My friend wants to do an overnight on the grand canyon this summer. We are experienced hikers in pretty good shape. However we've NEVER hiked out west, much less the Grand Canyon. What are the key things we should be careful of that we wouldn't think of as hikers in the Eastern US?


3 Answers 3


The park service has some good tips. The biggest ones are:

  • It is hot and dry, and gets hotter the farther down you go. Sweat can evaporate straight off of you before you can even see it, and people don't always realize how much fluid they've lost.
  • Replace electrolytes, not just the water. You'll probably drink more water than you're accustomed to, which can lead to hyponatremia.
  • Start out at first light, and plan to be back before 10. The middle of the day is brutal.
  • It's steep. Plan twice as much time to get back as it took you to get down. In other words, if you start your hike at 6 a.m., turn around at 7:20. It's difficult to do because you'll still have energy, but trust me, you'll need it for the climb out.
  • If you opt for an afternoon hike, keep in mind that the desert can get deceptively cold after sunset. People die of hypothermia, even in the summer.
  • Don't go in the summer if you can help it. May and September are the best months.
  • The South rim is the easiest to reach, and the trails into the canyon are better traveled and have more water sources, but that makes it more crowded with tourists. The North rim takes a couple extra hours to get to, but it is significantly cooler, less crowded, and has more trees for shade. I highly recommend it for hikes along the rim.
  • I went in May and it was already 40°C at Phantom Ranch. Unfortunately the North Rim doesn't even open before May.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 2:09

(1) Do not try ...

Sign on the rim (2003 - probably still there).
I'll have a photo of it somewhere.
Here it is - a peep of the river from the rim. The Colorado is clearly visible below, and does not seem that far away. [Cropped from a larger image so probably 400mm lens equivalent shot]

enter image description here

  • DO NOT attempt to walk to the river and back in one day!!!

warning sign

from http://www.examiner.com/article/grand-canyon-hiking-101-who-are-the-grand-canyon-psar-rangers

(2) Be aware ... :-)

Sign at rim.
It pictures an athletic looking young man, back pack on, eager-beaver look on face:

  • Most of the people that we have to rescue from the Canyon look like this.

An all-rights-reserved (so it can't be pasted here) picture of this sign is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/redbeardmathpirate/4583270568/sizes/l/in/photostream/

[A newer sign than in 2003 - but the same message].

Have fun :-)

  • 1
    Welcome to the Great Outdoors S.E.! Good first answers. I would really like to see that photo. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:39

i can only agree to the answers, i was there and did a short hike (we just started like we would do here in switzerland) we're used to big and steep hikes without any trees giving shadow in the blazing sun.

But the desert is dryer than you might think.

Carry enough water and calculate more time than expected and you'll be fine, just don't try to jump around at the edges of the canyon because they are indeed more slippery or instable than they look.

And if you're in doubt better talk to the Park Authority first, most of them know what they're talking about.

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