Hiking the Grand Canyon is a serious endeavor. It is not to be taken lightly. Every year, there are unprepared hikers who suffer illness, injury, or death from hiking in the canyon. They underestimate the difficulty of a trail and overestimate what they are capable of. Many experience heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia and hyponatremia (water intoxication from low sodium).
To hike the canyon is no easy feat. It is an achievement you will remember for the rest of your life. It is a beautiful, spectacular place, which is why millions of people go see it annually.
Here are some tips for hiking the Grand Canyon to make it a more pleasurable experience.
- Leave early and avoid hiking during the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, during the warmer times of the year. The farther down you go, the hotter it gets.
- Pack enough water! You should drink ½ to 1 quart (liter) of water for every 1/2 hour of hiking. Drink before you get thirsty. By the time you are thirsty, you have waited to long to replenish fluids.
- Pack snacks. Eat before, during, and after the hike. Salty snacks are best to replenish electrolytes.
- Pack Emergen-C or other electrolytes. Coconut water is another good source of electrolytes, and comes in liquid or powdered form.
- Break in your hiking boots before wearing them the first time. Make sure they are well fitted. Stores that specialize in hiking gear have sales people who can do a fitting to make sure your boots fit properly.
- Wear good quality, comfortable apparel. During monsoon season (mid-July to early September) it is good to wear waterproof clothing.
- Wear sunscreen – this is Arizona, the sunshine state.
- Be mindful. Many people have died from not being cognizant. They posed for a photo, and the person taking the photo told them to take a step back, and they stepped off the cliff. Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Go at the right time of year – not summer! During June, July and August temperatures are in the 100s.
- Wear a hat to protect your face and neck. A large rim is best.
- Use a hiking pole or two They take the pressure off your knees and help to stabilize you. I feel more comfortable with one stick, but you might like two. Check your local store to see if you can try hiking poles out first.
- Train in advance. Chances are, you will be sore, especially if you haven’t trained. Even people who are in excellent shape can come back sore and fatigued.
- Know your limitations. If you have knee issues, asthma, a heart problem or any other medical condition, understand what you are getting into.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you are returning.
- Pack as little as possible. Your hike will be more enjoyable. Your heaviest items should be food and water.
- Mules have the right of way. Move to the uphill portion of the trail.
- Take a ten minute break at least once every hour.
- Bring a backpack for essentials.
- Pack a first aid kit – aloe vera gel (relief of minor burns), bandages, moleskin – which prevents blisters, and aspirin/ Ibuprofen (for aches, pains, inflammation, and other injuries).
- Get the weather forecast.
- Stay on the trail and never shortcut switchbacks.
- You should be able to walk and talk at the same time, otherwise you need to adjust your speed accordingly.
- Plan your hike. It takes longer to hike up than to hike down.
- Bring a small lightweight flashlight in case you are hiking up when it is dark. Also, bring extra batteries. Remember anything you bring with you needs to be carried back out.
- Bring a map. Trails are marked, but a map is still helpful.
- Bring a whistle and a signal mirror for an emergency.
- A spray bottle filled with water is helpful to cool yourself off. Arizona is hot!
- Choose an appropriate trail. There are maintained trails and there’s the back country. Maintained trails are harder on your knees because you have to put your brakes on to slow down. Hiking the back country has rocks that can give you more leverage. Research first.
29. If you are hiking in the winter consider wearing over-the-shoe traction devices for your safety.
30. If you have never experienced Arizona vegetation, you may need allergy meds. When I moved here I thought I was sick all the time. It turned out to be allergies.