The wonders of the Canyon reveal themselves best to those who enter its depths. Just remember that the Inner Canyon is a wilderness area, subject to temperature extremes, flash floods, rockslides, and other natural hazards. You can have a successful trip in the Canyon only by taking enough food, water, and other supplies.

Always carry—and drink—water. All too often people will walk merrily down a trail without a canteen, and then suffer terribly on the climb out. Only the Bright Angel and North Kaibab trails have sources of treated water. In summer, carry one quart or liter of water for each hour of hiking; half a quart per hour should be enough in the cooler months. Electrolyte-replacement drinks may be helpful too.

Canyon trails offer little shade—you'll probably need a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Footgear should have good traction for the steep trails; lightweight boots work well. During winter and early spring, instep crampons—metal plates with small spikes—greatly improve footing on icy trails at the higher elevations. Rain gear will keep you dry during rainstorms; ponchos, on the other hand, provide poor protection against wind-driven rain. Be careful when rock-scrambling—soft and fractured rocks dominate in the Canyon. Don't swim in the Colorado River—its cold waters and swift currents are simply too dangerous.


Backcountry areas of the Grand Canyon have been divided into zones to give hikers an idea of what conditions to expect.

Corridor Zone trails receive regular maintenance and have signs, emergency phones, toilets, and easy trailhead access. They're the best choice for first-time visitors, because someone will likely be around in case of difficulty. Drinking water is available at some places along the way, but ask before relying on them. Because water sources may be hours apart, you should still carry water. Camping is permitted only in established campgrounds.

Threshold Zone areas receive less maintenance and have fewer signs; you'll need to know where sources of water are and purify it before drinking. The more heavily used areas have designated camping sites. Most trailheads are reached by dirt roads.

Primitive Zone hiking requires route-finding and Canyon experience, because you'll see only the occasional sign. The long distances between water make this zone best in autumn through spring. Trails and routes receive no maintenance—you could encounter difficult or hazardous conditions. Some trailheads require a 4WD vehicle.

Wild Zone routes should be tackled only by highly experienced Canyon hikers who can find their way on indistinct or non-existent routes. Water may be unavailable or scarce, so this zone is best suited for the cooler months.


Rangers are the best source of up-to-the-minute information for trails and permit procedures. On the South Rim, the Backcountry Information Center at Maswik Transportation Center is open 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m. daily all year. Staff answer the Backcountry Information Line (928/638-7875) Mon.–Fri. 1–5 p.m. except holidays. The North Rim Backcountry Office is open 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m. daily May 15–late October, weather permitting. Bookstores in the park sell hiking guides and topo maps. Also see the Suggested Reading at the back of this book.
    You'll need a permit for all overnight camping trips in the backcountry, but not for day hikes or stays at Phantom Ranch. Permits can be requested from the Backcountry Information Center in person, by mail (P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023), or by fax (928/638-2125). Ask for the Trip Planner, which includes regulations, a map, and a permit request form, or obtain the information over the Internet at
    Each permit costs a nonrefundable $10 plus $5 per person per night. If you plan on doing a lot of trips, the 12-month Frequent Hiker membership of $25 will let you purchase permits for just the $5 per person per night. The park limits the number of campers in each section of the Canyon to provide visitors with a quality wilderness experience and to protect the land from overuse. Try to submit your choices early, especially for holidays and the popular months of March to May. Requests are accepted up to four months in advance, starting with the first day of the month of that four-month period. Small groups—less than six people—have a greater chance of getting a permit; 11 is the maximum group size.
    Permits can sometimes be obtained from rangers on duty at Tuweep, Meadview, and Lees Ferry Ranger Stations. However, these rangers are often hard to find because their patrol duties have priority. Pipe Spring National Monument can issue last-minute permits for some areas if space is available. Do not depend on obtaining a permit on a walk-in basis.
    If you arrive without a permit, show up at the Backcountry Information Center by 8 a.m. to find out what's available or to get on a waiting list. If you're flexible and have extra days, there's a good chance of getting into the Canyon.

Other Areas
Not all of the Grand Canyon lies within the park. Contact the Havasupai to hike Havasu Canyon, famous for its waterfalls, travertine pools, and blue-green waters. The Hualapai have the only road access to the bottom of the Grand Canyon via Diamond Creek with some day-hike possibilities. Many remote canyons, trailheads, and awesome viewpoints of the North Rim lie on lands of the Kaibab National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.


  • In summer, it's well worthwhile to hit the trail at first light, before 7 a.m. at the latest—or start after 4 p.m.; a lightweight flashlight provides the option of hiking after dark.

  • Water and sun protection will come in handy even on short hikes, as the grand scenery will try to draw you in farther than you'd planned!

  • Keep your body humming with frequent water and food (carbohydrate) breaks. All water and no food can lead to water intoxication—a dangerous condition caused by low electrolytes.

  • Rangers recommend one gallon of water for an eight-hour hike in hot weather.

  • Drinking water before you get thirsty will prevent the 10-20 percent loss of efficiency caused by even slight dehydration.

  • If it's hot, try soaking your clothing in water for refreshing coolness.

  • An easy pace allows the body to function more efficiently and feel better.

  • Kicking back and putting your legs up for a five-to-seven-minute break once or twice an hour will refresh your leg muscles.

  • It's best to ignore that temptation to try a rim-to-river-to-rim hike unless you're sure you can do it AND the weather is cool.

  • The Canyon Rule is to allow one-third of the time and energy on the descent and the rest for the climb back up.

  • Wind and rain can cause hypothermia even in summer, so raingear can save the day year-round.

  • Traveling light increases the fun; food and water should be the heaviest items. You might be able to replace a heavy tent with a tarp and ground sheet, a heavy sleeping bag with a lightweight blanket, and the Walkman with sounds of the Canyon.

  • Rangers will be happy to advise you on your trip plans and possible difficulties that may lie ahead.


National Park Service rangers recommend that first-time visitors try one of the trails in the Corridor Zone to get the feel of Canyon hiking. These trails are wide and well signed. Rangers and other hikers will be close by in case of problems.
    Camping along Corridor trails is restricted to established sites at Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood. Mice and other small varmints at these campgrounds have voracious appetites for campers' food—keep yours in the steel boxes provided or risk losing it.

Bright Angel Trail
*Distance: 9.3 miles one way
*Duration: 5–6 hours down, 7–8 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,460 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: just west of Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village
    Havasupai used this route from the South Rim to reach their fields and the spring at Indian Garden. Prospectors widened the trail in 1890, later extending it to the Colorado River. Now it's the best-graded and most popular trail into the Canyon. Resthouses 1.5 and 3 miles below the rim contain emergency telephones and usually offer water from May 1 to September 30. Pipeline breaks commonly occur, so it's best to check that water is available by asking at the Visitor Center or Backcountry Information Center. One-way distances from the top are 4.6 miles to Indian Garden (campground, water, and ranger station), 7.7 miles to the Colorado River, 9.3 miles to Bright Angel Creek (campground, water, ranger station), and 9.6 miles to Phantom Ranch.

South Kaibab Trail
*Distance: 6.8 miles one way
*Duration: 4–5 hours down, 6–8 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,860 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: Yaki Point, 4.5 miles east of Grand Canyon Village, reached by shuttle
Hikers enjoy sweeping views up and down the Canyon on this trail. From the trailhead, the South Kaibab drops steeply, following Cedar Ridge toward the river and Bright Angel Creek. There's an emergency telephone at the Tipoff, 4.4 miles below the rim, where the trail begins to descend into the Inner Gorge.
    Lack of shade and water and the steep grade make this trail especially difficult in summer. Only very strong hikers can make it all the way from rim to river and back in one day, and they're likely to find the trip grueling. During summer, however, this is dangerous for anyone and strongly discouraged.

River Trail
*Distance: 1.7 miles one way
*Duration: one hour each way
*Elevation Change: nearly level
*Rating: Easy
*Trailhead: bottoms of the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails
    This short connector trail parallels the river's south shore in the twisted rocks of the Inner Gorge. Two suspension bridges cross the Colorado River toward Bright Angel Creek.

North Kaibab Trail
*Distance: 14.2 miles one way
*Duration: 8–9 hours down, 10–12 hours up
*Elevation Change: 5,850 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: two miles north of Grand Canyon Lodge
    Few other Canyon trails compare in the number of interesting side trips and variety of scenery. Hikers on this trail start in the cool forests of the North Rim, descend through the woods into Roaring Springs Canyon, then follow rushing Bright Angel Creek all the way to the Colorado River. Snows close the road from October, November, or December until mid-May, but you can reach the lower end of the North Kaibab at Bright Angel Campground year-round from the South Rim. A long section of trail between the North Rim and Roaring Springs has been cut into sheer cliffs; waterfalls cascade over the rock face in spring and after rains. You can take a break at the picnic area near Roaring Springs, 4.7 miles and 3,050 feet below the North Rim; water is available from May to September.
    Cottonwood Campground, 6.8 miles below the rim, is a good stopping point for the night or a base for day trips—it has a ranger station and, from May to September, water; winter campers must obtain and purify water from the creek. Ribbon Falls pours into a miniature paradise of travertine and lush greenery, nestled in a side canyon 1.5 miles from Cottonwood Campground. The Transept, a canyon just upstream and across the creek, offers good exploring too.
    From Cottonwood Campground, the North Kaibab Trail continues downstream along Bright Angel Creek, entering the dark contorted schists and other rocks of the ancient Vishnu Group. Near the bottom you'll walk through Phantom Ranch, then Bright Angel Campground. Although strong hikers can descend the trail in one day, this isn't recommended; you'll enjoy the trail's attractions far more if spread out over two days. Climbing out should definitely be attempted only over two days. Anglers often meet with success in pulling rainbow trout from Bright Angel Creek, especially in winter.

Phantom Ranch
Rustic buildings along Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the Canyon offer dormitory beds ($27), cabins ($74 d, $11 each extra person up to 4), meals ($12.64 breakfast, $7.94 box lunch, $17.62 stew dinner, $28.14 steak dinner), drinks, snacks, and souvenirs. Mule rides include cabins, while hikers normally stay in a dormitory, separate for men and women. You must make reservations for accommodations and meals with transportation desks in the lodges or contact Xanterra South Rim (6312 S. Fiddlers Green Circle, Suite 600N, Greenwood Village, CO 80111, 888/297-2757 or 303/297-2757 advance reservations up to 23 months, 928/638-2631 same-day reservations, fax 303/297-3175, or online at Reservations can be difficult to get, but you can make them up to 23 months in advance. Be careful not to miss a meal—no refunds are given! If you'd rather not carry your pack, mules are available for $53.80 each way (30-pound limit).


Trails and routes in these zones lead to some beautiful corners of the park, offering solitude and new Canyon perspectives. Hikers here must be self-reliant—know where water sources are, how to use map and compass, and how to handle emergencies. Most trails follow prehistoric Indian routes or game trails that miners improved in the late 1800s. Conditions vary widely; some trails are in excellent condition, while others are dangerous or require careful map reading. Hermit and Grandview get some maintenance, and other trails may receive attention. Hermit Trail, Hermit and Granite Rapids, Horseshoe Mesa, and parts of the Tonto Trail have designated camping areas, which you're required to use.
    The Canyon offers thousands of possible routes for the experienced hiker. Harvey Butchart, master of Canyon off-trail hiking, describes many routes in his book Grand Canyon Treks. Staff at the Backcountry Information Center will suggest interesting routes as well, and they'll give you an idea of current conditions. You'll no doubt come up with route ideas of your own while hiking through the Canyon and studying maps.
    Just keep in mind that much of the Canyon's exposed rock is soft or fractured—a handhold or foothold can easily break off. The Colorado River presents a major barrier, as the water is too cold, wide, and full of treacherous currents to swim.
    The following trails and routes are listed from west to east.

Tonto Trail
*Distance: 92 miles one way
*Duration: Hikers rarely attempt the entire trail but use it as a connector for loop trips.
*Elevation Change: minimal
*Rating: Easy to Strenuous
*Trailhead: East end is accessed from bottom of New Hance Trail; west end from six miles down South Bass Trail.
    Canyon views change continually along this trail as it contours along the Tonto Platform, winding in and out of countless canyons and sometimes revealing spectacular panoramas from the edge of the Inner Gorge. The Tonto connects most of the trails below the South Rim between the mouth of Red Canyon at Hance Rapid and Garnet Canyon far downstream. Average elevation on the gently rolling trail is 3,000 feet. You might lose it occasionally, but with attention to rock cairns and the map, you'll soon find it again. The sun bears down relentlessly in summer, when it's best to hike elsewhere.

South Bass Trail
*Distance: 8 miles one way
*Duration: 5 hours down, 9 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,400 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: four miles north of Pasture Wash Ranger Station
    William Bass learned about this route from the Havasupai in the 1880s, then used it to start a small tourist operation. Bass also built a trail up to the North Rim, crossing the river by boat and later by a cage suspended from a cable. No crossing exists today. The South Bass Trail is generally in good condition and easy to follow. It drops to the Esplanade, a broad terrace, then down to the river, the first reliable source of water. You'll need a high-clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead; ask at the Backcountry Information Center for directions. Havasupai may charge a fee for crossing a bit of their land on the way to the trailhead.

Boucher Trail
*Distance: 10 miles one way from Hermit Trailhead to Boucher Creek
*Duration: 7–8 hours down, 9–10 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,300 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: Hermit Trailhead, eight miles west of Grand Canyon Village
    Louis Boucher, the Hermit, came to the Canyon in 1891 and mined copper along the creek that bears his name until 1912. Steep terrain and rockslides can make the trail difficult—it's best for experienced hikers with light packs. Take Hermit and Dripping Springs Trails to Boucher Trail, which contours along the base of the Hermit Shale, high above the west side of Hermit Canyon with excellent views. You'll reach Tonto Trail just before Boucher Creek. The route down the creek to Boucher Rapid on the Colorado River is an easy 1.5 miles. The Boucher, Tonto, and Hermit Trails make a fine three- or four-day loop hike. Boucher and Hermit Creeks have water year-round.

Hermit Trail
*Distance: 8.5 miles one way to Hermit Rapid
*Duration: 5–6 hours down, 8–10 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,300 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: Hermit Trailhead, 8 miles west of Grand Canyon Village
    Built for tourists in 1912 by the Santa Fe Railroad, most of Hermit Trail is in good condition; the few places covered by rockslides can be easily crossed. The trail begins just beyond Hermits Rest, at the end of Hermit Road. Water is available at Santa Maria Spring (2.5 miles one way) and Hermit Creek (seven miles one way). A sign on the Tonto Trail points the way down to Hermit Creek, which you can follow for an easy 1.5 miles to Hermit Rapid on the Colorado River. Rangers recommend that you not attempt the entire rim-to-river distance in one day. Backpackers may drive their own vehicle to the trailhead, even during the shuttle season.
    Hermit Trail also connects with Waldron, Dripping Springs, and Tonto Trails. The 22.5-mile Hermit Loop hike, which follows the Hermit, Tonto, and Bright Angel Trails, is quite popular. You can find water on this loop year-round at Monument Creek and Indian Garden. Hikers can easily walk down the bed of Monument Creek to Granite Rapid, 1.5 miles one way.

Grandview Trail
*Distance: 3 miles one way
*Duration: 2–3 hours down, 4–6 up
*Elevation Change: 2,500 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: Grandview Point
    Day-hikers frequently use this steep but scenic trail to Horseshoe Mesa from Grandview Point; see the description in "Desert View Drive." Three trails descend from Horseshoe Mesa to the Tonto Trail. A loop hike down to the Tonto Trail via Cottonwood Creek, east on the Tonto, then up via Miners Spring is a 13-mile, 3–4-day trip.

New Hance Trail
*Distance: 8 miles one way
*Duration: 6 hours down, 8–9 up
*Elevation Change: 4,400 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: off Desert View Drive, one mile southwest of the Moran Point turnoff
    John Hance, one of the first prospectors to take up the tourist business, built this trail down Red Canyon in 1895. Suited for more experienced hikers, the trail—with poor footing in places—descends steeply to the river at Hance Rapid. Most of the trail is easy to follow, especially when you're descending. No reliable water is available before the river. Obtain directions from a ranger for the unsigned trailhead.

Escalante Route
*Distance: 15 miles one way
*Duration: two days each way
*Elevation Change: 120 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailheads: bottoms of New Hance and Tanner Trails
    The Tonto Trail's east end gives out at Hance Rapid, but you can continue upstream to Tanner Rapid and the Tanner Trail. Cairns mark the way, but expect rough terrain and a difficult time finding the route in some sections. The Colorado River, easily accessible only at the ends of the route, provides the only reliable source of water. The route is somewhat easier to hike in the downstream direction, Tanner to Hance.

Tanner Trail
*Distance: 10 miles one way
*Duration: 5–7 hours down, 8–10 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,700 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: Lipan Point, off Desert View Drive
    Seth Tanner improved this Indian trail in the 1880s to reach his copper and silver mines along the Colorado River. Although in good condition and easy to follow, the Tanner Trail is long and dry. It should be attempted only in the cooler months. Hikers often cache water partway down for the return trip.

Beamer Trail
*Distance: 9 miles one way
*Duration: one day each way
*Elevation Change: minimal
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: bottom of Tanner Trail
    This slim path begins at Tanner Canyon Rapid and follows the river four miles upstream to Palisades Creek, a good camping spot, then climbs to a high terrace for the remaining five miles to the Little Colorado River confluence. No camping is allowed within a half mile of the confluence.


Whitmore Wash Trail
*Distance: 0.75 mile one way
*Duration: half hour down, one hour up
*Elevation Change: 850 feet
*Rating: Moderate
*Trailhead: Follow County 5 and other dirt roads on the Arizona Strip from Toroweap, Fredonia, Colorado City, or St. George to the four-way intersection at Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse, turn south 1.8 miles on BLM Road 257, then bear left 21.7 miles on BLM Road 1045 to its end.
    Although little known or used, this trail offers the park's easiest hike from trailhead to river. The trick is in reaching the trailhead! You'll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle and lots of time. The last 7.5 miles are rough, as the road crosses lava flows from Mt. Emma. This lava acts as a ramp for the road to descend deep into the Grand Canyon. The trail appears to drop off the rim where the road ends, but that's not the real trailhead. Instead, climb up above the barbed-wire fence to the trail.
    The trail switchbacks, then skirts the base of a massive cliff of columnar basalt before ending on a sandy beach. Remnants of ancient lava dams can be seen on both sides of the river. A small trail near the bottom leads a half mile downstream to Whitmore Rapid and lower Whitmore Canyon, which you can explore for about a half mile upstream.

Lava Falls Route
*Distance: 1.5 miles one way
*Duration: 2 hours down, 3–6 hours up
*Elevation Change: 2,500 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: From Toroweap Overlook, backtrack on the road 2.8 miles and look for a dirt track on the left (3.5 miles south of Tuweep Ranger Station); follow it 2.5 miles across normally dry Toroweap Lake and around the west side of Vulcans Throne. The route is too rough for cars and impassable for any vehicle when the lake contains water.
    Cairns mark the way down a lunarlike landscape of volcanic lava. Although the route is short, it's considered difficult because of steep grades and poor footing. Summer temperatures get dangerously hot—elevation at the river is only 1,700 feet. Adventurous hikers will find it a good challenge in the cooler months. Bring more water than you think you'll need.
    From the trailhead, the route descends to a hill of red cinders about two-thirds of the way down; the last part of the descent follows a steep gully. Barrel cacti thrive on the dark, twisted rock. The Colorado River explodes in a fury of foam and waves at Lava Falls, 0.3 mile downstream. Camping is allowed along the river with a permit.

Tuckup Trail
*Distance: more than 60 miles one way
*Duration: up to you
*Elevation Change: minimal
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: just east of the Toroweap Overlook road, 4.7 miles south of the ranger station and 1.6 miles north of the overlook.
    Experienced Canyon hikers looking for solitude and expansive vistas can try this faint trail. It follows the Esplanade of the North Rim between the Toroweap Point area and 150 Mile Canyon. Back roads lead to trailheads near these two areas and to upper Tuckup Canyon, about the halfway point on the trail.
    You can wander off on a variety of jaunts in this remote area. Hikers have followed the Tuckup Trail to Cottonwood Canyon, descended Cottonwood and Tuckup Canyons to the Colorado River (rope needed), hiked the shore downstream to Lava Falls Route, and climbed back up to Toroweap in a week or so of travel. Springs of varying reliability may provide water along the Tuckup Trail. Talk with rangers knowledgeable about the area for trailhead, spring, and hiking conditions.

Bill Hall and Thunder River Trails
*Distance: 12.5 miles one way from Bill Hall Trailhead to Tapeats Rapid
*Duration: 7 hours down to Tapeats Creek, 9 hours down to Tapeats Rapid, nearly double that up
*Elevation Change: 5,050 feet to Tapeats Rapid
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: Two trails descend from the North Rim: Thunder River Trail from the end of Forest Road 232 (just past Indian Hollow Campground) and Bill Hall Trail from the east side of Monument Point at the end of Forest Road 292A. The Bill Hall Trail saves five miles of walking but the steep grade can be slippery and hard on the knees. Reach the trailheads by turning west on Forest Road 22 from AZ 67 in De Motte Park, 0.8 mile south of the North Rim Store and 17.5 miles north of Bright Angel Point; consult a Kaibab National Forest map (North Kaibab Ranger District). It's about 35 miles of dirt road and an hour and a half from AZ 67 to either trailhead. Cars can negotiate the roads in good weather, but winter snows bury this high country from about mid-November to mid-May.
    Thunder River and Bill Hall Trails both drop to the Esplanade, where they meet. The Esplanade could be used for dry camping, and you may wish to cache some water here for the climb back out. Thunder River Trail then switchbacks down to Surprise Valley, a giant piece of the rim that long ago slumped thousands of feet to its present position. The valley turns into an oven in summer and lacks water; it's about eight miles from the Bill Hall Trailhead.
    In another 1.5 miles, Thunder River Trail goes east across Surprise Valley and drops to the wonderfully cool and shaded oasis at Thunder River, your first source of water. The water blasts out of a cave in the Muav Limestone, cascades a half mile, then enters Tapeats Creek. It's not only the world's shortest river but suffers the humiliation of being a tributary to a creek!
    The trail follows the river the half mile to Tapeats Creek, which, except at high water, can be followed 2.5 miles upstream to its source in a cave. The Colorado River is a 2.5-mile hike downstream along Tapeats Creek from Thunder River. If the creek runs too deep to cross, you can stay on a west-side trail all the way to the Colorado. Cottonwood trees, willows, and other cool greenery grace the banks of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek. Upper Tapeats Campsite is just below the Thunder River-Tapeats Creek confluence; Lower Tapeats Campsite lies downstream near the Colorado River. Good fishing attracts anglers to Tapeats Creek and perhaps did long ago—prehistoric Cohonina left ruins here.

Bill Hall, Thunder River, and Deer Creek Trails
*Distance: 11 miles one way to the Colorado River at Deer Creek Falls
*Duration: 8 hours down to the Colorado River at Deer Creek Falls; nearly double that up
*Elevation Change: 5,100 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: See Bill Hall and Thunder River description above.
    Deer Creek Trail, marked by a large cairn in Surprise Valley, splits off to the west from Thunder River Trail and drops about 1.5 miles to Deer Creek (Dutton) Spring, another cave system from which a waterfall gushes. You can hike up to the falls for a closer look or take the path that goes higher and behind the falls. The creekside trail winds down one mile past some remarkable Tapeats narrows to Deer Creek Falls, which plummets more than 100 feet onto the banks of the Colorado River. The last bit of trail drops to the base of Deer Creek Falls; watch out for poison ivy on this section. Campsites lie along Deer Creek between Deer Creek Springs and the head of the narrows. Deer Creek Springs, 9.5 miles in, is the first water source.

North Bass Trail
*Distance: 14 miles one way
*Duration: 8–10 hours down, nearly double that up
*Elevation Change: 5,300 feet
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailhead: With a high-clearance vehicle you can reach the trailhead at Swamp Point from AZ 67 in DeMotte Park via Forest Roads 22, 270, 223, 268, 268B, and Swamp Point Road. You'll need the current Kaibab Forest map, as old ones may not show these roads correctly. The drive from DeMotte Park to Swamp Point takes nearly two hours due to the roughness of Swamp Point Road.
    Best suited for experienced hikers, this long and faint trail drops from Swamp Point on the North Rim to Muav Saddle, where there's a 1925 National Park Service cabin. The trail makes a sharp left toward Muav Springs, drops steeply to White Creek in Muav Canyon, follows a long bypass to a safe descent through the Redwall Limestone, winds down White Creek to Shinumo Creek, continues to Bass Camp, then cuts over a ridge to the left and drops down to a beach on the Colorado River. The trail reaches the Colorado about 0.3 mile below where the South Bass Trail comes down on the other side. A waterfall blocks travel down Shinumo Creek just before the river, which is why the trail climbs over the ridge. The Muav and Shinumo drainages create their own canyon worlds—you're not really exposed to the Grand Canyon until you climb the ridge near trail's end.
    Once at the Colorado River via the main trail, you can loop back to Bass Camp on another trail; it begins at the downstream end of the beach and crosses over to lower Shinumo Creek, which you can then follow upstream back to Bass Camp and the North Bass Trail. Many routes off the North Bass Trail invite exploration, such as the Redwall Narrows of White Creek above the trail junction, Shinumo Creek drainage above White Creek, and Burro Canyon.
    Muav Saddle Springs offers water just off the trail. White Creek has intermittent water above and below the Redwall. Shinumo Creek's abundant flow supports some small trout. Shinumo can be difficult to cross in spring and after summer storms; at other times you can hop across on rocks.

Powell Plateau Trail
*Distance: 1.5 miles one way
*Duration: 1.5 hours each way
*Elevation Change: 100 feet
*Rating: Moderate
*Trailhead: Swamp Point; see North Bass Trail above
    A good trail from Swamp Point connects this isolated "island" that lies within the vast reaches of the Grand Canyon. Once part of the North Rim, the plateau has been completely severed from the rim by erosion except for the Muav Saddle connection. The trail drops 800 feet to Muav Saddle on the North Bass Trail, then continues straight across the saddle and up 900 feet on another set of switchbacks to a ponderosa pine forest on the Powell Plateau. Here the trail fades out. Many places on the seven-mile-long plateau offer outstanding views. Travel is cross-country, so you'll need a map and compass; expect to do some bushwhacking.
    The easiest viewpoint to reach lies to the northwest; just follow the north edge of the plateau (no trail) to a large rock cairn about one mile from where the trail from Swamp Point tops out on the plateau. Dutton Point, one of Major Powell's favorites, lies on the southeast edge of the plateau; hike along the east rim to reach it. You can camp on the Powell Plateau with a backcountry permit; all water must be carried in from the trailhead or Muav Saddle Springs.

Clear Creek Trail
*Distance: 9 miles one way
*Duration: 5 hours each way
*Elevation Change: 1,100 feet
*Rating: Strenuous
*Trailhead: 0.3 mile north of Phantom Ranch
    This trail is the North Rim's counterpart of the Tonto Trail. Clear Creek Trail climbs 1,500 feet to the Tonto Platform, which it follows—winding in and out of canyons—until dropping at the last possible place into Clear Creek. Carry water—there's no source before Clear Creek—and be prepared for very hot weather in summer. The best camping sites lie scattered among the cottonwood trees where the trail meets the creek.
    Day-hikers enjoy the first mile or so of Clear Creek Trail for its scenic views of the river and Inner Gorge. Once you arrive at Clear Creek, it's well worth spending a day or two for exploration the area. The route to Cheyava Falls, the highest waterfall in the Canyon, takes six to eight hours roundtrip up the long northeast fork of Clear Creek. Cheyava Falls puts on an impressive show only in spring and after heavy rains. Other arms of the creek offer good hiking as well. The canyon that branches east about a half mile downstream from the end of Clear Creek Trail cuts through a narrow canyon of quartzite. You can also walk along Clear Creek to the Colorado River, a five- to seven-hour roundtrip hike through contorted granite and schist. The 10-foot-high waterfall a half mile from the river is bypassed by clambering around to the right.

Nankoweap Trail
*Distance: 14 miles one way
*Duration: 8–9 hours down, 12–14 hours up
*Elevation Change: 4,800 feet from Saddle Mountain saddle, 6,000 feet from the upper trailhead, 4,000 feet from the lower trailhead
*Rating: Very Strenuous
*Trailheads: The Nankoweap Trail actually begins at Saddle Mountain saddle (2.4 raven-flying miles northeast of Point Imperial) in the Saddle Mountain Wilderness. To get here, start at either end of Saddle Mountain/Nankoweap Trail #57. You can hike three miles one way from the lower trailhead at the south end of House Rock Buffalo Ranch Road 8910 (south from US 89A) or 2.7 miles one way from near the end of Forest Road 610 (east off AZ 67). Both access roads are dirt, passable by cars in dry weather, but House Rock Buffalo Ranch Road 8910 lies 2,000 feet lower at an elevation of 6,800 feet, and it's less likely to be snowed in.
    If you're experienced at Canyon hiking, and if you don't mind tiptoeing on the brink of sheer cliffs, this trail will open up a large section of the park for your exploration. The Nankoweap Trail drops several hundred feet from Saddle Mountain saddle, then contours along a ledge all the way to Tilted Mesa before descending to Nankoweap Creek. Care in route finding is needed between Tilted Mesa and the creek. Nankoweap Creek, 10 miles from the trailhead, is the first source of water; you may want to cache water partway down to drink on your return. The remaining four miles to the river is easy. Allow at least four days for a roundtrip journey.


The inspiration for a non-motorized trail across the entire state from Mexico to Utah came to Flagstaff teacher and hiker Dale Shewalter in the mid-1980s. Now his vision nears completion, thanks to government agencies and volunteers who have worked hard to make the 800-mile trail a reality.

The trail offers great hiking or riding opportunities, whether you're looking for a day's outing or a major adventure. It traverses some of the state's most scenic, historic, and biologically diverse areas and is open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians—but not to motorized vehicles. Elevations range from a low of 1,700 feet at the Gila River to 9,600 feet in the San Francisco Peaks. In winter, cross-country skiers and snowshoers can take to the snow on some sections. Cyclists have alternate routes where needed to bypass the Grand Canyon and other wilderness areas that are closed to them.

If you want to travel the whole distance, a spring departure works well because you can enjoy the cooler weather of the desert sections in the state's south and central regions, then hit ideal summer weather atop the plateaus in the north. You can follow progress of the trail—and find out how you can volunteer—by contacting the Arizona Trail Association (P.O. Box 36736, Phoenix, AZ 85067-6736, 602/252-4794,

At the south end, the trail begins on the Mexican border in Coronado National Memorial, winds north to Montezuma Pass, then climbs into the Huachuca Mountains and Miller Peak Wilderness via the Crest Trail. The route drops down to the Parker Canyon Lake area and runs through the Canelo Hills to near Patagonia. It continues north through the Santa Rita, Rincon, Santa Catalina, and Superstition Mountains before descending to Roosevelt Lake near Tonto National Monument. The trail crosses Roosevelt Dam, then winds up into the Mazatzal Mountains in the heart of Arizona.

The sheer cliffs of the Mogollon Rim mark the next major climb, then the trail crosses East Clear Creek, Anderson Mesa, and upper Walnut Canyon. Here the trail heads for the mountains again, this time to volcanic Mt. Elden and the San Francisco Peaks—Arizona's highest. The Arizona Trail skirts the Peaks before turning northwest toward Grandview Lookout and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After crossing this great chasm, the trail skirts the Canyon's east rim with views across Marble Canyon and beyond. The trail crosses AZ 89A about two miles east of Jacob Lake, then continues north 12 miles through the forest to the Utah border and trail's end.

Cyclists can take forest roads around most of the wilderness areas, but they will have to do some highway stretches, too, most notably around the Grand Canyon via Navajo Bridge near Lees Ferry.

On to River Running Through the Grand Canyon

On to the North Rim