Hiking the Grand Canyon has been something cherished (and repeated many times) in my family. I think it began when my parents first embarked on the big hike to the bottom and back up with my Aunt Terri when they were young newlyweds. Now, over 30 years later, I think its been at least 11 times that at least one member of my family has hiked to the bottom and up of this vast canyon.
Over the years, we’ve learned a few things about hiking the Grand Canyon. Some were tips given to us, some were things we did right the first time, and some…we learned the hard way.
I’ve polled my family to gather all our advice on how to hike the Grand Canyon in a safe, and happy way. So, from our 11 times hiking to the bottom and back up, here are our 12 best tips! I hope these can be a starting place for you and your friends or family planning your own trip to the canyon. It can’t be beat, and it’s not one to miss.
Without further ado…
12 Things to Know Before Hiking the Grand Canyon
01. Always wear hiking boots (not tennis shoes or hiking sandals) to prevent twisting your ankle. It can happen too easily and leave you injured and stranded. Also, make sure to break in your boots before hiking this canyon!
02. Don’t count on water being available on the trails. There are no water stations on the South Kaibab trail and sometimes the spickets on the Bright Angel and North Kaibab trails are turned off due to frozen or broken water lines. Pack a lot of water with you from the top, at least double the amount you expect to drink.
03. Bring high carb and salty snacks! Our go-to is Peanut M&M’s. They’ve got carbs for energy, protein for your muscles, and salt to replenish what you’re sweating out. My dad’s friends have thanked him for “saving their lives” when all he did was share his Peanut M&M’s with them when they didn’t have the will to go on.
04. Understand that the climate at the bottom of the canyon could be up to 20 degrees warmer than the top, and plan accordingly.
05. If you are camping at the bottom, bring rope to hang your pack from a pole/tree (don’t keep it in your tent!). The critters are seriously fearless and will stop at nothing to get in there.
06. Bring more socks than you think you’ll need, and change them whenever your feet are moist (either from streams or sweat). This could save you from a lot of painful blisters. Ouch!
07. Always bring sunscreen and/or a hat. Some of the trails don’t offer much shade.
08. Test out your hydration pack before your trek to make sure there are no leaks! I learned that the hard way.
09. If possible, take two days to hike out of the canyon and stay at either Indian Gardens (South Rim) or Cottonwood Campground (North Rim). This gives you more time to enjoy the fact that YOU ARE INSIDE THE GRAND CANYON.
10. If you’re hiking to the bottom, try to book at least one meal at the Phantom Ranch Canteen. Sitting at the dinner table talking story with other hikers is just what you need after a long day of hiking, and the food is incredible! Plus, that’s one less meal to pack and prepare.
11. No matter what age you are, complete the Junior Ranger Program at the bottom of the canyon if at all possible! You’ll earn an awesome patch (to add to your collection) that you can’t get anywhere else!
12. Above all else, take time to acclimate to the elevation before beginning your trek. Unless you are from Denver, or somewhere with a similar elevation, try to arrive to the canyon, or close by, at least 3-4 days prior to your trek. This will allow your body to acclimate to the higher elevation, making the hike 1/2 as difficult! For real. My family always uses this as a chance to do some sightseeing and day hikes around the area before embarking on the Grand Canyon, and this tip has never let us down!
Now go hike the canyon! Or if you have already, share some of your advice in the comments! We can all learn from each other. 🙂
My dad, mom, and Aunt Terri hiking the Grand Canyon, I believe in 1989!
Hiking the canyon with my dad and Cassie in 2002!
My dad, Lori, and I hiking it in 2007.
And Lori and I hiking rim to rim in 2018!
In the meantime, check out these 25 tips for saving money on travel. These tips may be what gets you to the canyon!