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Grand Canyon hikes can be very challenging, even for experienced hikers. The large elevation changes and different climate and vegetation zones encountered between the rims and the floor of the canyon present very different challenges from other hiking trails, but many people consider the spectacular views to be worth the effort. Grand Canyon hikes range from multi-day treks into and out of the canyon, to short, scenic day routes along the rims. From regularly maintained and staffed trails to remote wilderness paths, hikers of any skill level can find a suitable trail in the Grand Canyon.
A set of three trails known as the Corridor Trails are the most popular routes from the rim to the Colorado River, which flows through the bottom of the canyon. Two of these trails begin at the South Rim of the canyon and one begins from the North Rim. Hikers may choose to hike one trail into and out of the canyon, or one trail in and a different trail out. Either way, a hike to the bottom of the canyon and back is an overnight backpacking trip. Even the most experienced hikers should not attempt such a hike in one day.
The South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails begin at the South Rim. Since the 6.3 mile (10.1 km) South Kaibab trail has little shade and no sources of potable water, the National Park Service recommends that it only be used for hiking into the canyon. The Bright Angel trail is longer at 7.8 miles (12.6 km), but has more shade, three water stations, and a smaller elevation change. Hikers who wish to take advantage of the views afforded by the South Kaibab trail sometimes choose to hike in on this trail, and out on the Bright Angel path.
At 14.2 miles (22.9 km), the North Kaibab trail is the longest of the major trails descending into the canyon. Since it begins at the north side of the canyon, this one, along with the rest of the North Rim, is closed from the first major snowfall of each year through about mid-May due to heavy snow. There is a campground located about halfway along this trail, and the three Corridor Trails share a campground at the canyon bottom.
In addition to the three main trails, which are maintained by the National Park Service, there are numerous unmaintained trails leading into the canyon. These are best used only by experienced Grand Canyon hikers. All overnight hikers, whether they are on maintained or unmaintained trails, must obtain a backcountry permit from the National Park Service. Each year 13,000 permits are issued and often over twice as many are requested, so Grand Canyon hikes must be planned well in advance.
For day hikers, there are many shorter routes available on both rims of the Grand Canyon. These range from easy scenic routes of less than a mile (1.6 km) in length to strenuous 10 mile (16 km) trips descending partway into the canyon. Park rangers offer guided hikes on some day hiking trails, and can also provide detailed information on other Grand Canyon hikes.
To appreciate the full beauty of the Grand Canyon, you really should hike down into the canyon. However, do be prepared and take all the precautions given by the National Park Service. Hiking down into the canyon is grueling on your legs!