Hiking Tips For All Trips

It is difficult to adequately describe the side hiking opportunities that you will encounter on your Grand Canyon rafting trip. If you have read about trail conditions, it is time to brush up on some basic advice for hiking in the Grand Canyon. The guides are informative when describing which shoes will be necessary for the hike, how much water to take with you, how long you will be hiking and whether or not you will need to take a bagged lunch.

Side Hike

By Aaron Hoffman
Rocky Mountain PBS

Here are a few other recommendations to maximize your hiking experience:

  • Be in good physical condition. A higher fitness level will help to ensure you are able to enjoy and participate in the hiking opportunities.
  • Prepare for “hands free” hiking and bring a small backpack (approximately the size of a school backpack), hip pack (bigger than a fanny pack), or hydration pack. This way, your hands are free for climbing, creek crossings, or whatever comes your way. Avoid clipping water bottles on belt loops or waist bands as this creates awkward weight for your body to balance.
  • Have at least two quarts of water on each hike stowed in your day pack. If you are on a Hiker’s Discovery specialty trip or generally planning on participating in long hikes, you should be prepared to carry 3-4 quarts.
  • Bring a camera and sunscreen.
  • Dunk your clothing or self in the river before embarking on a long, hot hike (especially during the summer months) to take advantage of a natural evaporating cooling system with your cotton shirt.
  • To avoid accelerated dehydration and sunburn, cover up as much as possible during your hikes; wear a hat (either a baseball-type cap or wide-brimmed hat), a long-sleeved shirt, possibly a bandana around your neck and adequate amounts of sunscreen on any parts of your body that are left uncovered.
  • Bring and wear proper footwear.
  • Always carry a pair of socks even if you are wearing sandals.
  • Take care of your feet. This includes washing your feet, applying a concentrated moisturizer/salve such as Supersalve, and attending to any cuts, sunburns, insect bites, etc. daily. Be proactive in the treatment of blisters.
  • Always carry your water and food with you. There is always a chance that whomever you’re hiking with may get ahead of or behind you. If this person was to be carrying your water and you were to get separated, you would no longer have water. This is why it is so important to carry your own water with you at all times. You should be drinking ½ to 1 quart of water every hour that you are hiking to remain hydrated.
  • Not recommended for everyone, but if you have any joint, back, hip, knee, ankle or toe pain, collapsible, rubber-tipped hiking poles are helpful in providing extra support. However, we caution using them on regular side hikes throughout your trip. The trails are not maintained (exposed, rocky, slippery, etc.) and hiking sticks often offer a false sense of stability. They can slip out from underneath you and they are cumbersome in tight spaces and when you need your hands for climbing. Also, be aware of other people close by to ensure nobody gets hit by your hiking poles as you are shifting them around. However, we understand some people might find them useful.

Additionally, we recommend following these hiking tips to ensure your safety, the safety of others and the safety of the environment:

  • Side hike Grand Canyon

    Photo by Rob Elliott

    If you have any allergies that could possibly lead to anaphylaxis, always carry your epinephrine with you as the guides do not carry any.

  • If you have dust- or exercise-induced asthma, always carry your inhaler with you.
  • Watch for cairns. Cairns are piles of rocks, or rocks stacked on top of each other, that are often used to mark the trail.
  • Only drink the filtered and treated water provided. The water in the side canyons and side streams may be contaminated.
  • Do not disturb or feed the wildlife.
  • Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites.
  • If you are climbing without a guide, you may be in the wrong place.
  • Be careful for the microbiotic soil that takes years to grow; do not step on it or touch it as it is very delicate—your guides will show you what this looks like as you hike so that you can avoid it. Also referred to as “Cripto.”
  • Watch where you are putting your hands. There are critters and cacti lurking near the natural hand-holds on the trails, so you must be cognizant about where you’re placing your hands.
  • Always be aware of slippery or loose rocks. Some of the rocks on the side hikes in Grand Canyon can look sturdy, but when stepped on, move out from underneath you.
  • Avoid leaving your backpack unattended. Ravens and other animals in Grand Canyon are known for digging through (and sometimes ruining) backpacks to find food.
  • You may like a pair of light garden gloves. Some have found gloves to be helpful to protect from hot rocks.
  • Help each other out and be courteous of other trips with whom you might be sharing a hike.
  • Never throw or kick rocks off a ledge. You never know who might be below you!
  • Make sure you are following the trail and guides as much as possible. There will typically be a guide at the front of the hike and at the rear of the hike and maybe  one somewhere in the middle, but not always right near you. So we recommend staying near one of them or with the group whenever possible to ensure you are not “trailing” across the sensitive landscape. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated crossings. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Be aware of where creek crossings are as these are the crossings the guides have chosen for you.
  • Try to go to the bathroom before or after the hike. If you must relieve yourself during a hike, double check with a guide where the best location for this might be.
  • Know the signs of a flash flood: evidence of heavy rain (although you might not experience any rain at all), see or hear rapidly rising water, and increasing debris in water flow. Exit narrow gullies and slot canyons immediately. Do not attempt to cross a creek during a flash flood and get to higher ground immediately.
  • If you begin to have any issues while hiking, inform your guides so that they know where you are or if they need to attend to your needs. Issues could include a cut, a fall, dehydration, becoming over-heated or starting to feel over-exerted.

If you are hiking the Bright Angel Trail, please view the Bright Angel Trail tips for additional advice specifically pertaining to the Bright Angel Trail.