The Best Grand Canyon South Rim Hikes

Apr 2019

The Grand Canyon – you can’t go wrong, right? When you arrive on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon the trailheads, visitor centers, shops, and other to-do’s can be overwhelming. So before you make the trip, educate yourself about some of the best Grand Canyon South Rim hiking trails. There are a few tried and true trails on the South Rim that you should be familiar with to make sure you find the ideal jaunt for your desired mix of reward and challenge.

1. South Rim Trail

The South Rim trail parallels the South Rim (shocker) and is known as the most accessible and customizable trail in the Grand Canyon. Best of all, 13 miles from South Kaibab to Hermit’s Rest on a mostly paved path means bring the wheelchairs and baby strollers folks, because this piece of the Grand Canyon is for everyone to enjoy! Full wheelchair accessibility begins at Lookout Studio and ends at the South Kaibab trailhead. Of all hikes on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, this trail is the most accessible, so you can expect dense crowds and congestion almost year round, especially during the busy season (spring – fall).

Man and child overlook Grand Canyon at sunrise.

2. South Kaibab Trail

The South Kaibab trailhead is one of the best trails due to its proximity and access to many popular features. The South Kaibab trailhead is located at Yaki Point, just east of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Vehicles are not allowed to park here so you will need to arrive via the park’s free shuttle route. Parking for the South Kaibab trail is best suited at the Bright Angel Lodge before taking a shuttle to the trailhead. This trail serves as the gateway for an intermediate day hike to Skeleton point, an arduous trek down to the Colorado, or an overnight trip to Phantom Ranch.

Hike the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point:

This section of the South Kaibab offers some of the best 360-degree views of the canyon. Distance to Skeleton Point is 3 miles one way, and serves as the recommended turnaround point for day hikers. Years of trail experience and use means the conditions are as smooth as possible for a gradual descent into the Canyon, and in this case drops 2,000 feet to Skeleton point.

Hike South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch:

If you are able to get a permit, chances are you’re hiking the South Kaibab trail down to Phantom Ranch. By adding a few more miles and a river crossing, this trail quickly converts from a day hike to a popular overnighter at the coveted Phantom Ranch lodge. Phantom Ranch is the only lodge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and an incredible experience for those lucky enough to stay the night. The hike from the rim to the ranch is 7.4 miles with a drop of over 4,700 feet. On the way back up to the rim, the recommended route is to ascend a different way than you began – on the Bright Angel Trail.

Backpackers in the Grand Canyon.

3. Bright Angel Trail

The Bright Angel trail might be the most widely recognized trail in the Grand Canyon, owing much of its allure to the destinations scattered along the trail. Bright Angel transports passengers to places like Indian Gardens, Plateau Point, and eventually Phantom Ranch. The trek into Phantom Ranch from the Bright Angel trailhead serves up 9.9 miles, 4,300 feet of elevation loss, and takes anywhere from 5-7 hours to complete on average.

Hikers climb overlook trail on Grand Canyon Rim to Rim trip.

Tips for hiking the Grand Canyon’s South Rim:

Through years of experience and use, all of the trails on the South Rim have been refined into not only the most scenic, but some of the smoothest sections of trail. Even if the trail is made for safety, every hiker must be surefooted and in adequate physical condition to make the trip back up after enjoying life below the rim. The most important considerations are:

  • Water
  • Sustenance
  • First aid
  • Overall preparedness

Generally people know that enough water is necessary, but continuing to fuel your body with salty energizing snacks can be just as important to a hiker’s well being on the trail. First aid is especially important for long days and overnight trips, because even small cuts and abrasions in sensitive areas can continue to worsen – creating the difference between hiking out gingerly on your own power or a rescue from the paramedics. If all of these key items are kept in mind, you put yourself into position to abide by the most important rule of the outdoors: to enjoy!