Frequently asked questions
- It’s my first time hiking Grand Canyon. Which trail should I choose?
- How long are the hikes, and how many miles will we go?
- What’s the weather like at Grand Canyon?
- What gear do you provide for day hikes?
- What should I bring with me?
- What should I wear?
- Should I wear hiking boots? Are running shoes okay?
- Where and when do we meet?
- Can I arrange a custom departure time?
- Are there restrooms on Grand Canyon trails?
It’s my first time hiking Grand Canyon. Which trail should I choose?
The South Kaibab Trail is a great choice for most first-time canyon hikers. There are several reasons: It is wider, less steep, and receives more maintenance than other trails in the canyon. The trailhead is located away from the tourists who roam Grand Canyon Village, which generally means fewer hikers congesting the upper portion of the trail. And the ridgeline routing gives great views in all directions. In short, it’s what people think of when they imagine Grand Canyon hiking.
If you’re an experienced hiker, and want to try something a little more off-the-beaten-path, both Hermit and Grandview are great options if you’re not afraid of heights. These trails don’t offer the sweeping panoramas of the South Kaibab, but they do offer solitude and plenty of sublime views.
To see more about what each trail offers, check out our hike comparison page.
How long are the hikes, and how many miles will we go?
Day hikes usually last between four and six hours, with the total time and distance depending on hiker energy levels and desire to spend extra time in the canyon. Sometimes the hikes are shorter, and sometimes they’re a little longer. The goal is for hikers to return to the trailhead feeling exhilarated but not exhausted.
Hikers usually cover between three and six miles round-trip. If that doesn’t sound like much, keep in mind the return ascent may involve thousands of feet of elevation gain. On the South Kaibab Trail, a six-mile hike can feel more like ten miles on flat ground.
If that still doesn’t impress you, consider that extremely deep canyons have very high rims. The South Rim trailheads are roughly 7,000 feet above sea level. The thin air contains about 25% less oxygen than the air at sea level.
What’s the weather like at Grand Canyon?
The National Weather Service forecast for Grand Canyon’s South Rim can be found online. But whether your trip is a few days or a few months out, you’ll want to know about general weather conditions. Hikers should be aware that temperature increase as you descend into the canyon.
During spring and fall, overnight lows can fall below freezing. The chilly mornings can then be followed by weather warm enough for short sleeves. In late spring and early fall, daytime highs on the rim are frequently warm enough for shorts.
Daily temperature fluctuations are exaggerated by day-hiking routes in Grand Canyon. Generally speaking, temperatures increase as hikers descend into the canyon. On the routes hiked by Canyonology Treks, temperatures along the trail may be five to ten degrees Fahrenheit (three to six degrees Celcius) higher than the daytime high at the trailhead. At the bottom of the canyon, temperatures are even higher still.
Summer temperatures at Grand Canyon get hot — hence the early morning departure times.
In the wintertime, snow is a common occurrence along Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Some upper sections of trail may be icy. (Canyonology Treks offers microspike traction devices to winter hikers.) Temperatures along the route may be just above freezing.
The National Park Service reports these monthly average temperatures. Detailed weather information can be found at the park website.
Average Temperatures at the South Rim
Average Temperatures in the Inner Canyon
What gear do you provide for day hikes?
Canyonology Treks will provide day packs and trekking poles free of charge. Of course, hikers are welcome to bring their own gear if they prefer.
What should I bring with me?
Plan on bringing 3 liters of water per person, as well as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Rain falls even in the desert, and hikers should travel with a waterproof jacket. During winter months, make sure that your cold weather outfit includes gloves and a warm hat.
What should I wear?
The short story: Dress in layers appropriate for a variety of conditions. Cotton fabrics help to keep you cool in the summer, with the caveat that they do a poor job of blocking UV rays. In cooler weather you want to avoid cotton, because it won’t keep you warm if it gets wet.
The longer story: When we hike at Grand Canyon, we want to dress in layers that will leave us prepared for any conditions we’re likely to encounter. Wearing multiple layers allows you to add or remove layers as the weather dictates.
If you’ve ever gone for a walk on a frosty fall morning, and then removed a jacket when the day warmed up, you already have some experience with what hikers call a “layering system.”
During a day on the trail, the weather might fluctuate more than it does on that crisp fall morning back home. Our layering system should reflect that. Instead of just a shirt and jacket, you might head out with long underwear, a lightweight shirt, a sweater, and a water-repellent jacket.
Below are example layer schemes for different seasons:
Base layer: Moisture-wicking long underwear (synthetic or wool).
Insulation: Long-sleeve shirt (synthetic or wool), warm sweater, and a lightweight but warm, puffy, insulating jacket.
Outer layer: Waterproof shell, gloves, warm hat.
Spring and fall:
Base layer: Moisture-wicking long underwear (synthetic or wool).
Insulation: Shorts or lightweight pants (synthetic or wool). Shirt, light sweater, and lightweight jacket.
Outer layer: Water-resistant shell.
Base layer: Moisture-wicking lightweight long underwear (generally kept in pack unless needed).
Insulation: Shorts. Cotton t-shirt, long-sleeve button-down shirt for sun protection.
Outer layer: Water-resistant shell or a basic poncho (generally kept in pack unless needed).
Pay close attention to the layering scheme for summer. Why in the world would we want long underwear in the summer time? When an isolated storm blows through the canyon and drops a lot of rain in a short time, it’s easy to go from uncomfortably hot to uncomfortably cold. Of course, it’s easiest to avoid the rain all together. Summer storms usually arrive in the afternoon, which is why the scheduled start time is early in the morning. Because it’s there for the sake of preparedness, the summer base layer is usually found in your backpack, not on your body.
A few notes on the layering system in general: First, just because an item is on the list doesn’t mean it will be needed. The summer base layer isn’t the only time this is true. For example, on a warm spring morning, we can make a judgement call to leave that sweater behind. The above lists are also somewhat conservative. If chilly weather doesn’t bother you, you might prefer to start an autumn hike wearing just a base layer with a water-resistant outer shell.
Second, make sure you have the right fabrics for the right reasons. When you’re wet — whether from perspiration or precipitation — that moisture will cool you down. During cold weather, a synthetic or wool base layer moves sweat away from your skin, helping to keep you warm. But in hot weather, when you want to shed body heat, cotton may actually be preferable.
Should I wear hiking boots? Are running shoes okay?
There are two guidelines for footwear: It should have good tread, and it should be broken in.
Regarding the first guideline: Shoes that grip the trail are desirable for obvious reasons. Basketball shoes, which come from the factory with very flat soles, are a poor choice. Worn-down running shoes with 600 miles on them are another poor choice. A cross-trainer with good tread is a much better choice.
Regarding the second guideline: It can be fun to purchase brand-new gear before hiking Grand Canyon. But if you do purchase new footwear, take care to make sure it’s broken in. Hiking straight out of the shoe store and into the canyon is a great way to get blisters!
And the matter of shoes versus hiking boots? In many cases, especially day hikes, it comes down to a matter of personal preference. As long as your footwear is broken in with good tread, you should wear what works best for you.
Where and when do we meet?
Departure point: Grand Canyon National Park South Rim Visitor Center
|Day hike departure times by month
|April — May
|June — August
|October — March
The meeting time varies by month. The general preference is for an early departure, before any crowds come out. In the summer months, it also helps to beat the heat and avoid afternoon storms. Meeting times are given in the table above.
Unless other arrangements are made, we’ll meet at the flagpole at the South Rim Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is centrally located, and the parking lot usually has plenty of open spaces in the morning. The map below shows how to get from the park’s main (south) entrance to the Visitor Center. You can find a fullscreen version of the map here.
Canyonology Treks provides transportation from the Visitor Center to the trailhead, where our vehicle is permitted to park. Parking areas at the South Kaibab and Hermit trailheads are generally off limits to private vehicles.
Can I arrange a custom departure time?
An early departure time is preferred, especially during monsoon season (June 15 – September 30). Custom departure times are more easily arranged during cooler months, when afternoon weather patterns are less likely to present an issue.
Are there restrooms on Grand Canyon trails?
The South Kaibab, Bright Angel, Hermit, and Grandview Trails all have restrooms at the trailhead. Of these, only Bright Angel Trail has modern plumbing at the trailhead.
The Bright Angel Trail has composting toilets at the 1.5-mile and 3-mile marks. The South Kaibab Trail has composting toilets at the 1.5-mile mark. The Grandview Trail has extremely basic facilities around the 3-mile mark, and the Hermit Trail has no restrooms.
The Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails both have additional toilet facilities farther down the trail, located beyond the reach of most day hikes.