You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve read all about it. But, nothing really compares to seeing the Grand Canyon up close on a hiking or trekking adventure. Plenty of mystery surrounds its formation, although it’s largely believed the canyon was formed over millions of years due to the Colorado River eroding the surface five to six million years ago. The remarkable natural structure varies in width, and the deepest point is nearly 6,000 feet. Needless to say, the park is, well, pretty grand.
If you’re planning on hiking to the Grand Canyon, it’s important to know when you should visit, and what you should pack. A trip to this vast and marvellous national park is a voyage that sits at the top of most bucket lists, so take note of our essential Grand Canyon packing list for hikers.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon: Everything you need to know
- Location: Arizona, USA
- Most popular area: The South Rim
- Permits required: A permit is not required for day hikes. Extended overnight hikes such as the Rim to Rim to Rim, or Rim to River to Rim require a permit if you are staying overnight
- Average hike durations: This varies depending on the type. Day hikes range between 30 minutes to six hours. Extended hikes, such as the Rim to Rim, is approximately 24 miles
- Nearest cities: Phoenix and Las Vegas
When should you hike the Grand Canyon?
Certain times of the year can prove to be quite harsh for travellers eager to tackle the Grand Canyon, and hikers should take it easier during the summer months (June to August). Temperatures can rise above 30°C, so try and be mindful of this to avoid a trip to the hospital.
That being said, summer isn’t the only month where the conditions will be fierce. In winter (December, January and February), the Grand Canyon can experience cold temperatures dropping to as low as 2°C. It’s also worth noting that in the winter months, access to the North Rim is closed due to heavy snowfall. So if you are wishing to enjoy some of the hikes on this side of the canyon, avoid visiting from late October to mid-May.
So, when is the best time to hike the Grand Canyon? The spring and fall seasons are the best time of the year to visit. From March to May, temperatures during the day are mild, precipitation is lighter, rainfall is lower and crowds aren’t as large. In June, crowds increase due to school holidays so this window is very ideal for visiting. September to November (spring) is also a nicer time to visit due to the mild temperatures. Although keep in mind the North Rim can close from as early as late October. This window would particularly suit for a visit to the South Rim.
What are the most popular day hikes in the Grand Canyon?
- Bright Angel Point Trail (0.5-0.8 miles)
- Cape Royal Trail (0.6 miles)
- Roosevelt Point Trail (0.2 miles)
- Cliff Springs Trail (1 mile)
- Transept Trail (3-5 miles)
- Bridle Trail (2 miles)
- North Kaibab Trail (1.5-6.5 miles)
- Bridle Trail (2 miles)
- Cape Final Trail (4 miles)
- Point Imperial Trail (4 miles)
- Uncle Jim Trail (5 miles)
- South Kaibab Trail (6 miles)
- Grandview Trail (2-7 miles)
- Hermit Trail (5-7 miles)
- Ken Patrick Trail (10 miles)
- Widforss Trail (10 miles)
- Arizona Trail (10 miles)
- Bright Angel Trail (12 miles)
- Rim Trail (21 miles)
- It is recommended to hike from the North Rim to South Rim, as it is mainly a descent. This can be done via the North Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail (23.9 miles). It is recommended to complete the hike over two days to fully experience the beauty of the canyon. If you are intending to complete the trek over 2 days, a permit will be required.
What clothes should you wear for a hike in the Grand Canyon?
The clothes you decided to wear on your hike will mainly depend on what time of year you are visiting the Grand Canyon. Regardless of the season, always pack good, quality walking shoes. Within the spring and fall months temperatures are mild and overall pleasant, so a t-shirt and shorts should suffice.
When visiting in summer, temperatures and humidity will be much higher, so be sure to wear light, breathable clothing. If planning to visit in winter, aim for sturdy, waterproof shoes with a good tread to prevent slipping (as it does snow at the Grand Canyon), long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.
Some of the suggested clothing items you might need include:
- Trekking shoes or boots
- Moisture-wicking shirts
- A fleece vest or top
- Thin, wool socks
- Hat or cap
- Warm beanie
- An insulated, waterproof, lightweight jacket
- Thermal tops and pants
- Lightweight pants
How do you get to the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon is located approximately four and a half hours drive from Las Vegas and three and a half hours from Phoenix. Some travellers often find they simply don’t have the time to travel out to see this breathtaking attraction or they don’t have access to any cost-effective transportation out there, which is where a tour can come in handy if you’re not sure where to start your adventure to the Grand Canyon. The best part is you can rely on the expertise of your local trip leader to show you where to hike or what to do if the tour itinerary allows.
What gear should you pack for the Grand Canyon?
What equipment you decide to bring will largely depend on whether you decided to do a day hike or an extended hike. It is important you pack smart to prepare for any situation and have as much fun as you can at one of America’s most spectacular treasures.
Packing list for a short day hike in the Grand Canyon
- A non-disposable water bottle
- Study walking shoes
- Cell phone
Packing list for a multi-day hike in the Grand Canyon
- All day hiking equipment listed above
- Tent, sleeping bag and foam mat
- Pocket knife
- Map, compass and guidebook
- Stove, fuel and matches
- Plates and cutlery
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hand sanitizer
- Insect repellent
- Extra day food and water supply
- Backcountry permit
- A sense of adventure
Have we missed anything off the packing list? Tell us in the comments below.