Best Grand Canyon day hikes
· · · ·

The 12 Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park – an immense natural wonder of the world that encompasses over 1 million acres of rims, canyons, rivers, plateaus, and vistas.  You could spend days, weeks, even months and not see all this park has to offer!  But few people have that kind of time.  And some are not prepared to delve into the deepest parts of the heart of Grand Canyon on multi-day treks.  So how do you make the most of the time you have at the Grand Canyon?  One thing is for sure – you are going to want to see the top sights. And luckily for you, whether you are hoping to see the lofty rims, stunning canyon panoramas, the mighty Colorado River, or the shady canopy of National Forests, there are a handful of awesome day hikes that will absolutely deliver!  Check out this list of the 12 best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, and get to planning!

 

The best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used! Enjoy this guide to the 12 best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park!

 

 

The 12 Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

 

What not everyone knows is that Grand Canyon National Park is made up of two very different regions: the North Rim and the South Rim.  And these two rims happen to be about 5 hours apart from each other driving.  So when planning your itinerary of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, it is important to consider where your home base will be, what kind of time frame you have, and what day hikes in the Grand Canyon are your top priorities.  For this reason, this list of the 12 best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park is broken into two categories: the best day hikes on the South Rim of Grand Canyon, and the best day hikes on the North Rim of Grand Canyon.

 

What Qualifies as a Day Hike in Grand Canyon National Park?

 

There are plenty of very lengthy hikes in Grand Canyon National Park for sure. And some of these happen to be very popular.  Consider the 28 mile long roundtrip trek on the North Kaibab Trail, or the 19 mile roundtrip trek on the South Rim’s Bright Angel Trail.  Many of the trails in the Grand Canyon, especially the “inner corridor” trails, connect to form popular longer options.

 

What is an inner corridor trail?  Well, there’s 3 of these in the park, and they traverse the top of the rims down to the bottom of the canyon at Bright Angel Campground / Phantom Ranch / the Colorado River.  All 3 of these inner corridor trails connect at the bottom, which means you can hike all the way from one rim to the other straight through, otherwise known as a Rim to Rim hike, one of the absolute toughest hikes in the entire country!  Or you can connect inner corridor trails on one rim only by going down and up the same rim, such as a Rim to River hike on the South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail.  

 

3 Inner Corridor Trails:

  • North Kaibab Trail (North Rim)
  • South Kaibab Trail (South Rim)
  • Bright Angel Trail (South Rim)

 

You may be wondering why I’m talking about some of the longest and hardest hikes in the middle of a post about the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park?  Because thanks to perfectly placed “turn around” spots, these long hikes that are better suited to backpacking overnight in their traditional entirety, can be among some of the best shorter day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, if you know when and where to turn around.  I’ll be getting more into that later.  

 

The bottom line is, there are SO MANY great options for Grand Canyon day hikes.  What you can expect from this list are a handful of hikes that can easily be completed in daylight hours, and a few select day hikes that require a little extra training and preparation, but are great candidates for a more challenging day hike in Grand Canyon National Park. On all longer hikes, I will give hand picked and hand curated options for the best turnaround spots in order to shorten these tougher day hikes as necessary.  

 

Best Grand Canyon day hikes

 

 

Know Before You Go

 

Entrance Fees: $35 per vehicle, good for 7 consecutive days

Hours: the South Rim is open daily year round.  The North Rim closes annually from mid – October through mid – May.  

Permits / Reservations: permits and reservations are only required for camping overnight, not for day hikes in the Grand Canyon.  

Best Time of Year to Hike in the Grand Canyon: Spring through fall are the best times of year to hike on either rim.

Pet Policy: leashed pets are only allowed on a select few hiking trails in Grand Canyon National Park.  Please check the rules for your specific hiking trail prior, and visit the official pet policy of the park.  

Lodging:  there are National Park campgrounds and National Park lodges on both rims, as well as boondocking opportunities in the surrounding Coconino National Forest and Kaibab National Forest.  There’s also plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in the towns surrounding the park, like Tusayan, Williams, Flagstaff, Jacob Lake, Fredonia, and Kanab.  Book early, because lodging fills up fast!

Check Availability for Your Trip HERE!

 

 

Location of Grand Canyon National Park

 

Grand Canyon National Park is located in northern Arizona. It is divided between the North Rim and the South Rim, which are about 5 hours apart driving.  

 

 

Closest Town(s) to Grand Canyon National Park:

  • Tusayan, AZ (South Rim)
  • Williams, AZ (South Rim)
  • Flagstaff, AZ (South Rim)
  • Jacob Lake, AZ (North Rim)
  • Fredonia, AZ (North Rim)
  • Kanab, UT (North Rim)

 

Closest Airport(s) to Grand Canyon National Park:

  • Grand Canyon National Park Airport
  • Flagstaff Pulliam Airport
  • St. George Airport (UT)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

 

 

Map of the 12 Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

 

Below you will see the Google Map locations for all 12 of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, on both the North and South Rims.

 

 

 

The 12 Best Grand Canyon Day Hikes

 

These are the 12 best Grand Canyon day hikes divided between the South Rim and North Rim.

 

 

The 6 Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

 

Countdown the top 6 day hikes in the Grand Canyon’s South Rim:

 

#1: Bright Angel Trail

Location

Length: 19 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Very Difficult

Elevation Gain: 4,478 feet

Bright Angel Trail Elevation Chart
Bright Angel Trail Elevation Chart. Courtesy of AllTrails

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 10 – 12 hours

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed

 

So don’t let that 19 mile number frighten you off of the most popular trail on the South Rim!  The amazing fact is, it is completely possible to hike the entire Bright Angel Trail roundtrip in one day.  To do so requires intentional training, thorough preparation, and all the right hiking gear, but it can be done!  It is also possible to hike what is referred to as a “Rim to River” hike by utilizing both of the South Rim corridor trails, Bright Angel and South Kaibab.  

 

Don’t want to hike the entire Bright Angel Trail?  That’s fine, because there’s a handful of great turnaround spots, making the Bright Angel Trail a perfect choice for a shorter day hike in Grand Canyon National Park.  Here’s how to create a shorter day hike on Bright Angel:

  • Trailhead to 1.5 Mile Resthouse – 3 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to 3 Mile Resthouse – 6 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Havasupai Garden Campground – 9 miles total roundtrip

Past Havasupai Garden Campground, you will basically be committing to the entire trail, including some of the hardest portions, like the Devil’s Corkscrew which is found immediately after Havasupai Garden Campground.  So the 3 options above are the most suitable for a shorter day hike on Bright Angel. 

 

No matter how far you choose to hike on Bright Angel, there are a handful of ideal characteristics.  

  • It is conveniently located in the heart of Grand Canyon Village
  • There is plenty of parking nearby (though it can fill up quickly at peak times)
  • The free park shuttle makes a stop at the Bright Angel Trailhead
  • The trailhead is close to multiple park attractions, like lodges, dining, shopping, and the South Rim Visitor Center.  
  • The trail is easy to follow and well maintained
  • There are multiple water refill stations and bathrooms along the trail (see chart below)

 

Bright Angel Trail overview
One way profile of the Bright Angel Trail

 

The Bright Angel Trail is one of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon
The bottom of the Bright Angel Trail at the Colorado River

 

The Bright Angel Trail is one of the best Grand Canyon day hikes
The top of the Bright Angel Trail just shy of the trailhead

 

 

#2: South Kaibab Trail 

 

Location

Length: 14 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Very Difficult

Elevation Gain: 4,872 feet

South Kaibab Trail Elevation Chart
South Kaibab Trail Elevation Chart. Courtesy of AllTrails

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 10 – 12 hours

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed 

 

There are a lot of similarities between the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail.  Both are inner corridor trails on the South Rim.  In fact, they connect to each other at the bottom of the canyon, making it possible to hike down the South Kaibab Trail to the Bright Angel Trail and then up the South Rim, completing what is known as a Rim to River hike.  

 

Also like the Bright Angel Trail, there are several great turnaround spots if you don’t feel up for the entire 14 miles.  And here’s a secret – these turnaround spots contain better views than on Bright Angel!  Here’s how to create a shorter day hike on the South Kaibab Trail:

  • Trailhead to Ooh Aah Point: 1.8 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Cedar Ridge: 3 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Skeleton Point: 6 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to the Tip Off: 8.8 miles total roundtrip

Again, it is completely possible to hike the entire South Kaibab Trail in one day, although it is not recommended to hike up the trail due to the ZERO water on the trail.  For this reason, those that hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon on South Kaibab often opt to connect to the Bright Angel Trail for hiking back up.  And don’t forget, this route allows you to cross the iconic suspension bridges over the mighty Colorado River, a sight that very few Grand Canyon visitors ever get to witness up close!

 

South Kaibab Trail overview
South Kaibab Trail Overview

 

The South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Views from Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab Trail

 

 

#3: Yavapai Point

 

Location

Roundtrip Length: 1.7 miles out and back

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 82 feet

Yavapai Point Elevation Chart
Yavapai Point Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 30 – 45 minutes

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed 

 

It should be no surprise that there are a handful of incredible scenic viewpoints along the South Rim, and one of the best is Yavapai Point.  This is a conveniently located, paved, easy, short day hike found in the heart of Grand Canyon Village, with jaw – dropping scenery paralleling the South Rim the entire trail.  Expect unmatched views, including glimpses of the Colorado River below, but get there early because this is a popular spot.

 

Top day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

 

 

#4: Rim Trail

 

Location

Length: 12.7 miles roundtrip point to point

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 583 feet

Rim Trail Elevation Chart
Rim Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 5 – 6 hours

Pet Policy: leashed pets are welcome

 

While the Rim Trail is one of the most hiked trails on the South Rim, it is largely used as a “connector” trail to many spots along the South Rim.  It is paved with minimal elevation gain, perfect for families and visitors of all ages and abilities.  And while you can hike the entire Rim Trail to parallel much of the South Rim, you certainly don’t have to.  In fact, most people don’t, instead preferring to “hop on and hop off” the Rim Trail to access the numerous attractions along its path.  This includes several viewpoints, like Mather Point, Hopi Point, and Yavapai Point (see above), as well as easy access to shopping, dining, lodges, studios, museums, and the Visitor Center.  The free park shuttle also makes multiple stops along the Rim Trail.

 

 

#5: Shoshone Point Trail

 

Location

Length: 2.1 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 154 feet

Shoshone Point Elevation Chart
Shoshone Point Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 45 – 60 minutes

Pet Policy: leashed pets are welcome

 

Shoshone Point is another stellar overlook on the South Rim, but this one is slightly more removed from the heart of Grand Canyon Village, which means that there are often slightly less crowds on this trail, versus more centralized overlook trails like Yavapai Point.  And like every trail leading to a canyon overlook, this one doesn’t disappoint.  

 

There are a few extra bonuses to the Shoshone Point Trail – it is leashed pet friendly, and a portion of the trail contains some ponderosa pines, which are much rarer to find on the South Rim!

 

 

#6: Pipe Creek Vista

 

Location

Roundtrip Length: 3 miles out and back

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 127 feet 

Pipe Creek Vista Elevation Chart
Pipe Creek Vista Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 – 1.5 hours

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed

 

Pipe Creek Vista is found on the eastern edge of the South Rim, near its neighbor the South Kaibab Trailhead.  Hikers here are treated to the same beautiful scenery and overlooks, with fewer crowds due to its more “removed” location.  It’s a win win, if you don’t mind traveling just a few more minutes east, either by hiking along the Rim Trail (see above), self driving, or hopping on the free park shuttle.

 

Pipe Creek Vista is paved, easy, and contains minimal elevation gain.  There is also a way to make this hike to Pipe Creek Vista shorter, if preferred. There is parking located directly by Pipe Creek Vista, instead of having to hike to the Vista via the Rim Trail.  This parking lot will show up on Google Maps as “Pipe Creek Vista Parking Lot”, but note that parking is limited here and may fill up quickly, especially during peak times. 

 

 

The 6 Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park North Rim

 

Check out the top 6 day hikes in the Grand Canyon’s North Rim:

 

 

#1: North Kaibab Trail (Shorter Options)

 

Location

Length: 28.2 miles roundtrip out and back (TOTAL – keep reading for shorter options below)

Rating: Very Difficult

Elevation Gain: 6,620 feet

North Kaibab Trail Elevation Chart
North Kaibab Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: recommended overnight or on a Rim to Rim hike

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed

 

The North Kaibab Trail is the North Rim counterpart to the Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail on the South Rim.  The North Kaibab Trail is also one of the 3 inner corridor trails (the only one on the North Rim), which means it connects to the 2 South Rim inner corridor trails at the bottom of the canyon.  UNLIKE the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trails, it is not ideal to day hike the entire North Kaibab Trail roundtrip, due to its total 28 miles.  

 

Instead, the most popular day hiking options are either to hike to shorter turnaround spots on North Kaibab, or connect with one of the South Rim corridor trails (Bright Angel is recommended) for an epic Rim to Rim hike, one of the toughest hikes in the country, but no doubt one of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park.  A Rim to Rim hike allows hikers to experience both the North Rim and South Rim ecosystems and environments, two drastically different but unique regions.  Of course, a 23.5 mile roundtrip Rim to Rim as a day hike is no small feat, and requires following a complete Rim to Rim training plan months in advance. 

 

While I love coaching those intrepid adventurers taking on their first Rim to Rim hike, I get that not everyone has that on their bucket list.  So what are other ways to complete a shorter day hike on the North Kaibab Trail, and experience the best the North Rim has to offer?  Here’s how:

  • Trailhead to Coconino Overlook: 1.4 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Supai Tunnel: 4 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Roaring Springs Day Use Area: 9.4 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Manzanita Rest Area: 10.2 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Cottonwood Campground: 13 miles total roundtrip
  • Trailhead to Ribbon Falls: 15.8 miles total roundtrip

 

Hiking past Cottonwood Campground and/or the Ribbon Falls area basically pushes you past the point of no return for most people and most situations.  At that point, you should either turn around or continue on and complete a full Rim to Rim hike.  Just keep in mind that past Cottonwood Campground is considered the most brutal portion of the North Kaibab Trail, commonly referred to as “the Box”.

 

The Box is not an official landmark, but it is the portion of canyon floor, where the walls converge together and the stifling temperatures climb dangerously high, especially in summer.  It stretches from just past Cottonwood Campground basically until you reach the Colorado River and Bright Angel Campground.  Most people plan to be through the Box by 10 AM, or noon at the absolute latest, in order to avoid the hottest part of the day.  

 

Hiking the North Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park
North Kaibab Trail Overview (one way)

 

The North Kaibab Trail is one of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim
Crossing the Redwall Bridge on the North Kaibab Trail

 

 

#2: Widforss Trail

 

Location

Length: 9.3 miles roundtrip out and back 

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,082 feet

Widforss Trail Elevation Chart
Widforss Trail Elevation Chart. Courtesy of AllTrails

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 3.5 – 5 hours

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed

 

So you want a full day hike, but you don’t necessarily want the struggle of going down into the canyon and having to climb back up?  The Widforss Trail is perfect for you!  It combines all the qualities of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, with the unique characteristics of the North Rim fully on display.  

 

The Widforss Trail is a pleasant combination of forest and canyon.  It starts in a dappled canopy, a unique quality not found in abundance on the South Rim.  As you proceed along this largely flat and gentle trail, you may start to wonder where the canyon views are.  And then – the ponderosa pine groves dramatically part to provide stunning views of the North Rim!  On clear days, you can even see the highest point in Arizona at Humphreys Peak, all the way in Flagstaff!

 

The halfway or turnaround point on this out and back trail is Widforss Point, which offers 360 degree views of North Rim landmarks.  

 

The Widforss Trail is one of the best Grand Canyon day hikes on the North Rim
Taking in the sights from Widforss Point on the North Rim’s Widforss Trail

 

 

#3: Cape Final Trail

 

Location

Roundtrip Length: 4 miles out and back

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 495 feet

Cape Final Elevation Chart
Cape Final Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour and 30 minutes – 2 hours

Pet Policy: Pets are NOT allowed

 

The Cape Final Trail is a perfectly moderate day hike in Grand Canyon National Park, in many ways.  It has just the perfect amount of distance, elevation gain, and scenery to appeal to a wide variety of hikers.  It won’t be over in a few minutes, but it won’t take all day.  And of course, it contains all the views from Cape Final, with fewer crowds than South Rim counterparts.  You can also expect to see a pleasant combination of forest and canyon views on the Cape Final Trail.

 

 

#4: Transept Trail

 

Location

Length: 3.7 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 347 feet

Transept Trail Elevation Chart
Transept Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 1.5 – 2 hours

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed

 

The Transept Trail is another middle of the road day hike in the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.  Middle of the road distance, middle of the road elevation gain, and a less trafficked trail means middle of the road crowds.  There is plenty of foliage on display here, including ponderosa pines and brilliant aspens.  While the canyon views here aren’t as staggering as other trails on this list, the peacefulness of the forest and its importance to the functionality of the North Rim earns it a place.  The Transept Trail is an important “connector” trail on the North Rim.  It connects the North Rim Lodge and the North Rim Visitor Center with the North Rim Campground.  

 

 

#5: Bright Angel Point Trail

 

Location

Roundtrip Length: 0.9 miles out and back

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 144 feet

Bright Angel Point Trail Elevation Chart
Bright Angel Point Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 20 – 30 minutes

Pet Policy: Pets are NOT allowed

 

This is one of the shorter trails on this list of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, but because of the epic views, it easily makes the list.  This one is short and sweet, but shouldn’t be missed.  The convenient location, ease of access, and paved path, make it a winner for all North Rim visitors.  

*The North Rim’s Bright Angel Point Trail should not be confused with the South Rim’s Bright Angel Trail!

 

Bright Angel Point Trail is one of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Point Trail on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim

 

 

#6: Cape Royal Trail

 

Location

Length: 1 mile roundtrip out and back

Rating: Easy 

Elevation Gain: 65 feet

Cape Royal Elevation Chart
Cape Royal Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 20 – 30 minutes

Pet Policy: pets are NOT allowed

 

Rounding out the list of the best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park with another short, sweet hike, just a hair longer than the Bright Angel Point Trail – the Cape Royal Trail.  Much as with the Cape Final Trail (see above), this cape also offers great panoramic views, with a distance and elevation profile that is quite appealing to a large majority of visitors.  

 

 

And there you have it – the complete list and trail descriptions of the best hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, including both the South and North Rims. No matter where you hike in the Grand Canyon, be sure to follow these important tips for staying safe on the trails!

 

 

Tips for Day Hiking in Grand Canyon National Park

 

Despite the plethora of pictures splattered across Instagram and social media, the Grand Canyon in all its glory is not as hospitable as it may always seem.  This is a potentially lethal environment for those that are not prepared, or not respectful, and in order to fully enjoy these best Grand Canyon day hikes to their fullest, you must do so properly prepared!

 

  • ALWAYS have enough water – have a water transportation system able to carry several liters and a backup filter for emergencies
  • ALWAYS research your trail ahead of time – know if there’s water and bathrooms on the trail, know the elevation profile, read reviews, study trail maps, etc.
  • ALWAYS have a route finding tool / navigation tool / downloaded or offline map
  • ALWAYS have a pre-planned itinerary – this park is massive, so having a pre-planned itinerary will help you make the most of your time, and it will help you become more familiar with your intended hikes
  • ALWAYS carry ALL your day hiking gear 
  • ALWAYS use an Emergency Contact Form when hiking – this will help expedite emergency services if necessary. You can leave it in your vehicle console or glove compartment.
  • ALWAYS know your limits – don’t take on a trail you aren’t ready for, physically, time wise, or gear wise
  • ALWAYS train appropriately for tougher day hikes in the Grand Canyon – some of these trails are among the toughest in the country.  You should train months in advance for these (like the Rim to River or Rim to Rim hikes).
  • ALWAYS have plenty of hiking snacks
  • ALWAYS use sun protection – hats, cooling towels, UV shirts, sunscreen, etc.
  • ALWAYS check the weather and park website for updates/alerts before hiking – sometimes water is out along trails or trails are closed, etc.
  • ALWAYS stay on designated trails – seriously, don’t leave the trails ever
  • AlWAYS leave no trace – pack it in, pack it out
  • ALWAYS respect wildlife – don’t feed or approach wildlife
  • ALWAYS stay out of the Colorado River – just don’t!  Read “Death in the Grand Canyon” if you want more proof about why the Colorado River should be viewed only!
  • ALWAYS yield to mule trains – you may encounter these in the inner corridor trails, and if so, give them the right of way

 

The best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park
Always respect wildlife, like this onlooker at Havasupai Garden Campground on the Bright Angel Trail

 

 

Recommended Gear for the Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

 

This is a place to take your gear very seriously.  After all, the Grand Canyon is a potentially lethal environment.  While these are a few key gear items to have before heading out on the best day hikes in the Grand Canyon, it is not meant to be an exhaustive list. For that, check out this sister post on all the essential hiking gear you need for Grand Canyon trails.  And if you are hiking the Rim to Rim hike specifically, this Rim to Rim packing list is for you!

 

Quick Links for Key Items of Grand Canyon Gear

 

  • Environmental Protection:
  • Snacks:
  • Emergency/First Aid Kit:
  • Navigation:

Emergency Shelter:

  • Personal Items:

 

WANT MORE GRAND CANYON STUFF?

 

 

 

 

PIN for LATER!

The best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

 

Best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park

Get Your FREE Hiking Checklist PDF


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *