The Grand Canyon entices visitors from around the world with fresh desert air and breathtaking views. It boasts a number of hiking trails, each one unique in length and difficulty. If you’re hoping to hike through the Grand Canyon, you need to learn exactly how long it can take.
It takes between 12 and 15 hours to complete an out-and-back descent into the Grand Canyon. You can expect to spend between 2-3 days on the trip, but there are also shorter trails available. Some spend a few hours hiking, while others spend weeks exploring the Grand Canyon.
There are a variety of trails and routes to consider when planning your trip to the Grand Canyon. How long your hiking adventure lasts depends entirely on your goals. In the article below, we’ll discuss the different trails and completion times, and what to pack before you hike the Grand Canyon.
How Long Does It Take To Hike The Entire Grand Canyon?
Hiking the entire Grand Canyon is quite an undertaking. There is no trail through 90% of the canyon, and only twelve people in known history have ever taken it on. That’s because the canyon is over 277 miles long, with no opportunities to resupply along the way.
Intense heat, extreme conditions, and continuous isolation mean not many will make it. The last known expedition took 57 days, and one of the hikers lost a reported 20 pounds on the journey. Luckily for you, you can hike the canyon in a variety of other ways that don’tinvolve risking life and limb.
There are 54 trails located in and around the canyon. Some are less than three miles long. Hiking all the way down and back up is an option, as is hiking from rim to rim. You can camp out at the bottom of the canyon and go at a leisurely pace, or you can push through at breakneck speeds.
Keep in mind that no matter when or how you choose to hike, these trails are difficult. It takes time and dedication to complete a Grand Canyon hike, but the rewards are endless. Majestic views, a lifechanging experience, and all the bragging rights can be yours for the taking.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Down And Back Up The Grand Canyon?
It will take you between 12 and 15 hours to hike down and back up the Grand Canyon, depending on the trail you choose. You can start from the North or South Rim of the canyon, with the south rim offering several options and the North Rim offering just one.
From the South Rim, a popular option is to take Bright Angel Trail down to the river. This trail is 9.3 miles and descends 4,380 feet. It takes around five hours to hike down, but hiking back up can take upwards of ten hours. A good way to calculate your ascent time is to double the hours it takes you descend. Since the trails are so steep, it takes longer than you might think.
Bright Angel is a longer trail, but it has tons of shade and water along the way, making it one of the more manageable options for Grand Canyon hiking. South Kaibab Trail, Hermit Trail, and Grandview Trail also descend from the South Rim, but offer limited shade and water. From the North Rim, North Kaibab Trail is the only way.
It’s strongly recommended by the National Park Service (NPS) not to attempt an out-and-back hike in one day. There is an elevation change of over a mile between the rim of the canyon and its bottom, and very few people can safely descend and ascend without an adequate rest period at the bottom.
You can book an overnight stay at Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon, or secure lodging at the Phantom Ranch Lodge for more comfortable sleeping conditions. Keep in mind that the lodge is very popular, and you may need to book months in advance.
Those hiking from the South Rim can also choose to camp at the Indian Garden Campground along Bright Angel Trail. If you’re hiking in from the North Rim, you can stay at Cottonwood Campground along North Kaibab Trail.
How Long Does It Take To Hike The Grand Canyon From Rim To Rim?
You can expect it to take between 12 and 15 hours to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim. The hike is around 24 miles long, and the NPS recommends setting aside at least three days for it. If you choose a more exposed trail, it will be slow going with the heat and elevation changes.
Hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim means beginning on one side of the canyon, hiking down to the river, and ascending back up the other side. The principal is largely the same as hiking down and back from the same side, and the time it takes is similar.
What To Know
While you have plenty of trail options for hiking from the southern rim, you’ll be traversing North Kaibab Trail at some point in your journey. There is no other option for ascending or descending on the northern rim. It’s very important to know that the North Rim is closed for much of the year due to icy conditions.
The North Rim remains open with full services from May 15 to October 15, and is open for day use without services from October 15to December 1. It’s better to plan any hiking trip when the North Rim is open, even though the South Rim stays open all year long. That way, you have more options for hiking and services.
What To Pack For Hiking The Grand Canyon
The supplies you need to pack for a hike at the Grand Canyon depends on the length of your stay, how physically fit you are, and your personal preferences as far as equipment and supplies. However, there are several staples you should bring along no matter what.
It goes without saying that you’ll need sustenance on this arduous journey. Despite the popularity of the Grand Canyon as a destination, hiking down into it’s incredibly difficult. In fact, the vast majority of visitors never descend into the canyon. If you’re one of the brave few who takes it on, you need to pay attention to your nutrition.
It’s unlikely you’ll get ravenous in the heat of the day, but you’ll be burning around the same number of calories as a marathon runner. You need to eat well to keep continuous energy on these trails. It’s smart to pick protein-packed snacks like jerky and trail mix to eat while hiking. Avoid eating sugary treats which spike your blood sugar and then cause it to crash soon after.
Monitor your salt intake, as you’ll be sweating buckets. Lack of salt is one of the biggest dangers while hiking here, as electrolyte imbalance can cause fainting and even death in extreme cases. For your main meals, dry foods like rice and lentils work with a camp stove. If you don’t bring a stove, you can buy food from the Phantom Ranch Lodge or eat from cans and packages.
Summertime temperatures in the canyon regularly reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to be drinking at least a gallon of water per day, so bring along a larger container. It’s smart to bring one you can hold in your hand, so you’ll be more motivated to drink continuously as you walk.
Since you will be drinking a lot and sweating constantly, your electrolytes can become imbalanced. It will help to bring powdered electrolyte packages along with you to dissolve in your water bottle. These are small, lightweight, and they can save your life. The risk of electrolyte imbalance is very high in the Grand Canyon.
You’ll find purified water sources at rest houses along the corridor trails or down at the bottom of the canyon at the campgrounds. During wintertime, water pipelines to the rest houses tend to burst. Come prepared to purify water from natural sources along the trail like the river, puddles, and occasional creeks.
Everything you take along with you must be carefully weighed — not just in pounds, but in real added value to your journey. It’s easy to overpack, but carrying too much weight can ruin your trip. This isn’t an ordinary hike, so ordinary things like a spice bag or a book to read aren’t luxuries you can afford.
Many people even choose not to bring “essentials” like a tent and a camp stove. They eat food that doesn’t require cooking, and sleep beneath the stars. While warm summertime temperatures allow this, it’s ill-advised to go without shelter during the cooler months.
No matter when you go, you’ll need a sleeping bag. It’s a good idea to carry a pad as well, as the ground at the campsites is ultra-rough. Focusing on your hydration and nutrition is much more important than bringing comfort items. Extra water containers, a water filter, and purifying tablets are a good idea.
Additionally, you’ll want to be protected from the sun. Bring along lightweight clothing and pack plenty of sunscreen, being careful to reapply it several times a day. This hike also requires sturdy footwear, so it’s better to wear boots rather than hiking shoes or trail runners.
Top 8 Grand Canyon Trails By Length
1. Cape Final Trail
Length: 2 Miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation Change: 210 ft
Cape Final Trail is the perfect choice for those who want to see the canyon’s breathtaking beauty without descending down into it. It’s located on the northern side, and you’ll be able to park right at the trailhead for this shady hike up an old forest road.
It’s a two-mile trek to the trail’s end, a viewpoint well-worth the effort with a 270-degree panorama of the Grand Canyon’s glory. The trail is a pleasant stroll with little elevation change, affording an easy way to take in the canyon. Keep in mind that you can only reach this trail during the northern rim’s open season, from May to October.
2. Widforss Trail
Length: 5 Miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation Change: 1,036 ft
Widforss Trail is great for those who want a longer day hike. Located on the northern rim, Widforss meanders down five miles of pine forest and open meadows. You’ll arrive tired but notentirely exhausted at the end of the trail, which offers a lovely view of the Manu Temple and Buddha Temple buttes.
Widforss Trail is very popular because of its views and relatively easy terrain. You’ll encounter other characters here, including dogs. If you have a furry friend, this is the perfect trail for them. Widforss will likely take you the whole day at a leisurely pace, so bring along a day pack with plenty of snacks and water. Even at the top of the canyon, you need to stay hydrated!
3. Grandview Trail
Length: 6 Miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation Change: 2,500 ft
Located on the South Rim, Grandview Trail was originally built as a mining route. It’s the shortest descending trail and while it doesn’t reach the bottom, it still provides plenty of awesome scenery. At just six miles long, it takes you 2,500 feet down and boasts one of the most stunning vistas of any trail. However, hikers must be prepared for this harrowing descent.
Grandview Trail can be taken on as a day-hike if you turn around at Horseshoe Mesa, or you can secure a backcountry camping permit. This will let you camp along the route, and you can also switch trails to reach the river bottom campgrounds. Because Grandview is a more difficult and isolated route, you’ll skip the crowds of nearby Bright Angel and South Kaibab.
Grandview Trail offers a truly grand view, but little in the way of protection from the elements. The path is hot, rocky, and incredibly steep, with no water sources along the way. It’s not maintained by the NPS, so conditions have deteriorated with time and can be quite treacherous. This is a hike better left to the more experienced, or at least the more intrepid.
4. South Kaibab Trail
Length: 7.1 Miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation Change: 4,860 ft
South Kaibab Trail is located on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon and is one of the more popular descending hikes. It’s a difficult undertaking, with a 4,860-foot elevation change and over seven miles of steep trail to navigate through. Walking the whole South Kaibab will require an overnight stay at the bottom of the river at the Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch Lodge.
Be warned that there is no water or shade along the trail, so only those accustomed to extreme heat should take it on. If this type of challenge sounds like your cup of tea, you can take a shuttle to the trailhead from the Backcountry Information Center, Bright Angel Lodge, or Canyon View Information Plaza.
5. Hermit Trail
Length: 8.9 Miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation Change: 4,240 ft
As its name implies, Hermit Trail is a more isolated path descending from the South Rim near Hermits Rest. You can take a free shuttle to arrive there in-season. Parking is only allowed at the trailhead when the shuttle is out of commission.
Hermit Trail is one of the more interesting descents at the Grand Canyon. It begins with a sharp drop before evening out to a more manageable grade, affording nice views of the Kaibab Formation and Coconino Sandstone. The trail is characterized by large slabs of stone originally used as steps, but these have eroded significantly since their construction in the early 1900s.
While sheer cliffside provides lots of shade during some parts of the day, there aren’t any trees to rely on during the hottest months. Day hikers can turn around at Waldron Basin or the Santa Maria Spring, but those descending all the way down to Hermit Creek Campground should stay overnight.
6. Bright Angel Trail
Length: 9.3 Miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation Change: 4,380 ft
Bright Angel Trail is the most popular descending hike in the Grand Canyon. It’s a difficult journey, but friendly conditions like rest houses, shade, and water along the way make it much easier than Hermit Trail or the South Kaibab.
The trail is steep at the beginning but becomes gentler, meandering along a series of switchbacks that play host to a plethora of wildlife. There are many places to stop and turn around if you’re looking for a shorter day hike, but those who want to reach the Colorado River should plan to camp out for the night.
7. South Rim Trail
Length: 13 Miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation Change: None
The South Rim Trail is perfect for those hoping to catch a view of this spectacular canyon from the comfort and safety of the top. This easy hike is paved for much of the route and winds around the southern portion of the rim, beginning at Mathers Point and passing through Grand Canyon Village. It ends an impressive 13 miles away at Hermits Rest point.
A free shuttle service runs alongside the trail during most of the year. This makes it the perfect starting point for families, because you can simply hop on the shuttle if you or the little ones get tired along the way. The South Rim Trail affords spectacular views near Yavapai Point, Pima Point, and Hermits Rest at the end.
Throughout the length of this trail, you’ll find easy walking and plenty of signs that tell you the distances to the next bus stop and other important information. Water isn’t available anywhere on the trail besides Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest at the end, so bring a bottle with you.
8. North Kaibab Trail
Length: 14 Miles | Difficulty: Hard | Elevation Change: 5,850 ft
Beginning from the northern rim of the canyon, North Kaibab Trail is the most physically demanding of all the descending hikes. However, it’s arguably the most rewarding. Trekkers here will have the chance to pass through every single ecosystem in America and Canada, with an elevation change of over a mile.
Fir trees, Aspen, ferns, and wildflowers will inundate hikers at the trail’s starting point on the northern rim. As you descend 14 miles to the trail’s end at Bright Angel Campground, you’ll pass through stunning formations with a view of Bright Angel Canyon and two notable waterfalls.
Remember, since the North Rim is closed during much of the year, you’ll have to plan a visit from May through October for this trail. There are several natural water sources along the way, but these can dry up, so plan accordingly because the only sure source is at Bright Angel Campground.
It takes between 12 and 15 hours to descend and ascend the Grand Canyon. Many hikers spend the night at the bottom. There are also hikes that do not descend into the canyon and only take a few hours. The Grand Canyon presents some of the most challenging yet rewarding hikes in the nation.