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So you want to hike the Grand Canyon? Do you think 12 miles in the desert heat sounds like a fun challenge? By all means, hike your heart away but please listen to these tips for surviving the Grand Canyon that I learned while hiking the Bright Angel Trail.

***Please note these are basic tips and NOT safety tips. Please talk to the Ranger and do ALL your research before hiking the Grand Canyon. It is not an easy hike and people can die or be injured from hiking unprepared. Some of this is written in humor and not meant to deflect from the tough terrian and difficulty of the Canyon hikes.***

Water is your Best Friend

I mean it kids, make sure and stay hydrated while out in the Grand Canyon. Keeping hydrated should be your number one priority. When choosing a hike, make sure and go to the Visitor Center first. Find out which water stations are turned on. If you are lucky they will all be functioning which on the Bright Angel Trail meant a water station every 1.5 miles. Personally, I just brought a refillable Camelbak 16oz bottle and it was perfect. However, another great option is the Hydro flask which is heavier but keeps your water colder.

A Camelbak bladder is also an option that will allow you to carry more water with you the entire time and is great especially if all of the water pumps are not on.

How to Survive the Grand Canyon- Trail in Arizona
The Desert trail had no end

What to wear hiking the Grand Canyon

I know that desert heat may be making you lean towards some skimpy shorts and a tank but don’t forget those heat rays will cause an epic burn if you don’t watch out. I personally wore yoga Capri’s with a light workout tank with a cotton jacket. It came in handy for that early morning hike when it was chilly and it felt great to soak it in water to cover up my burning shoulders. Another great option is a shirt with SPF protection. There are many great options and one of the top rated is the Columbia button up sun shirt. Shawn has one and I am super jealous and often steal it from him.

Surviving the Grand Canyon
Vanessa all bundled up in the early morning

Packing snacks for the Grand Canyon

If the world was in an apocalypse you would want to join my friend Vanessa and I as we are chronic snack over packers. Anytime we go on a hike you would think we were hiking Everest. However, when hiking back up the Canyon in the heat of the day you will find yourself slowly dwindling and will be happy you packed some energy boosters. Suggestions for snacks are:

  • Peanut Butter Sandwich
  • Granola Bars
  • Almonds
  • Trail Mix

It’s great to have variety so you don’t get sick of eating the same thing when your body really needs the fuel.

Tips for hiking the Grand Canyon

Sun protection in the Grand Canyon

Sunscreen and I are always at odds since I’m not convinced those nasty chemicals don’t always do harm while doing some good. However, when it comes to the desert sun rays and my vampire translucent skin, I’ll take the chemicals until I can come up with a better solution. The last thing you want in the middle of your hike back to the top of that canyon is to start feeling an epic sunburn coming on. Not only do sunburns hurt but they can easily make you sun sick. My personal favorite is SunBum sunscreen. I NEVER burn when I use it AND it great for the environment, it’s a win-win! So pack that SPF 100 and get to moving!

Beginner Tips for hiking the Grand Canyon

Bring a Hat

Sunglasses are great but I promise you nothing will save you from those rays beating down on you quite like a hat. Lucky for me my friend comes dually prepared and had an extra hat for me to wear. I have no idea how I would have survived if she wasn’t so generous! Also maybe don’t wear white in the Grand Canyon, the red dirt will NEVER come out. That goes for your clothes too! My shirt still has a tinge of red! If you don’t already have a great hiking hat, check out these hats from Amazon. They provide SPF 50 and at a low price, you won’t be devastated if they get some red on them!

When to hike the Bright Angel Trail

The best thing you can do when going on a long hike in the Grand Canyon is to start as early as you can bear. We got to the Canyon around 7 am and it made the hike down much more endurable. It also meant we were hiking up around noon so my suggestion is to start as early as 5 am.

beginner tips for hiking the bright angel trail

Go at your own pace

Hiking down is quite a breeze and once you get to the cliff you really feel accomplished and on top of the world. However, that hike back up can really take a toll on you. It’s about 4000 ft back up and you definitely can feel it. If you are going with a partner my best advice is to go at your own pace. Vanessa is a fitness freak and was able to go much faster than I was so she sped to the top. Instead of trying to keep up with her I went at my own speed taking breaks when needed (which was every 100 feet or so at some points).

It’s ok to go slow, it’s better than getting sick!

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail 3
Vanessa ahead of the curve on the downhill and uphill battle

Take tons of pictures

Trust me when I say “You’ll want your camera for this one”. The Canyon was so breathtaking at the bottom of the trail above the red river. We could have stayed there for hours taking pictures. Take your time and take pictures, you earned it!

For more information on the Bright Angel Trail check out the link below

http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/Bright_Angel_Trail.pdf

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9 comments

Reply

Love the sunrise shot!
Not having enough energy bars and water is always an epic fail for me. I cannot count the number of times that I have bonked and gotten the shakes and what not.
Gooood tips!

Reply

Haha Thanks Arnie!! Glad I’m not the only one who gets weak at the knees when I see an uphill climb without the proper fuel in my belly!

Reply

These are great tips! I’m planning on doing this hike in August with a friend and am really looking forward to it! We’ll probably take 2-3 days to do the complete hike, so the more prepared we are, the better. What amazing views and great pictures! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Reply

Oh amazing! Does that mean you are going to camp by Havasu falls? I wanted to hike/camp down there so badly but my friend isn’t into sleeping outside haha

Reply

You SHOULD fill your water pack completely full every chance you get. I recently did a rim to rim to rim hike and you can’t count on having water ever 1.5 miles. People get in trouble from not having enough water especially in hotter months. It’s not worth it to take that chance.

Reply

Rachel, you are right. I personally had a 16oz bottle and it worked for me but everyone is different. I changed what I put and clarified that you should do what works for you and of course always check with the ranger before going on your hike to see what is happening on the trail. Thanks!

Reply

I am planning a rim to rim hike in near future. My great grandfather Rees Griffith is buried at the bottom. I want to spend at least one night at the bottom.

Reply

Wow Tony! That is so very cool. That would be a great trip for many reasons. Do you know when you are going yet?

Reply

Grand Canyon is a magical place! To truly experience it, you should hike to the bottom and stay overnight. If you are not a backpacker, you can stay in cabins at Phantom Ranch…

As far as tips for hiking Grand Canyon, I would add one more thing – heed the rangers advice. They know the canyon! They know when and how people get in trouble! So when they tell you to do something, or not to do something, take it seriously! They do not exaggerate!…

Additionally, if you plan a rim-to-rim hike, research it carefully! Some trails are very demanding, without any water sources – like South Kaibab trail. Others, like Bright Angle, have water spigots every few miles…

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