Overnight Hiking

hiker at Grand Canyon National Park

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 or South Rim you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.

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.

The Grand Canyon Association Field Institute offers expert-led, multi-day classes on the rim and in the backcountry. Topics include geology, ecology, history, archaeology, botany, photography, and more. Grand Canyon Association has been the official nonprofit partner of Grand Canyon National Park since 1932.

backcountry camping at Grand Canyon

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.

The Grand Canyon Association sells maps and guides on hiking in Grand Canyon National Park.


Backcountry Use Statistics

Backcountry use statistics (from overnight backcountry permits). The statistics include:

  • yearly statistics (2000-2016)
  • permittee breakdown by country and US state
  • use trends, corridor and non-corridor
  • use area details for 2016

Last updated: July 13, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023


(928) 638-7888

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