Words fail to describe just how spectacular the Grand Canyon is. Located in Arizona, in the heart of America’s Southwest, Grand Canyon National Park attracts millions of visitors every year who arrive by bus loads to catch a glimpse of this geographical wonder. Most tourists only spend a few hours here to take photos and say they “ticked the canyon off their bucket list”.
The vast majority either don’t know about the hiking opportunities or think venturing into the canyon is outside their capabilities. This is a shame because there are some fantastic trails on offer which suit all skill levels – from beginner day hikes to advanced multi-day treks. With a bit of effort, everyone can experience the Grand Canyon from a unique perspective.
A great way to immerse yourself in the natural splendor of the canyon is to book a day hike with the team at The Desert Hiking Company. They offer private hiking adventures at the park led by skilled wilderness guides. With a maximum group size of seven people, your family or group of friends can take on incredible Grand Canyon trails in a fun and safe manner.
Having the support of an experienced guide ensures you stay on track and don’t push yourself to dangerous limits. The founders of The Desert Hiking Company, Louie and Kyla, have been exploring the Grand Canyon for over a decade and their knowledge of the area is extensive. You can enjoy their company and tap into their expertise on one of their awesome day hikes.
In addition to booking your hike with guides, there are a number of other important things to consider when hitting the trails around this Natural Wonder of the World. Everything from permits to packing should be pre-planned. Below we will outline the most pertinent Grand Canyon hiking tips, so your next adventure in the Southwest is a truly remarkable one!
20 Hiking Tips for the Grand Canyon
1. Choose your Grand Canyon Trail Wisely
Knowing your limits and choosing an appropriate trail is the most critical thing to get right when planning a trip to the Grand Canyon. If you regard yourself as a hiking novice then the Rim Trail might be the best option. This day hike along the rim of the canyon has minimal elevation gain and offers astonishing views the entire way. Intermediate or advanced hikers have options like the South Kaibab Trail, the Hermit Trail or the Grand View Trail.
2. Sort your Grand Canyon Pass Before you Go
Access to the Grand Canyon is only granted for those who have the correct permits and passes. The National Park Service website states that a Vehicle Permit costs $35 – allowing one vehicle and its passengers to enter for seven days. Another alternative is to buy an America the Beautiful – Annual Pass which enables you to visit over 2,000 recreation areas within the US. This is a great option for those planning multiple national park trips.
3. Stay at a Unique Glamping/Yurt Accommodation
Hikers who are looking to rest their feet before or after their adventures can find a range of accommodations near the park’s entrance. None is cooler than the “Gurty” glamping experience with The Desert Hiking Company. Gurty (Grand Canyon yurt) is a cozy space equipped with a queen bed, solar powered lights and other creature comforts. Not only will you get a good night sleep but you will be able to stargaze and roast marshmallows.
4. Use the Free Shuttle Buses around the South Rim
There are free shuttle buses in and around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – so if you plan to go hiking on this side of the canyon then utilizing the shuttles is a no-brainer. Trails like the popular South Kaibab Trail are made easier when you can jump on a bus called the Hiker’s Express Shuttle Bus and arrive straight to the trailhead. The first shuttle runs at 4am during the summer months which gives you the chance to start very early.
5. Buy Decent Hiking Boots and Walking Poles
Even beginner trails around Grand Canyon National Park can last for up to seven hours, and having poor footwear can make your experience a living nightmare. Nothing discourages you more than a foot full of blisters. Ensure you have proper hiking boots that provide ankle support for those difficult downhill and uphill sections. Thick socks that pair with the boots are also a must, as well as walking poles to keep you nice and steady.
6. Pack Light to Conserve your Energy
You want to pack light for the Grand Canyon especially if you are doing a day hike. Bring items like water, snacks, sunscreen, sunhat, jackets, camera, etc. and don’t pack anything unnecessary as it will weigh you down. Conserving your energy is of vital importance. The item that should take up the most space in your pack is water because during summer it gets super hot. Make sure you over pack liquids just in case you run out.
7. Bring Plenty of Water for the Summer Months
The temperature during the summer – June, July and August – can swelter over 100 Degrees Fahrenheit. Along with sun protection items like a sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen – you need to bring plenty of water to ensure you stay hydrated. This can include supplementary drinks like NOOMA and other liquids full of electrolytes. Energy gels are another item to bring which can keep you fueled and full of energy for the next leg of hiking.
8. Book a Hike with The Desert Hiking Company
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced hiker – The Desert Hiking Company can help you experience the Grand Canyon in the best way possible. They will recommend a trail perfectly suited to your abilities and preferences – and along the way their wilderness guides will share fascinating facts about the history, fauna and geology of the canyon. Check out their Grand Canyon day hikes to browse through the options.
9. Leave Before/During Sunrise to Avoid the Crowds
Some of the hikes at the Grand Canyon can get busy during the summer and so to avoid traffic on the trails make sure you leave early. As already mentioned, a couple of the free shuttle buses depart very early like at 4 or 5am. No one really enjoys waking up while it’s still dark outside but to see the Grand Canyon light up with majestic colors and shades it’s best to be up before the sun. Viewing the canyon at sunrise is a bucket-list activity.
10. Know that it’s Harder to Go Up than Down
Since most hikes start at the top of the North Rim or South Rim, you might be tempted to think that hiking is easy as you meander your way down into the canyon. But just remember going down is twice as easy as going back up. Conserve your energy on the downhill sections so you are not exhausted by the time you reach the bottom. Walking poles can help you navigate up those difficult uphill paths. Mule rides are another option too.
11. Let the Mules Pass You on all of the Trails
Mules are iconic Grand Canyon animals and you are bound to see a few of them while hiking the trails. Many people take guided mule journeys around the rim or down into the canyon’s depths. Make sure you give way to the mules and their riders because they tend to be faster than those on foot. If the path is narrow, step onto the side of the trail to ensure there is enough space for the mules to pass. It’s important to not cause traffic jams.
12. Take Regular Breaks for Water and Photos
Between 10am and 4pm in the summer, the Grand Canyon heats up in unforgiving ways. Take regular breaks whenever possible during these times to ensure you don’t suffer heat stroke or exhaustion. Having a break lets you catch up on fluids and food while giving you an opportunity to take photos of your incredible surroundings. Find a shaded area if you can and just relax for a good ten minutes or so. There is no shame in hiking slowly.
13. Visit in the Shoulder Season for Cooler Weather
For those who don’t like the idea of hiking in 100 °F, visiting the Grand Canyon in the shoulder season is a wonderful alternative. In spring and fall, the weather cools down considerably and there are smaller crowds at the canyon. You will easily be able to hike during the mid-day and you won’t have to worry about heat stroke or sunburn. These periods are also great for camping under the stars with lovely temperatures at night.
14. Get your Fitness Levels up Before the Hike
Training at the gym, going on similar hikes and building up your cardio are three ways you can prepare your body for a successful Grand Canyon hike. Many of the trails at the park are challenging and by being fit you will be able to conquer them while having fun at the same time. Make sure you dial in your nutrition as well. Eat healthy everyday leading up to the hike, especially the night before as you will need that slow burning energy.
15. Forget about Phone Signal or WiFi at the Canyon
Phone signal is spotty at the Grand Canyon. There might be sections around the rim where your connection is strong but down in the canyon the coverage starts to disappear. This is good news because you don’t want any distractions. The only thing you need your phone for is taking photos. Make sure you tell family or close friends that you intend to go hiking in the Grand Canyon, just in case they need to follow up on your whereabouts.
16. Keep an Eye on the Clock when Hiking
Day hikes at the Grand Canyon require effective time management skills to ensure you complete the hike before dark. The most popular trails like the Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail are pretty much all day events, and if you aren’t a fast hiker you will need to give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike. Start early in the morning to utilize all daylight hours and plan for the uphill sections to take twice as long as the downhill parts.
17. Secure a Permit for Overnight Camping Trips
Camping on a multi-day hike like the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim route requires a backcountry permit. This permit needs to be with you at all times and attached to the tent at night in plain view so a park ranger can check it. Backcountry adventures are only suitable for experienced hikers who thrive in the outdoors for long periods of time. You don’t need to secure a backcountry permit if you are day hiking or horseback riding in the canyon.
18. Leave No Trace and Pack Out what you Pack In
It goes without saying that you need to follow all Leave No Trace principles at the Grand Canyon. Keep all of your rubbish packed tightly into your backpack so it doesn’t blow away and make sure you dispose of it properly after the hike. Stay on the marked trails at all times and respect any wildlife that you see. Be courteous of other hikers and mules on the trail and minimize your camping footprint if you decide to pitch a tent for the night.
19. Catch the Sunrise or Sunset at the Grand Canyon
You can’t come all the way to the Grand Canyon without seeing the sunrise or sunset. If you have to choose just one, opt for the sunrise. When the sun emerges from the flat horizon you have yourself a dazzling show of color in the sky that contrasts incredibly with the canyon rocks. Every color in the book is represented such as deep reds, purples and browns on the canyon and bright pinks and oranges in the sky. Photographers will be in heaven.
20. Enjoy Every Second of your Grand Canyon Hike
Hiking in the Grand Canyon is not something you do everyday, so enjoy every moment and take it all in. Put your phone away, stop gossiping with friends and savor the views at every turn. Booking with experienced guides, like The Desert Hiking Company, will take your adventure in the Grand Canyon to the next level. Be led to the most beautiful views, enjoy stories and facts along the way, and create epic memories that will last a lifetime!