Let’s set the record straight
The official bottom of the Grand Canyon is the Colorado River not just at the Phantom Ranch area, but for the entire 277 miles of the canyon. Throughout the canyon, there are many trails that start from the either rim and end at the river. These trails range in difficulty from moderate to very strenuous, and most offer more solitude than the trails along the Rim to Rim route but all of them feature amazing scenery.
The following is a list of the major trails that lead from the rim of Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. Unlike the North Kaibab, South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails, these other Grand Canyon trails allow you to camp on a beach next to the Colorado River. There are others that will reach the river but they are either very remote or so extremely difficult that I have left them off, whittling the list down to trails that are options that most of the backpackers in the canyon enjoy. I have also listed the miles to the river and the best season to hike each trail. Mileage numbers are directly from the Backcountry Trails and Use Area page of the Grand Canyon National Park website.
To the bottom of the Grand Canyon Is a Multi-Day Trip
Remember, it is strongly recommended not to hike to the bottom of the canyon and back in one day. The upper portions of these trails are great for day hikes but to reach the Colorado River on any of these trails, one should plan a multi-day backpacking trip and camp in the canyon.
And as always, do your research as conditions for all Grand Canyon trails vary trail to trail and throughout the year – steepness, narrowness, heat, cold, ice, snow, mule pee, etc. will all affect your hike and how you need to prepare. Hiking in is optional, hiking out is mandatory! When in doubt, contact a guide service.
These are the main trails of the canyon that comprise the Rim to Rim hike. It is actually a combination of 2 trails depending on which South Rim trail you choose to hike.
Trails in the Grand Canyon
- North Kaibab Trail: 14 miles from North Rim to River / Moderate in difficulty / Access to the trailhead on the North Rim is closed from November 30th to May 15th each year.
- South Kaibab Trail: 7 miles South Rim to River / Moderate / Winter, Spring, Fall; avoid in Summer due to lack of water and shade.
- Bright Angel Trail: 7.5 to the Colorado River, 9.5 to Bright Angel Campground with inclusion of the River Trail / Moderate / Hike all year but wary of the hot climate during the Summer months.
Trails from South Rim, west of Grand Canyon Village
- Hermit Trail: 9.7 miles to Hermit Rapids/ Strenuous / Winter, Spring, and Fall
- Boucher Trail: 10.8 miles to Boucher Rapids / Very Strenuous / Spring and Fall
- South Bass Trail: 7.8 miles to Bass Rapids / Strenuous / Spring and Fall
Trails along the South Rim from RT 64 between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View Tower
- Grandview Trail: 11.4 miles to Hance Rapids / Strenuous / Spring and Fall
New Hance Trail: 6.5 miles to Hance Rapids / Extremely Strenuous / Spring and Fall
- Tanner Trail: 9.0 miles to Tanner Rapids / Very Strenuous / Spring and Fall
Trails from the North Rim
- North Bass Trail: 13.5 miles to North Bass Beach / Very Strenuous / Fall
- Thunder River Trail: 11.4 miles to Tapeats Creek Beach / Strenuous / Spring and Fall
Take a Guided Tour Down the Grand Canyon
As you can see, there are many options to choose from if you are looking for an alternative to the Rim-to-Rim hike – or if you have already hiked Rim-to-Rim and are looking for another, more remote trip to the bottom of the canyon. Therefore there isn’t a need to limit your Grand Canyon experience by sticking to the same main trails that everyone else is hiking. Explore and have fun.