Grand Canyon Hiking & Camping
Wildland Trekking Company
Join our 2 to 8-day backcountry tours, with gourmet food and quality gear served up by the most experienced, knowledgeable guides with 20 yrs experience in adventure travel.
Pygmy Guides â€“ Hit the trails of Grand Canyon National Park for 1-5 days of fun for everyone. Waterfalls, ancient ruins, pictographs, wildlife and more await below the rim.
Grand Canyon offers some of the most challenging hiking and backpacking found anywhere in North America. Steep trails, intense heat, fast changing weather, and elusive water and shade combine to make for harsh conditions - even on a good day. Over 250 visitors are evacuated from the Canyon for medical emergencies by the park service Search and Rescue team each year. Proper planning and training is imperative.
The reward for those willing to make the effort, a mere fraction of the visiting public, is a chance to marvel at the unfolding beauty of the Inner Canyon. For those that are capable it is truly an experience not to be missed.
With few exceptions the 1.2 million acre national park is fair game for foot traffic. Due to the difficult terrain the vast majority of the backcountry is only accessible by experienced off-trail hikers or uphill forays from rafting trips. To assist the rest of us there are approximately two dozen established trails that provide access to some of the park's most remarkable destinations.
These trails begin on the North or South Rim and eventually make their way to the rock bottom of the Canyon a vertical mile below. The trails vary in length and difficulty (see table below). A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in the park. Find out more about securing a permit by following this link www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm
Day hikers are not required to obtain a permit from the park service. They should choose their route carefully, and let someone know where they are going and when they plan on returning. Each year several day hikers become lost or disoriented in the Canyon, and several perish as a result. Don't become a statistic. Do your homework, don't take any undue risks, and stay well within your known limits in terms of physical exertion.
Best Day Hike - Bright Angel Trail
The best day hike for newcomers to the Grand Canyon is a descent of the Bright Angel Trail. This historic trail begins in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and tumbles seven miles to the Colorado River below. However, going to the river and back in a single day is strongly discouraged for any hiker on any day. The good news is that there are obvious places to change course and head back uphill including the rest houses (with treated drinking water during the hot summer months) that are found at 1.5 mile increments between the top and Indian Garden Campground which is half the distance to the bottom. Plan for twice as much time and effort to go up than it takes to go down.
As with all day hikes, get a reliable weather forecast and dress accordingly, wear sturdy shoes and a brimmed hat, and take a few quarts of water and salty snacks for each person in your party. All this same advice follows for the best day hike on the North Rim that can be found on the precipitous North Kaibab Trail.
Best Backpacking Destinations
BRIGHT ANGEL CAMPGROUND & INDIAN GARDEN CAMPGROUND
For first-time backpackers in Grand Canyon National Park the most popular itinerary is to spend a few nights at either Bright Angel or Indian Garden Campground. The Bright Angel Campground can be accessed by either the Bright Angel or the South Kaibab Trail (off the South Rim); Indian Garden by the Bright Angel Trail. Advance campground reservations are recommended. See our Grand Canyon Camping Guide - coming soon.
Both campgrounds have restrooms, treated drinking water, established campsites, individual food storage canisters (to thwart the critters), and are frequently staffed by helpful park rangers. Packing correctly will make or break your experience. For a list of backpacking gear follow this link www.hitthetrail.com/equipment.php
Once you've mastered the "easier" trails in Grand Canyon you can graduate to the next tier of more remote trails in the Hermit and Grandview Trails (South Rim). Also popular is Havasu Canyon including the waterfalls at Havasupai and Mooney Falls.
HAVASUPAI AND MOONEY FALLS
Havasu Canyon, home to the Havasupai Indians, is a paradise located in western Grand Canyon known worldwide for its towering waterfalls and beautifully sculpted rock. In this idyllic setting of lush side canyons and sun-splashed cliffs a small group of indigenous hunters and farmers arrived centuries ago and carved out a simple lifestyle; one that continues to this day.
Havasu Creek, the carver of this serpentine side canyon beneath the South Rim, is fed by a deep aquifer. The perennial desert stream tumbles over several major waterfalls on its journey to the Colorado River on the floor of the Grand Canyon. The presence of calcium carbonate in the highly mineralized, spring-fed water gives Havasu Creek its distinctive blue-green color. This same robust creek sustains a rich riparian ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of plants, birds, and animals.
Though many Supai tribal members continue to farm in this flood-prone drainage, tourism has emerged as the tribe's primary source of income. Fee-based camping is offered year round. In addition to backpackers, visitors arrive by helicopter and horseback, some staying in the tribe's rustic lodge. Camping in Havasu Canyon requires an permit that can be obtained directly from the tribe. For more information on visiting Havasu Canyon follow this link www.havasupaitribe.com.
The South Rim
Begin from any viewpoint in the Grand Canyon Village or along Hermit Road. The Rim Trail extends from Mather Point in the Village west to Hermits Rest. It offers excellent walking for quiet views of the inner canyon and for visitors who desire an easy hike.
BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL
The trail begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge. It is well-maintained and follows switchbacks to the Indian Garden Campground and Inner Gorge. After Indian Garden, the trail heads east along the river to the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge and on to Phantom Ranch. The roundtrip length of the Bright Angel Trail is 19 miles and descends 4,400 feet.
Leave No Trace
SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL
This trail begins south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. It is 12.6 miles roundtrip and is steep, dropping 5,000 feet in 6.3 miles. The trail follows ridge lines rather than side canyons. It goes to the Inner Gorge where it meets with the Kaibab Suspension Bridge on the way to Phantom Ranch.
Caution is required as this trail is unmaintained, steep, and very strenuous. It begins at Grandview Point on Desert View Drive 12 miles east of Grand Canyon Village. The 6 mile roundtrip trail descends to Horseshoe Mesa.
Hermit Trail begins 500 feet west of Hermits Rest which is 8 miles west of Grand Canyon Village. It is unmaintained, steep, and very strenuous. The 17 mile roundtrip leads from the canyon rim to the Colorado River. Sights include Hermit Gorge, The Supai Formation, Santa Maria Spring, and the Redwall Formation.
The North Rim
The trail can be reach by leaving Grand Canyon Lodge and going 2.7 miles north on the highway, then turn left one mile on a dirt road; the turnoff is 0.3 mile south of the Cape Royal turnoff. This is a relatively easy hike with great canyon views. It skirts the head of Transept Canyon and across a plateau with ponderosa pine to an overlook near Widforss Point. Below the trail's end is Haunted Canyon flanked by the Colorado River on the right and Many Temple and Budda Temple on the left. The trail is 10 miles roundtrip and is frequented by mule deer.
KEN PATRICK TRAIL
The 19.8 roundtrip trail starts at Point Imperial and goes along the rim to Cape Royal Road. Then it continues through forest to the North Kaibab trailhead. Great hiking through the forest with views across the headwaters of Nankoweap Creek.
UNCLE JIM TRAIL
The first mile of the trail is along the Ken Patrick Trail and then breaks off to Uncle Jim Point. It is 5 miles roundtrip and has views of Roaring Springs Canyon and North Kaibab Trail.
For further reading you may want to purchase the Official Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon which features all the Grand Canyon trails as well as giving tips on packing, permitting, and safety. This book is published by the Grand Canyon Association (GCA) and can be purchased online at www.grandcanyon.org. For a guided backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon consider joining an educational outing with the GCA's field seminar program, the Grand Canyon Field Institute (a link available on the GCA homepage). There are also numerous commercial guiding companies that can be hired for backpacking or day hiking. Find them on this site under Grand Canyon Tours & Things to Do and Grand Canyon Tours By Land: Hike, Ride, Rail, Walk.
On a final note, please remember that the Inner Canyon is a fragile desert ecosystem, and that the desert "grows by the inch and dies by the foot." A single careless boot print off the trail can last for decades in such an environment. Be sure to tread lightly, and leave the Canyon the way you found it. For more on Leave No Trace hiking and backpacking follow this link lnt.org/programs/.Hiking is wonderful way to experience the canyon’s rich natural beauty and immense size. [more...]
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