The top 5 hikes in Grand Canyon National Park
Beaming with every shade of red imaginable and terrain that is equally as diverse, the Grand Canyon National Park was made for hiking. It’s easy here to plop yourself on a roadside bench overlooking its deep, layered rings of geological wonder and leave it at that. But to make the most of what for many is the trip of a lifetime, lace up those hiking boots and hit the park’s 595 miles of trails.
Whether you’re after family strolls on paved routes or more challenging multiday treks, this Arizona hotspot has numerous options that give hikers a perspective you don’t get from a scenic drive or viewpoint: wandering through towering pines; navigating deep river basins; getting up close to desert bighorn sheep.
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With multiple visitor centers, a geology museum, accessible trails, and lodging throughout the park, the Grand Canyon is well set up to welcome hikers. Still, it’s best to plan your trip in advance and make early reservations. Packing the right equipment is essential too. Sunscreen, water, and checking the weather forecast before setting off are paramount here. These are the five best hikes in the Grand Canyon National Park.
1. Grandview Trail
Trail with the best views
12.5 miles round trip, 8 hours, strenuous
With sweeping canyon vistas, this advanced trail on the South Rim lives up to its name. Dating from 1893, the Grandview Trail was originally carved out by miners, seeking easier access to copper ore. Today, it has evolved into the ultimate full-day adventure for hiking pros.
This trail throws you right in the deep end. From a well-marked parking area, steep switchbacks cut down dusty terrain, with vistas of the Hance Creek Valley greeting you at every turn. Following that, the rocky path periodically offers some flatter reprieves. The highlight of the trail is The Last Chance Mine, a former profitable copper mine. You can’t enter, but disused equipment is scattered nearby.
Note: there are no water stations on the Grandview Trail. Pack a filter if you want to drink water from a spring.
2. South Kaibab Trail
Best Grand Canyon hike
6 miles round trip, 6 hours, hard
From The Chimney and Skeleton Point to Ooh Aah Point, the quirky names given to the major features of this rocky trail are only part of the fun. Make a full day out of the route by aiming to reach the remarkable river vistas available from Skeleton Point.
First, slide down The Chimney. These descending switchbacks near the trailhead offer panoramic sweeps of the multicolored eastern Grand Canyon. Next, venture through Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge – no prizes for guessing how either got their name – as you make your way to Skeleton Point.
Dropping nearly 5000ft in elevation, expect a lot of tiptoeing on the way down – and quite a slow jaunt back up. Pack plenty of water as there are no water stations along the way.
3. Bright Angel Trail
Best multi-day hike
15.2 miles round trip, 2 days, moderate
This trail, off the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village, may be as popular as it gets around these parts, but for good reason. Key to its charm is a “choose your own adventure” aspect to it all: there are numerous well-graded routes forking off from here, which means once you’re past the car park, the Grand Canyon is yours to conquer. The crowds soon ebb away as you hike through the inner canyon, past rare shaded areas and the odd strolling mule.
Daytrippers often choose one of the area’s out-and-back trails but opt for the full trail, which ultimately winds to the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch lodge for an overnight stay. The campground only has 32 pitches and Phantom Ranch accommodates fewer than 100 guests, so book well in advance.
4. Widforss Trail
Best day hike
9.3 miles round trip, 4 hours, moderate
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon gets a lot of love – and deservedly so. But repping the North Rim is the Widforss Trail, a well-shaded path that’s loaded with white firs, aspens, and blue spruce. The keyword here is shade – and for those seeking a reprieve from the beaming Arizona sun, this is a rare trail that offers some. Still, you’ll want to pack your sunscreen and water, as there are no drinking water points along the route.
Beyond the immediate green oasis and sculptured rocks in the distance, the Widforss Trail culminates with southern views of Mt Humphreys, Arizona’s tallest peak. On a clear day, the views are stunning.
5. Shoshone Point Trail
Best hike for families
2.1 miles round trip, 1 hour, easy
Teetering between a calm stroll and still getting out into nature, the Shoshone Point Trail will keep the whole family content. Less than 10 minutes southeast of the Grand Canyon Village visitors’ center, this flat, dirt path hike finishes at a secreted rock formation that looks like a cubist Easter Island statue. With deep red canyons as a backdrop, the narrow, tan rock has become a top selfie destination.
While you won’t need hiking shoes for this one, you may want to bring picnic supplies. There is a covered pavilion with tables, outdoor grills, restrooms, and trash cans approximately a mile into the hike.