Grand Canyon National Park

Detailed Trail Descriptions

The true canyon experience of getting away from the crowds involves hiking over rough terrain, frequently with the aid of climbing gear to get up and down the steeper slopes. Many of these route descriptions are courtesy of Grand Canyon Junkies, a group that makes an annual visit to the canyon.

If you want to do something more adventurous, pick a number below. . .

1 Thunder River Trail Leading down from the Indian Hollow trailhead, the highlight of this way is the Thunder Spring, a healthy gush of water springing from a limestone cave, then cascading down in a whitewater fall. 10 miles. North Rim

2 Bill Hall Trail One of the gentlest ascents to the rim, with bold views all along the way. 3.4 miles North Rim

3 North Bass Trail A challenging route, not for firsttimers, much of it cross country where the way is marked by cairns. Entire journey takes 4 to 6 days to complete, 27 miles. North Rim

4 Royal Arch & 5 South Bass It takes a four- to six-night trip in order to comfortably complete this 45-mile loop. Two factors make this a tricky route: the often-impassable road west to the South Bass trailhead, where this route begins, and the need to rappel during the descent. The reward, though, is the spectacular lower Royal Arch Canyon, one of the most beautiful places in the canyon. South Rim

6 Tonto Trail Like a spinal cord across the interior of the canyon, this trail crosses the Tonto Platform approximately 3000 ft below the South Rim, intersecting both the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails. The Tonto Trail west from Red Canyon goes through Hance and Cottonwood canyons. Then comes Grapevine Canyon, with its springtime creek forming dozens of pools in the slickrock streambed. About three and a half hours west of Grapevine is Lonetree Canyon, another pleasant spot with seasonal water. From Cremation, it's about three hours to the rim via the Kaibab Trail. 72 miles. South Rim

7 Boucher Trail At Boucher Creek, prepare yourself for a most strenuous ascent to the rim. It's doable in a day, but most usually spend a night partway up, on the scenic promontory below Yuma Point. This is a dry camp except for possible water pockets in the rock, so you'll probably need to haul water up from Boucher Creek, making the 2,400 feet of vertical gain even more of a grind. 22 miles round trip, 16 hours over 2 days. South Rim

8 Dripping Springs Trail The Boucher Trail ends at Dripping Springs trail near the top of Hermit Canyon. You turn left and soon reach Hermit Trail, which takes you to the rim. 1.5 miles. South Rim

9 Hermit Trail A scenic"next step" for hikers who have tackled the main corridor trails, Bright Angel and Kaibab. Strenuous, but generally easy to follow, with good campsites. 17 miles round trip, 12 hours over 2 days. South Rim

10 Rim Trail Follows the rim from Yavapai Point to Hermits Rest. This trail will take you to all the usual South Rim attractions for those of us who'd rather wear hiking boots . Unpaved portions of the trail are narrow and close to the edge. The trail is paved from Yavapai Point west to Maricopa Point. One of the few opportunities for hiking in an area overcrowed with auto roads and other "amenities." 18 miles round trip, 10 hours. But you can you can catch a shuttle bus back the other way. South Rim

11 Bright Angel Trail Most popular of all, for good reason. Practically a must-do hike before venturing out on any other below-the-rim hike.The trail begins on the South Rim just west of Kolb Studio, and descends to the Colorado River. Well-maintained, with thoughtful improvements along the way. Highlights include Three Mile Resthouse, Indian Garden, Bright Angel Campground, and the Colorado River. Elevation change from rim to river is 4420 ft, along a 7.7 mile trail. Two foot bridges permit access to the north side of the Colorado River. Cross-canyon hikers follow the River Trail for 1.7 miles to reach the South Kaibab Trail. 19 mile round trip, 12 hours over 2 days. South Rim

12 South Kaibab Trail The trail begins on the South Rim near Yaki Point, and descends to the Colorado River. Elevation change from rim to river is 4620 f, along a 6 mile trail. Because of the unavailability of water and steepness of this trail, rangers recommend hiking down this trail. Use the Bright Angel trail for the hike out the next day. 12.8 miles round trip, 12 hours. South Rim

13 North Kaibab Trail The trail begins on the North Rim at the head of Roaring Springs Canyon and descends to the Colorado River. Elevation from rim to river is 5841 ft (1780 m), along a 14.5 mi (23.3 km) trail. 29 miles round trip, 36 hours. North Rim

14 Widforss Trail According to some the finest plateau top hike in the park. Good choice for summer hikers. 9.8 miles round trip, 5 hours. North Rim

15 Ken Patrick Trail Gently undulating ramble through North Rim Canadian zone forests with views over to Navajo Mountain, which guards Glen Canyon to the south. 6 miles round trip, 3-4 hours. North Rim

16 Uncle Jim Trail Another good summer hiking choice. Shorter than Widforss, but through similar terrain of North Rim— conifer forest, undulating path, spectacular rim views. Good campsite for those with a backcountry permit. 3.9 miles round trip, 2 to 3 hours. North Rim

17 Clear Creek Trail North Rim's counterpart to the Tonto Trail— a spine along the inner canyon, though not nearly as long. Superb inner canyon vistas, with the Colorado River as a companion. Shadeless and long stretches without water; not recommended during summer. Trout fishing in creek, providing you have a license. 18 miles round trip, 10 hours. North Rim

18 Grandview Trail Farther west, Horseshoe Mesa and the Grandview Trail— the way out— can be reached via either Hance or Cottonwood canyon. Both canyons have plenty of water in early spring. The climb to the mesa is probably more interesting via Hance: an abandoned copper mine and a year-round spring are trailside attractions. Ice and packed snow can make the upper portion of Grandview very treacherous in winter and early spring. And even when the trail is dry, it can break your heart. Many a hiker has been fooled into thinking he was almost at the top when there actually was nearly an hour yet to go. The trailhead, at 7,400 feet, is the South Rim's highest. 6 miles round trip, 6 hours. South Rim

19 New Hance (Red Canyon) to Kaibab Known as the South Rim's most difficult trail, the upper part of the New Hance Trail is frustrating: constant twists, turns, switchbacks, protruding pine branches, boulder-hopping, etc., and hardly anyplace to really stride out until the base of the Redwall. What do you get in return? Superb views, some great mesquite-shaded campsites, and a profound sense of Grand Canyon mastery. 16 miles round trip, 12 hours (you'll want to do this in two days). South Rim

20 Escalante Trail & 21 Tanner Trail The Tanner Trail starts at Lipan Point, about two miles west of Desert View on the east end of the park. The trail to the river is long (eight miles) and dry, and at the bottom there is only river water to drink. This part of the canyon is noticeably wider and more open at the bottom than points farther west, giving it a distinctive feel. It takes at least 6 hours to cover the Tanner Trail's 8 miles one way, and there's no water. Rather than returning back on the Tanner, you might prefer to hike west from the river on the Escalante Route, an extension of the Tonto Trail. The Tonto doesn't officially start until Red Canyon, a two-day hike from Tanner. Some people find that a 20-foot rope comes in handy at two points along the way: For lowering packs where the trail dips into the narrow and steep-walled drainage of Seventy-five Mile Canyon, and for lifting packs during a climb through rockface just west of Popago Creek. South Rim

22 Beamer Trail Isolated trail, gentle and easy to follow with magnificent scenery. Starts on the east side of Tanner delta and heads along the south bank of the Colorado River to its confluence with the Little Colorado. Under-appreciated treasure. 21 miles round trip, 2 days.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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