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What You Need to Do to Hike in the the Grand Canyon

Updated on June 26, 2012
South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

Why Hike the Grand Canyon

Hiking trails in Grand Canyon are not for the faint of heart. For those who are are prepared (mentally and physically), it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever undertake. The view from the top is breathtaking. It is well worth the trip, but the canyon has so much more to offer. As you slowly make your way down the steps of the South Kaibob, the canyon is constantly changing. New formations and patterns on the rock wall make it seem like the canyon is alive. Don't get me wrong. When you're on the way back up the pain in your feet occasionally makes you wonder if you're crazy. A few days later when the soreness finally wears off, all that is left is this incredible feeling of accomplishment. You hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

What NOT to Do

If you feel you are physically fit enough to take on the canyon, there are several things you need to consider. When you go will have a big impact on your hike. Both times I went I made the mistake of going in July. In Flagstaff, the weather will be deceivingly comfortable. The bottom of the Grand Canyon is literally a mile lower in elevation than the top. It gets hot. Shrubs and rocks do not provide a lot of shade. Trust me, if you can, try to make this hike during the cooler months.

I must reiterate, do not attempt this hike if you're not in good shape. Most people who hike the canyon go down the South Kaibab and up Bright Angel. The last part of Bright Angel is straight switch backs. It's rough. The first time I went, I was not ready. Toward the end I had to rest constantly and was starting to experience heat exhaustion. I was limping for days because my legs were so sore. The second time I was prepared. It was still difficult, but I made it to the rim feeling good.

What TO Do

The first time I was preparing to hike in Grand Canyon National Park, I asked a ranger what type of food I should bring. I was astounded when she told me Pringles. The reasoning behind this is partly due to the time of year I was there. When you sweat, you lose among other things, salt. Eating salty snacks, like Pringles, will help you stay nourished. Make sure to bring other more substantial food like jerky to snack on, as well.

Sweating also causes you to lose electrolytes and fluids. DRINK LOTS OF WATER!!! This is so important. Heat exhaustion is not fun. Help is not very accessible when you're on the side of a canyon wall. Investing in a Camelbak, like the one featured to the left, is a great idea. It makes constantly drinking water easy.

When you get to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the trail, there is a creek running through the campsite. Soaking your feet in the ice cold water feels wonderful. I recommend bringing some hiking sandals like Chacos. Flip flops will not feel good on your feet after hiking straight down for hours.

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

A Few Other Things to Consider

If you are looking for the solitude mentioned in my previous hub, trails on the South Rim are not what you are looking for. Even during the hottest summer months, Bright Angel and South Kaibab are packed. The campsite at the bottom feels much like the ones at the rim.

As always, make sure you have a pack that fits and good hiking boots. If you do decide to go during the summer months, you will not need a sleeping bag. A sheet and a Therm-a-Rest are all you need. Also, if you go during the summer, leave as early as possible and take advantage of the cooler morning hours.


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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Brenda,

      A good hub regarding what to do when considering hiking in the Grand Canyon. I have been there several times but never hiked it due to time constraints. Now my knees are too old. Ha! Just linked your hub to my latest titled The Grand Canyon + 2 Other Spectacular National Parks in Arizona. Will be a nice addition! Thanks for writing this. Up and useful votes.

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 6 years ago from Utah

      Thanks rob_allen! You will not regret it if you do :)

    • rob_allen profile image

      rob_allen 6 years ago from MNL, PH

      @brenda12lynette wow, this is a great hub. Very useful. Someday I'm gonna go there explore its wonders :) love it!



    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 6 years ago from Utah

      That is exactly right. I hope you do make it out there. Even from the rim it is amazing!!

    • JonLaird profile image

      JonLaird 6 years ago from United States

      I've never visited the Grand Canyon, but I really hope to see it at some point. It really seems like something that needs to be experienced through getting out and physically enjoying it. Hopefully I'll be in better shape by the time I get out there and can take advantage of some of the hiking pointers here!