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Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Grand Canyon Hiking Tips In Grand Canyon National Park, sweeping red cliffs, forested plateaus and rare fauna make hiking a must for nature lovers and those in search of adventurous things to do outdoors. Sculpted by millions of years of geological activity and erosion, the raw marvel enticed prehistoric man and, later, 19th-century western explorers, into its chiseled depths. Today, more than 5 million trailblazers annually find solace and adventure in the biologically diverse region, embracing its jaw-dropping landscapes via more than 400 miles of park trails.

Prepare for the Heat

Arizona hiking poses certain health risks; each year more than 250 visitors are rescued due to their unpreparedness for the Grand Canyon's rough terrain and extreme weather conditions. In the words of one park ranger: “There are only two kinds of hikers in the inner canyon in high summer—fools and rangers. And one's there only because of the other.” Nearly 6,000 feet below the rim, hikers roast in the dry valley bed, with summer temperatures often exceeding 110 F.

While the inner gorge presents its own unique challenges, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can occur anywhere. A top priority on any hiker's list is staying hydrated; drinking water and eating salty snacks replaces vital electrolytes the body sweats out. Good scheduling also averts illness and fatigue; avoid oppressive afternoon temperatures by staying off trails between 10 and 4 and, accordingly, don't walk uphill in direct sunlight.

Dress Appropriately

Loose, neutral-colored and lightweight clothes work for some; others prefer to limit sun exposure by layering with synthetic fibers that dry quickly, keeping moisture at bay. Experienced hikers skip cotton fabrics, particularly when choosing socks. Avoid painful foot problems and prolong the outdoor experience by wearing cushioning wool socks over a thinner polypropylene or nylon pair—along with comfortable, broken-in hiking boots. Layering is especially important during colder winter months.

Pack Smart

Whether the agenda calls for a short hike or an overnight backpacking trip, knowing what to bring is essential. While a first-aid kit and good map (USGS topos are a must for backcountry hikes) are key, lugging a cooler to the canyon floor is not a good idea. Balance your load by centering heavier gear close to your back, with similar items grouped into color-coded stuff sacks. Plastic containers keep animals away from food and prevent crushed provisions. Keep the basics handy; don't spend the whole trip searching for your sunglasses or camera.

Make room for sunscreen, extra food and a compass (a handheld GPS unit is great, but reception is unreliable in the inner canyon and batteries don't last forever), but remember that anything brought in needs to be carried out. In addition to preserving the locale, be courteous to others by giving uphill hikers the right of way and by talking on cellphones only in emergencies. Always travel in groups, setting the pace according to the party's slowest member. As naturalist John Muir put it, “People ought to saunter…not hike!” Take in the beautiful sandstone canyons and rumbling waterfalls along North Kaibab Trail , remembering to enjoy one of Mother Nature's grandest gifts.

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Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

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