A vast number of hiking trails are available at Grand Canyon National Park, along the South Rim, and in the surrounding Kaibab National Forest. Hiking trails range from easy strolls on paved paths along the rim of the Canyon to grueling climbs to the Colorado River, 5,000 feet below the Canyon rim. When hiking in the Grand Canyon you must be careful to take into account three key factors, altitude, terrain, and hydration.
flatlanders may have problems dealing with the thinner air. If you plan to do serious hiking, allow one or two days to adjust. Your ability to adjust to altitude has less to do with physical condition and more to do with genetics. Although serious medical conditions are highly unlikely, if you find yourself short of breath to the point you can not carry a conversation, you are pushing yourself to hard.
Terrain is the next issue. Most rescue missions at the Grand Canyon are for hikers that hiked down into the Canyon but grossly underestimated the effort and/or time to hike out. If you are going down into the Canyon you should divide your time into thirds. One-third to go down, and two-thirds to come back up.
You should also carry at least one gallon of water with you when you hike. High altitude increases the amount of solar radiation (read - heat) you absorb and dehydrates you faster. If you get dehydrated it will be harder for you to perform, increasing your hiking times and putting yourself at risk.
We could not possibly list every hike available in the Grand Canyon. There are literarily thousands of miles of hiking opportunities between the north and south rim. We offer to you some of the recommended hikes you can take while you are there. Backcountry camping is not permitted along any of the day hiking routes of the Grand Canyon on the South Rim. To see day hikes that go into the Canyon down the corridor trails, click here.
West Rim Trail - Paved Section
Trailhead Location & Access: Yavapai Observation Station, about 1/2 mile east of the National Park Service Grand Canyon Visitors Center. Access is restricted to the trailhead to foot, bicycle or National Park Service Shuttle Bus. You can take the Village Loop Shuttle that run from one hour before sunrise, to 10:30 PM
Type: less than half-a-day
Length: 2-7/10 of a mile one way
Hiking Time: 1-1/2 hours one way
Description: This is a paved trail that cuts through the busiest section of Grand Canyon National Park. Provides wonderful and changing view of the Canyon below. There are many accesses to the trail including Mather Point, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, the West Rim Shuttle Bus Interchange, Trailview Overlook, Trailview II Overlook, and Maricopa Point, where the paved section of the trail ends. Can walk hike one-way and elect to take shuttle bus back, this is a free service.
West Rim Trail To Hermits Rest
Trailhead Location & Access: Maricopa Point, about 3 miles west of the National Park Service Grand Canyon Visitors Center on West Rim Drive. Access is restricted to the trailhead to foot, bicycle or National Park Service Shuttle Bus. You can take the West Rim Loop Shuttle that run from one hour before sunrise, to one hour before sunset, with buses running approximately every 10 minutes
Type: half-a-day to full day
Length: 6-7/10 miles one way
Hiking Time: 3 to 3-1/2 hours one way
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Description: This is a maintained trail that follows West Rim Drive to Hermits Rest. Provides wonderful and changing view of the Canyon below and a surprising amount of solitude for such easy access on the South Rim. There are many accesses to the trail including Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, The Abyss, Pima Point, and Hermits Rest where the trail ends. You can hike one-way and elect to take shuttle bus back, this is a free service.
Shuttle buses also stop at each of the scenic overlooks. It is actually possible to get off of the shuttle bus at Powell Point, hike to Hopi Point, and beat the bus there (an editor of ours actually did it and was able to snap three shots on the way). Distances hiked to each shuttle stop are:
Maricopa Point to Powell Point, 1/2 mile
Powell Point to Hopi Point, 3/10 of a mile
Hopi Point to Mohave Point, 8/10 of a mile
Mohave Point to The Abyss, 1-1/10 of a mile
The Abyss to Pima Point, 2-9/10 of a mile
Pima Point to Hermits Rest, 1-1/10 of a mile
Hermits Rest offers restrooms, potable water, and a small snackbar. The only other restroom on the trail is at Hopi Point. Be sure to bring a lot of water and get an early start if you plan to hike the entire trail (which is strongly recommended for any visit to the park). Do not stray from the trail or try to get closer to the edge of the Canyon, every year people are seriously injured or die from falls.
Hermit Trail to Santa Maria Springs
Trailhead Location & Access: Hermits Rest scenic overlook can be accessed by taking the West Rim Loop Shuttle that run from one hour before sunrise, to one hour before sunset, with buses running approximately every 10 minutes
Type: less than half-a-day to extended backcountry trip
Length: 6 miles
Hiking Time: 5 to 8 hours
Difficulty: strenuous narrow trail, fall hazard
Description: This is an un-maintained, very steep trail that heads south for about a mile before turning to the north. Beyond Santa Maria Springs should not be attempted in a day. Popular hike, got it's name from an old hermit that use to live in this area of the park in the early 1900's.
Hermits Rest offers restrooms, potable water, and a small snackbar. The water at Santa Maria Springs is not potable and must be treated and/or filtered.