Frequently asked questions
- I’m interested in a multi-day Grand Canyon trip. Which one should I choose?
- When should I begin planning my trip?
- Is a deposit required? What if I need to cancel?
- How difficult are these trips?
- How many people will I be hiking with?
- The listed trip dates won’t work for me. Can I choose custom dates?
- What’s the weather like at Grand Canyon?
- What gear do you provide?
- What should I bring with me?
- What should I wear?
- Should I wear hiking boots? Are running shoes okay?
- Are there restrooms on Grand Canyon trails?
I’m interested in a multi-day Grand Canyon trip. Which one should I choose?
When visitors imagine a trip to Grand Canyon, people tend to expect something along the lines of our Rim-to-River trip. It meets certain basic criteria: scenic views, frequently maintained trails, and a route that visits the bottom of the canyon. But many first-time visitors to Grand Canyon will find it a suitable choice for other reasons as well. Even strong hikers sometimes have difficulty hiking Grand Canyon. The typical rim-to-river itinerary breaks up the return ascent across two days. Barring an infrastructure failure, potable water can be found on tap every day of the trip. This route also provides access to the most developed “facilities.”
Experienced hikers in search of a longer trip to less-developed areas may prefer the Hermit Loop. Most hikers will find the rim-to-river route to be difficult. The Hermit Loop is even more difficult. It follows unmaintained trails for most of its distance, and there are some high-mileage days. The benefits include fantastic views, a trip to an undeveloped beach along the Colorado River, and a true wilderness experience. It’s a local favorite, but it’s not for casual hikers.
Hikers who really want to get off the beaten path may find the Grandview Trail and Horseshoe Mesa area appealing. Unlike other trips, this one doesn’t take you down to the river. Hikers who sign up for a 3- or 4-day trip will face significant exposure (narrow trail, steep drop-offs) below the top of the mesa. Even the upper stretch of trail scares some people. This trip is not for acrophobic hikers. The upside is some truly remote backcountry and some truly beautiful scenery. This is another local favorite.
If you have only two days to spend in the canyon, the abbreviated trip to Horseshoe Mesa is significantly easier than the 3- or 4-day options. There are still some scary sections at the top of the trail, but the total round-trip distance is only 6 miles (not including side trips on top of the mesa). This is best suited for hikers capable of packing in all necessary water, or adventurous hikers who aren’t afraid of higher miles and scary trails: In order to reach any natural water source, visitors must descend below the top of the mesa.
When should I begin planning my trip?
Broadly speaking, hikers will benefit from advance planning. Because permits for popular routes go quickly, it pays off to plan well in advance of your actual trip. Six months lead time is almost always sufficient, although last-minute opportunities will sometimes open up.
Backcountry permits become available on the first of the month four months before the month of your trip departure. For example, if your trip departed on May 15, the National Park Service could issue a permit as early as January 1.
Is a deposit required? What if I need to cancel?
A $150 deposit is required for each person joining the trip. Additional information on booking and cancellation policies can be found here.
How difficult are these trips?
It depends — anywhere from “definitely difficult” to “extremely difficult.” The degree of difficulty varies from person to person, but generally speaking even experienced athletes can find it difficult to hike out of Grand Canyon with a pack on. To give you some perspective: Outside magazine calls the Bright Angel Trail one of the world’s “20 most dangerous trails,” and National Park Service literature describes it as “without question the safest trail in Grand Canyon National Park.”
If you’re out of shape or if you don’t have any recent hiking experience, this may not be the trip for you. The total elevation gain from river to rim is roughly five thousand feet. That’s like taking the stairs from street level to the roof of the Empire State Building, grabbing an elevator back to the ground floor, and repeating the process three more times. You may want to try a day hike instead — those are shorter and easier.
If the elevation gain doesn’t impress you, consider that extremely very deep canyons have very high rims. The South Rim trailheads are roughly 7,000 feet above sea level. The thin air contains about 25% less oxygen than the air at sea level. Being able to hike ten miles at sea level doesn’t guarantee that you can hike ten miles in the Grand Canyon.
How many people will I be hiking with?
The advertised dates for multi-day trips are for mixed groups with a limited number of hikers. Group size through the 2016 season is limited to six guests.
The listed trip dates won’t work for me. Can I choose custom dates?
The listed trip dates are selected to help plan for the season ahead. In addition to the anticipated trip dates, custom departure dates may be available (schedule permitting). Generally, the earlier you inquire about a trip, the better. You can request a custom departure date using the contact form on this page.
What’s the weather like at Grand Canyon?
The National Weather Service forecast for Grand Canyon’s South Rim can be found online. But whether your trip is a few days or a few months out, you’ll want to know about general weather conditions. Hikers should be aware that the temperature increase as you descend into the canyon.
During spring and fall, overnight lows can fall below freezing. The chilly mornings can then be followed by weather warm enough for short sleeves. In late spring and early fall, daytime highs on the rim are frequently warm enough for shorts.
In the wintertime, snow is a common occurrence along Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Some upper sections of trail may be icy. (Canyonology Treks offers microspike traction devices to winter hikers.) Temperatures along the route may be just above freezing.
The National Park Service reports these monthly average temperatures. Detailed weather information can be found at the park website.
Average Temperatures at the South Rim
Average Temperatures in the Inner Canyon
What gear do you provide for multi-day trips?
Canyonology Treks takes care of all the big-ticket items: Packs, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and trekking poles. For clothing and various personal items, we provide a concise packing list. We also handle menu planning and meals in the backcountry.
What should I bring with me?
Guests on multi-day trips are provided with a concise packing list that varies slightly depending on the season. Canyonology Treks provides much of the specialty gear required on the trip. However, there are a couple important pieces of gear that you need to bring: A headlamp, and water bottles with a total capacity of four liters. The packing list contains specifics on clothing, toiletries, and other items.
What should I wear?
First, make sure you refer to the packing list. Second, make sure that everything you pack is appropriate. The short story is that you’ll be dressing in layers appropriate for a variety of conditions, choosing fabrics and apparel that keep you warm or cool as needed.
The longer story: When you hike at Grand Canyon, you want to dress in layers that will leave you prepared for the conditions we’re likely to encounter. Wearing multiple layers allows you to add or remove layers as the weather dictates. Cotton is good for keeping cool, and synthetic fabrics are good for keeping warm.
If you’ve ever gone for a walk on a frosty fall morning, and then removed a jacket when the day warmed up, you already have some experience with what hikers call a “layering system.”
During a day on the trail, the weather might fluctuate more than it does on that crisp fall morning back home. Our layering system should reflect that. Instead of just a shirt and jacket, you might head out with long underwear, a lightweight shirt, a sweater, and a water-repellent jacket.
Below are example layer schemes for different seasons:
Base layer: Moisture-wicking long underwear (synthetic or wool).
Insulation: Long-sleeve shirt (synthetic or wool), warm sweater, and a lightweight but warm, puffy, insulating jacket.
Outer layer: Waterproof shell, gloves, warm hat.
Spring and fall:
Base layer: Moisture-wicking long underwear (synthetic or wool).
Insulation: Shorts or lightweight pants (synthetic or wool). Shirt, light sweater, and lightweight jacket.
Outer layer: Water-resistant shell.
Base layer: Moisture-wicking lightweight long underwear (generally kept in pack unless needed).
Insulation: Shorts. Cotton t-shirt, long-sleeve button-down shirt for sun protection.
Outer layer: Water-resistant shell or a basic poncho (generally kept in pack unless needed).
Pay close attention to the layering scheme for summer. Why in the world would we want long underwear in the summer time? When an isolated storm blows through the canyon and drops a lot of rain in a short time, it’s easy to go from uncomfortably hot to uncomfortably cold. Because it’s there for the sake of preparedness, the summer base layer is usually found in your backpack, not on your body.
Make sure you have the right fabrics for the right reasons. When you’re wet — whether from perspiration or precipitation — that moisture will cool you down. During cold weather, a synthetic or wool base layer moves sweat away from your skin, helping to keep you warm. But in hot weather, when you want to shed body heat, cotton may actually be preferable.
Should I wear hiking boots? Are running shoes okay?
If you don’t already have a good pair of hiking boots, you should purchase a pair and make sure that it works for you. Multi-day trips involve heavier packs and longer distances than day hikes. Running shoes are generally a poor choice for guests on our multi-day trips.
There are two important guidelines for footwear: It should have good tread, and it should be broken in. Boots that grip the trail are desirable for obvious reasons. And hiking straight out of the shoe store into Grand Canyon is a great way to get blisters. It can be fun to purchase brand-new gear before hiking Grand Canyon. But if you do purchase new footwear, take care to make sure it’s broken in.
Are there restrooms on Grand Canyon trails?
The South Kaibab, Bright Angel, Hermit, and Grandview Trails all have restrooms at the trailhead. Of these, only Bright Angel Trail has modern plumbing at the trailhead.
Below the trailhead, the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails both have composting toilets spaced at various intervals. The only “modern” facilities (flush toilets, running water) are at the bottom of the canyon at Bright Angel Campground, near the end of the South Kaibab Trail.
Along the Hermit Loop, extremely rustic facilities (read: a hollow plastic cube with a toilet seat) can be found at the first night’s campsite and at long intervals along the Tonto Trail. The Grandview Trail has extremely basic facilities atop Horseshoe Mesa, and nothing else.