How to hike the Grand Canyon

Our writer tackles the 23 -mile Rim-to-Rim trail in a single, muscle-grinding daytime, but offers tips for ambling the roadway at a gentler pace

It was cathedral quiet. Tourists dont ordinarily make it this far into the national park. My move, Marcia, and I were alone at Bright Angel Point lookout, at the remote North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My objective was to reach South Rim on foot before the day was out, but from where I accepted it was just a hazy horizontal boundary far out across the trench.

The mountainous butte mentioned Brahma Temple was closer. Sculpted over nearly two billion years, the rock presides over the tapestry of decaying banks and stretching hollows below. Before wandering towards the centre of the Earth, Marcia contended I came here to fully appreciate what I was going myself into. OK, place taken, I said, returning humbled to the trailhead.

Grand Canyon delineate .

Id come to the Grand Canyon to attempt the classic 23 -mile Rim-to-Rim crossing. Requiring to avoid the eight-month waiting list for campsites in the canyon and affection fit from a season of mountain-running races, I set out with a tent-free rucksack in cool November temperatures to hike the entire jaunt in a single day.

Passing along the canyons best-maintained lines, the Rim-to-Rim hike volunteers much more than the usual position of Northern america greatest natural ponder. By hiking the horizontal mile to the canyons flooring, you suffer the same various forms of plant and animal life as you are able to circulating on foot from the Canadian to Mexican border. The Rim-to-Rim is a journey through diverse habitats, as well as through time itself.

A attitude on the North Rim Trail. Image: Alamy

The hike is frequently done in a southerly tendency, beginning at the remote North Rim and finishing at Grand Canyon Village, with its extended visitor services and adaptation alternatives. North Rim is also 400 metres higher than South Rim, and so starting there saves some clambering on the way back out.

Yet this route is not for the faint-hearted , nor the unprepared. Most experienced backpackers will find a two- or three-day sweep challenge enough, and will take advantage of camping or lodge alternatives along the way. Grinding switchbacks, abrupt declines and steep trails are to be expected. High summertime grows the canyon storey into a furnace, with temperatures contacting 49 C, and wintertime slams off vehicle access to the North Rim entirely. The optimum windows for hiking are from late May to June, and from September until the end of November.

Parts of the line are not for the faint-hearted. Image: Alamy

Nevertheless , now is the time to go. Grand Canyon national park faces an uncertain future. When Barack Obama decided not to declare the Greater Grand Canyon their own nationals headstone at the end of his presidency, he left it at the boon of Donald Trump. Designs for brand-new uranium mining, a massive expansion of the nearby town of Tusayan and a project to build a cable car( connecting tourists to a retail know-how at the heart of the canyon) are now all back on the table, having previously been shelved.

To the trailhead: improve and auto from Williams, Arizona, to North Rim

The Grand Canyon Railway. Picture: Alamy

Just over 200 miles east of the bright lights of Las Vegas, I bumped the hire vehicle off Route 66 and rolled into the old cowboy township of Williams, Arizona. My plan was to leave the vehicle in the Grand Canyon Railway parking lot. From there, I would travel by qualify to South Rim, and then take a shuttle taxi busines to the remote North Rim trailhead early the next morning. This room, when I finished the hike back at South Rim, I could catch the develop back to Williams and my car.

The Grand Canyon Trainruns 65 miles from Williams to the Grand Canyon Village at South Rim, differing daily at 9.30 am and taking a leisurely two hours and 15 instants. A handgun shooting clanged 15 minutes before it departed and the Cataract Creek Gang daily cowboy show began beside the programme. Audience participation is encouraged as the study robbers hustle monies from activity passengers.

High plateaux punctuated with ponderosa pines replenished the panoramic windows during the wander. Wandering musicians strummed Dylan and Woody Guthrie tracks and staff encouraged passengers to booze eyewateringly strong cocktails.

A musician strumming folk songs onboard the Williams to South Rim qualify. Image: Matt Maynard

It was a sobering view, however, across the canyon when we are pulled into the terminal and examined out from the forecourt of the historic El Tovar Hotel( doublings from $263 room-only ). The steadfast enormousness of the Rim-to-Rim hiking street was on full evidence: the vertiginous remote canyon of the North Rim passed interminably down to the Colorado river before re-emerging as a noticeable trail, weaving like a scorched snake in the desert through the bumpy ascents back up to South Rim.

I spent the remainder of the day calling viewing qualities around Grand Canyon Village, all readily reached on the free regular bus. An hour before sundown, I manager over to the excellent Yavapai Geological Museum. Its three-dimensional topographical maps gave me a further appreciation of awe about the challenge onward. The next day I would catch a four-hour shuttle taxi from South Rim to the trailhead. The alarm was mounted for 4am. The 211 -mile journey around the far east limb of the canyon spans the rocky plateaux of the Navajo Indian Reservation before clambering into the golden eagle habitat of the North Rim plateau.

Trailhead to Cottonwood Campground 6.5 miles, 4,160 ft drop-off

I set out on the well-maintained but aggressively switchbacking North Kaibab Trail. The pirouetting swoop dived through a rush of slim beech and gambel oak and, as the temperature in the sheltered folds of the canyon started to rise, deep blankets of sedimentary rock took me a million years further back in the canyons geological history.

A hiker on the North Kaibab Trail. Photo: Matt Maynard

After three-to-four hours of quadricep-grinding descent, I reached Cottonwood Campground. Cool, refreshing water drains in Bright Angel Creek. I was rationing my three litres to last-place me to Phantom Ranch, but had created purification tablets to plow the river water, in cases where. From mid-May to mid-October drinking water is available from a tap on the campsite.

For those who choose to stay overnight, Cottonwoods 11 slopes volunteer a rustic, backcountry camping knowledge, with solar-powered composting lavatories and picnic counters. Food storage containers are available, to safeguard against marauding deer, squirrels or ringtail “cat-o-nine-tails”.

Cottonwood Campground. Photo: Alamy

Applications for camping at any of the three campsites within the canyon must be made at least four months in advance but, during my hike, I encountered people who had taken advantage of last-minute cancellations by enquiring at the Backcountry Office on South Rim.

Cottonwood Campground to Phantom Ranch 7 miles, 1,601 ft ancestry

The canyon floor is generally 11 C warmer than its rim and I took a few moments to rehydrate and examine the desert shrubs that inhabit this wide-ranging inner-canyon passage. The deciduous trees of the North Rim are replaced by prickly pear cactus and aromatic sagebrush, provisioning dwelling to lizards, and hawk moths after dark. Three more hours of gently descending route now separated me from the Colorado river.

The Colorado river at Phantom Ranch. Photograph: Alamy

Over the next few miles, the canyon walls gradually steepened and the valley constricted. The route began to snake around giant buttresses of dark crystalline rock-and-roll( Vishnu schist ): this is the bottom coating of the Grand Canyon, modelled virtually two billion years ago under intense heat and pressure.

At the heart of the canyon corridor, and nestled close to the river, is Phantom Ranch( dorms $51 pp, two-person cabins $149, breakfast $22, dinner from $27 ), a rustic lodge make of stone and wood, designed in 1922 by inventor Mary Colter. The cottonwood trees she planted are now ripen and the outlying dorm and cabin adaptation have a peaceful , no-phone-reception escapist seem. Bookings need to be made at least 12 months in advance, but a two-day, one-night Rim to Rim itinerary with a stay at Phantom Ranch has certain advantages of not being able to carry camping equipment.

A consider from near Phantom Ranch. Image: Alamy

Early evening is beautiful down in these secret creases. As the sun faded dramatically behind an Arizonan horizon, the light-colored remained down in the canyon, fading nearly imperceptibly.

An optional evening snack is available to Phantom Ranch and the first breakfast seating is at 5am. Alternatively, “theres” 33 colors tent pitchings nearby at the separate Bright Angel Campground( grants apply .)

Phantom Ranch to South Rim 9.5 miles, 4,379 ft rising

I reached the suspension bridge over the Colorado river at nightfall, shortly after leaving Phantom Ranch. The previous daylight at the geology museum, I learned how this cleaving body of water embarked carving through the sedimentary rocks some five million years ago. As I inaugurated the swaying intersect, the dark charge and spray of river below was far more exhilarating than any modern theme-park ride.

The footbridge at Phantom Ranch. Photo: Alamy

Safely on the south area, I had a selection to shape. The nine-and-a-half mile Bright Angel Trail strayed downstream for a mile, before climbing at an average grade of ten% towards visitor services, parking and transmits at Grand Canyon Village. The South Kaibab Trail cuts an even steeper trail to an separated depart near Yaki Point, five miles east of Grand Canyon Village which is served by the free South Rim bus, but has no private vehicle access.

I picked up the Bright Angel Trail, hoping it would support easier on my wearisome knees. Many hours of silent path miles followed. Mountain lions were out there, but the moon was high-priced and full. I pushed wasteful fears and tiredness away, stopping regularly for food. Campers at the 15 -pitch Indian Garden Campground were long since sleeping as I embezzle silently past.

A hiker delays near the top of the Bright Angel Trail. Picture: Alamy

Over the last few miles, I stopped regularly to stare up at the layered shadows of stones towering above. Gazing down, I could see the winking antenna of other headtorches, struggling ant-like up the switchbacks. It was well after midnight when I lastly prepared it back to the Earths surface at South Rim.

Logistics and camping permits

Extensive planning is essential for any Rim-to-Rim hike and sauntering in groupings of two or more is recommended. Permit have applied for camping at any of the three campsites within the canyon must be made at least four months in advance ($ 10 a permit plus $ 8 a person, ). All three campsites within the canyon are open year-round.


Trans-Canyon Shuttle has two daily mini-bus excursions from North to South Rim, passing from 15 May to 16 October ($ 90 pp ).
Flagstaff Shuttle and Charter offers bespoke carries-over to North Rim until snow opens Highway 67( generally around 1 December and reopening on 15 May ); $450 for South Rim to North Rim transpose for first three fares, $45 each additional passenger.
Grand Canyon Train( Williams to South Rim) from $65, children $29, plus $ 12 admission to Grand Canyon national park by set. Children under 16 participate free.

Accommodation before and after hiking

Bright Angel Lodge. Picture: Alamy

Lodging options and more at

South Rim
Mary Colter-designed Bright Angel Lodge, doubles from $95, area only.
Yavapai Lodge, a one-mile go from South Rim, redoubles from $150, chamber exclusively.
Mather Campground on South Rim is open all year and does not require a permit but territories are recommended( tars from $18 ).
Twenty-five miles from Grand Canyon Village is the eastern entering and the Desert View campsite( lurches from $12 ).
There are affordable lodge alternatives just outside the south entryway in Tusayan.

North Rim

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