Grand Canyon National Park Backpacking, Backcountry Camping

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Backcountry Camping

Traveling the backcountry in Grand Canyon National Park can be strenuous, but the views of the canyon’s glorious expanses along the trails more than make up for any effort expended.

What are the best backpacking trails in Grand Canyon National Park?

There are numerous trails where you’ll find some marvelous Grand Canyon backpacking. These are just a few you can enjoy:

South Rim Backpacking Trails

  • South Kaibab Trail
    South Kaibab Trail is a strenuous 6-mile round trip trail just south of Yaki Point that provides amazing views of the Canyon.
  • Grandview Trail
    This strenuous for-experienced-desert-hikers 3-mile hike (or 6.4 miles to Horseshoe Mesa roundtrip) is located at Grandview Point which is half way along East Rim Drive, and looks out over many cliffs and side ravines around the Colorado River.
  • Hermit Trail
    This 8.9-mile-round-trip trail (located about 500 feet west of Hermits Rest) is for experienced desert hikers only due to its very strenuous climb, but is extremely popular due to being one of the most challenging hikes in the park.
  • Bright Angel Trail
    This 8.1-mile hike (located west of Bright Angel Lodge) is rated as strenuous, descending 4,380 feet in elevation to the Colorado River.

North Rim Backpacking Trails

  • Point Imperial Trail
    This easy 4.4-mile trail starts at the parking lot at Point Imperial and takes you through part of the Kaibab forest that is coming back from a wildfire in 2000, with lots of towering pine and aspen skeletons as well as many thriving new species of growth.
  • Uncle Jim Trail
    Here you will find a moderately easy 5-mile trail that begins at the parking lot for the North Kaibab Trail and winds pleasantly through the forest to an overlook of the canyon.
  • North Kaibab Trail
    Distances vary on this very scenic trail, but the ideal backpacking trips are to Roaring Springs, a 9.4-mile round-trip hike that is rated as strenuous or to Ribbon Falls, a 16.8-mile trek that becomes moderately difficult once passing Roaring Springs.
  • Widforss Trail
    You’ll find this moderately difficult 10-mile trail (round trip) one mile down a dirt road at the Widforss Trail parking lot, and you’ll enjoy the hike that takes you through the forest with lovely vistas of the canyon.

Do I need to obtain a backcountry camping permit?

Yes, you will need to obtain a backcountry permit whenever you are going to do some Grand Canyon backcountry camping. You’ll need one for overnight camping at any spot in the park not a developed campground, as well as overnight river, horseback or mule trips. Obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.

  • The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open all year, from 8 am to noon and from 1 pm to 5 pm daily. You can simply walk in to apply any time of year, sometimes getting last minute space with only a one to three-day wait.
  • The same hours apply to the North Rim Backcountry Information Center but it is only open from the middle of May to the middle of October for these hours. Starting in the middle of October until approximately 30 November, this office is open from 9 am to noon and from 1 pm to 4 pm.
  • You can download a backcountry permit application at the Grand Canyon Park website. The number to call for more information is (928) 638-7875 from 1 pm to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

What sort of rules and regulations apply to me in the backcountry?

Hiking in the Grand Canyon can be extremely demanding even for those in the best of condition. Although there are no regulations specifically governing hikers and what they should carry, having adequate water and eating plenty of food are an essential part of success in making your hiking goals.

  • Toilet facilities
    Toilet facilities are few and far between when you are hiking the backcountry, and if there is a toilet available where you are, you are required to use it. When there is no toilet facility available, you must carry out any used toilet paper and bury feces in a hole that is about six inches deep.
  • Trash disposal
    You must carry out all trash to disposal facilities on the rim. When out in the wilderness areas, hang trash in a food sack, and enclose plastic and any aluminum articles in nylon sacks.
  • Let someone know where you are going
    Give someone outside your hiking group your itinerary including your destination within the park and the date you’ll return. When you tell them you’ll contact them when done your trip, be sure you do contact them as promised.
  • Fires
    All campfires must be only in established fire pits and grills. When you smoke, use an ashtray.
  • Wildlife
    There are many wildlife species you will have the pleasure of seeing as you hike and camp in the Grand Canyon. Remember, you are not permitted to approach them or feed them.

Who can I call if I have more questions?

For general visitor information regarding Grand Canyon National Park, you can call (928) 638-7888.