are just a few options if you’re ready for the challenge of hiking the canyon. If you want a professional guide to learn more about the Grand Canyon on your trip, there’s some great guided hikes.

All Grand Canyon day hikes are permit free, so a leisurely walk along the rim, a day hike on the South Kaibab, or any other Grand Canyon trail can be done without advanced planning or permits so long as you don’t stay overnight.  Overnight backpacking, however, has a strict and limited permitting system. Hikers going to any backcountry site or campground must obtain a backcountry permit at the Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Registration Office before setting out. If you’re heading to Havasu Falls you’ll need to get a permit from the Havasupai Tribe before you head to Havasupai. Read the guide below to learn more.

Best Grand Canyon Hiking Trails

Grand Canyon Hikes from the South Rim

The majority of Grand Canyon trails are found on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, most of which have access year-round. Grand Canyon Village, Hermit Road and Desert View Drive all have great trails for every kind of hiker.

Bright Angel Trail

  • Bright Angel Trail (Mileage/Elevation/Water)                
  • 1.5 Mile Resthouse: 1.5 miles/5720 ft/Water May-Sept (potable)
  • 3 Mile Resthouse: 3 miles/4920 ft/Water May-Sept (potable)
  • Indian Gardens:  4.5 miles/3,800 ft/Year-Round Water (potable)
  • Bright Angel Campground:  9.3 miles/2,400 ft/Year-Round Water (potable)
  • Phantom Ranch:  9.6 miles/2,546 ft/ Year-Round

The Bright Angel is the Grand Canyons most popular hiking trail and has been used to hike below the rim since the Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the area thousands of years ago.  The Bright Angel Trail starts on the South Rim next to the Bright Angel Lodge and is a popular trail for short day hikes, as well as multi-day backpacking trips to Bright Angel and Indian Gardens Campgrounds.  From the trailhead there are several stops with water and restrooms, including: 1.5 Mile Rest House, 3 Mile Rest House and Indian Gardens.  Indian Gardens is where most Grand Canyon day hikers turn around, especially in the summer heat.  After Indian Gardens you can take an extended day hike to Plateau Point, hop on the Tonto Trail, or continue on the BA Trail to Bright Angel Campground.  The next 5 miles of trail will take you through some beautiful narrows, down steep switchbacks, and along the Colorado River to the suspension bridges that cross it.  The Bright Angel has several pictographs along the trail, and offers a good chance to see California Condors and Big Horn Sheep.

South Kaibab Trail

  • South Kaibab Trail (Mileage/Elevation/Water)
  • Trailhead:  0 miles/7,200 ft/Water Mat-Sept (potable)
  • Ooh Aah Point:  .5 miles/6,320 ft/No Water
  • Cedar Ridge:  1.5 miles/5,200 ft/No Water
  • The Tipoff: 4.4 miles/4,000 ft/No Water
  • Bright Angel Campground:  6.8 miles/2,400 ft/Year-Round (potable)
  • Phantom Ranch:  7.2 miles/2,546 ft/ Year-Round (potable)

The South Kaibab Trail was built for expansive vistas, and its these vistas that make it one of the most popular and most beautiful trails in the Park.  The trailhead is located east of Grand Canyon Village, and is typically accessed via the Parks free shuttle system.  This steep and rugged path is named after the Paiute Indian word for the Grand Canyon: Kaibab, meaning "A mountain turned upside down".  The trailhead is located at an elevation over 7,000 feet, and you’ll descend seven miles through the Canyon en route to the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Canyon. Ooh Ah Point, Cedar Ridge, Skeleton Point and "The Tipoff" are some major stops along the trail before you reach the Black Bridge, and cross the Colorado River. After crossing the bridge, its’ a short hike to reach Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch.

Grand Canyon Hikes from the North Rim

The North Rim has some awesome hikes and a lot less visitation compared to the South Rim. Rim to Rim hikers will either start or finish their trip on the North Rim and day hikers will enjoy walking a few miles along the North Kaibab Trail. The North Rim only has seasonal access from mid-May until the first snow falls.  There are also quite a few trails around the Marble Canyon area. 

North Kaibab Trail

  • North Kaibab Trail (Mileage/Elevation/Water)
  • Trailhead: 0 miles/6,860ft/Water Not Available
  • Supai Tunnel: 2.0/ 6800/Occasional Seasonal Water (potable)
  • Roaring Springs: 4.7 miles/ 5200 ft/Water May-Sept (potable)
  • Cottonwood Campground: 6.8 miles/ 4,080 ft/Year Round Water (purification needed Oct 15-May15)
  • Ribbon Falls: 8.3 miles/ 3720 ft/Year Round Water (purification needed)           
  • Phantom Ranch:  13.7 miles/2,546 ft/ Year Round (potable)
  • Bright Angel Campground:  14.1 miles/2,400 ft/Year Round Water (potable)

The North Kaibab Trail starts from the Grand Canyons North Rim, an area of Aspen groves, Alpine meadows, and solitude - a very different experience from the South Rim National Megalopolis.  The North Kaibab is also the trail Canyon hikers use when setting out on a Rim to Rim hike. The trailhead is a short hike or drive from the North Rim Lodge and North Rim Campground.  A pay shuttle from the South Rim to North Rim is available from mid-May until mid-October for hikers doing a Rim to Rim. The first good views are a mile and a half down the trail at Coconino Overlook.  Another half mile down the Kaibab is the Supai Tunnel rest stop.  From Supai Tunnel its 2.7 miles to Roaring Springs and an additional 2.2 miles from here to Cottonwood Campground, the only campground on the North Kaibab trail.  Heading down Canyon from Cottonwood is a beautiful stop called Ribbon Falls before you walk the next six miles to Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground.

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Grand Canyon Hiking Videos

Grand Canyon Hiking Options

Grand Canyon Hiking Tours

Not only does the Grand Canyon have a lifetime of trails to explore, there's also numerous options for guided hiking and backpacking trips. If you're new to hiking, our want an outfitter to take care of the logistics, a guided hike is the way to go. To learn more check out our hiking tours page.

Grand Canyon Day Hikes

Spending your day hiking through the Grand Canyon is the best way to experience this amazing place. As you step below the rim you'll get a Grand Canyon experience you just can't get standing at a viewpoint. Learn More about Grand Canyon Day Hikes.

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trips

Backpacking in Grand Canyon National park is an adventure you'll never forget. Hiking deep into the Grand Canyon and spending the night under the stars is the only way to go if you're ready for the challenge. Learn More about Grand Canyon Backpacking.

Havasu Falls 

Explore the beautiful turquoise waterfalls of Havasu Canyon! Grand Canyon Guru has all of the trip planning information you need, whether you want to hike, ride a helicopter, stay in a hotel, or camp next to the waterfalls. Learn more about Havasupai and its waterfalls on our Havasu Falls page.

Hiking Preparation

The Grand Canyon is a step-up compared to most hiking destinations. The canyon is a mile deep and has rugged desert terrain that makes it a challenge even for experienced hikers. If you're doing a hike in Grand Canyon National Park, check out our Grand Canyon Hikers checklist below.

Grand Canyon Hikers Checklist

Hiking Trip Preparation

  • Stay hydrated (drink plenty of water)
  • Eat balanced meals
  • Cardio, Cardio, Cardio!
  • The Best way to train is to hike carrying the same amount of weight you’ll be carrying on your trek. Hiking on rugged trails with elevation change is ideal, but the canyon is like a giant Stairmaster... if you have access to a gym and hiking trails are not available.

What to bring (for all seasons)

  • All prescription and/or necessary medication!
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Small travel size toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Sunglasses and prescription eyewear
  • Your camera! (But remember, tripods, SLR’s & video are heavy.)
  • Other personal items (These are things you will need to carry, so no unnecessary items.)
  • First aid kit
  • Individual toilet kits
  • Snacks

Summer Season (Mid May - Mid Sept)

  • 1 Thermal Undershirt
  • 2 t-shirts (cotton only, no dark colors)
  • 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of long pants (no denim), or 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 change of underwear for each day of the hike
  • 1 change of socks for each day of the hike
  • Lightweight, Waterproof, Breathable Raincoat
  • Hat to block the sun
  • Hiking Boots or Trail Sneakers (Break in your boots, or pay the piper)
  • 1 pair of camp shoes (lightweight sandals like Teva or Chaco)

Fall Season (Mid Sept - Nov)

  • 1 Thermal Undershirt
  • 2 t-shirts (no cotton, wicking material only)
  • 1 pair of long pants and 1 pair of shorts (no denim or cotton)
  • 1 change of underwear for each day of the hike
  • 1 change of socks for each day of the hike
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Waterproof, Breathable Shell (Jacket)
  • Winter Hat and Gloves
  • Hiking Boots or Trail Sneakers (Break in your boots, or pay the piper)

Winter Season (Dec - Feb)

  • 2 Thermal Undershirts and 1 pair Thermal Underpants
  • 2 t-shirts (no cotton, wicking material only)
  • 2 pairs of long pants (no denim or cotton)
  • 1 change of underwear for each day of the hike
  • 1 change of socks for each day of the hike
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Waterproof, Breathable Shell (Jacket)
  • Winter Hat and Gloves
  • Hiking Boots or Trail Sneakers (Break in your boots, or pay the piper)

Spring Season (March - Mid May)

  • 1 Thermal Undershirt
  • 2 t-shirts (no cotton, wicking material only)
  • 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of long pants (no denim or cotton)
  • 1 change of underwear for each day of the hike
  • 1 change of socks for each day of the hike
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Waterproof, Breathable Shell (Jacket)
  • Winter hat and gloves
  • Hiking Boots or Trail Sneakers (Break in your boots, or pay the piper)
  • 1 pair of camp shoes (lightweight sandals like Teva or Chaco)

Grand Canyon Hiking Shuttles

Trans Canyon Shuttle

The Trans Canyon Shuttle offers a shuttle service for hikers doing Rim to Rim hiking and backpacking trips in Grand Canyon National Park. Their service is open seasonally when the North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October.
(928) 638-2820

Hikers’ Express Shuttle

Early in the morning, the Hikers’ Express shuttle bus picks up hikers throughout Grand Canyon Village and at Grand Canyon Visitor Center and takes them directly to South Kaibab Trailhead. Because South Kaibab Trailhead is shuttle bus only, this is a convenient option for hikers that gets you on the trail before it gets too hot to hike.

Pros

  • Offers hikers direct transportation to the South Kaibab Trail without the need to transfer between various shuttle bus lines.
  • Runs early in the morning, getting you on the trail before temperatures begin to rise.

Cons

  • If you are not planning to hike on South Kaibab Trail, this shuttle route is not for you. Since it is a specialized service that drops you off at the trailhead, you would need to take other shuttle bus lines (Kaibab Rim/Orange route and Village/Blue route) to get back to where you started.

Information

  • Bus Route Origin: The route begins at Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village.
  • Where to Park: If you are not staying in a hotel in Grand Canyon Village, the easiest place to catch the Hikers’ Express would be Grand Canyon Visitor Center shuttle bus plaza.
  • Required or Optional?: Since South Kaibab Trailhead is shuttle bus only, visitors must take either the Hikers’ Express or the Kaibab Rim/Orange Route to access the trail; the Hikers’ Express is the fastest option and gets you on the trail first thing in the morning.
  • Shuttle Type: This is a service route designed to get hikers to the trailhead efficiently; there are no scenic stops along the route.
  • Shuttle Highlights: Quick access to the South Kaibab Trail.
  • Hours of Operation/Shuttle Frequency:
  • Bus departs from Bright Angel Lodge bus stop on the hour; second stop at Backcountry Information Center; third stop at Grand Canyon Visitor Center; last stop at South Kaibab Trailhead.
  • Access to Restrooms and Services Along the Route: South Kaibab Trailhead has pit toilets and drinking water is available at the park’s free water bottle refill station as well.

Bus leaves Bright Angel Lodge at:
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in March
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in April
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in May
4 am, 5 am, 6 am in June, July, August
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in September
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in October
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in November
8 am, 9 am in December, January, February

Total Time for Route: Roughly 25 minutes from Bright Angel Lodge to South Kaibab Trailhead.

Shuttle Season: Runs year-round.

Price: Free

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