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Hikers trekking the South Kaibab Trail (photo take by Mike Buchheit, Director of the Grand Canyon Field Institute; my boss in other words!)

Prologue: This past weekend featured a two-part series on Grand Canyon National Park. Today's diary highlights information about the many hiking trails the park has to offer. The information is also cautionary given the rigors of this terrain. That being said, do, please, pay attention to such advice. Normally, hiking, like backpacking (and the two are not the same) is a safe and enjoyable experience, though the use of this adjective must also be qualified in the sense such enjoyment entails physical exertion).

On the other foot, sometimes things just go awry and incidents occur that can and will instantly change the complexion of any excursion, going from good to bad or worse, just like that. Ergo, if it appears to some DKos community readers I am a bit too preachy given such cautionary remarks, consider these epistles, lectures, admonishments, or by some other name, sound guidelines that should always be in place before taking that first step on any hike or backpacking excursion.

Note: As previously mentioned, and unless otherwise stated in the Attribution, all photos used in this diary are either my own or sent to me by field institute students and used by permission.

Choosing A Hiking Trail: There are many trails into the Grand Canyon, but keep this well intended advice in mind if you intend to hike here: FOLKS, THERE ARE NO EASY TRAILS INTO THE CANYON. NONE. The trails, and in many cases the steeper switchbacks, in the Canyon are classified as "highways," "backcountry," or "backcountry-wilderness" (i.e., primitive as in "What trail?"). The following information is only included in this text so that you know what you might be up against should you decide to take a hike into the Canyon, either for a day hike or an overnight stay. If you are going to test your muscles (and hopefully not challenge the Darwinian survival theory), then you will need to purchase trail books (with pictures and maps) for all the trails other than the two classic Canyon highways, the Bright Angel and the Kaibab Trails. (Highways? Because mule trains carrying dudes, luggage, supplies, and trash use them along with a mess of day hikers and backpackers.)

If you're planning to stay overnight you will also need a permit. (Please see the information below on the "Backcountry Office"). For 99% of the hikes in this challenging terrain you will need topographical maps (for backcountry and backcountry-wilderness trails), the right hiking and/or backpacking equipment, decent to expert route finding abilities (depending on the trail you're hiking), prior hiking and/or backpacking experience, be in good shape for the trails, and in very excellent shape for the more difficult trails. Having decent karma, grace, or darn good luck may also be an added advantage or bonus.

The aptly named "Devil's Corkscrew," along the Bright Angel Trail (ending near Phantom Ranch).
(Diary continues after the fold)

Very typical switchback profile of some trails,even the so-called "highways." This view is also such, since the trail is wide as it is discernible. Backcountry trails, however, tend to be vague in places, necessitating orienteering skills (i.e., using a topo map and compass).

The trails listed herein are the most popular ones the Grand Canyon has to offer. There are other trails, but you need to consult the greats, like Harvey Butchart's and George Steck's texts, to tell you more about such primitive trail routes and adventures. The information I want to share only lists the names and some of the pertinent trail information you need to know before taking the first step into the Canyon and on the trail. When considering any of the following trails, remember this cardinal rule for hiking in the Grand Canyon: IT'S NOT THE MILEAGE THAT COUNTS HERE, BUT RATHER THE TIME IT TAKES TO GET FROM POINT TO POINT. That's because line of sight is far easier than the steps and exertion it will take to get there. In fact, the mileage given is only a yardstick measurement at best. Personally, I like to think of computing hiking miles here as yet another form of conceptual bankruptcy, that is, you just can't get it in your head what Grand Canyon hiking will do your body. But don't worry. So far over a hundred thousand hikers spend some amount of time in the Canyon, and many of them spend a couple or three days (or more) doing it. The number of injuries, fatalities and missing persons is relatively small, but stuff does happen sometimes.

The Bright Angel Trail below Grand Canyon Village showing part of Plateau Point (a spur leading to this popular 6-mile day hike). The BA trail goes all the way to the bottom, and on the other side of the river connects with the North Kaibab Trail going all the way to the North Rim.

A Pivotal Point About Hiking Levels: Trails are judged according to their level of difficulty with a range of 3 to 9, with nine being the most difficult. Pay close attention to this rating. Some backcountry trails in the Grand Canyon arguably poses the most difficult and strenuous hiking compared to any other standard (of terrain). This claim is due to many believable factors. Mainly, the altitude factor (i.e., starts high and is variable), the arid environment, the inner canyon heat (especially during the hot months), the steepness of the trails and switchbacks in many places, and of course the demanding terrain itself. In some cases there is a discernible trail to follow and in other cases there isn't. We call the latter terrain "bush whacking-primitive or wilderness; among other expletive deleted words that naturally arise when you're hiking in the off-the-beaten places. But hiking can (and should) be fun!

On the downside of things, medical evacuations (or "evacs" for short), should things get that serious, are expensive and the hiker has to pay for such emergency services. Of course, that's if the S & R ("search and rescue") teams can even find and get to you on time. Most of the time they can. Then again, sometimes you're just like one of the rocks out there in a mess of others, you know? But if you pay close attention to your health and safety, if you use common sense, if you eat and drink what you should, if you don't step over your edge, so to speak, if you know what you're doing and follow the safety rules and procedures, you'll most likely make it, albeit with some sore muscles to brag about once you're back on top. But such bragging when it comes to hiking any canyon trail is a right you've earned. You might even walk a little funny to show you know what you're talking about.

Note: For all sorts of sound information written about hiking and backpacking, please see and read this diary that was posted some time ago:

For hiking and permit information, you have to call the Backcountry ranger folks, good souls all. They know what they're talking about through proven experience. Listen to them! Apply the first of the month, four months prior to your start date. As of the date when this book was published, their phone number is: (520) 638 2125; for general information 1 to 5 p.m. try: 638 7875. Or you can write to them at: The Backcountry Reservations Office, P. O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. You can even contact them on the Internet. www.the However you get in touch with them they will discuss with you the fees and permits involved, and YES you have to pay for the privilege of hiking in the Grand Canyon. For the incomparable beauty and solitude you're getting the price is cheap at twice the cost. Please note the North Rim of the Canyon is generally closed from mid-October through mid-May, depending on the heavy snowfall that side of the Canyon usually counts on.
Common Sense Hiking Reminders: There is also one other point, now that I think about it, to mention: trail etiquette. For the most part, people who hike the trails here are polite. Thus when headed down-trail, hikers yield to hikers coming up the trail; they yield to mules going in either direction; they are not pushy or rude; they are not loud mouths; they do not leave trash; they do not toss rocks or twigs to see how far such objects will fly and fall; they do tag the rocks, and so on. People just get along and its quite friendly on the trail when hiking. BUT there are rarer sorts that violate some or all of these common sense rules. There are even some cultures that don't understand the etiquette, when hiking, and so they tend to push and shove their way along the trails. Personally, and speaking as an instructor for the Grand Canyon Field Institute, when I see hikers who do not obey these rules, especially those who do not yield when they're supposed to, I sound off. Better to get the point across how to behave, when hiking, than to let such people get away with such bad manners. That's my motto. Let it also be yours if you find anyone, so to say, getting out of line.
Give all the above 'fatherly' advice, to you I say "happy, safe hiking Canyon trekkers." Just so it really sinks in and you don't forget, be mindful of your food stores and equipment from the creature greeting committee you can expect day or night. Whether the imminent attack comes by air from those pesky, but lovable, black marauders of the sky, the ravens, or else from the ground. We'd rather this entourage of curious creature fend for themselves and you do likewise. Otherwise, they'll steal you blind in the blink of an eye. No kidding. Especially squirrels, mice, and the most notorious nocturnal bandits of the inner canyon––ringtail cats.

Cautionary Hiking Advice For Novices And Experts Alike: Considering the following information "salient stuff" before venturing into the canyon. The following information is not intended to scare the proverbial pants off of you, so much as it is common sense advice that makes any hiking adventure more routine, that is, in the sense of safety awareness. Thus I will play the role of a medic and advise you, like all other visitors, to bring water and snacks on all canyon outings above the rim or below. Why? Because this is truly high country and well over a mile-high in the atmosphere; this part of northern Arizona is also typically dry. Therefore dehydration and a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues (a condition called hypoxia) is typical. Additionally, headaches and dry mouths plague many visitors. The body reacts to such conditions and being grouchy is a sure symptom they’re not drinking enough water. Who wants a grouch along on a tour, you know?

The cure is to drink copious amounts of water. Why the snacks, both salty and sweet? It helps maintain electrolyte balance (thus staving off the serious effects of hyponatremia). While I’m handing out this supportive advice, you might also consider taking a pair of binoculars on the tour, which is especially ideal for zooming in on the far-off sights.

Hiking into the Grand Canyon's terrain is also arguably more difficult for most people, due to the facts the feet and toes take the brunt of exercise, as do the knees, quads (quadriceps), and hips. Hiking up the trail requires muscles in the lower extremities do get a workout, however, it’s the lungs working against gained altitude and the same steepness that tends to wear some folks out. Here’s a tip: a slow and steady pace works best. Going faster than you’re used to breathing under the load of exercise is what tires out hikers. So don’t! I mean, hike out at a clip. Take short resting intervals and avoid longer resting spells. Why? Because muscles tend to cool down and then it’s like starting over once you hit the trail. We also have a quaint saying here: Hikers who sit down (too often) tend to stay down. Resting’s okay, mind you, but not  too long. Use common sense as a guideline. Each hiker also has to figure how much or little to tackle at any one time.

Next, and despite the availability of watering holes along some trails (when water’s available), the recommendation is to always carry at least 2 liters of water, plus snacks (of course). For hotter months, the more water you drink (and snacks to eat), the more comfortable the ride, as it were.

Medical Advice…Just In Case: When hiking in the canyon you really want and need to be aware of common ailments that could turn serious, and in some cases, lethal. For example, a medical condition known as hyponatremia. It’s a long word for hikers who experience an electrolyte imbalance. In short, sodium concentration in the serum (blood plasma) is lower than normal. Another way to think about it is how an excess body water entails diluting the serum sodium. Simply not good! A sure sign something’s awry with your body, and caused by dehydration, is an old fashioned cephalalgia. That’s a fancy word for headache. I mention this because those who do understand the benefit of drinking water when a headache comes on, especially at higher elevation levels, tend to drink and not eat.

By the way, do not confuse any of the above with hypoxia, which denotes a pathological condition that deprives an adequate oxygen supply. Sure, hypoxia, in its most general sense, is a threat to people who ascend to high altitude, thus causing altitude sickness. Even if some of you are flat-landers coming from much lower elevations, being on either rim is not a threat to one’s health. I mean, there’s really no need to worry about the danger of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE, as it’s commonly called), or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Consider this little additional talk on health sound medical advice and nothing more. I also think it’s better to be forewarned than not informed about such stuff, don’t you agree?

Now let's go for a hike, either virtual or something you really will be doing one of these days (when you visit the great Grand Canyon).

(Arranged alphabetically)

Duly, Truly Take Note: Except for the two "highway" trails, Kaibab and Bright Angel, always check at the Backcountry Office whether or not the campgrounds along the way have compost toilets and potable water sources as well as ammo cans for storing food. Most trails do not (as yet) offer such backcountry amenities, in which case you must dig your own pit toilets (for hard stuff only; but pack out your used paper), treat your own water (preferably with a water filter and not just iodine tablets), and protect your food as best you can—not always easy given the first and third points. Amen and A-women!


(SOUTH) BASS TRAIL: Hiking level 5. 4,448 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 6.9 miles to Colorado River (hereafter, "CR"). Water at CR only. Use Havasupai Point quadrangle map (all maps mentioned herein are 15 minute versions as opposed to the smaller 75 minute topos).

BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL: Hiking level 3. 4,460 vertical feet elevation drop each way (to the river). 9.5 miles to Bright Angel Campground (hereafter, CG) at Phantom Ranch. Water at Indian Garden (also a popular CG—4.5 miles) and Bright Angel CG; also seasonally at 1.5 toilet and rest house and the 3.0 rest house. Use Bright Angel quad map. Both the Indian Garden and the Bright Angel CG provide picnic tables, racks to hang packs, and ammo cans as well as other CG amenities. This popular trail, like the Kaibab Trail, accommodates mules to and from Phantom Ranch as well as to Plateau Point. It is therefore a tad smelly from the passing mule trains (uh, stool trains, do you think?) as it is busy with day hiking or overnight backpacking traffic. There are lots of world travelers on these trails, so don't always expect someone knows the rules of the trail as you know (or are learning) them. Compassion is sometimes the key; never aggression given the manners of some of the trail neophytes.

BRIGHT ANGEL — NORTH KAIBAB TRAILS (RIM-TO-RIM; seasonal only): Hiking level 5. 4,460 vertical feet elevation drop to Phantom Ranch and 5,850 vertical feet elevation gain back up to North Rim. Count on hiking 9.5 miles to Bright Angel CG; 7 miles to Cottonwood CG; 7 miles to North Rim. Water at Indian Garden; Bright Angel CG; Cottonwood CG; Roaring Springs (2.1 miles north of Cottonwood CG); and the Supai Tunnel  with compost toilet (about 2 miles below the North Rim). When using the South and North Kaibab Trail, subtract a few miles.

BOUCHER (pronounced "boo-shay") TRAIL: Hiking level 7. 4,315 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 10.8 miles to the Colorado River. Water at Dripping Springs, Boucher Creek, and CR. Use Bright Angel quad. The Boucher Trail is a typical backcountry trail which is distinguished from a highway in that these trails are not maintained, there is seldom water, all are moderate to difficult, and (hurrah) there's no mule trains to put up with.

GRANDVIEW to HORSESHOE MESA TRAIL: Hiking level 4. 2,474 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 3 miles. No water, except off the east arm of Horseshoe Mesa at J.T. Springs below Redwall Formation). Use Grandview Point and Vishnu Temple quad. This popular backcountry trail is for Day or overnight hiking. There is an additional 932 foot drop to Tonto Platform below the mesa (via Cottonwood Creek on the west side). From the Grandview Trail it is possible to see all points east or west along the Tonto Platform. See "Transcanyon" routes below for more information.

HANCE TRAIL: Level 8. 4,382 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 8 miles. Water at CR only. Use Grandview Point and Vishnu Temple quad. Note: There is also the Old Hance Trail, a really scary route that Captain Hance used in his day, including taking tourist guests to his primitive camp below. I have hiked it twice and do not recommend trying to find its route. It is, again, just too darn hairy to mess with. The 'New' Hance is tricky enough and will provide hikers with an adrenaline rush (in places).

HAVASUPAI (pronounced "hav-a-soo-pie") TRAIL (to HAVASU INDIAN VILLAGE): Hiking level 3.1,905 vertical feet elevation drop each way (to Supai Village). 8 miles to village; 11 miles to CG; 14 miles to Beaver Falls (below Mooney Falls and the main campground); 18 miles to CR. Use Supai, Kanab Point, and Tuckup Canyon quads. Water source at Supai Village and CG. Do not use the creek water due to its travertine (limy mud) makeup.

HERMIT TRAIL: Level 5 or 6, depending. 4240 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 9.3 miles to CR. Water sources: Santa Maria Springs, Hermit Creek and CR. Use Bright Angel quad (15 minute) or Grand Canyon (7.5 minute).

Note: There is water at Santa Marie Springs (2.5 miles from trailhead), Hermit Creek (7.8 miles), and CR (9.3 miles). Use Bright Angel quad. It is also possible to do a day hike 2 miles along the Waldon Trail to the Hermit Trail junction (1,400 vertical foot elevation drop each way); or hike 3 miles to Dripping Springs from the Hermit Trailhead. Santa Marie Springs is also an ideal day hike from the top of the Hermit Trail.

(SOUTH) KAIBAB (pronounced "ki-bob") TRAIL: Level 3. 4780 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 6.7 miles to the Bright Angel CG. Water at the Bright Angel CG only. Compost toilets at Cedar Ridge (1.5 miles) and the Tipoff (which is just above the Inner Gorge). Minimal shade on trail especially during the hot season; there is also no water. Use Bright Angel quad.

TANNER TRAIL: Level 6. 4,660 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 10.4 miles to CR. Water at CR only. Use Vishnu Temple quad. Note: This is a rather lengthy trail and may be tricky for some to find the route through the Redwall. However, P & P always pays off (persistence and patience) scouting the route through this rougher section.


The Tonto Platform (no shade trans-canyon) is approximately 70 miles. It cuts across sundry side canyon drainages from east to west or vice versa. These are the designated locations and campgrounds along the way. Water is scarce down there, except in designated campgrounds, where some of the sites offer compost toilets. You will find this kind of valuable information when you inquire about your backcountry permit to use such places. Oh, and if you think the Tonto Platform is level and easy to negotiate (as seen from above), give that idea up for Lent and for all times. It's not. Instead, the Tonto is an undulating piece of topography that sometimes climbs many hundreds of feet to cross saddles and ridge lines, and there are sometimes steep and gnarly drainages (such as Grapevine Canyon) to cross. Sometimes it seems as though you could jump across the two sides of a drainage, it's that close. Fact is, most of the Tonto follows along prehistoric game and Indian trails, and nearly all of them will take you close to the South Rim's walls in order to get around the drainage. Keep in mind not all of the drainages offer a direct access to the Colorado River; very few do, in fact. This is the other kind of canyon information you should learn when considering hiking along the Tonto Platform.

Reliable water sources for trans-canyon hiking can be found at: Boucher, Hermit, Monument, Indian Garden, Pipe, Grapevine, and Hance Creeks; also, J.T. Springs on the east side of the Grandview Trail below the Redwall. Seasonal water may be found at: Garnet, Ruby, Turquoise, Slate, Salt, and Cottonwood Creeks. Access to the Colorado River is limited. Best access points are via Bass and Serpentine Canyons, Boucher and Hermit campground, Bright Angel and Kaibab Trails, Red Canyon (Hance Trail), and from the Tanner Trail. Give each of these trail destinations (at least) a plus 5 rating; more if your mileage is longer on any consecutive hike across the platform.

    • Red Canyon to South Bass Canyon: 107 miles
    • Red Canyon to Garnet Canyon: 95 miles.
    • Tanner Canyon to Red Canyon 10 miles.
    • Red Canyon to Hance Creek: 4.5 miles
    • New Hance Trail to Grandview Trail: 9.9 miles
    • Grandview Trail (Horseshoe Mesa) to South Kaibab Trail: 21.3 miles
    • Hance Creek to Cottonwood Canyon: 3.5 miles
    • Cottonwood Canyon to South Kaibab Trail: 18 miles
    • South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Trail: 4.5 miles
    • Bright Angel Trail to Horn Creek: 2.5 miles
    • Bright Angel Trail to Salt Creek: 7.3 miles
    • Bright Angel Trail to Cedar Springs: 9.4 miles
    • Bright Angel Trail to Monument Creek: 10.7 miles
    • Bright Angel Trail to Granite Rapids: 12.3 miles
    • Bright Angel Trail to Hermit Creek (CG): 12 miles
    • Hermit Creek (CG) to Bass Canyon: 35.7 miles
    • Hermit Creek to Boucher Trail: 6.3 miles
    • Boucher Creek to Slate Canyon: 4.5 miles
    • Slate Canyon to head of Agate Canyon: 4.5 miles
    • Agate Canyon to Sapphire Canyon: 2 miles
    • Sapphire Canyon to Turquoise Canyon: 2.72 miles
    • Turquoise Canyon to Jasper Canyon: 2.4 miles
    • Jasper Canyon to Jade Canyon: 0.73 mile
    • Jade Canyon to Ruby Canyon: 2.69 miles
    • 1.54 miles Ruby Canyon to Quartz Canyon: 1.54 miles
    • 1.93 Quartz Canyon to Emerald Canyon: 1.93 miles
    • Emerald Canyon to Serpentine Canyon: 1.37 miles
    • Serpentine Canyon to Bass Canyon: 3.81 miles


BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL to INDIAN GARDEN or PLATEAU POINT: 4.5 miles one way; 6.0 miles to Plateau Point (one way). Moderate hiking level (comparatively speaking)

GRANDVIEW TRAIL to HORSESHOE MESA: 3 miles one way. Somewhat strenuous hiking level.

HERMIT'S REST (from Grand Canyon Village): 7 miles one way along the rim. During the tourist season the road is closed to traffic and transportation on the Red Route free shuttle buses operate from before dawn to sunset. Much of the route is paved and both hikers and bicyclists make use of the paved highway leading to Hermit's Rest (snacks, books and curios available).

SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL to CEDAR RIDGE: 1.5 miles one way. Moderate hiking level (comparatively speaking).

TRAIL OF TIME: This is a paved rim trail that begins near the El Tovar Hotel and ends at Yavapai Point (2.8 miles). There are displays along the way and it is said this is one of the best educational trails in the entire NPS inventory. Hiking level: easy and suitable for wheelchairs and walkers.

• WALDRON TRAIL: 2 miles Waldon Trailhead (Horsethief Tank) to Hermits Trail. 1,020 foot vertical drop in elevation. No water. Located 6 miles from Grand Canyon Village. Access via Rowe Well Road. 4-wheel drive or high clearance vehicles recommended. Use Bright Angel quad. Moderate hiking level.

(Arranged alphabetically)

Duly And Truly Note This, Too: The good news for hiking in the North Rim country is there are many more perennial streams and water sources than there are on the (shorter) South Rim side. The bad news is there are frequent objective hazards along the way, including steeper inclines and much longer trails. (The average distance from rim to river on the South Rim trails is 9 miles; on the North Rim it's around 15 miles.) KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS! Compared to the South Rim Trails (said to be a romp in the park), the North Rim trails are therefore more arduous as the backcountry is more remote, and in places, it is difficult to find routes.

(NORTH) BASS TRAIL (a/k/a/ SHINUMO TRAIL and WHITE TRAIL): Level 6+. 5,317 vertical feet elevation drop each way.14 miles. Water at white creek below Coconino on east side of Muav Saddle; also, Shinumo Creek and CR. Use Powell Plateau quad. Make sure you scout the route in more nebulous sections. The trail is discernible though nonetheless requires orientation skills with a compass and topo map.

CLEAR CREEK TRAIL (FROM PHANTOM RANCH): Level 4. 9 miles to CG. Water at Clear Creek. Rising and falling topography along the way. Trailhead begins .3 miles north of Phantom Ranch. Use Bright Angel and Vishnu Temple quad.

(NORTH ) KAIBAB to PHANTOM RANCH TRAIL: Level 4.7. 5,816 vertical feet drop in elevation. 14.2 miles. (Trailhead to Supai Tunnel 2 miles; to Roaring Springs 4.7 miles; to Cottonwood CG 6.8 miles; to Bright Angel CG 14.2 miles). Water at the Supai Tunnel (also compost toilets); Roaring Springs: Cottonwood CG (also has picnic tables; ammo cans); and Bright Angel CG (with picnic tables, racks to hang packs, and ammo cans). Ribbon Falls is a must see side tour just 1 mile from Cottonwood CG. Use Bright Angel quad.

NANKOWEAP TRAIL: Level 7. 5,974 vertical feet each way. 14 miles. Water at Nankoweap Creek and CR. Use Nankoweap quad. (Some scary overhangs on this trail and folks who are not comfortable with exposed ledges and such may want to rethink taking this trail.

POWELL SADDLE TRAIL: Level 3. 1,795 vertical feet each way. Approximately 5 miles. Water source below east side of Muav Saddle near base of Coconino at head of White Creek. Use Powell Plateau quad. Note: There are beaucoup archeological sites on this plateau, and I have heard there are more sites concentrated here than anywhere in the park.

THUNDER RIVER and BILL HALL TRAIL: Level 7. 5,251 vertical feet elevation drop each way. 15 miles via Thunder River to CR; 12 miles via Bill hall to CR. Water at Thunder River, Tapeats Creek, CR, and Deer Creek. Powell Plateau and Kanab Point quad. One of the most popular loop trails in the Canyon (i.e., via Deer Creek and back to the top).


BRIGHT ANGEL POINT TRAIL: a leisurely 10 minute or so walk off the veranda of Bright Angel Lodge. Great for most people even if they're in okay shape.

CAPE ROYAL TRAIL and CLIFF SPRINGS TRAIL: Easy hike. 0.5 miles to Angel's Window and the tip of Cape Royal. The 1 mile Cliff Spring Trail begins opposite the Angel's Window Overlook and ends at Cliff Springs. Moderate hiking at best.

KEN PATRICK TRAIL (to POINT IMPERIAL): Level 4. 12 miles.Trail starts on the east side of the North Kaibab Trail parking lot and goes to Point Imperial. It contours to the west slope of the Roaring Springs drainage. 3.5 out from the start where the old Bright Angel Trailhead is encountered. From there you head toward the Cape Royal Road. No water on the trail.

POWELL SADDLE TRAIL:  Level 4. 5 miles one way to Dutton Canyon. 1,795 foot drop in elevation each way. Water below east side of Muav Saddle near base of Coconino at head of White Creek. Use Powell Plateau quad. Good day hike out to Powell Plateau from Swamp Point.

SADDLE MOUNTAIN to POINT IMPERIAL TRAIL: Easy hike. 3 miles to the Point Imperial Trailhead. No water. Starts in the cul-de-sac of the Nankoweap Trailhead located at the end of USFS Road 610. Turnoff to Road 610 is located 1 mile south of the Kaibab Lodge on the North Rim entrance road (and 4 miles north of the park entrance). 15 miles on Road 610 to road's end. Once there, head south until you're on the old fire road that contours the rim for approximately 3 miles to Point Imperial.

UNCLE JIM TRAIL: Level 3 hike. 5 mile loop trail. Start at the North Rim entrance road 2 miles north of the Grand Canyon Lodge and begin on the east end of the North Kaibab Trail parking lot. First mile of this trail is also the Ken Patrick Trail, and it skirts the rim of Roaring Springs Canyon. Turn right at the junction marked "Old Kaibab Trail and Uncle Jim Point." At about 1/4 mile there is another junction where you take the left through the woods to Uncle Jim Point or else go to the right which continues to skirt the rim of Roaring Springs.

WIDFORSS TRAIL: Level 3 hike. 10 mile round trip with starting point located one mile north of the North Rim CG. Then turn left on the dirt road adjacent to the North Kaibab parking lot. 1/4 mile to the trailhead located on the north side of the road. No water. Skirts the Transcept Trail, one of the largest tributary gorges of Bright Angel Canyon.

TRANSCEPT TRAIL: Easy hike. 1.5 miles. Starts at the North Rim CG and ends at the Grand Canyon Lodge. No water.


Compared to the opposing Tonto Platform Trail on the South Rim, the North Rim poses far more obstacles and hardships to the hiker. You have to have good route finding abilities for all of these trails and you have to know the Canyon well before attempting any of these trails. For this reason I give these trails at least a Level 6 rating, and in some cases a 7 or an 8. Your backcountry skills will be sorely tested when you try out this North Rim trans-canyon terrain. Promise.

Nankoweap Trailhead to the Butte Fault Trail: approximately 11 miles. Camping at large (wherever you want). Water in Nankoweap Creek. Use Nankoweap quad.

Nankoweap Creek to Colorado River via Butte Fault Trail, East Fork of Carbon Creek, and Lava Canyon: 6,700 vertical feet elevation drop each way; 15 to 20 miles. Water at N. Creek and CR; Kwagunt Creek; Sixty Mile Creek; east fork Carbon Creek, and Lava Canyon. Use Nankoweap and Vishnu Temple quads. Note: Tough-ass hike. There's no other way to put it.

Unkar Creek to East End of North Tonto Plateau: approximately 4 miles with 2,000 vertical feet elevation gain. Camping at large. Water at CR only. Use Vishnu Temple quad. Another toughie to find and get to, though well worth the time and effort.

The Tabernacle to Clear Creek via North Tonto Platform: allow 2 days minimum hiking time. Ambiguous routing alternatives much of the way. Use Vishnu Temple and Bright Angel quads. Water at Clear Creek and CR. Note: If you take this trail, you are mighty, indeed! Just make sure you come back feeling that way. Alive!

Clear Creek to Phantom Ranch via the Clear Creek Trail: 9 miles. Water in Clear Creek and Phantom Ranch. Use Bright Angel quad.

Phantom Ranch to Crystal Rapids via Utah Flats and the North Tonto: Allow 2 days hiking time. Camping at large. Water at Phantom Ranch and Crystal Creek. Use Bright Angel quad. Note: Some folks consider this hike a verifiable death march! You tell me (if and when you take it).

Crystal Creek to Tuna Creek via the North Side of the CR: approximately 1.5 to 2 miles. Very arduous, but short. Use Bright Angel and Havasupai Point quads. Water at Crystal Creek and CR. Note: Another 'monster' hike, but well worth the time and effort for those having the 'rite stuff!'

Tuna Creek to the North Bass Trail via North Tonto: Allow two days hiking. Camping at large. Water at CR. Use Havasupai Point quad. (See remarks above, as in "ditto.")

Bass Rapids to Muav Saddle via North Bass Trail: 14 miles. 5,317 vertical-foot elevation gain. Camping at large. Water at CR, Shinumo Creek, and White Creek below east side of Muav Saddle. Use Powell Plateau quad. Note: Another one of those North Rim trails that will try and test the hiker(s) on it, though the terrain in this part of the canyon is to die for. Ooops, not the right expression I was looking for!

Muav Saddle to Thunder River Trail via Saddle Canyon and Tapeats Creek: Allow 2 days for hiking. Camping at large (above Tapeats Narrows and Tapeats CG below). Water at Muav Saddle Springs, Tapeats Creek, and Thunder River. Use Powell Plateau quad. Note: Just pay attention to the cairns and such and the trail is fairly discernible. The operative phrase here is, to say it again, PAY ATTENTION!

Thunder River to North Rim (to Monument Point) via Bill Hall Trail: 9 miles.

And there you have it DKos community, both North and South Rims. These trails of inner canyon terrain will guarantee to test your physical and emotional stamina and most hikers say the effort is worth every step. Some hikers even returned to the upper rim country “transformed” in subtle and sure ways, where each experience is different for each hiker.

So, are you ready to pick a trail and do some hiking? Remember to get your permits first and do watch out for those critters down in the Canyon, because they sure as heck are going to be looking out for you, which is really all about them when you get right down to it.

Happy, healthy, safe and adventurous  trails wherever you roam and wander. Just make it safe and fun while hiking inside the Grand Canyon and be sure to pack your trash out with you, leaving only your footprints behind.

If you are interested in backcountry trails, then by all means learn how to study and master a topographical map. You really can't do without one in the Grand Canyon, so never leave home without a topo in your daypack or backpack.

Next time, hike with this fellah. . .he seems never to run out of canyon info, jokes and humor and such (though he has often been told to 'keep his day job' given the latter fringe benefits)!

And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour. There will be other scenic places to tour and more supplemental topics to read and think about, so stay tuned for a continuation in this series.

As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.


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Note: If commenting on an older diary, please send an email to my profile account and I am sure to respond in a timely manner. Although all the diary material is extrapolated from a larger copyrighted main source (my own works-in-progress) feel free to “liberate” given anything that I have posted thus far. That being said, kindly site the original source. Gracias.

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Originally posted to richholtzin on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 11:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks, Phoenix Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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