Grand Canyon is among the world's most famed hiking destinations, yet many of the park's 6 million visitors never venture off the pavement to really discover why. The road along South Rim makes sightseeing easy from the car or shuttle, and the dusty switchbacks that descend below the rim are rightfully intimidating, deterring many would-be hikers. However, the park really does offer something for everyone if you know where to look. Even a short trip down a trail can quickly escape the crowds, and doing so is the only way to really experience its vastness and natural beauty.
Here is a list of the 10 best day hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, organized by difficulty for both the South and North Rims.
Of the park's two main regions, South Rim is by far the most visited because it is more easily accessible and open year round. Views from the rim are incredible, but there are fewer options for easy and moderate hikes than on the North Rim.
- Rim Trail: This is the only trail that stays above the rim, so it is the easiest hiking option, and much of its length is even ADA accessible. It links all the major overlooks near Grand Canyon Village and along Hermit Road, but it departs from the road in many places, where you can find a slice of the canyon all to yourself.
- Bright Angel Trail: The most popular route below the rim, Bright Angel features rock tunnels and sweeping switchbacks down a dramatic fault line in the canyon wall. It eventually reaches the river, but day hikers can travel a short distance down and back up.
- South Kaibab Trail: This hike is more difficult than Bright Angel Trail, but it deals more dramatic scenery in a shorter distance. It also descends to the river, but various out-and-back options make rewarding options for intrepid day hikes
- Dripping Springs: The hike to Drippings Springs via the Hermit Trail is a bit more rugged than Bright Angel or South Kaibab, but it offers a manageable and rewarding day hike in a less-traveled corner of the canyon.
- Grandview Trail: This narrow trail offers some of the best scenery on the South Rim, especially if you take it all the way to the tip of Horseshoe Mesa in the middle of the canyon. Even a short hike down and back earns unique views, however.
The canyon's other side receives far less visitors, but it actually has the most and best options for day hikes along the rim. Because of its higher elevation and colder temperatures, the North Rim is only open May through October, so take the chance to get here when you can.
- Bright Angel Point: This is a short, easy, and spectacular trail near the visitor center and Grand Canyon Lodge. A paved path leads out to a spit of rock for 360-degree views of the canyon and North Rim.
- Cliff Springs Trail: An easy trip into a side canyon reveals Native American ruins and pictographs left over from the canyon's original inhabitants. You will see the natural spring that they used for water and also earn a view into the main canyon.
- Cape Final Trail: A pleasant stroll through the forest on mostly flat terrain leads to an absolutely stunning view across the widest part of the Grand Canyon.
- Widforss Trail: A spectacular route with varied scenery, the first mile winds along the rim and grants great views, then ducks into quiet pine and aspen woodland for a few more miles before emerging at a broad vista on the canyon's edge.
- North Kaibab Trail: The premier trail of the North Rim, this trail descends all the way to the river in the bottom and reveals some of the national park's most unique scenery on the way down. Highlights include a rock tunnel, stacked switchbacks, a steel-cut cliff traverse, and the waterfalls of the canyon's largest spring. Day hikes of any distance down and back are difficult but worth every step.
Note: The Grand Canyon is a place of extreme terrain and weather, presenting many challenges unique to this landscape that may surprise even seasoned hikers. Proper planning and preparation are essential to an adventure of any length here. See our article How to Hike the Grand Canyon: Tips for beginners and experts.