Overnight backpacking in Grand Canyon provides a degree of solitude, wilderness, and silence. Fifteen trails and numerous obscure routes provide access to the inner canyon.
If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim, South Rim, or Tuweep, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center. (how to get a backcountry permit)
Each year Grand Canyon National Park receives approximately 30,000 requests for backcountry permits. The park issues 13,000 permits, and close to 40,000 people camp overnight in the backcountry at Grand Canyon.
Be sure to check the Backcountry Updates and Closures page for current information on trail conditions and situations affecting the backcountry.
If you would like to join a guided hiking and/or camping trip that is educational in nature, consider
The earlier you plan your hike and apply for permits, the more likely you will be to get the dates and itinerary of your choice. The earliest you can apply for a permit is the first of the month, four months prior to the proposed start month.
Only written permit requests are considered during the fourth-month-out. Verbal in-person permit requests are only considered for start dates one to three months out.
You will be hiking in a desert climate, where water and protection from the elements make the difference between life and death. Your trip begins at a high elevation (7000-8000 feet) and requires a bone-jarring descent at the beginning of your trip, when your pack is heaviest. You will face a long climb out when you are already tired.
Grand Canyon National Park encompasses more than 1.2 million acres, the vast majority of the park is inaccessible due to the predominance of cliffs, and inhospitable to all but desert plants and animals. The Colorado River bisects the canyon; hikers can cross the river only at Phantom Ranch. If you choose to hike from rim to river to rim, you will have to deal with an elevation differential of more than 10,000 feet from start to finish.
Despite the fact that canyon hiking is extremely demanding, requests for backcountry permits far exceed the use that the canyon's fragile desert environment can sustain without serious resource damage. Therefore, overnight camping in the canyon and in undeveloped areas along the rim is carefully monitored and controlled, and demand usually exceeds availability.
Backcountry Use Statistics
Backcountry use statistics (from overnight backcountry permits) can be found here. The statistics include:
Backcountry Information Center
The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily year-round for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily mid-May to October 31 for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.
Backcountry Information Center staff answer information telephone inquiries at 928-638-7875 between 1 pm and 5 pm Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. This telephone number is for information only.
Email the Backcountry Information Center.
FAX number for permits is 928-638-2125
Mailing address is:
Backcountry Permit Request Form (PDF file) NOTE: This is a printable form only. You must print the form, fill it out, and then fax/mail it directly to the Backcountry Information Center. We recommend you read the seasonal update before submitting your permit request.
Having difficulties opening the Backcountry Permit Request Form? You must have Adobe Reader version 7 or newer (as of Jan 2011 the current version of Adobe Reader is 10). Get the newest version of the free Adobe Reader.
Trip Planner (2mb PDF file): The information in this newspaper can assist you in obtaining a backcountry use permit.
Video: Hiking Grand Canyon, Prepare for Backpacking. This video is designed to help you plan for and enjoy your hike into the canyon's harsh, yet fragile, environment.
Video: Leave No Trace. All Grand Canyon backcountry users are asked to follow Leave No Trace principles. The goal is to have minimum human impact on the canyon as a result of your trip.
Hike Smart: Be sure and listen to the Hike Smart Podcasts! (transcripts available)
The Grand Canyon Association sells maps and books on hiking in Grand Canyon National Park.
Did You Know?
John Hance, early Grand Canyon guide and storyteller, said of the Canyon, "It was hard work, took a long time, but I dug it myself, with a pick and a shovel. If you want to know what I done with the dirt, just look south through a clearin' in the trees at what they call the San Francisco Peaks." More...