Ask Me: Can You Recommend a Big Dayhike in the Grand Canyon?
Jerry and I and the boys are meeting my parents in the Grand Canyon for the first couple days of our spring break. Jerry and I want to do a big dayhike. We have already done rim-to-rim-to-rim and all varieties associated with those three trails.
So, we’re considering doing the South Kaibab to Grandview Trail (via the Tonto Trail) or vice versa. Thoughts? It would be a long day trip. Curious which direction we should do it and what else must we know?
What is total distance from South Kaibab to Grandview Point? And is there any water, at all, along the entire route?
That’ll be an awesome, big Grand Canyon dayhike. I would go South Kaibab Trailhead to Grandview Trailhead: Get on the South Kaibab really early, before the crowds, and you’ll be walking downhill looking out over the canyon bathed in glorious dawn light. You’ll cruise much of the Tonto Trail walking east, though there are some slower sections. The hardest leg is going from Cottonwood Creek up to Horseshoe Mesa: It’s pretty steep and the trail consists of mostly broken rocks, which is a good reason for going up it instead of down (in the other direction). Going up the Grandview has much better footing and, while steep, isn’t as hard. Plus, if you went up the South Kaibab, the best views are usually behind you, but going up the Grandview zigzags enough that you have killer views going uphill.
It’s 29.2 miles from South Kaibab Trailhead to Grandview Trailhead, and you’re probably doing about a cumulative 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss (or loss and gain, as it were). There are four water sources along the route, only one of them a reliably year-round source; but in spring, it’s likely all will be flowing. Ask the backcountry office at the park if they have recent reports. You’ll see more photos and planning info at thebigoutside.com/dropping-into-the-grand-canyon-a-four-day-hike-from-grandview-point-to-the-south-kaibab-trail.
The Big Outside is proud to partner with sponsors Backcountry.com and Visit North Carolina, who support the stories you read at this blog. Find out more about them and how to sponsor my blog at my sponsors page at The Big Outside. Click on the backcountry.com ad below for the best prices on great gear.
If you guys happen to be really killing the pace and have time and energy, walk around Horseshoe Mesa on the Tonto Trail and climb up to the mesa from the east side (instead of the more direct route up from Cottonwood Creek). You ascend a really cool side canyon in a spectacular sandstone amphitheater, passing by an old mine. If you don’t have time—it is a long way around—then at least take about a 15-minute detour from Horseshoe Mesa out to the top of the trail that descends off the east side of the mesa; the view from there is awesome (see the photo gallery above).
Also, another great view on this hike from Horseshoe Mesa (see photo at bottom of this story) that requires just a 15-minute detour: Once you’re up on the mesa’s flat top, near the start of the ascent of the Grandview Trail, walk down the campground trail toward the pit toilets. Where the trail forks, with the right fork leading to the toilets, bear left and you’ll walk to an awesome site for two tents at the end of that side trail. Walk a minute or two beyond that campsite and you reach an overlook of the side canyon on the east side of Horseshoe Mesa. Incidentally, although you’re not camping, it’s the best campsite at Horseshoe Mesa.
Here’s another suggestion for a five-star Grand Canyon dayhike, with easier logistics because you can use the park’s free shuttle bus system (whereas there’s no shuttle bus to Grandview Point): the 25-mile traverse from Hermits Rest to the Bright Angel Trailhead (photo above). See this story for more photos, a video, and trip-planning info.
NOTE: The hikes described above demand a very high level of fitness and expert skills in desert hiking; they’re not recommended for novices or first-time Grand Canyon hikers. For more information and tips, see my story about dayhiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim and this Ask Me post about hiking rim-to-river-to-rim, plus this advice from Grand Canyon National Park about dayhiking in the canyon.
I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any trip or topic I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at email@example.com. For just $30, I’ll answer your questions via email to help ensure your trip is a success. I will also provide a telephone consult for $50. Write to me and I will first tell you whether I can answer your question (I usually can). First scroll through my Ask Me page and All Trips page, skills stories, and gear reviews for answers to your questions before writing to me.
Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today, a Trip Advisor site, and others. Get email updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the top of the left sidebar or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.
Subscribe to the Big Outside
Enter your e-mail address for updates about new stories, reviews, and gear giveaways!