We can’t really answer that for you because it’s not that simple. There is no singular “grand canyon hike,” but instead, a plethora of hikes of varying difficulties and lengths. Which means you have options.
If you’re looking to hike into the canyon itself, you’ll want to take one of the famous Corridor Trails: the Bright Angel Trail, the North Kaibab Trail, and the South Kaibab Trail.
Using these trails, you’ll be able to hike from rim to rim (about 21 miles in two days) or from the rim to the river and back again (either 28 miles or 15-20 miles, depending on whether you start in the north or the south).
If you really want to experience the whole canyon, there’s no better option than a rim to rim hike. But there are a few decisions to make before you go:
Whatever you choose to do, plan ahead and bring lots of water!
Of course you can! A rim-to-river-and-back-to-rim hike is ideal for those who want to explore the canyon but don’t want to end up all the way on the other side (far away from their car).
This option is more common coming from the south due to the southern rim’s greater accessibility, but it can be done from either direction.
From the south, you’ll once again take either the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail down to the river. Once at the river, you can turn around and head back to make it a day hike, but remember, it will take you about twice as long to hike out as it did to hike in.
Again, the more relaxed option is to either stay in the Phantom Ranch or bring a tent, so make your reservations now!
The situation is similar coming from the northern rim, but the hike is much longer. You’ll take the 14 mile North Kaibab Trail, and you’ll almost definitely want to stay the night before making the return trip.
The Bright Angel Trail is the ideal trail for first-timers to the Grand Canyon. It’s on the easily accessible southern end; it offers incredible views; it’s relatively well shaded; and there are several spots where you can refill your water bottle.
The trail is 9.8 miles long and takes four to five hours one way, but don’t forget to either make sleeping arrangements or give yourself enough time to hike back.
Prospectors looking for minerals improved the trail in the 19th century, and eventually, one of the prospectors, Ralph Cameron, bought the trail and turned it into a privately run tourist attraction.
Of course, now it’s owned by the national park service, so we can all enjoy it.
Soon after Ralph Cameron bought the Bright Angel Trail, the national park service built the South Kaibab Trail to provide the public free access to the river. This 6.5-mile trail is steep and has no water or shade, which makes it significantly more gruelling than the Bright Angel Trail.
The South Kaibab Trail is a good option for a downhill morning hike, especially if you’re planning on coming back up on either the North Kaibab Trail or the Bright Angel Trail in the afternoon.
On the other end of the canyon is the North Kaibab Trail. At 14 miles, it’s the longest of the corridor trails. Due to the remoteness of the northern rim, it is also the least visited, and according to the national park service, it is the most difficult of the three trails. But a hike on the North Kaibab Trail is well worth the effort. The trail has several beautiful sites along the way, including the Supai Tunnel and Ribbon Falls.
First-time visitors to the Grand Canyon probably shouldn’t be doing any day hikes that take them far from the rim. The canyon is hot and sunny, so you’ll wear yourself out sooner than you think.
The safest day hikes are out-and-backs on the corridor trails. Set off on one of the trails and turn around when you’ve been walking for a third of the time that you want to walk. This is because ascending will take twice as long as descending.
If you’re an experienced hiker with a lot of water, you might be able to hike from rim to river to rim in a day, or even from rim to rim. But don’t even think about it unless you know what you’re doing. The Grand Canyon may seem pleasant and inviting from afar, but once you’re inside it’s unforgiving. So be careful and be prepared (see our survival skills guide).
Happy hiking! =ZIP=