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What Are the Different Grand Canyon Hiking Options?

Grand Canyon hikers should be prepared for intense conditions.
The Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2014
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The Grand Canyon is a United States National Park located in northern Arizona. The park has hiking options for all levels of hiking experience, from short day hikes to overnight hikes that require hiking elevation changes of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Some people prefer to have a Grand Canyon hiking venture with a backpack or day back, while others choose to carry their gear through the canyon with the help of a mule. In addition, there are guided, informative hikes that are led by rangers or other educators.

The Grand Canyon is typically divided between the South Rim and the North Rim. Both rims offer a multitude of hikes of varying difficulty levels. The easier hikes provide visitors with several overlooks and the opportunity to hop on a shuttle bus if the heat becomes too much.

One of the most famous Grand Canyon hiking trails is the Bright Angel Trail. It is quite steep and approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) long. It offers hikers sporadic shade and water. The South Kaibab Trail is also popular, but it does not provide shade nor water for its hikers. Other trails, such as Hermit Trail and Grandview Trail, from the South Rim are much steeper and must be hiked with caution.

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The North Kaibab trail is the only Grand Canyon hiking trail that leads into the canyon from the North Rim. Other North Rim trails include Transept, Bridle, Ken Patrick, Uncle Jim, Widforss, and the Arizona trails. Some give hikers views of the canyon while others take hikers through native forests.

Backpacking permits are available for people who are interested in hiking down the canyon and then staying overnight at the canyon bottom. In addition, mules are allowed on several of the Grand Canyon hiking trails. In some instances, people ride the mules. In other cases, the mules are used to haul gear and supplies for hikers trying to hike from one side of the canyon to the other. Hiking the rim to the bottom in one day is highly discouraged because of the difficulty level and the intense elevation change. Some hikers who have attempted a rim-to-river-to-rim hike in one day have ended up injured or even dead.

Rangers often take hikers on interpretive day hikes. The hikes are often along the rim or they dip into the canyon. There are often ranger-led programs listed in the park newsletter that is handed out at the entrance. The informative hikes are good ways to learn more about the canyon landscape and native plants and animals.

Hiking through the Grand Canyon can be exciting, but extreme caution must be used. The temperatures soar during the summer months on the Grand Canyon hiking trails. The canyon bottom can be much warmer than the rim as well. Many people hike down the canyon without realizing that it will take them an additional eight or nine hours to hike out of the canyon. Water is scarce and many people run into health issues by being ill-prepared for the extreme conditions.

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