Grand Canyon Hiking Trails
What to Do - Hiking
By Radu Timis
Hiking in the canyon is done through "corridor trails", "wilderness trails", and "routes". The corridor trails are strongly recommended for inexperienced hikers in Grand Canyon. These trails are well marked and maintained by National Park Service and crossing the canyon. These are the most popular ones. Some of them have purified water stations, toilets, emergency phones, or ranger stations. The wilderness trails are recommended for hikers with experience in canyon. The trails are not maintained and have scarce water sources. No toilets or telephones. The routes are to be used only by highly experimented hikers, familiar with route finding, reading topographic maps, and compass orientation. The routes might be very faded and without water sources.
BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL. The trailhead is next to Kolb Studio, at an elevation of 6860 ft. (2091 m), and its length, down to Bright Angel Campground, near the Phantom Ranch, is 9.3 miles (15 km). At 1.5 mile (2.4 km) down in canyon is A- Mile-and-Half Resthouse, having potable water, bio toilets, emergency phones and sheltered resting benches. 3 miles down from the rim, and 1.5 mile down from A-Mile-and-Half Resthouse, is the Three Miles Resthouse with the same amenities as the previous one. The trail passes through heavy switchbacks, and the steepness lessens as approaching The Indian Garden, at 4.6 miles (7.4 km) from the rim. This place was once Havasupai Indian agricultural field. Shaded campground with 15 tent sites, drinking water, emergency phone, ranger station, toilets, and mule corrals are available. Further down, the trail descends in parallel with Garden Creek, then through Tapeats Narrows. From here, the trail has heavy switchbacks through Devil’s Corkscrew, between black Vishnu Schist columns. Before reaching Colorado River the trail merges with River Trail (right, east), and continues 1.5 mile (2.4 km) along the river to Bright Angel Suspension Bridge crossing it, and continuing on north side of the river to Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch.
From Indian Garden a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) long trail branches out left (west) and north, on almost flat desert terrain, to Plateau Point, that has a spectacular view of the river and Inner Gorge at 1300 ft. (400m) below.
SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL. The length of this trail from trailhead to Bright Angel Campground, down in canyon, is 7.3 miles (11.8 km). The top elevation at Yaki Point is 7260 ft. (2212 m) and down at Colorado River’s 2480 ft. (756 m). The trailhead is at Yaki Point that can be accessed only by shuttle bus, or walking. This is a very well maintained and marked corridor trail that passes by Cedar Ridge, O’Neil Butte, zigzags down the Redwall Limestone, and from Tipoff the switchbacks descend into Inner Gorge, go through a tunnel, cross the Colorado River on Kaibab Suspension Bridge. After another mile on flat terrain, The Bright Angel Campground is on the opposite side of the Bright Angel Creek. There are toilets at Cedar Ridge, 1.5 mile (2.4 km) and Tipoff, 5 miles (8 km) below Yaki Point, but not potable water source. The characteristic of this trail is that follows the ridge line, allowing large views of the chasm. It is not advisable to climb out through this trail during summer time, because of lack of water sources between Colorado River and rim and its steepness.
HERMIT TRAIL. This is a 9.3 miles (15 km) wilderness trail that starts just behind the Hermits Rest. To reach this point board the free shuttle bus to Hermits Rest, at the end of Hermit Road, 8 miles (12.8 km) west of Village. The top elevation of the trailhead is at 6640 ft (2024 m), and the other end, at Colorado River, is at 2400 ft (732 m). The trail was built by Santa Fe Railroad in order that the visitors to avoid paying toll on Bright Angel Toll Trail. It is very steep, rocky, with numerous rock slides that obstruct the fainted trail. Two primitive campgrounds are available for overnight hikers at Hermit Creek, and Hermit Rapid.
GRANDVIEW TRAIL is a wilderness trail 3 miles (4.8 km) long to Horseshoe Mesa, and 4.8 miles (7.7 km) to Tonto Trail by East Horseshoe Mesa. The trail head is at Grandview Point, near the parking area (elevation of 7400 ft – 2256 m) on Desert View Road, east of the Village. The lowest point of the trail is at the junction with Tonto Trail, 3760 ft (1146 m) bellow the rim. The Grandview lookout can be reached by car or taxi. The trail is steep with a lot of washouts but fairly easy to find route. No water source along the trail, but a small spring at Page Spring on East Horseshoe Mesa Trail derivation toward Tonto Trail. Before Pete Berry started mining copper in canyon, at the end of the trail, Hopi Indians used the mineral for paints. It is not recommended to enter the mine shafts, due to their instability and high level of Radon inside them.
BOUCHER TRAIL is a steep wilderness trail requiring an exhausting hike, many times through washouts, and finding route abilities. The length of it, from Hermits Rest to river, is 10.5 miles (16.9 km). Water sources are available at Dripping Springs, Boucher Creek and Colorado River. Louis Boucher, a Quebec Canadian immigrant, came to canyon in 1891 and started prospecting and guiding. He built a camp at Dripping Springs, guiding visitors here, and his own cabin down in what today is known as Boucher Canyon (1.5 mile from Colorado River), where he had his mine, prospecting for minerals. He planted a small fruit orchard, and lived here in solitude until 1912. The ruin of his cabin is visible even today on Boucher Creek.
TONTO TRAIL has 95 miles (153 km) in length, from Garnet Canyon in west, to Red Canyon in east. The elevation of this wilderness trail vary between 3600 ft. (1097 m) and 2800 ft. (853 m), and it is used mostly as a connection between other rim to river trails. The trail has sources of water, bio toilets, is relatively closed to Colorado River, and heads east – west following the Tonto Plateau, meandering in and out of washes and drainage.
SOUTH BASS TRAIL, WALDRON TRAIL ( in west) and NEW HANCE TRAIL, TANNER TRAIL (east) are all wilderness strenuous trails used only by experimented hikers of the Canyon.
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Grand Canyon National Park