Grand Canyon National Park or GCNP, is in my opinion, one of those “buicket list” places. It’s hard to truly describe the beauty and amazing-ness of this place to someone who has never been. The canyons seem to go on for miles and miles as far as your eyes can see. The color and glow of the rock when hit by the sun is never captured just the same on a camera lens. Are you planning a trip to GCNP or interested in some tips? I outlined a few things you should know before heading out to the Grand Canyon!
- There is a North Rim and a South Rim to the Grand Canyon. There is a shuttle that runs one time each day between the two rims which takes about 4.5 hours one way. The North Rim is a bit more difficult to get to and much more secluded and less touristy than the South Rim. The North Rim is typically open for a shorter period of time as well, from May to October depending on the weather. The South Rim has become VERY built up and has many accessible walking paths and restaurants overlooking the canyons. Make sure to plan accordingly when looking at accommodations and hikes! We stayed at the South Rim for our trip, however would most likely camp/hike the North Rim for our next visit. It is also possible to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim if you are interested in hiking and sleeping in the canyon overnight! It’s a great option if you have a few days to explore!
- There are both lodges, reservable and first come first serve campsites at both the North and South Rims. Camp sites fill up very quickly so reservations are recommended! We weren’t able to make reservations before our trip as they were already full, however we really lucked out and were able to find a campsite both nights! We had to move our tent to another site the second night, but totally worth the bit of a hassle to know we had a campsite! If you don’t reserve a site beforehand make sure to check with the campsite office to confirm any openings during your stay.
- HIKING: Start early! The earlier the better is our motto. The last thing you want is to be tired AND hiking in the heat of the day with little to no shade! Also, keep in mind when hiking the Grand Canyon you’re doing the “easy” part first-walking down into the canyon, and the “hard” part last by walking back up and out. During our trip one of the rangers in the visitor center said “Walking down is optional, walking back up is not!” That really stuck with me during our trip. You can always choose to stop walking down, but just remember as far down you choose to walk, you have that same distance to hike back up! Enjoy some pictures and make sure to scroll to the end for our favorite hikes!
Bright Angel to Plateau Point- 12 miles: This was a grueling hike, but definitely worth the views! we started just before sunrise and watched the sun come up over the canyon! We finished the hike in 6 hours but every map we read and ranger we spoke with suggested allotting 7-8 hours at the minimum for the hike. There were two outhouses and various water stations on the trail, but make sure to bring your own water just in case! The trail from the Indian Garden Campground to Plateau Point is completely unshaded and is VERY hot even in the morning as the sun is beating down on you. I advise wearing lots of sunscreen and wearing SPF clothing and a hat! There is an option to continue down further into the canyon to the Colorado River, however this is recommended as an overnight hike.
South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge 3 miles This trail provides more shade in the morning than Bright Angel, however I still recommend slathering on that SPF and/or wearing SPF protective clothing. This trail was showing a bit more wear and tear from heavy traffic. We completed the 3 mile portion of this trail. The vies from Ooh Aah Point are definitely worth the trip (trail is 1.8 miles RT to this point). Also, we were told that Kaibab actually means “upside down mountain,” which I thought was pretty cool!
Rim Trail-12 miles If you’re looking for a more casual walking experience that still provides exceptional views of the canyon, I recommend the Rim Trail. This is a paved accessible trail that is easy to hop on/off from any point at the South Rim. The shuttle is also a great option to see more of the canyon if you’re pressed for time. It is free and makes various stops at scenic outlooks with time for pictures or a quick hike. You can spend as much or as little time as you’d like and then simply hop on the next shuttle back to the main lodge at the South Rim.
I hope this was helpful in planning your next trip to GCNP! Happy hiking!