Take A Hike: The Beginner’s Guide To The Grand Canyon

Luxury breaks, indulgent weekends; they’re all well and good, but what do you do if you really want to get away from it all? Nature’s calling! The natural wonders of the world offer up some of the most incredible vacationing experiences, and more often than not, the best things to see are right in our back yard. One of the most spectacular sights in the USA, the Grand Canyon offers up a bevy of opportunities, giving you the chance to step out of your routine, once and for all. Hikes in the area start from a very beginner level right up to the most advanced, giving even the most wobbly of climbers the chance to get their bearings.

Heading out into the great outdoors? Let this be your guide.

Getting out into the heart of the Canyon requires a little preparation, but don’t let that put you off. The journey might be long, but the views at the end are more than worth it. The Grand Canyon Train is one of the best ways in which to propel yourself into the region, affording plenty of time to prepare for your hike. Departing every day at 9.30am, the train takes just over two hours to reach its South Rim destination, taking in miles of rugged landscapes along the way. Take serious hiking equipment and plan your journey; you’re going to want to have a clear plan before you set off. 

Once you’re in the thick of it, you’re free to roam on any of the many trails maintained by keen hikers. If you’re on the hunt for something well traveled but nonetheless challenging, try setting your sights on the North Kaibab Trail. Featuring a set of sharply switching bends, the trail changes track from one moment to the next, descending into gatherings of beech and oak trees. Nearby rock surfaces give you a chance to take a deeper look into the canyon’s changing surface, showcasing millions of years of built up sediment.

A couple of hours into the descent, and you’ll find yourself in the Cottonwood Campground, a rustic retreat located in a small valley. Fresh, filtered water is available in bountiful quantities in the area, giving you a chance to cleanse your palate after the journey. Take a few moments to admire the view and enjoy the peace and quiet; the area is incredibly secluded, and makes for a great reflection point.

As you descend further into the canyon, the temperature will gradually increase, due, mainly, to the eleven degree temperature difference between the canyon rim and floor. Hiking from Cottonwood to the nearby Phantom Ranch, then, can be seriously thirsty work, and requires a careful hand. Take a moment to fill up your water bottles before you really begin to admire the desert shrubs that have taken over this part of the canyon. Lizards, prickly pears, and hawkmoths all call the area home, and taking time to do a little nature spotting is all part of the fun.

Phantom Ranch leads gradually to the South Rim, descending deeper towards the Colorado River. The sweeping body of water at the bottom is responsible for the shapes and forms cut into the rock, having steadily eroded the canyon surface over millions of years. Follow the path from the ranch down and you’ll reach the suspension bridge, from which you can look out onto the surrounding canyon in both directions. Moving forward, the nearby Bright Angel trail veers somewhat uphill, traversing the rock in the opposite direction, into the sky. The trail is relatively silent and isolated, but once you reach the top and see the view across the valley, you’re unlikely to regret your decision.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.