Tag: grand canyon

Grand Canyon National Park Is Turning 100: Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Adventure

A backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. And with the park turning 100 years old in 2019, there’s no better time to take the plunge.

Centennial events planned throughout 2019 will guarantee plenty to do–but you can expect the crowds to be much larger than usual as well. In a normal year, the park gets more than 6.25 million visitors in all, so it’s always hopping. But don’t let that deter you from your hiking adventure–most guests never move beyond Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.

There, you can find scenic overlooks, self-guided tours, the visitor center–and plenty of camping supplies, in case you forgot anything. Once you’ve moved onto the park’s 358 miles of breathtaking trails, you’ll have plenty of space to yourself.

Here’s how to make the most of your time in this astonishing destination:

Things To Know

The Grand Canyon is split into three distinct areas: The South Rim, the North Rim, and the West Rim. The West Rim is technically on Hualapai Indian land and is not part of the park, therefore it requires a separate entrance fee.

With its sweeping views, a wide variety of guest services, and nearby lodging, the South Rim is by far the most popular Grand Canyon destination–but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best. Many visitors prefer the more heavily-wooded North Rim for its undisturbed nature and pristine trails, while others want to experience the West Rim’s popular SkyWalk.

Grand Canyon SkyWalk at the West Rim

No matter what, it’s important to remember that the Grand Canyon is in the desert. As such, a trip during the summer months can be deathly hot. While it tends to be cooler at the top, temperatures at the bottom of the canyon typically exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit between the months of June and August. If you absolutely must take your trip during the hottest season of the year, head to the North Rim, where it’s roughly ten degrees cooler than the South Rim.

It is also worth noting that all park amenities on the North Rim are closed from November through April, and the road into the park closes in December. If you plan on visiting during that time, you will need to hike, snowshoe, or otherwise manually transport yourself in.

The North Rim offers views that most visitors never get to experience

Permit System

No matter when you plan your trip, be prepared to fill out some paperwork. Like many of the nation’s more popular parks, Grand Canyon National Park is notorious for making it difficult to secure the proper permits–and sometimes it doesn’t even matter how much you prepare. Many adventures, such as camping in the backcountry or spending the night at the Phantom Ranch at the canyon’s bottom, require winning a lottery to get a permit–so once you’ve entered, it’s all up to chance.

The Camping Basics

Camping anywhere below the rim requires a backcountry permit. To apply for one, you need to fill out an application form. Officials will want to know your desired route, estimated daily hiking milages, and nightly campsites. The National Park Service recommends submitting your application no later than the first of the month that is four months prior to your desired start date. The cost is $10 per permit, plus $8 per person per night in the canyon.

These permits are, again, issued lottery-style–so submitting one does not guarantee that you’ll get your desired camping spot (or any spot). In addition, the park service says to allow up to three weeks for processing, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back right away.

There’s also the chance that the park service may contact you asking for more information. If you’re a solo hiker, officials will want to know your emergency contacts, the color, and style of your gear, and your desert hiking experience. They may also try to dissuade you–especially if you apply for a camping permit during the summer months.

What happens if you don’t get your permit?

If you don’t get chosen in the lottery, or you just forget to submit your application on time, there are several things you can do:

  • Show up at the park’s backcountry office. There’s always the chance that another camper had to cancel and their permit is now up for grabs. If you show up at the park’s office, you may be able to snag one. Unfortunately, for those who have to travel a long distance to get to the canyon, this is often not an option.
  • Get on the waitlist. If you show up at the backcountry office and there aren’t any permits available, the rangers can give you a waitlist number. The next morning, they will start issuing permits at 8 am, starting with #1 on the list, until they run out. If your number doesn’t get called, you can get back on the list for the following day, with a lower number.
  • Take a day hike. Hiking the Grand Canyon for a day may not be your dream trip, but it’s still an amazing experience. If you can snag a hotel room nearby, stay for a few days and choose a different route each morning.

Hiking The Grand Canyon

If you’re planning a day hike and want to avoid the crowds, check out the Cape Final Trail on the North Rim.  Due to the trail’s remote location crowds are sparse, and it offers some of the best views on that side of the canyon. At only four miles roundtrip, it should only take about two hours total, even for a hiking novice. Fun fact: it is possible to camp on the Cape Final Trail, but officials only offer one permit per night! If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it, you’ll have the whole trail to yourself for the evening!

Views of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim Hermit Trail

If you’re on the South Rim, try the Hermit Trail. Conditions are tougher than some of the more popular trails, but you’re rewarded for your work with spectacular vista views and stops at not one, but two, natural springs. From the trailhead to Santa Maria Springs is 4.5 miles round trip, and from the trailhead to Dripping Spring is 6.5 miles.

For overnight trips, try the South Rim’s Kaibab Trail. As the most direct route to the canyon floor, it can get a little crowded, but it’s worth it. While most canyon trails follow inner canyons, Kaibab sticks to the ridgelines, offering incredible views. As you near the bottom, you’ll encounter the Kaibab Suspension Bridge–a great spot to stop for pictures and take in the splendor of the rushing Colorado River. The downside? There is little to no shade or water for the length of the trail, so you’ll have to pack a lot (or rent a mule).

Of course, the mother of all hikes is going rim to rim. That means hiking down own side, crossing the river, and climbing back up the other side. While it is possible to complete it in one day (the current record is 2 hours and 39 minutes), most people choose to stop overnight at least once. At a total of 21-miles, half of it uphill, it can be brutal on the knees if you try to do it all at once! Once you reach the other side, you’ll have to arrange for a friend to pick you up or grab a ride with the Trans-Canyon Shuttle for $90.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re interested in a guided hike, the Grand Canyon Field Institute offers several fantastic options. For many first-timers who aren’t familiar with desert hiking or the local environment, this is a great jumping-off point.

Camping In The Grand Canyon

There’s something to be said about getting away from city lights and spending a night under the stars. If you don’t camp at the Grand Canyon, you’re missing out on half the fun. After all, the colors that paint the sky at nighttime are breathtaking–and best experienced from a tent on a remote trail in the middle of nowhere. Even better? Snagging a permit for a weekend with a full moon.

While summer months see temperatures soar over 100℉, winter storms often bring snow to the canyon’s upper elevations.

Whether you’re staying on the South Rim or the North, there are plenty of great places to pitch a tent (or park a trailer). Here are just a few of the options:

South Rim

  • Mather Campground: Mather is the park’s largest campground and is open year-round. It’s centrally located near stores and museums in Grandy Canyon Village and offers easy access to lots of trails. As the park’s most popular campground, sites fill up fast–so be sure to book at least six months in advance.
  • Desert View Campground: If you don’t want to be near the hustle and bustle of the Village, Desert View might be more your style. Located near the entrance and removed from all the commotion, it offers a more rustic camping experience. Sites are first come, first serve, so show up early if you want to grab a spot.
  • Trailer Village: Trailer Village is the choice for RV campers who want hookups. The campground is concessioner-operated but located next to Mather in Grand Canyon Village. Sites can be reserved in advance.

North Rim

  • North Rim Campground: North Rim is the only campground located within the park on this side of the canyon. Sites are located close to the visitor center and hiking trails and offer plenty of amenities. Reservations are required.
  • Jacob Lake Campground: This campground is run by the National Forest Service, but is not located within the park. Located just outside, sites are comfy and offer amenities. Some can be reserved in advance, others are first come, first serve.
  • DeMotte Campground: Another National Forest campground, closer to the park entrance than Jacob Lake, but with fewer amenities. Some sites can be reserved.


If you want to camp in the backcountry, it’s a little more complicated. There are three main types of camping areas, including:

Corridor Use Area — The corridor use area is made up of three trails (Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, North Kaibab Trail) and three campgrounds (Indian Garden Campground, Bright Angel Campground, and Cottonwood Campground). These have facilities, like toilets, water spigots, and ranger stations. This area is recommended for campers without previous Grand Canyon experience.

Designated Sites — The slightly more remote use areas that are still well-traveled have “designated sites.” These have pit toilets and marked campsites.

At-Large Camping — Some use areas have “at-large camping.” These have no campsites or facilities. You choose where you camp, within the boundaries of the zone.


There really is no “best way” to hike the Grand Canyon. The trip you take will depend on your level of experience, who you’re traveling with, and your desired Grand Canyon experience. No matter how you do it, it’s a journey not to be missed.

Tackle Hiking The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim

The Grand Canyon is indeed a natural wonder of the world. This ancient picturesque gorge measures 277 miles in length, 18 miles wide, and over a mile in depth. Outdoor enthusiasts have trained for the pure purpose of challenging their bodies to cover the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Only a small percentage of visitors to the Grand Canyon, come with the mission to either hike or run the distance of the landmark from rim to rim. Breathtaking sights, hidden dangers from wildlife, and extreme changes in temperature and sea level are all part of the hiking adventure. Hiking or running rim to rim should not be taken lightly, and the canyon deserves the utmost respect.

Choose Your Destiny

The Grand Canyon has four different points of interest, with different trails for you to hike or run. Ideally, if you wish to traverse the Grand Canyon from rim to rim, it is better to start from the Northern Rim and work your way toward the Southern Rim. Most hikers will prepare themselves to cover about 21 to 23 miles on foot, which can be completed in a day, or over several days for comfort. The Northern Rim receives a lot less foot traffic and has fewer accommodations, but it is cooler and less crowded than the Southern Rim.

It is best not to hike or run alone but to bring a friend in case of a mountain lion attack, fatigue, or injury. When venturing rim to rim, it is better to take Bright Angel Trail instead of the South Kaibab Trail. Bright Angel has rest stops along the path like Indian Garden, where you can find respite from the heat in the shade, use toilets, refill your water bottle, or visit the ranger station. Make sure to plan ahead regarding lodging if you are going to take more than a day to travel rim to rim. Leave emergency information and your itinerary with a loved one, as there is no cell service.

Go The Distance

Prepare yourself mentally and physically before surmounting the challenge of hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim. Typically, hikers can take an average of 9 to 14 hours to complete the distance. It is best to attempt a rim to rim hike or run during mid-May close to May 15th or visit the canyon in September. During these two times of the year, the temperatures are a bit more bearable, especially if you start your hike from the cooler North at a higher elevation. Try to start hiking early, so you can sit out the hottest part of the day in the shade. Beware of hiking in “the box” which is where you enter the Inner Gorge from the North Kaibab Trail. Temperatures in the canyon can easily reach 100 degrees to 120 degrees.

Record holders like runner Tim Freriks managed to travel rim to rim in 2 hours 39 minutes and 38 seconds, covering 21 miles. Female runner Cat Bradley ran the distance of rim to rim to rim in 7 hours 52 minutes and 20 seconds. Condition yourself for the physical challenge of the Grand Canyon and train for at least 12 months in advance if you are not in top shape. Pack a daypack weighing no more than 30 pounds, and carry snacks that cover protein, carbohydrates, and electrolyte needs. Make sure to have at least a minimum of 3 liters of water to stay hydrated, and prepare to stop at rest stops to refill. The risk of dehydration, heat stroke, rattlesnake bites, scorpion stings, or being ill-prepared is real.

Health Risks And Hydration

As you hike along the Grand Canyon from rim to rim, you will encounter a descent in sea level, and then the challenge of climbing back out to higher elevation. Your heart, muscles, and fluid levels will be challenged by plummeting temperatures or sweltering heat depending on the time of year and your location in the canyon. It is easy to underestimate how much electrolytes and water your body can lose through sweating, leading to the risks of severe fatigue, dehydration, or hyponatremia.

Ranger stations are located at Indian Garden and Phantom Ranch year round, so it is best to get acquainted with their position along your chosen route. Know the signs of dehydration, and be prepared with extra water bottles, a water bladder, and a first-aid kit in case of emergency. Every hiker is responsible for their health and safety and should avoid hiking in the high heat at specific locations where there is no shade or water available. It is best practice to drink half or one quart of water or electrolyte-based fluids every hour of your hike to replenish what your body loses.

Prepare Your Mind And Body

Hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim requires mental fortitude and physical conditioning. Train your body for the event by doing 20-mile endurance runs, and strengthen your legs for ascending the canyon with squats and lunges. You will want to do research ahead of time to plan your route and grab the right gear. Stock up on waterproof sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and sunglasses with adequate UV protection. You can refill your water bottles at Cotton Ranch, Phantom Spring, 3 Mile House, or other rest stops.

When hiking, you may want to change clothes once you become drenched with sweat, or if you need to layer up because of dropping temperatures. Pack an extra hat, pairs of socks, electrolyte capsules, water, and ready-to-eat protein bars, trail mix, and healthy salty carbs. Make sure the hiking boots you wear have already been broken in to prevent blisters, and make the trek more comfortable on your feet and legs. It is best to wear cotton t-shirts for layering and keep a first-aid kit handy for minor injuries.

Majestic Beauty And Wonder

The Grand Canyon attracts thousands of visitors during its visiting hours, and many beautiful pictures of the landmark are taken at its Southern Rim. The Southern Rim is 7,000 feet above sea level and is usually where many first-time visitors come to glimpse a view of the gorge. If you don’t mind crowds and are looking for plenty of amenities to start, you can begin your descent into the canyon, hiking rim to rim from the South. If you visit Grand Canyon West, located on the Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands, you can check out the views on the skywalk, or visit the nearby Havasu Falls.

The Grand Canyon East is known for Horseshoe Bend, where you can take a picture of the scenic Colorado River in the background. The Northern Rim is a lot quieter because it is at a higher elevation of 8,000 feet, has fewer amenities and nearby lodging, and sees heavy snowfall. The Northern Rim is a peaceful start to a rim to rim hike and is open only from mid-May to mid-October.