The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic destinations on the planet and a great place to explore on foot. In this guide to Grand Canyon hiking holidays we’ll look at day hike options and the ever popular multi-day Rim to Rim trek.
What many people are surprised to hear is that hiking in the Grand Canyon is not too difficult and it’s more accessible than you might imagine. However, it should still be treated with immense respect as you should expect extreme conditions along the trail.
The Grand Canyon is located around 200 miles east of Las Vegas. So on Grand Canyon hiking holidays it would almost be rude not to stay at the city of bright lights and perpetual sin for a night or two.
Though Vegas may have lost out to Macau as the world’s gaming capital, the Grand Canyon operates on an entirely different time-scale. Rather than a passing trend, it’s a spectacle that has been carved by nature over the millions of years.
Getting to the Grand Canyon from Vegas is relatively easy. You can either drive to the South Rim or more remote North Rim in around 4.5 hours. Alternatively take the train on the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, which departs daily at 9:30 in the morning to the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.
If budget is not an issue you can also fly from Vegas and many other towns to the Grand Canyon by helicopter. Tours normally include some sight seeing from the air giving a very different perspective, while helping you to fully appreciate the scale of the Grand Canyon.
Both the North and South Rims offer good Grand Canyon day-hikes. Setting off from the North Rim, you can take the short but satisfying Bright Angel Point Trail or the Transept Trail to appreciate spectacular views of the canyon from above.
The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained route in the canyon itself and can be enjoyed in one day by completing part of the trail and doubling back. However, it’s recommended that you don’t go any further than Roaring Springs and back for a day’s hike.
From the South Rim, you can take the Rim Trail for beautiful and rewarding views and a pretty easy-going hike. Or walk part of the Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail to go deeper into the canyon to experience its majesty during Grand Canyon hiking holidays.
For the ultimate Grand Canyon hiking experience, there’s nothing better than the Rim to Rim Trek. As the name suggests it takes you from one rim, into the canyon, and back out to the rim on the other side. It’s not something you can just rock up and do and takes some planning ahead to pull it off.
The Rim to Rim route is best started from the North Rim, which is 400m higher and saves you the extra climb on the way up. Doing it this way also allows you to finish at the South Rim, which has better accommodation options and facilities.
The route follows the North Kaibab Trail. The Rim to Rim trek descends into the canyon past one-million-year-old rock faces through beech and oak trees.
After 6.5 miles, you reach Cottonwood Campground, an idyllic spot that marks the first rest point. You can fill up water here, either at taps or in the Bright Angel Creek. Day-trippers should turn back here to make it out by nightfall.
The path continues for another 7 miles before you arrive at the Phantom Ranch and the Colorado river, an oasis to cool down and have fun. You are deep in the canyon now with dramatic and narrow cliffs made from two-billion-year-old dark rock. Phantom Ranch also offers lodgings which should be booked in advance.
From the ranch, walk downstream on the Angel Trail and cross the frightening yet awe-inspiring suspension bridge across the raging river. Then take the 9-mile hike up the steep gradients to reach the South Rim.
In total, the Rim to Rim trek is 23 miles long. It might sound like you can do it in a day, and it is technically possible, but you really shouldn’t attempt it for your own safety.
The temperatures in the Grand Canyon are roasting hot; up to 40-50 degrees in the summer months. Whilst in the winter you can be hiking in snow. Add to this steep trails that require added care in certain sections, and the overall experience is quite demanding.
It is much more feasible — and enjoyable — to take 2-3 days to do the Rim to Rim trek. This means that you need to organize accommodations at a ranch or campsite as part of your Grand Canyon hiking holidays.
You’ll also need a permit to stay overnight in the Grand Canyon, which needs to be obtained at least 4 months before you hike. Campsites may also be booked up for months in advance. But book a year or so ahead and you should be fine!
Be sure to check out our hiking discounts as you could save a fortune.