The Grand Canyon: Is It Possible To Hike To The Colorado River And Back In One Day?

Adventures in the Southwest - Nankoweep Trail

photo by Mitch Stevens

Hiking Grand Canyon

As our readers know, we often spend a lot of time writing about the grandeur and majesty we outdoor enthusiasts find when visiting the Grand Canyon, especially hiking to the Colorado River. John Wesley Powell, an explorer and geologist in the mid 1800’s, waxed poetic about the Grand Canyon:  You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.

Tucson based outdoor writer and adventure travel agent Kirsten Almquist of  Trailblazing Southwest, warns tourists about hiking into the Grand Canyon unprepared.  “If you’ve ever made it past the tourist-dotted rim and decided to make the great descent into the giant hole in the ground (better known as the Grand Canyon) you can attest to the ample signage discouraging hikers from trying to make it to the Colorado River and back in a single day.” Check out her excellent article, The Grand Canyon: Is It Possible To Hike To The Colorado River And Back In One Day?

Kirsten advises that for people who are in excellent shape and have the expertise to attempt this challenging hike, they too need to seek advice from a park ranger at the back country information center. While she concludes that it is entirely possible to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in one day, this trek is only for the most hardy among us.

Kirsten cautions that according to the park service, there are over 250 people who need to be rescued from the Grand Canyon in an average year. In fact, “A surprising majority of victims rescued from the Grand Canyon are young, healthy males between the ages of 18 and 43 attempting to hike to the river and back in one day.”


photo by Mitch Stevens

She stresses that over 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon yearly. Because of that, Grand Canyon National Park is fastidious when it comes to warning hikers of the dangers of overdoing it.

Kirsten offers 8 tips for hiking to the Colorado River and back in one day. The most important tip is not to attempt this hike from May to September. The weather is often too hot. Other sage pieces of advice are to contact the back country office well ahead of time, plan for your hike in advance, pack light but take enough food and water, eat and rest often, wet yourself down when possible, drink plenty of water and “keep track of  your time by taking pictures on the trail.” She explains that this will give you an idea of how long it’ll take you to hike a mile in the Grand Canyon, an environment more challenging than almost any other place in America.

Matt’s Story

Kirsten cites an example of Matt Burns, a businessman turned world traveler who successfully completed a Grand Canyon hike from rim to river and back in one day. Read Kirsten’s interesting story of Matt’s Grand Canyon trek and other valuable bits of information about hiking the Grand Canyon in one day. 

A final bit of advice; Kirsten recommends to start out on the South Kaibab Trail, hike down to the Colorado River, then ascend back up to the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail. The latter is shaded, more gradual and affords the opportunity to fill up on water every 1.5 miles. Kirsten cites more tips about successfully completing one of the most epic hikes in the world, The Grand Canyon, hiking to the Colorado River and back in one day.

For more information about hiking the Grand Canyon, read Take A Hike – 7 Grandest Adventures in the Southwest

Happy trails!


photo by Mitch Stevens





About the Author
Mitch Stevens has been leading hiking and backpacking outings throughout the southwest for over ten years. As a Sierra Club hiking leader, writer and photographer, he has promoted the enjoyment and conservation of our remaining wild lands. Born and raised in New York City, Mitch came to discover the great outdoors and fall in love with Arizona’s special places. Through his countless trips across the state and region, Mitch made it his mission to encourage fellow hikers and enthusiasts to protect the beauty of the desert. Now, he continues to embrace his fascination with the desert beauty by creating and leading multigenerational tours throughout the southwest. His experience coupled with his passion for the great outdoors make him a unique tour guide and outings leader.

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