Each year more than five million flock to the Grand Canyon to see the staggering views. But forget the tour bus and don’t be satisfied with simply peering over the rim. The best way to experience the Grand Canyon is from below the rim. With more than 500 miles logged hiking the Grand Canyon trails, I consider myself a bit of an authority on the best Grand Canyon day hikes and have rounded up these ones that are definitely worth pulling out your trekking poles and hitting the trail for.
Beginner Day Hikes
The South Kaibab Trail is one of the most scenic trails in the Grand Canyon. It follows the path of a ridge line all the way to the Colorado River seven miles later. Going down may seem like a piece of cake, but if this is your first Grand Canyon hike I recommend turning around after the 1.5 mile mark at Cedar Ridge or the 3 mile mark at Skeleton Point. There isn’t any water available on the South Kaibab Trail, so pack at least 3-4 liters.
Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens
The Bright Angel Trail is the heaviest traveled trail in the Grand Canyon, but don’t let that discourage you. The well sloped trail has water during the summer months at the 1.5 mile, 3 mile and 4.5 mile points at Indian Gardens. This is one of the best trails for an introduction to canyon hiking. Be on the lookout for big horn sheep and deer along the trail.
Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa
For those looking to venture off the main corridor trails, consider this hike on the Grandview Trail. While the trail isn’t in as good of a condition as the first two hikes mentioned, the views will make it worthwhile as you descend into the giant horseshoe shaped mesa. There isn’t any water on the trail so bring at least a gallon for this six mile round trip hike.
For those comfortable with some basic navigation of Grand Canyon trails check out this hike to Yuma Point. While it’s only six miles round trip, don’t take this hike for granted. Be sure to take the quick detour to Dripping Spring to cool off or load up on water. The views from Yuma Point are some of the best in the Canyon.
Challenging Day Hikes
South Kaibab Tonto Bright Angel Loop
If you are in good shape and ready to try a more challenging hike, take a look at this 12 mile hike. You can make this loop in either direction, but I recommend starting at the South Kaibab trailhead. By starting at the South Kaibab trailhead, when you are tired at the end of the day you are hiking up the Bright Angel Trail which conveniently has water available every 1.5 miles and has some shade available in the afternoon.
The South Kaibab Trail is my favorite way to get to the Colorado River. Fourteen miles round trip may not seem like much but you lose 3600 feet elevation in the process. Try to time your hike so that you are not hiking up the trail during the heat of the day. The only water available on the hike will be at Bright Angel Campground at the Colorado River, so plan accordingly.
If hiking in the sun and carrying all your water isn’t your fancy, hit up the Bright Angel Trail. While it is longer than the South Kaibab Trail, you have water available at the 1.5 mile, 3 mile, 4.5 mile and 9 mile points. There is some shade to be found on the upper portion of the trail but not much around the Colorado River, so plan to avoid hiking during the heat of the day.
Rim to Rim
The ultimate hike for those seeking a grueling challenge is a Rim to Rim hike. Covering a minimum of 21 miles and 10,000 feet elevation change is no easy feat even for those who consider themselves fit. Temperatures can range from freezing on the rims to 100°F along the Colorado River. For a twist on the Rim to Rim hike stay one or two nights at the lodge on the North Rim and hike back across. Those truly insane will do a Rim to Rim to Rim in one day. I accomplished a Rim to Rim to Rim in 20 hours of hiking and it’s probably the greatest fitness test I have done to date.
Stay tuned for more in this series as I cover the Best Grand Canyon Backpacking Hikes and the Best Grand Canyon Backcountry Expeditions.