Ask Me: Which Dayhike or Two-Day Backpacking Trip Should Our Family Take in the Grand Canyon?
What’s your recommendation from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim for a medium dayhike? We’re going to the Grand Canyon over spring break in the last week of March, four of us. We will get there Saturday and have Sunday, Monday morning. Might look into Sunday night backpacking permit cancellations. We have a camping spot for dayhiking at this point.
That’s a great time to be there, though there will be ice and snow at the South Rim. Sometimes there’s such a prominent trough beaten into the snow on the upper South Kaibab that it’s safe to hike without microspikes.
If you’ve never hiked the South Kaibab Trail (lead photo at top of story), definitely do it. It goes down to the river (7 miles and 4,800 feet one way), but you can go down as far as you want and turn back up. It’s scenic every step of the way and very popular. There’s no parking at the trailhead, you have to catch the park shuttle bus from the village. Catch the first bus and you’ll get ahead of the crowds and see the canyon in early-morning light.
My second choice would be the Grandview Trail down to Horseshoe Mesa (three miles and 2,500 feet one way) and back up. Also gorgeous, but steeper and a bit exposed in spots, so far fewer people. It can have ice until mid-April, so microspikes are a must then.
If you’re up for a stunning dayhike of 13.8 miles with nearly 4,000 vertical feet of descent, followed by an ascent back out of the canyon of nearly as much vertical, take the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead, descend the South Kaibab to the Tonto Trail, follow the Tonto to the Bright Angel Trail, and ascend it back to the rim. Fantastic day trip, killer views all the way.
If you’re going to try for a backcountry permit, show up at the backcountry office at least an hour before it opens in the morning, you may get lucky, but it generally requires showing up two or three mornings to finally get a spot. The most popular sites may be impossible to grab, but a couple suggestions that might open up:
1. Hermit Trail from Hermits Rest down to the first camp you can reach, Hermit Creek. We backpacked four days from there over to Bright Angel Trail years ago, but you could overnight it and come back up the same trail, or spend two nights and dayhike to the river.
2. Grandview Trail (you must have spikes) to Horseshoe Mesa or Cottonwood Creek, and come back up or take an extra day and hike around the mesa.
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