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Grand Canyon South Rim best hikes

Grand Canyon South Rim best hikes

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Ah, the Grand Canyon…as the name suggests it’s an absolutely huge canyon. This place will blow you away no matter how many times you see pictures of it. What better way to enjoy visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim than to get out there and do one (or more!) of the Grand Canyon South Rim’s best hikes? I honestly think that one of the top Grand Canyon activities is going for a hike.

This list of the best hikes in the Grand Canyon National Park includes a mix of challenging hikes that take you down to the canyon floor, as well as easier ones which see you follow the rim. Whichever type of Grand Canyon trail you opt for you’re sure to be blown away by the views.

best hikes in grand canyon pin

Where is the Grand Canyon South Rim?

The Grand Canyon is in the state of Arizona. There are two official entrances to the National Park; the north rim entrance and the south rim entrance. There’s also another area known as Grand Canyon West. The west isn’t managed by the parks service, but rather by the Hualapai Tribe.

The Grand Canyon National Park South Rim is 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona. The whole of the Grand Canyon’s location is within the state of Arizona and about 81 miles away from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Grand Canyon South Rim entrance fees

hiking into the grand canyon south kaibab trail

Entrance fees to the Grand Canyon National Park cost $35 per car, this lasts for 7 days and includes both the North Rim and South Rim.

If you’re entering by foot, bike or shuttle bus then the entrance fee is $20 per person.

You can now buy your Grand Canyon National Park pass online, or at the visitors’ centres to the following towns: Williams, Flagstaff and the Tusayan National Geographic Visitor Centre (IMAX Theatre).

If you’re visiting a few US National Parks over the course of a year after your Grand Canyon trip then you’ll be better off buying the “America is Beautiful National Parks Pass” from REI for $80.

Best hikes in Grand Canyon South Rim

grand canyon south rim best hikes

If you’re looking to do some South Rim Grand Canyon hikes (and you totally should), you’re in luck! There’s quite a large variety in the types of Grand Canyon hiking trails available at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. So, whether you want to do some backpacking in the Grand Canyon on an overnighter while you hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or would rather stay at the top of the canyon and do a one day hike in the Grand Canyon South Rim, there’s something for everyone! Some of the Grand Canyon’s best hikes are accessible from the South Rim!

These hikes are grouped into best Grand Canyon hikes you can do in one day and overnight Grand Canyon hikes. There’s no such thing as an easy hike to the Grand Canyon floor as the trails are pretty steep and it’s a long slog back to the top.

What to know before you hike in the Grand Canyon South Rim

  • Before you go hiking in the Grand Canyon, it’s important to know that the weather is pretty extreme and can change suddenly. In the summer it’s extremely hot and dry with little shade. In the winter the Grand Canyon trails can be snowy and icy.  It’s recommended, therefore, to make sure you pack plenty of water (as there aren’t a lot of year-round water sources on these hikes and you’ll drink a lot), a hat and sun protection in the summer, and plenty of warm layers in the winter.
  • Always check the trail conditions of the Grand Canyon before setting off and if you’re not sure then don’t go.
  • Prepare yourself for a faster hike down with high impact on your joints and a slow, strenuous hike out that may take twice as long or longer. that may take twice as long or longer.
  • Leave your itinerary with someone who will notice if you are overdue and report it to 911.
  • See more useful information for hiking in the Grand Canyon here.
  • Mules and hiking: Step off the trail on the uphill side away from the edge when mules are approaching; follow the directions of the wrangler, remain quiet and still and do not return to the trail until the mule is at least 50ft away from you.

Day hikes in the Grand Canyon South Rim

See my day hiking packing list here

There are lots of day hikes in the Grand Canyon South Rim and they have amazing views of the inner canyon. You do not need a permit to do Grand Canyon day hikes and it can be a safer way to enjoy the sights on offer in the Grand Canyon National Park. Check out these Grand Canyon trails in the South Rim.

The Rim Trail Grand Canyon, easy

Not to be confused with the Rim to Rim hike, the Rim Trail is one of the easier Grand Canyon South Rim trails. It goes from the Grand Canyon Village and the South Kaibab trailhead to Hermits Rest in the west. You can begin it from any viewpoint along the way and it has incredible views. If you’re looking for a Grand Canyon walk, rather than a hike, this is the trail to choose.

If you choose to hike the whole rim trail in the Grand Canyon then you’ll pass some beautiful viewpoints such as Yavapai Point and Hopi Point. It’s a great way to escape the crowds that gather at the viewpoints. Plus it’s one of the easier hikes in the Grand Canyon South Rim because it’s mostly paved.

You can also use the shuttle buses to make this hike shorter if you wish. For less experienced hikers or those short on time, this is the Grand Canyon’s best day hike.

Distance: 13 miles (21km) in total. Can be split into sections of roughly 1-2miles apart. 
Time:
7-10 hours
Elevation:
200ft increase
Note: There’s no water west of Bright Angel Lodge
Trail map & guide

Bright Angel Trail, moderate

For some more difficult Grand Canyon South Rim hiking, try the Bright Angel Trail. The Bright Angel Trail begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge and the whole trail is 12 miles out and back but you can split it up into smaller hikes too. The full 12 miles goes down to Plateau Point, which gives you great views of the Colorado River.

If you’re hiking in summer you shouldn’t go further than the Indian Garden Point (9-mile round trip) due to the steepness of the return climb to the canyon rim.

To make it an easier day hike, go to either the 1.5 miles or 3-mile markers. You’ll still feel like you’re within the Grand Canyon and both make good turnarounds.

Distance: 12 miles (19.3km) in total. Can be split into sections
Time:
6-9 hours
Elevation:
3110ft change from the trailhead to Plateau Point
Trail map & guide

South Kaibab Trail, moderate

The South Kaibab Trail is the trail that Thom and I hiked while at the Grand Canyon. We didn’t hike all the way to the bottom but down as far as Cedar Ridge which is a 3-mile round trip. I’d recommend hiking to this point if you’re looking for a half-day hike in the Grand Canyon South Rim. If you hike it in summer, don’t go past the Cedar Ridge marker.

The South Kaibab Trail begins just south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. You’ll have to get the shuttle bus there. The longest day hike from here is 6 miles long (round trip) and goes down to Skeleton Point.

If you’re looking for a short hike in the Grand Canyon which outstanding views, this is the one to do!

Distance: 6 miles (9.6km) can be split into smaller hikes too. 
Time:
3-5 hours
Elevation:
2060ft change from the trailhead to Skeleton Point
Trail map & guide | My experience hiking down the Grand Canyon

Hermit Trail, strenuous

The Hermit Trail is another area of the Grand Canyon South Rim for hiking. This trail was built in 1911 and you begin just just west of the Hermits Rest shuttle stop. Between March 1st and November 30th, you must use the shuttle to do this hike, outside of these months you can drive there.

The longest day hike from Hermits Rest is 7 miles round trip but this can easily be split up into smaller hikes. Usually, hikers use Dripping Springs Trail Junction (3.6 miles round trip) as the turn around point if they’re not planning on hiking the whole way down to Dripping Springs.

This hike is tougher than the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails.  The trail is unmaintained and very steep, especially at the beginning. This is a more strenuous day hike and is only recommended for experienced desert hikers.

Distance: 7 miles (11.3km) in total. Can split into sections
Time:
5-7 hours
Elevation:
1040ft change from the trailhead to Dripping Springs

Grandview Trail, strenuous

The Grandview Trail at the Grand Canyon South Rim was built in 1893 as a mining route. It’s a rocky, exposed, and strenuous trail on which you’ll need to take care. There are large, uneven steps and sharp drop-offs and it’s unmaintained which make it a more strenuous day hike recommended for experienced desert hikers.

The trail begins on canyon side of a stone retaining wall at Grandview Point on Desert View Drive.

From the Grandview Trail trailhead, you can hike down to Coconino Saddle (2.2 miles round trip) or Horseshoe Mesa (6.4 miles round trip), as well as Cottonwood Creek (9-mile round trip).

If you’re an experienced hiker you’re sure to love the views and the challenge!

Distance: 9 miles (14.5km) in total. Can split into sections
Time:
6-9 hours to Cottonwood Creek and back 
Elevation:
3900ft from the trailhead to Cottonwood Creek
Trail map & guide

Grand Canyon backpacking

grand canyon hikes south rim

If you’re planning to do a Grand Canyon hike to the bottom then you’ll need to stay overnight. For backpacking in the Grand Canyon, Arizona you’ll need a backcountry permit for the Bright Angel Campground.

Backcountry Permits for Grand Canyon South Rim hikes

You will require a backcountry permit for overnight Grand Canyon camping outside of official campgrounds.

A backcountry permit costs $10 plus $8 per person, per night if below the rim and $8 per person, per night for camping above the rim. You must also pay the applicable park entrance fees (see above).

To get a backcountry permit for the Grand Canyon you must apply by completing this form and either faxing it, mailing it or presenting it to the Backcountry Information Centre at the South Rim. Full details, including when to apply, here.

Backcountry hikes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Due to the nature of the Grand Canyon’s climate and the trail conditions, backcountry camping and hiking to the canyon floor are recommended only to experienced desert hikers. You can still have an awesome Grand Canyon hiking experience on any of the best Grand Canyon day hikes listed above, however, if you are experienced and want to do a longer hike here is some information on doing so.

Always read this brochure from the National Parks Service, and seek further advice before embarking on a backcountry hiking trip to the Grand Canyon.

The two trails from the South Rim which lead to the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon start from the South Kaibab trailhead and the Bright Angel Trail.

South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground

The distance from the trailhead to Bright Angel Campground on the South Kaibab trail is 7 miles one way (11.3km). It’s strongly recommended you spend the night at the bottom rather than trying to hike back to the rim in the same day.

There are no Grand Canyon south rim campgrounds along this trail until you get to Bright Angel and there’s no water along the trail either.

You’ll drop 4,700ft in elevation between top to bottom which gives you some idea of the steep hike back up!

Bright Angel Trail to Bright Angel Campground

The Bright Angel Trail is slightly longer at 9.5 miles (15.3km) each way. It’s recommended you take 2 days to complete this trail, alternatively, there’s a campsite along the way at the Indian Garden marker.

The elevation change on the Grand Canyon Angel Trail is 4,340ft and there is water available at certain points all year round.

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike

You can also hike from rim to rim (north rim to south rim). Be aware that the Rim to Rim Grand Canyon hike is extremely challenging and will take you several days to complete and requires a lot of advance planning especially since it’s a one-way hike so you’ll need to arrange transport.

You’ll start by leaving form the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim and descending 14.3 miles and 6,000ft to the bottom of the canyon before joining the Bright Angel Trail (or the South Kaibab Trail) and climbing all the way back out again.

Along the way, there’s incredible scenery. You’ll hike through 2 billion years of natural history and 11 layers of ancient rock. It’s a once in a lifetime hike that will stick with you forever!

It’s not recommended to do the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike in one day but if you do think you’re physically fit and experienced enough you should speak to a ranger beforehand.

Where to stay near the Grand Canyon South Rim

guide to the grand canyon national park arizona

Looking for somewhere to rest your head and feet after your Grand Canyon hikes in the South Rim? Check out these recommended Grand Canyon South Rim accommodation options.

Grand Canyon South Rim hotels

  • Yavapai Lodge: One of the best lodges at the Grand Canyon South Rim, just across the road from the Grand Canyon National Park Headquarters and very close to the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center
  • El Tovar Hotel: Includes coffee shop/café & a bar/lounge onsite
  • Bright Angel Lodge: Gets 4.2/5, one of the highest rated hotels within the park
  • Kachina Lodge: Great reviews & a free shuttle for a 25-mile radius
  • Maswik Lodge: Onsite restaurant and complimentary shuttle
  • Thunderbird Lodge: Has great views and in a fab location

Hotels by Grand Canyon South Rim (outside the park)

These Tusayan hotels near the Grand Canyon South Rim are all highly recommended as Grand Canyon lodging on Booking.com.

Other hotels near the Grand Canyon

Camping at the Grand Canyon

If the campsites inside the Grand Canyon National Park are full then there are plenty of other RV park and campgrounds just outside the Grand Canyon South Rim.

  • Ten-X Campground: Just 4 miles south of the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance. Standard, non-electric sites are $10 per site, per night. Suitable for RV and tents.
  • Grand Canyon Camper Village: In Tusayan, there’s the Grand Canyon Camper Village which is privately owned. RV sites with hookups available.

Free camping near the Grand Canyon

There’s plenty of free camping near the Grand Canyon. Check out this post to see how to find free camping in the USA.

More National Parks Guides