The Less Traveled Trails of the Grand Canyon

The Less Traveled Trails of the Grand Canyon
If you don't want a lot of company, but do want to see the Grand Canyon below the rim, skip the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails. There are four full-featured, less-traveled hikes from North Rim and South Rim trailheads on the east side and west side of the Canyon. Elevations and mileage given are close, but cannot be exact, and mileage for each hike is cumulative.

Backcountry Loop from the North Rim, West Side

Bill Hall Trail from Monument Point (7200', 32 miles west of North Rim center) to Thunder River Trail junction (5350') is 2.5 miles. Take Thunder River Trail across the Esplanade (5300', 6.8 miles) and over the red rock face to Deer Creek Trail (3800', 12 miles). Cross Surprise Valley, and follow Thunder River Trail west to Deer Creek Spring (2800', 14.5 miles). Camp at Deer Creek (2300', 15 miles), Deer Creek Falls or on the Colorado River (1900', 16 miles).
Take east-bearing trails from Deer Creek campground, above and parallel with the river, to 135 Mile Rapids (18 miles). A faint trail continues to Lower Tapeats campground (1950', 19 miles) at Tapeats Rapids and the mouth of Tapeats Creek.
The up-canyon leg follows Tapeats Creek past Upper Tapeats Campground (2400', 20.5 miles) to the Thunder River and on to Thunder Spring (3350', 21.5 miles). From there, cross Surprise Valley again and retrace the route to Monument Point (29 miles).


Grandview Day Hike from the South Rim, East Side

Go north on Grandview Trail from Grandview Point (7400') to East Horseshoe Mesa (5000', 3 miles), visit Page Spring (4800', 3.5 miles) and return by the same trails.
For a backcountry loop, turn west, clockwise, at the junction of Grandview Trail and the spur trail to outlying campsites, and hike a mile. Turn east, still clockwise, onto Tonto Trail (3760', 4.8 miles) and return to the Page Spring area. Retrace the trails to the trailhead (12 miles).

New Hance Trail from the South Rim, East Side

This hike is a 16 difficult miles. Walk about a mile west from Moran Point parking, and find a trailhead cairn (7024'). Coronado Butte is north and west on the left as you drop into Red Canyon. Along New Hance Trail are exposed, very steep areas, scree and traverses. One traverse near the top of Red Canyon (5000', 1.6 miles) is not for hikers with vertigo. Some trail-finding may be necessary. The trail ends at the Colorado River at Hance Rapids (2500', 8 miles).

Hermit-Boucher Trail Loop from the South Rim, West Side

Hermit trailhead is at Hermits Rest (6640'). A mile down, see fossil tracks near Hermit-Waldron trail junction (5600'). After Hermit-Boucher junction (5240', 1.4 miles), find water at Santa Maria Spring (5000', 2 miles). Pass Lookout Point (4568'), Breezy Point (4500') and descend Cathedral Stairs (4400', 5 miles) to the junction with Tonto Trail (3200", 5.8 miles). Hike east to Hermit Creek campground (2900', 8 miles). A spur trail meets the Colorado River at Hermit Rapids (2240', 9.3 miles). From Hermit Creek campground, follow Tonto to Boucher Trail (3100, 10.5 miles), on top of the Esplanade, and turn south to climb the canyon. Pass Whites Butte (5000', 11.5 miles) and Yuma Point (6646', 13 miles) on the way to Dripping Springs Trail (5140', 13 miles), with Dripping Springs a mile west. Dripping Springs and Waldron Trails intersect on the return climb (20 miles).

Quick Tips and Cautions

This article assumes canyoneering knowledge and that you will follow GC use rules. Day hikes require no permit, but overnights do. Apply online or take what you can get from a GC backcountry office when you arrive. Penalties for deviating from the itinerary, except for serious medical situations, are severe. Be prepared for varied elevations. Know the state of springs at which you intend to re-supply with water.


Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at or at

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