The Grand Canyon is a large river valley carved by the Colorado River and it is a famous tourist destination in the United States. It is located in northern Arizona.
The canyon features layers of sedimentary rock formed over millions of years. Geologists say that the canyon contains two billion-year-old rocks, which makes it one of the oldest geological formations in the world.
The canyon is accessible from two different rim areas, which is why there are two different trail systems.
The North Rim Trail is higher than the South Rim Trail, but the South Rim offers better views. The Colorado River bisects the Kaibab Plateau, which means both sides of the plateau have trails that are relatively level on the rims.
Some trails drop into the canyon, which is steep. This variety of landscapes allows visitors to experience many ecosystems within a short distance and also offers a range of trails for hikers of any skill level.
Best Grand Canyon Hikes – South Rim
The South Rim attracts an impressive 4 million visitors every year and is open year-round.
Visitors come here to see the view, but there are plenty of other things to do as well, such as accommodations, shops, and restaurants.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities at the South Rim. Here are two different hikes that we recommend doing on the South Rim, each offering a unique experience.
South Kaibab Trail
Length: 13 miles round trip
This trail is one of the more challenging trails on the South Rim due to a lack of shade and water as well as a steep incline. Hikers should plan to spend twice as long hiking up the trail than hiking down.
South Kaibab Trail goes through a ravine initially and then opens up, offering amazing views in both directions. If you have limited time, consider hiking as far as Cedar’s Ridge and then turn back. Cedar Ridge offers a scenic viewpoint and restroom facilities.
The trail descends gradually to O’Neill Buttes before becoming flatter and passing the Tip Off. The final part of this trail is steep again, especially the section that runs along the Colorado River.
At the end of the river, there is a tunnel that leads onto a suspension bridge which leads to Phantom Ranch.
Phantom Ranch offers a range of amenities and also links onto the North Kaibab Trail which leads to the North Rim.
To get to the trailhead you need to take a shuttle bus to Taki Point Road. This point is only available via shuttle bus. Bring plenty of water and enjoy this trail at any time of the year!
Bright Angel Trail
Length: 15.3 miles round trip
The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular trails which is no surprise as it is also the safest trail in the Grand Canyon. The trail starts near Kolb’s studio, which is located to the west of the Bright Angel lodge.
There are two rest houses along the trail, the first being 1.5 miles away from the trailhead and the second being three miles away from the trailhead. Visitors can go to Plateau Point, which is a very beautiful viewpoint.
From there you can see the river and the canyon and follow a separate trail to see the Indian garden. This is a great halfway point if you don’t want to complete the full hike.
After going past the Indian Garden, the trail gets steeper and you get to the Colorado River.
When you cross the suspension bridge, you will be close to the campground and the Phantom Ranch.
There is also the option to do this trail on a mule ride. You’ll be riding through beautiful scenery, while enjoying a unique experience.
There are some challenges along the way, but you’re sure to enjoy yourself. If you want to take part in a mule ride you will need to book in advance.
Best Grand Canyon Hikes – North Rim
Hiking the North Rim is ideal for those who want a quiet, more natural experience.
There are fewer crowds and better views than on the South Rim. If you want to complete a trail on the North Rim be aware that this rugged spot is only open from May 15th to September 15th every year, and there are not as many lodging options or amenities.
Here are two of the most popular hiking trails that the North Rim has to offer.
North Kaibab Trail
Length: 18.6 miles round trip
The North Kaibab Trail is a great hiking trail that makes up the upper half of the Rim to Rim hiking trail. and offers breathtaking views of the canyon as you descend to the Colorado River. It starts with an easy climb up to the Coconino Overlook.
The Supai Tunnel leads you down to the river. You’ll see amazing views of the canyon while also enjoying some much-needed shade from the Arizona sun. Day hikers should turn back at the Roaring Springs.
Rainbow Rim Trail
Length: 38.5 miles round trip
This easy trail passes by many of the major points on the North Rim, including Timp, North Timp, Locust, Fence, and Parissawampitts.
These peaks offer beautiful views of Steamboat Mountain, Powell Plateau, Great Thumb Mesas, Tapeats Amphitheater, and more.
It goes through an old-growth forest full of Ponderosa pine trees as well as aspen groves and meadows.
There are some steep parts along the way, but most of the trail is flat making it perfect for anyone who wishes to cycle their way around the Grand Canyon.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is The Best Time To Visit The Grand Canyon?
The South Rim is open year-round and is the easiest side of the Grand Canyon to access.
The best time to visit is between October and April as the temperatures during Spring and Fall are much more bearable than in the summer.
During the Summer months, there are crowds of tourists descending on this renowned ecological site. To get a chance to see the best views and complete a hike without getting stuck behind a crowd of people we recommend going outside the summer months.
The North Rim is more difficult to access and during the colder months, there is often snow which blocks the access roads and so in spring and summer, you have more of a chance of getting to this side of the canyon without any access issues.
This side of the canyon is only open between May 15th to September 15th. If you are willing to make the slightly longer journey it is worth heading to the north side of the canyon as it is less crowded and slightly cooler than the South Rim.
Do You Need A Guide To Hike In The Grand Canyon?
It is not necessary to have a guide to hike in the Grand Canyon but if you want to see all the best spots that the canyon has to offer it can be worthwhile.
A guide can plan an itinerary for you that would be suited to your skill level and would help to ensure that you get to see all that you want to.
The Grand Canyon has a range of other hiking trails available as well as those mentioned in this list.
If you want to experience the Grand Canyon without hiking in the heat you can take a helicopter ride to experience the Grand Canyon from the sky, or take a mule ride or a trip down the river.
If you find yourself in Northern Arizona we highly recommend adding a trip to the Grand Canyon to your itinerary. You won’t regret it!