8 Best Hikes in the Grand Canyon Area

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Within striking distance of Flagstaff, Phoenix and Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park is great for weekend jaunts or week-long stays, and is suitable for anyone from avid hikers to those new to the sport. The breathtaking views and gorgeous trails make this area well worth the visit; plus, as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, visiting the Grand Canyon should be on everyone’s bucket list. Keep in mind there is an entrance fee for National Parks so you will need to buy a pass before exploring the area.

Whether you’re exploring the North Rim, the South Rim or venturing west of the main tourist area, the visitor centers, ranger programs, special events and plethora of hiking trails will keep you busy. The South Rim is open year-round, but the North Rim closes in the winter because of snow—check the park website for closures before you head out. The Grand Canyon is a wonderful place to bring the family, but there are dangers to be aware of as you explore the area, such as close proximity to steep cliffs, so read up on the park website.

If you plan on hiking into and/or staying overnight in the canyon, familiarize yourself with the park rules and read up on their tips and recommendations. Venturing into the canyon is extremely strenuous and can be dangerous if you’re not adequately prepared. Even if you’re planning a shorter hike, be sure to bring sunblock, a hat, more water than you think you need, snacks and layers. The weather can change quickly and the temperature difference between the rim and the river can be extreme, so be prepared for whatever hike you choose.  

Keep in mind, this list just scratches the surface of available hiking options around the Grand Canyon area and is representative of community-favorites on Hiking Project. Visit the site to investigate other opportunities in the area. And, to help you stay on track, take the handy mobile app with you when you head out to explore.

Cape Royal Trail

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim
  • Length: 0.9-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Best For: Expansive views while stretching your legs
  • Dogs: No dogs

This hike is a good option for an easy family outing. The North Rim is not as developed and is a bit harder to access than the South Rim, and as such, this side of the canyon is less popular. Therefore, despite the outstanding views, you will likely avoid heavy crowds. From the Cape Royal parking lot and picnic area, follow the signed and paved trail south along the crest of the plateau. With stunning views to the east and west, this spot is spectacular at both sunrise and sunset. The path winds through the forested landscape above the canyon. Enjoy the easy and level path as you walk, taking time to stop and read several interpretive signs narrating the natural history of the area. At the end of the path is Cape Royal, an overlook with remarkable views of the Grand Canyon. Take some time here to soak in the scenery. On the return hike, take the short spur trail to reach the Angels Window Overlook for views of the Unkar Delta in the Colorado River, framed through the window. After visiting Angels Window, continue back to the parking area to finish the hike.

Rim Trail

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim
  • Length: 13.1-mile point-to-point
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Best For: A long day of easy hiking and impressive views
  • Dogs: Leashed

The Rim Trail is one of the most easily accessible trails in the park and is family friendly. As an added bonus and a rather uncommon feature for national parks, leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. The Rim Trail is easily accessed using the park’s shuttle system and you can hike it in either direction. As mapped on Hiking Project, this is a 13.1-mile point-to-point hike; however, given the numerous shuttle stops along the route, you can make it as long or short as you'd like. Additionally, since the trail is paved from Powell Point to South Kaibab Trailhead, much of it complies with accessibility standards, although there are a couple sections between Pipe Creek Vista and Bright Angel Landing where the grade of the trail exceeds these standards. You can find more information in the park’s Accessibility Guide.

If completing this as mapped, take the Kaibab/Rim Route (orange) shuttle from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to the South Kaibab Trailhead where toilets and drinking water are available year-round. Be aware that the first 2 miles of this paved trail are shared with bikers, so stay alert as you hike. The trail follows the rim of the canyon the entire way, so the views are numerous and phenomenal. About 3 miles into the hike, you will pass the Yavapai Museum of Geology. With restrooms, water and a wealth of information about the geologic history of the Grand Canyon, this is an excellent place to take a break. Between the museum and the Verkamp’s Visitor Center you will pass through the Trail of Time geology exhibits. Here you can learn more about the different geologic layers within the canyon as you walk.

About 4.5 miles into the hike you’ll reach the South Rim Historic District and Village—visit the Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Kolb Studio, Hopi House, the train depot or check out the views and mule corral by Bright Angel Trailhead. From here, continue along the Rim Trail enjoying the stunning viewpoints along the way. Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point and Powell Point all offer short detours to fantastic scenery. From Bright Angel Trailhead to Monument Creek Vista the trail is no longer wheelchair accessible due to sections of steep grades and unpaved trail. However, you can bypass this section by taking the Hermits Rest Route (red) shuttle from Hermits Rest Route Transfer to the Monument Creek Vista stop. From Monument Creek Vista, the path is paved. From here to Hermits Rest the trail is once again shared with bikes. To return to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, either hike back along the trail (this would make for a very long day out) or use the shuttle system. The Hermits Rest Route (red) will take you to the Village/Hermits Rest Route Transfer where you can take the Village Route (blue) back to the visitor center.

South Rim Trail (Photo Credit: Hiking Project Contributor John Stephens)

Cape Final Trail

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim
  • Length: 4.3-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/intermediate
  • Best For: An easier, shaded hike to a stunning viewpoint
  • Dogs: No Dogs

The hike to Cape Final is located along one of the arms of the Walhalla Plateau on the North Rim. From the parking area off of Cape Royal Road, follow the signs for Cape Final Trail. Since this trail winds through the woods, it is an excellent option for hot and sunny summer days. Though the trail is dirt, it is rather wide and the elevation change is fairly moderate, making this a good choice for a family hike. As you meander, keep an eye out for critters such as the Kaibab squirrel, identifiable by its white tail. About 1 mile along the trail, as you near the edge of the canyon, the trees will begin to thin a bit; however, you will stay in the forest until nearly the end of the trail at Cape Final. From Cape Final, enjoy views of the canyon including Vishnu Temple, the Vermilion Cliffs and the Colorado River. Return the way you came.



Uncle Jim Complete Loop

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim
  • Length: 4.8-mile lollipop loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/intermediate
  • Best For: A moderate hike to unique views
  • Dogs: No dogs

Though almost 5 miles long, this hike is not overly taxing and would be a good option for an active family. To access this hike, begin at the parking area for the North Kaibab Trailhead—there is limited parking, so arrive early. Head to the northeast corner of the lot to reach the Ken Patrick Trail, which you will follow through the woods for about 0.9 miles. At the junction with the Uncle Jim Trail, turn right. The trail descends steeply into a valley before climbing the other side. This is the most strenuous part of the hike, and even though you will have to do it twice, it shouldn’t present too much of a challenge. As you near the top of the climb, the trail splits to form a loop—take the left arm to follow this hike clockwise and continue the climb. As you follow this portion of the trail, keep an eye on the Kaibab Limestone that lines the path, as a sharp eye may be able to spot fossilized shells or sponges—remnants from when the area was covered by ocean, roughly 270 million years ago. However, do not collect any of these fossils. Not only is it illegal to do so, but leaving them in place will allow others to enjoy them.

As you continue along the plateau you’ll catch glimpses of the canyon through the forest. As the woods open up and you pop out along the rim, you’ll have a unique view of the rarely seen Bright Angel Canyon, Bright Angel Point and the steep switchbacks along the beginning of the North Kaibab Trail. Try to spot backpackers who may be venturing into the canyon for the night. After you’re done taking in the views, continue along the trail as it immediately dives back into the woods and away from the canyon rim. Back at the junction, turn left to descend into the valley. After climbing out, stay left to rejoin the Ken Patrick Trail and follow it back to the trailhead.



Havasu Falls

  • Location: Havasupai Indian Reservation, Supai, AZ
  • Length: 19.1-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: A one-of-a-kind hiking and camping experience
  • Dogs: No dogs

Due to its remote location on the Havasupai Indian Reservation and the mandatory permits to access the area, this hike will take some preparation and planning. The Havasupai Indian Reservation and the village of Supai are located within the Grand Canyon, west of the main tourist area outside of the national park. The Havasu Tribe has called this area home for over 1,000 years and has relied on the aquifer that feeds Havasu Creek, the main draw for tourists. The aquamarine waters, waterfalls and the shady oasis within the canyon walls are outstandingly beautiful and have become extremely popular. As such, the permits required to enter the canyon usually sell out on the first day they are available. Campground permits are typically for designated times and can be expensive depending on the days of the week you visit. Keep in mind that this area is prone to flash flooding and your reservation may be cancelled as a result. Because of the delicate nature of this area and to respect the community, it is imperative to follow all rules posted online and at the trailhead.

From the Havasupai Hilltop Trailhead, you’ll take the Havasu Canyon Trail and immediately begin to descend into the canyon via some steep switchbacks. The grade along the first mile or so of trail is by far the most taxing, so take your time. After this first section, the grade eases significantly as you hike along the floor of the canyon. The trail is maintained and well-traveled as you traverse the wide open canyon. Though it may feel like the trail is fairly level, it does actually descend gradually. This becomes more noticeable about 5 miles in when the canyon narrows and the canyon walls seem to grow around you, providing some shade. Around 6.5 miles, you reach a canyon junction where you will turn left. Here, the Havasu Creek bubbles along the bottom of this wider and tree-filled canyon. Just a little ways further, at mile 7, you will enter the edge of the Supai Village. In the main area of the village, be sure to check in at the Havasupai Tourist Office before heading to the campground.

Once you pass through the village, you’ll wander along the blue-green waters of the creek as you head to the campground, passing Little Navajo Falls around mile 9. You can stop here for a break, but the campground and Havasu Falls are only a half mile further. Check in at the campground ranger station and head off to find a site and set up camp. Over the next couple days, take time to explore the area. Visit the village, Havasu Falls, Little Navajo Falls or head further down the canyon to Mooney Falls. If you’re looking for a longer outing one day, continue down the canyon to Beaver Falls, about 3 miles from camp, or continue to the junction with the Colorado River, about 6.5 miles from camp and a 13-mile round-trip hike. On your last day, you’ll need to hike out. Remember, the general grade ascends through the canyon and the last mile of climbing can feel pretty hard. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time so you’re not hiking out in the dark.

The 100-foot-tall Havasu Falls (Photo credit: Hiking Project contributor Connor Davis)

Plateau Point From South Rim

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim
  • Length: 12.4-mile round-trip out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: A long and tough day hike that starts and ends on the South Rim
  • Dogs: No dogs

The hike to Plateau Point from the South Rim is an incredible route that takes you into the canyon without having to navigate the final steep descent to the Colorado River below. Though this is a strenuous 12.3-mile hike, hardy hikers can do this as an out-and-back day hike, just keep an eye on your water levels and look out for signs of heat exhaustion. When hiking into the canyon, it is important to remember that it is always more strenuous on the way back out and you'll need to plan accordingly. Take sun protection, start early and take plenty of breaks in any available shade to avoid sunburns and exhaustion. This trail is frequented by mules, so if you encounter any along the way simply step to the side of the trail, remain still and follow any instructions from the mule driver.

Start this hike from Bright Angel Trailhead and follow Bright Angel Trail into the canyon. There is no lead-in to this descent, so as soon as you leave the Rim Trail, you’ll plunge into the canyon along a series of switchbacks. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, but the steep grade can be quite strenuous—take your time and watch your footing. Keep an eye out for fossils and petroglyphs as you pass through the first tunnel. You’ll pass a resthouse with seasonal drinking water at 1.5 miles, and a half mile further as you come around a prominent switchback, look up to the rock above the trail to see a few more petroglyphs. After the resthouse at mile 3, you’ll descend another section of steep switchbacks, after which the grade of the trail gradually mellows. Here you’ll follow the Garden Creek to Indian Garden Camp, a one-time Native American settlement that now has a ranger station and campground with year-round drinking water. Take some time to enjoy a break in the shady stand of cottonwood trees before venturing on.

Just past the ranger station, take a left onto Plateau Point Trail when it splits off from Bright Angel Trail. Once the trail emerges from the trees, there is no shade to be found. However, the path is easy to follow and the grade is mellow as it winds along the ravines before striking out across the plateau through the desert landscape. As you near the point, you’ll see a flat top rock and viewing platform—that is your destination. The views from here are stunning. Take some time to soak up the sights up and down the canyon and keep an eye out for rafters on the river below. When it's time to return, head back the way you came—remember, the climb out is much harder and will take longer then the hike in. Leave yourself plenty of time and plan on taking several breaks on the way back.

Bighorn Sheep on Bright Angel Trail (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor Mitch Malone)

South Kaibab/Bright Angel Loop

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim
  • Length: 21.6-mile round-trip loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: A fun but arduous overnight backpacking trip in the canyon
  • Dogs: No dogs

This route makes for a very strenuous backpacking trip and is not recommended for beginner hikers. It is technically possible for advanced hikers or trail runners to do this route in one day, but at 21.6 miles, it is not recommended. It is best to plan on a 2-day trek, but remember that camping at Phantom Ranch, Bright Angel or Indian Garden campgrounds requires a backcountry permit, which can be hard to come by.

From the Bright Angel Trailhead, head east along the Rim Trail toward the village. Follow the entire length of the Rim Trail to the junction with South Kaibab Trail. There is year-round water access here, so be sure to top off all your bottles before heading into the canyon. Once ready, you’ll drop steeply into the canyon via a series of tight switchbacks. The trail is in good shape but the dirt can feel slippery underfoot due to the steep grade. After a couple miles, the grade eases a bit as it wraps around O’Neill Butte. Given that there are few trees along this trail, the views are stunning but the summer sun is blistering—bring adequate protection. Hiking from the rim to the river you will traverse nearly 1 billion years of geologic time. Keep an eye out for unique geologic features, fossils and note the various rock types you pass by.

After almost 8.5 miles of hiking, you’ll reach Skeleton Point. This is a popular destination for day hikers and you’ll likely see most folks turning around here. You, however, get to descend the steep switchbacks, dropping further into the canyon. As you hike, the views will continue to evolve; what shrub life there was thins out and glimpses of the Colorado River below come into sight. Descending this last section of switchbacks, you edge closer and closer to the river. After passing through a short tunnel you will reach the Colorado River and the black suspension bridge that crosses it. Across the bridge, the trail becomes the North Kaibab Trail which you will follow a short distance to Silver Bridge Trail. If you plan on camping at Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch, follow the North Kaibab Trail to your destination. If not, there is year-round water available by the boat launch and Silver Bridge. As you continue toward Silver Bridge, keep in mind that deep water and strong currents make the Colorado River unsafe to swim in.

Once back across the river via Silver Bridge, follow the River Trail west along the riverbanks. At the Pipe Creek Rapids there is a resthouse with toilets and an emergency phone. Here, connect with the Bright Angel Trail which turns away from the river and begins to climb, though the grade is not as steep as the descent of South Kaibab. The trail drops in along Garden Creek and follows it for much of the remainder of the hike. Shortly before reaching Indian Garden Campground, you’ll pass a small waterfall, which is a wonderful place to rest. Stop by Indian Garden to fill up your water for the remainder of the hike. It may feel like you are almost done, but the last 5 miles of the trail gets much steeper and will take a bit longer than you'd expect. About 3 miles from the end, the trail gets significantly steeper and you'll be following a series of switchbacks up to the rim. Once back up top, turn around to enjoy a view of the impressive feat you just accomplished.

View on the South Kaibab Trail (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor Paula Aguilar)

Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R)

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim
  • Length: 47.5 mile round-trip out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: Advanced hikers looking for a challenging backpacking trip
  • Dogs: No dogs

At 47.5 miles, most people who attempt this hike will take at least three days to complete it. This is a hearty challenge for those who want to experience the entire Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the Colorado River to the North Rim and back again. Remember, if you plan on camping within the canyon, you must obtain a backcountry permit and be familiar with backcountry camping rules. Take stock of the backcountry camping areas, plan out where you would like to stay and determine the required amount of hiking per day. Take into account summertime temperatures and make sure your daily mileage is a manageable distance. There are several sites along this route that offer year-round water, and several that only have water seasonally—check availability of water stops before heading out and be sure you take enough to make it to a refill spot.

Start this hike from the Bright Angel Trailhead and descend steeply into the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail. Along the way, you’ll pass several sections of the canyon wall with petroglyphs, so keep an eye out as you descend. Pass the two resthouses, stopping to fill up water if it is available. After the second resthouse, the grade eases as you continue toward Indian Garden. Just past Indian Garden, at the trail junction, stay right on Bright Angel Trail and continue descending into the canyon. Once you reach the river take a break at the river resthouse and enjoy the sights. After a good rest, head east on River Trail to follow the Colorado River. Cross the river via Silver Bridge to connect with the North Kaibab Trail; stay left to head up to Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch.

From Phantom Ranch, the trail ascends for about 9 miles, though the grade will be quite mellow. The North Kaibab Trail climbs along Bright Angel Creek so you’ll enjoy the scenery and sounds of the water as you climb, crossing a few bridges along the way. About 14.5 miles into the hike, there is a turnoff for a spur trail that leads to Ribbon Falls, a lovely place to visit and take a break if you need it. If you’re camping at Cottonwood Campground, it’s only a mile further along the trail, making it easy to go set up camp and wander back to the falls for the evening.

Around miles 16 and 17, you’ll come across the Manzanita Rest Area and the Roaring Springs Day Use Area. Both have restrooms and seasonal drinking water and make excellent rest stops. The Roaring Springs area is accessed via a spur trail which takes you to an overlook of the falls. From the turnoff for Roaring Springs, the trail steepens significantly as you make your way up to the North Rim. After crossing Redwall Bridge you ascend steep switchbacks the rest of the way up, finally reaching the North Kaibab Trailhead. Enjoy the views from the North Rim as you bask in the accomplishment of hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim. But don’t bask too long, as you need to return the way you came, plunging back into the canyon’s depths for an equally rewarding return to the South Rim.



 

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