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Horseshoe, Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Hike to Bottom

Is hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on your bucket list? Whether you want to tackle a portion of the South Kaibab Trail or plan a multi-day rim-to-rim hike, we want to help you make this dream trip a reality. Read on for need-to-know facts, essential information, and useful tips about hiking one of the most famous natural wonders in the world.

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Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon

If you’re thinking of hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, there are a few things you need to know before you set off.

  1. Firstly, bear in mind that hiking here is no walk in the park.
  2. The trip is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness and adequate preparation.
  3. Depending on which trail you choose, the distance is roughly 15.5km (9.5 mi) from the rim to the river, with an elevation change of over 1,300m (4,300 ft).

If you’re a first-time hiker, the following trails are best:
  1. the Bright Angel Trail 
  2. South Kaibab Trail
  3. North Kaibab Trail.

This area also encompasses 3 campgrounds:
  1. Bright Angel
  2. Indian Garden
  3. Cottonwood

You’ll need to obtain a backcountry permit if you’re planning to camp anywhere below the rim.

In terms of time, the hike down generally takes between four and five hours, while the return hike takes typically between eight and ten hours (though seven to eight hours seems to be average). The National Park Service does not recommend attempting this hike in one day.

Phantom Ranch Lodge

If you’re looking for overnight accommodation within Grand National Park, Phantom Ranch is it! Located on the north side of the Colorado River beside Bright Angel Creek, this historic desert oasis is the only lodge located within the park, and it’s accessible exclusively by foot. 
Accommodations here are comfortable but basic; both cabins and dorms are equipped with necessities like bedding, toilets, and a cold-water sink. Showers, towels, and hot-water sinks are provided on-site in a communal area.
If you’re hiking solo — or if you’d feel more comfortable exploring with the help of an expert guide — this three-day Phantom Ranch Tour is a fantastic alternative. You’ll follow the South Kaibab Trail to the bottom of the canyon, spend two nights at Phantom Ranch, and then hike back to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail.

Phantom Ranch Canteen

Whether you want to sit down to a full meal after a long day spent hiking or grab a pre-packed lunch to-go, you’ll find it at the Phantom Ranch Canteen. Situated at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you can reach this rustic dining venue via the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail.

Both breakfast and dinner are served at set times, and advanced reservations are required. Their bagged lunch — which consists of a bagel with cream cheese, beef sausage, and various fruits and snacks — is popular with hikers looking for a grab-and-go meal for their return hike to the Grand Canyon rim. First-aid supplies, lemonade, snacks, beer, and wine are also on offer here.

Bright Angel Trail

  • Distance: 25km (15.6 mi) round-trip
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Recommended hiking time: Two to three days

Well-maintained and offering incredible views of the Inner Canyon, Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular trails on the South Rim. Although it’s a great choice for first-time inner canyon hikers, it’s important to remember the trail is both steep and challenging.
The trail’s starting point is situated near several hotels, and water is available at the trailhead year-round (but always be sure to bring and carry your own water supply).

The best time to hike the Grand Canyon

The best time to hike the Grand Canyon is during spring and fall (April to May and September through October). However, these months also coincide with the peak hiking period, so backcountry permits can be harder to obtain. No matter what time of year you choose to visit the Grand Canyon, make sure you’re prepared for a variety of climates and changeable weather.

  • Spring - For the most part, temperatures are pleasant, precipitation is light, and crowds are manageable during spring (March - May).
  • Summer - June, July, and August are popular months to visit Grand Canyon National Park, but there are a few downsides to hiking during this time: crowds are at their peak and temperatures are sweltering (and sometimes unbearable).
  • Fall - Since the weather cools and the crowds dissipate after Labour Day, fall (between September and November) is a great time to plan your hike. Remember that nighttime temperatures can drop to below freezing at this time.
  • Winter - With minimal crowds and discounted rates, December, January, and February can be a fantastic time to visit the Grand Canyon. You’ll have to be prepared to face colder temperatures and challenging weather at this time, however.

You'll never forget the first time you see this view!
You'll never forget the first time you see this view!

Hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim

If you’ve decided to tackle the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike, here are a few fast facts you need to know before hitting the trails:

  1. Best route: North Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Trail (North Rim to South Rim)
  2. Difficulty: Strenuous
  3. Best time to hike: May to October
  4. Hiking time: two to three days
Unless you’re extremely fit and have a lot of hiking experience under your belt, it’s not recommended doing this as a day hike. It’s best to plan a two or three-day trip to break up the hike and make the most of your experience.

Grand Canyon overnight hikes

If you’re looking for a guided tour that includes a half-day hike and an overnight stay at the USA’s most famous canyon, you'll find plenty of options on TourRadar.
Starting and ending in Las Vegas, this Grand Canyon Overnight Tour offers plenty of time to marvel at the views from the rim or set off on a hike into the canyon over the course of two days. Plus it stops at even more iconic sites — including the Hoover Dam and Route 66 — along the way.

Get ready for views like this
Get ready for views like this

Facts and figures

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