Describing hiking trails at Grand Canyon as easy sounds like a contradiction, but just it’s a matter of choosing the right direction. Start walking east or west and you’ll generally enjoy a lovely woodland stroll. Turn north or south and you’ll encounter a pretty steep drop-off.
So give your knees and lungs a break. Here are the best easy trails at Grand Canyon National Park (with a couple of moderate ones). Stay mostly atop the rims and enjoy the cooler temperatures. And, oh yeah, the views aren’t bad either.
South Rim trails
This is the Big Kahuna of easy walking. Imagine a trail with incredible canyon views, one right after another. Now imagine the trail is level, shady and offers pickup and delivery service. Welcome to the Rim Trail.
Panoramas are endless on this 13-mile long path that is mostly paved as it stretches along the edge of the South Rim from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest. Away from the hubbub of Grand Canyon Village, hikers enjoy a quiet connection to the canyon.
Don’t be afraid to hop on and off the free shuttle buses to create a hike of the perfect length.
Trail of Time
Enjoy a geology lesson along this 1.3-mile section of the Rim Trail. It stretches from Yavapai Geology Museum to Verkamp’s Visitor Center. Posted signs and samples of rocks help explain the formation of Grand Canyon.
Feel like a seasoned canyon traveler when you hike the unmarked trail to Shoshone Point, one of the South Rim’s best-kept secrets. Look for an unsigned parking lot on the north side of Desert View Drive, 1.2 miles east of Yaki Point.
The hike is a gentle 1-mile stroll on a dirt road through open forest where deer and elk graze. Soon the breath-stealing beauty of Grand Canyon stretches out before you. A narrow ridge thrusts out from the plateau providing canyon views in excess of 180 degrees. Relax and savor this private perch far from the crowds. And don’t forget the picnic lunch.
Shoshone Point has picnic tables and an outhouse. It can be rented for private events, in which case it will be closed to public hiking.
South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point
If you decide to go below the rim, South Kaibab Trail offers the most bang for your buck. Leaving from Yaki Point Road, it’s less crowded than Bright Angel and soon offers more dramatic vistas.
After a few tight switchbacks, this trail bursts into the open as it chases a ridgeline down and out across the canyon, exposing wide-ranging panoramas.
In just 0.9 mile you reach aptly named Ooh Aah Point, a rocky shelf with what feels like the entire canyon wrapped around it. Views go on forever. Stop here if you want or push on. Another series of switchbacks deposits you on Cedar Ridge, a broad mesa 1.5 miles from the rim where vistas are just as dazzling, only now you have a place to sit and savor them.
Just remember, the farther you hike below the rim means a longer, harder climb on your return.
Here’s another below-the-rim jaunt. Although the trailhead can be tricky to find (get directions from park rangers before starting out), the Waldron Trail provides an alternative route down to the Hermit Basin from the rim.
It proves to be much less steep than the sharp plunging Hermit Trail and since the upper portion of the Waldron meanders through pine and juniper woodlands, hikers enjoy welcome shade along the way.
After a series of switchbacks and a final gentle descent, the Waldron connects in 2 miles with the Hermit Trail. From there it is less than a mile to Santa Maria Spring, where a cool stone rest house guards the trail. Sit inside and pretend the entire Grand Canyon is your yard.
North Rim trails
Cape Royal Trail
Cape Royal Road makes a twisting, winding 23-mile drive as it traverses a wooded plateau, snaking past picnic areas and canyon overlooks. It ends at the southernmost point on the North Rim. From there the paved Cape Royal Trail is an easy half-mile stroll along the rim with views of the Colorado River and the natural arch known as Angels Window.
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Cape Final Trail
Wander through ponderosa pine forest across Walhalla Plateau with almost no change in elevation. The trail leaves from Cape Royal Road, 2.4 miles north of the Cape Royal parking lot, and brushes past a few choice canyon overlooks early on but this is just the prelude for the drama yet to come.
The last section of the 2-mile path cuts through a woodland of oak and juniper, ending atop a sprawling promontory with eye-popping views of rocky formations falling away from the rim. Tucked among the waves of mesas, snippets of the Colorado River are visible far below, frothy with whitewater.
Uncle Jim Trail
This 5-mile loop swings through a mixed conifer forest. It overlaps with the Ken Patrick Trail for the first mile before branching to the right. From there the Uncle Jim Trail angles downhill, crossing a lush little drainage.
The loop begins at the next intersection. Take either branch through quiet forest. Downed logs crisscross meadows, ferns blanket slopes and clusters of lithe aspen saplings fill open spaces created by burn scars.
The trail skirts the head of Roaring Springs Canyon and the trees often break apart offering tantalizing views all the way to Uncle Jim Point. The trail begins from the North Kaibab Trailhead.
Named for Gunnar Widforss, an artist who lived and painted at Grand Canyon in the 1930s, this trail rambles through shaggy woods offering big canyon panoramas along the way.
The trail crosses mostly level terrain, although there are some ups and downs, beneath a shady canopy of tree branches making for a pleasant outing. This is the essence of the North Rim experience, walking in a lush, wildflower-carpeted conifer forest that breaks apart just long enough to expose magnificent views.
The trail ends at Widforss Point for a round-trip hike of 10 miles. If you brought your brush and easel, set up here. The trailhead is down a dirt road a mile south of Cape Royal Road.
North Kaibab Trail to Coconino Overlook
From the North Rim, only one maintained trail penetrates the depths of the canyon. The North Kaibab drops steeply through big timber. Groves of tall Douglas firs, Engelmann spruce and ponderosa pines follow you downhill as you reach the Coconino Overlook at 0.7 mile.
If you have the time and stamina, continue to Supai Tunnel, 2 miles from the rim. This 20-foot-long corridor is blasted from solid rock and there are toilets and drinking water. It’s a steep climb back out. Trailhead is on the park entrance road 1.5 miles north of Grand Canyon Lodge.
Visiting Grand Canyon National Park
South Rim: About 230 miles north of Phoenix.
North Rim: About 350 miles north of Phoenix. Open seasonally: The lodge and restaurants are closed Oct. 15-May 15. The park remains open for day use with no services until Dec. 1, or until snow closes State Route 67.
Admission: $35 per vehicle, good for seven days.
Details: 928-638-7888, www.nps.gov/grca.
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