Easy Hikes at the Grand Canyon Including Below the Rim
By Roger Naylor
Describing hiking trails at Grand Canyon as easy sounds like a contradiction, but it’s just 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
The Rim Trail never strays far from the canyon edge and provides views at every turn. (Photo by Roger Naylor)
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.
The Trail of Time is an interpretive walking trail that focuses on Grand Canyon's history and geology. (Photo: National Park Service)
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.
A short walk through a shady forest leads to Shoshone Point on the South Rim. (Photo by Roger Naylor)
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
Mules carry supplies in and out of Grand Canyon along the South Kaibab Trail. (Photo by Rick Mortensen)
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.
Waldron Trail Junction 3781. (Photo: National Park Service)
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.
Roger Naylor is an Arizona based writer who knows the adventure side of Arizona like no other. His books include Boots & Burgers: An Arizona Handbook for Hungry Hikers and The Amazing Kolb Brothers of the Grand Canyon.