Top 5 Backpacking Trips in Grand Canyon

Spend a week or a weekend on these wilderness routes.
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1. Escalante Route

Hiker on the Grandview Trail

This 33-mile end-to-end trek descends from rim to river on the Tanner Trail and exits on the Grandview Trail. In between, you'll negotiate an obstacle course of 15 spectacular miles that includes peering 1,000 feet straight down into the river from Unkar Overlook, scrambling through a slot canyon, traversing steep talus slopes, climbing up a 35-foot wall, climbing down a 150-tall rock slide and hiking across undulating meadows. While the days are demanding on the Escalante Route, the camping is cushy (at least by Grand Canyon standards). Most nights are spent at riverside campsites with soft sand, abundant water, and the soothing sound of rapids to lull you to sleep.

Recommended 5-Day Itinerary:

Day 1: Descend from South Rim via Tanner Trail to Tanner Rapids campsite

Day 2: Seventyfive mile creek campsite

Day 3: Red Canyon/Hance Rapids campsite (you can hike out here on the New Hance Trail for a shorter trip)

Day 4: East Tonto Trail to Horseshoe Mesa dry camp (fill up with water at Hance Creek)

Day 5: Grandview Trail to South Rim/Grandview Point.

2. Hermit/Tonto/Bright Angel

Santa Maria Spring on Hermit Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Santa Maria Spring on Hermit Trail in the Grand Canyon. 

The 25-mile route going down the Hermit Trail, across the Tonto Trail, and up the Bright Angel Trail, is a Grand Canyon classic. Unlike the straight up and down rim-to-river routes in the park, nearly half of this multi-day trek is on the relatively flat Tonto Plateau the mezzanine level of the Grand Canyon that looks out onto stunning views of North Rim stone temples and the snaking Colorado River.

Recommended 4-Day Itinerary:

Day 1: Descend from Hermits Rest down Hermit Trail to Hermit Creek campground

Day 2: Hermit Creek to Monument Creek camp (easy day with 3.5 miles of hiking)

Day 3: From Monument take Tonto Trail to Bright Angel Trail and camp at Indian Garden

Day 4: Indian Garden to Bright Angel Trailhead. Note: Reliable water is at Hermit, Monument and Indian Garden; do not drink heavily mineralized water from Horn or Salt Creeks.

3. Grandview/Tonto/Bright Angel

Hiker on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon

Hiker on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon

Be prepared for high mileage hiking along with the big views on this 35-mile Tonto Trail-centered route. Descend from the South Rim's Grandview Point off the lip of Horseshoe Mesa to Cottonwood Creek, then head west across the Tonto Trail to Grapevine Creek and Lonetree Canyon. Continue on the Tonto to the intersection with Bright Angel Trail and camp your final night at Indian Garden.

Recommended 5-Day Itinerary:

Day 1: Grandview Trail to Cottonwood Creek camp (4.5 miles)

Day 2: Hike on Tonto Trail from Cottonwood to Grapevine Canyon (5.5 miles)

Day 3: Grapevine to Lonetree Canyon (8.7 miles)

Day 4: Lonetree to Bright Angel Trail and Indian Garden campground (10 miles)

Day 5: Indian Garden to Bright Angel Trailhead (4.5 miles). Hike in early spring or late fall when temperatures on the Tonto are mild.

4. Horseshoe Mesa Circuit

Horseshoe Mesa from Grandview Point in the Grand Canyon.

Horseshoe Mesa from Grandview Point in the Grand Canyon. 

If you only have a couple of days, this 2-night, 16-mile circumnavigation of Horseshoe Mesa hooks up the Grandview Trail with Cottonwood and Hance Creek. In addition to the panoramic views from Horseshoe Mesa, hikers can enjoy reliable water and creek-side camping.

Recommended 3-Day Itinerary:

Day 1: Grandview to Hance Creek via Miner's Spring Trail (6.5 miles)

Day 2: Follow Tonto from Hance Creek to Cottonwood Creek (5 miles)

Day 3: climb back up to Horseshoe Mesa and hike out to Grandview Trailhead (4.5 miles)

5. South Kaibab/Bright Angel

Hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

This 18-mile route is an excellent introduction to Grand Canyon backpacking and experiencing the natural wonder from rim to river. 

Recommended 3-Day Itinerary:

Day 1: South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel campground next to Phantom Ranch (8.5 miles)

Day 2: Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden (5 miles)

Day 3: Indian Garden to Bright Angel Trailhead (4.8 miles). If you have the time, budget an extra day at the bottom of the canyon to enjoy the scenery and allow tired legs to recover.

Featured Backpacking Guide: Wildland Trekking

Disconnect from your busy life, carry everything you need on your back and experience one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with Wildland Trekking's expert guides. Choose from backpacking trips, horse-supported trips, basecamp hiking tours, inn-based hiking tours, and day hike tours. All Grand Canyon hikes are all-inclusive with local transportation, meals, gear, permits, and professional guides. For more information:


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