The Incredible Grand Canyon Hiking Guide

AlexandraSaper

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Beyond comparison, beyond description, the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the seven natural wonders of the world — and understandably so. The Grand Canyon is located in northwest Arizona and is the 15th site in the United States to have been named as a National Park. Famous for its natural and magnificent landscape, this incredible gorge provides breathtaking views that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The Grand Canyon is carved out by the Colorado River and is known for its size, depth and distinguished bands of red rocks dating back to the Precambrian Times (the earliest part of Earth's history, set before the current Phanerozoic Eon, estimated prior to almost 600 million years ago!). The Grand Canyon celebrated its 100th anniversary on February 26, 2019, since its designation as a national park.

You don’t have to be a hiker or an athlete to see the Grand Canyon. With the right planning and timing, you can experience the best hikes and scenic walks. Be sure to visit during the right season and time of day, with all necessary bookings and permits, and get yourself prepared for the journey before arriving. Here’s all you need to know to plan your trip to this majestic national treasure:

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Hiking In The Grand Canyon – North Rim and South Rim

The Grand Canyon National Park encompasses two rims: the North Rim and the South Rim. The Colorado River creates a barrier that splits the Grand Canyon into North and South Rims. There are many great hikes along both rims. According to Trip Advisor, the North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October due to heavy snowfall during the winter months, whereas the South Rim is open throughout the year.

The North Rim of the park is more remote than the South Rim. It boasts outstanding views and receives fewer tourists (only one-tenth of the South Rim). It is greener than the South Rim, and you can easily find Ponderosa Pine, Aspen, Birch, Maple, Oak trees, and Kaibab Squirrel with a metallic grey coat and tufted-ears. The North Rim is popular among couples and families seeking a quieter, more remote experience. If you’re a hiker, nature lover, or photographer, you’ll love the North Rim. The famous viewpoints are Cape Royal, Toroweap Overlook, and Point Imperial, etc.

From the South Rim, you can experience two-dozen viewpoints each with different attributes. Generally, first-time visitors choose to visit the South Rim due to plenty of facilities and family-oriented activities. Summertime is predictably warm and dry, but spring and fall are the best times of the year to visit South Rim. Nights can be chilly, so a coat or jacket is best carried no matter what time of the year you visit. In winter, the park becomes a different world with the heaviest snowfall between December and February.

The famous viewpoints are Kolb Studio (via South Rim Trail), South Kaibab, Horseshoe Mesa, Bright Angel, and Hopi Point.

Grand Canyon – East and West

Grand Canyon East is the area that is along the north-eastern side of the South Rim. It may not be an official designated tourist attraction, but you will find many beautiful attractions here and scenic viewpoints. Plus, the East generally isn’t as crowded as the South Rim. The points of interest are Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Alstrom Point, Skylight Arc, Birthday Arc, Hanging Garden trail, Stud Horse Point, and Toadstools Trail.

Grand Canyon West is a part of the Hualapai Indian Reservation and not the National Park. The closest city to the West Rim is Las Vegas, Nevada, which is 125 miles away. The drive takes approximately 2.5 hours. A famous attraction at Grand Canyon West is the ‘Skywalk’ – a clear glass pathway that stretches out over the canyon. Note that there are tickets for Skywalk that cost around $80 per person.

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Horseshoe Bend

Considered as one of the most iconic viewpoints, Horseshoe Bend is a part of the Colorado River but falls under Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. Horseshoe Bend is also sometimes referred to as ‘Grand Canyon East Rim.’ About nine miles downstream from Horseshoe Bend is where Grand Canyon National Park begins.

The Horseshoe Bend hike is short comparatively easy to other scenic hikes in the area. People generally have almost no trouble reaching the viewpoint, but there are some challenging inclines and loose gravel, so be cautious if you’re visiting with young children or people with mobility issues.

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Hiking Safety and Tips

For a safe and enjoyable hike, prepare before you arrive and keep the following tips and tricks in mind:

  • Hiking alone in the Grand Canyon is never recommended. Always take the help of guided tours or a trusted partner.
  • Always have reliable maps with you for your hike. Do not rely on Google Maps or cell service while in the Canyon. For trusted maps of the area, please visit https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/maps.htm.
  • The biggest dangers on the path aren’t snakes, mountain lions, or scorpions. The biggest killers are dehydration, heat stroke, and exhaustion. Bring plenty of water (more than you think) and stay hydrated.
  • Bring lots of food. Eating is just as important as drinking. Eat small amounts often. You can add electrolyte powder to your water to provide you more energy.
  • Travel as light as possible.
  • Take short breaks after every hour. Eat some food, drink fluids, and take this time to enjoy the view. These short breaks will recharge your batteries and reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Watch your time. Allow one-third of your time to descend and two-third to ascend. Don’t forget to carry a small lightweight flashlight in case you end up hiking in the dark.
  • Be kind to yourself. Know your abilities and choose an appropriate hike. Always stay within your physical limitations and always follow designated routes to avoid accidents or harming the environment.
  • Never, ever leave behind any trash on the trail. Keep this beautiful natural wonder preserved for future generations by keeping all rubbish in your backpack and disposing of it properly when you get back to proper trash receptacles. Please only use reusable water bottles, never single-use plastic. If you see other trash along the trails, do your part by picking it up and throwing away later.
  • Check updates before planning your trip at the Grand Canyon National Park’s website.

If you have never experienced the beauty of the Grand Canyon, this blog post will help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime trip! Don’t forget to share your experiences and discoveries. Have a safe and enjoyable visit!

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American travel photographer and writer, based on the beautiful island of Bali. Two years ago, I left my job as a Washington DC lawyer, sold everything I owned, and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia to turn my creative dreams into reality. I have traveled to 60 countries, have worked with major airlines, luxury hotels, tourism boards, and fashion/adventure goods companies. When I’m not working or traveling, I spend my free time writing, doing yoga, learning to surf, or swimming at my favorite beaches in Uluwatu in south Bali.

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