Grand Canyon: 3 day hiking itinerary

So you’ve decided to hike the Grand Canyon – one of the world’s most famous hikes, that’s for sure! I’ve summarised our itinerary and all the things you need to plan, to make it super easy to achieve that great big bucket list tick.

Planning

Get a reservation at Phantom Ranch, the lodge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (pre-season lottery opens 15 months in advance, or check last minute availability online) – 2 nights is perfect.  We found February/March an ideal time to be there (not peak months, but perfect hiking temperature).  

Once you’ve secured Phantom Ranch, plan the rest of your trip: 

  • 1 night at Yavapai Lodge, for the night before you hike in.
  • Flights to Las Vegas or Phoenix (top tip: If driving to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, drive along super scenic Highway 179, through the red rocks of Sedona).
  • Rent a car.

Local recommendations for before your descent:

Hiking the Grand Canyon: Three day itinerary, with recommendations for where to stay, eat and hike | HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? - curated hotspots from around the world
Hiking the Grand Canyon: Three day itinerary, with recommendations for where to stay, eat and hike | HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? - curated hotspots from around the world
Huge portions at The Horsemen Lodge steakhouse

Going down 

  • From the Visitor Centre, take the Rim Trail, then get onto the South Kaibab Trail, all the way down to Phantom Ranch (7 miles).
  • Note that as soon as you drop below the rim, you’ll lose all phone signal – and there’s no wifi at Phantom Ranch either (make sure you take a good book down with you!).
  • Get down to Phantom Ranch before 3pm, so that you can get a cold lemonade or beer before the canteen closes!  
  • For us in early February, daytime temperature was 0°C on the rim and +23°C at the bottom.
Hiking the Grand Canyon: Three day itinerary, with recommendations for where to stay, eat and hike | HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? - curated hotspots from around the world
Views from the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
Mules on the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
Views from the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
Switchbacks on the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
Mules on the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
Mules on the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
Crossing the Colorado River on the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon
At the bottom of the Grand Canyon, on the South Kaibab Trail

Crossing the Colorado River on the South Kaibab Trail, down into the Grand Canyon

At the bottom

  • Accommodation is either in private cabins or dorms, with bunk beds, a toilet and sink; the showers are separate. All bedding and towels are provided.
  • Meals are hearty (stew and cornbread for dinner; pancakes, eggs, sausages and bacon for breakfast) and served family style; wine and beer available for purchase. “Sack lunches” are provided.
  • You can send postcards from the bottom of the canyon, and they’ll be “mailed by mule”.
  • For day hikes, we went out and back along the North Kaibab Trail, which follows the river (all the way to Ribbon Falls, if you’ve got the energy), or take the steeper Clear Creek Trail to a lookout point above Phantom Ranch. You can also do a loop through Bright Angel campground, across one suspension bridge, along and then back along the other suspension bridge – this was lovely at golden hour.
  • Everything you see at the bottom has been packed in by mule – and will be packed out the same way. So try not to create too much waste, and carry out any trash you bring in.
  • There’s zero cell signal or wifi at the bottom. Enjoy the digital detox!
Cabins at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
A private 4-person cabin
Cabins at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
The sun rises late down at the bottom
Cabins at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
North Kaibab Trail at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
North Kaibab Trail at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
North Kaibab Trail at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Wildlife at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Send postcards from Phantom Ranch, to be mailed by mule
Send postcards, to be mailed by mule
Bunk beds in the cabins at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Amazing breakfast at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Hiking out

  • After breakfast, hike out along the Bright Angel Trail – 9 miles to the South Rim.
  • If hiking in summer, start hiking as early as you can – before sunrise – to avoid the heat of the day
  • The trail is mostly shaded, and trust me when I say that going out is easier than going down! My knees and calves were super painful on the way down, and we actually hiked out faster than we hiked in.
  • There are toilets and water at Indian Garden campground if you need.
  • If hiking in the winter, you may need crampons as you near the rim, as the shaded parts of the path get very icy. We purchased these ones at the Phantom Ranch shop.
Hiking out of the Grand Canyon, on the Bright Angel Trail
Hiking out of the Grand Canyon, on the Bright Angel Trail
Hiking out of the Grand Canyon, on the Bright Angel Trail
Hiking out of the Grand Canyon, on the Bright Angel Trail
Hiking out of the Grand Canyon, on the Bright Angel Trail

If you made it this far: Congrats! You just hiked the Grand Canyon, undoubtedly one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders, and the ultimate bucket list hike!