Top 10 Items for a hike in Grand Canyon

Day hiking in the Grand Canyon, or most anywhere for that matter, is a mind, body, and soul-cleansing experience that has a way of picking up your mood.  Whether it’s the peace, the fresh air, the views, or perhaps even the wildlife sightings, hiking is an activity in which everyone should engage as often as possible.  However, just like anything else in life, it’s best to go with the right tools in hand to get the job done.  Would you try to cook without an oven?  Would you try to drive a car that has no engine?  Similarly, you cannot begin a hike in Grand Canyon without the essential materials,  and The Goat is here to tell you what you need!

For the purposes of this list, we will imagine a day hike to Dripping Springs along the Hermit Trail in Grand Canyon.  We assume that you have dressed in the proper clothing.  You need solid shoes and a good hat that blocks the sun.  Wear synthetic clothing that wicks moisture.  Avoid cotton or denim, these materials absorb moisture and can become heavy and unpleasant.  Bring a small backpack.

Once you’re dressed, time to hit the trail!  The hike to Dripping Springs is 3.25 miles, with great views and less crowds than the corridor trails.  Before you go, these are the best things to throw in your pack:

Grand Canyon from the south bass trail

1.  Water

Hiking in Grand Canyon is like hiking a mountain in reverse.  We preach the mantra to all of our guests that “going down is optional, coming up is mandatory”.  Grand Canyon is a dry and sunny place that offers very little, if any, water along the trails.  For any hike here: a short trail or even Rim-to-Rim, The Goat recommends 3L/Person.  This will ensure that you have enough for the duration of most reasonable day hikes in the canyon.  Our hike to Dripping Springs leads to a fantastic natural spring that showers down into a cove.  This is a great place to refill and recharge.

However, many trails in Grand Canyon do not have access to water.  When you think you have enough water, bring more.  Dehydration is a great way to ruin the trip of a lifetime, and a sure bet for a visit to the hospital, or even worse, the funeral home.  Bring water and drink it!

2.  Sunscreen

Grand Canyon is a very sunny place.  In Arizona, the sun shines for over 300 days a year, and Grand Canyon sees every but of that.  Many places along the trail provide little shade for most of the day.  You will want a solid 30SPF sunscreen to put on your nose, face, neck, and arms.  Sunburns can happen pretty quickly in the desert, so it’s a good idea to lather up before you hit the trail.

3.  Map, Compass, and the knowledge  to properly use them

Although it is important to have a topographic map of the area in which you are hiking, it’s not worth a damn if you don’t know how to read it and navigate with it.  Get a compass and some skills to know where you are and where you are going at all times.  So sayeth The Goat.

You don’t need to be a master navigator to read a map, however.  We recommend Trails Illustrated maps from National Geographic.  They are clear and easy to read, and can be readily used to navigate.  This compass is a great tool as well.  In the event you become lost, you can use it to navigate using landmarks and the map.  Along the Hermit Trail, we stop to pinpoint our location.  We pick out Vishnu Temple, and using our map and compass find our exact spot on the map.

4.  Camera

You’re not seriously considering hiking in Grand Canyon without a camera.  Whether you’re a professional on a mission or just a hiker looking to capture some memories, a camera is key in The Grandest.  You never know what you may see here.  Perhaps a bounding Bighorn Sheep.  Maybe a Great Horned Owl.  Sometimes a rainbow will pop up!  Grand Canyon is an ever-changing landscape that dazzles at every turn.  Far-ranging views meet us everywhere along the Hermit Trail.

Grand Canyon Colorado River

5.  Trail Snacks

Just some simple snacks like granola, fruit, trail mix, cheese, and of course chocolate will do you good when you hit that perfect viewpoint.  However, The Goat recommends making it personal.  Bring your favorite snacks and eat them heartily.  We love to do a great cheese and charcuterie sampler on our day hikes.  Champagne anyone?  Here at Dripping Springs, you can use the next item on this list to elegantly slice your delicious lunch.

6.  Pocket Knife or Multi-Tool

This will come in quite handy when you need to pry a thorn from your boot, slice that piece of fruit in your pack, or even simply add scale to a close-up photo.  There is always a use for a knife in the outdoors.  Although a knife can get most things done, we recommend a multi-tool with pliers and screwdriver bits for good measure.  Tools are especially necessary for any multi-day trips into Grand Canyon, but it is a good idea to have one even on a day hike.

7.  Fist-Aid Kit

This can be pretty simple.  All you need is some bandages, disinfectant, pain control, and a few other odds and ends such as tape.  Check out our Perfect First-Aid Kit blog post for more details.  You’re not curing cancer out on the trail, so keep it light and simple.  You will want to include tweezers, they are quite useful when dealing with cactus in the desert.  Your first-aid kit should be something that allows you to treat normal backcountry injuries resulting from falls, stings, or other minor injuries such as cuts.  One of our friends slips and twists here ankle.  We tape her up, give her some meds, and we’re back on the trail.

8.  Headlamp

So we got a late start and thought we’d make it back to El Tovar just in time for happy hour.  Turns out we got caught up gaping at some incredible views and captivating springs, something that even the most hardened Grand Canyon veteran gets seduced into.  Don’t worry, dip into your pack and break out the headlamp for that last mile or two, you’ll be glad to have it, especially on the more precarious trails.  Hiking after the sun goes down is a thrilling way to see Grand Canyon, especially under a shining moon.  However, you will need to see where you’re going, so be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight to find your way.

9. Trekking Poles

We like to recommend trek poles, particularly in Grand Canyon, as the knees tend to take a beating on the steep downhill grades one finds when trekking here.  This is especially true when carrying a pack or any sort of weight.  Trekking poles are especially useful on backpacking trips.  However, they are useful on day hikes as well, as they provide support and balance on the rocky, rough trails here.  Trust us, they helped you on the hike down to Dripping Springs, but you’ll appreciate them even more as they help you propel up!

10.  All of your senses

Grand Canyon requires the full use of all of your five senses.  Sight, of course, but smell, touch, hearing, and yes, even taste come into play here.  As you behold the magnificent views from the rim into the yawning chasm, inhale the smell of junipers and sage.  Listen as sparrows, ravens, and eagles chime their songs.  Run your fingers along the stone beneath your feet.  Drink from Dripping Springs, and taste the power of erosion.  If you may feel so bold, pick a flower and eat it, perhaps even lick a rock (a geologist told me to do it).

Grand Canyon Grandview point

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

The Goat’s Final Word

There you have it, The Goat’s Top 10 items to bring on a hike in Grand Canyon.  As we traversed the Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs, we used each of the items in our packs.  We drank all of our water, had a tasty lunch, got back in the dark, and even helped one of our buddies bounce back from an injury.  Although you may not use every single one of these items on every hike it’s always a good idea to have them.

Above all, safety and preparation when hiking is key.  That may sound stodgy, but nothing ruins a great hike more than some stupid nonsense that could have been avoided if you simply had the right tools.  Having enough water and food will keep you alive.  Some of these other tools may get you out of jams, but are just simply useful regardless.  NPS spends a fairly substantial amount of time rescuing people who get in over their heads.  Follow our guide, and you won’t become one of them!

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