Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon.

It’s undoubtedly one of the most famous natural sights in the world, and for good reason: it’s the second deepest canyon on the planet. The chasm stretches for 277 miles and spans up to 18 miles wide at points. Formed by the Colorado River over millions of years, it is perhaps one of the most awe-inducing locations a traveler can set eyes upon. In fact, many say you haven’t seen the true beauty of America until you witness a breathtaking sunset over the canyon rim.

However, despite the sheer impressiveness of the Grand Canyon, the visitor center reports that the large majority of the millions of tourists that arrive never venture into its depths. Most simply peruse the Grand Canyon Village, check out a lookout point or two, and maybe walk a few miles to snap photos at the first marker on the trail.

If you are planning a trip to this unique national park, go the distance and see the Grand Canyon the way it was meant to be seen. Take a deep breath, brace yourself for dizzying heights and blazing heat, then head into the canyon. Most avid hikers would agree that the full experience involves traveling to the canyon’s floor and truly witnessing its vastness.

Should you decide to intrepidly brave one of the trails into the Grand Canyon, preparing isn’t just helpful, it’s a must. The canyon is a harsh mistress, and if you don’t adhere to the following the expert tips, you could find yourself in a world of trouble. Let’s dive in.

1. Select Your Trail Carefully

Grand Canyon

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Whether you’re sticking with a day hike or venturing into the depths of the canyon, there are several options to choose from on both the North and South Rims. Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the trails before deciding on the one that’s right for your abilities and plans. Keep in mind, the National Park Service states that there are no easy trails into or out of the Grand Canyon, so exploring won’t be a simple walk in the park.

Hundreds of people are rescued from the canyon each year, usually because they are underprepared. Picture a stair-stepper on steroids; that’s what it’s like to hike up and down the severe canyon walls. However, you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the hike, as long as you move carefully and purposefully.

2. Double the Amount of Water You Originally Planned to Pack

Grand Canyon

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Staying hydrated during your hike is essential. Many hikers underestimate how much they will need to drink as they move through high altitudes and blistering heat. Even if you visit the park during the cooler months, that desert sun will bake you like a hot potato.

Invest in a hydration pack you can carry on your back, then throw in a few Gatorades and water bottles, just for safe measure. There are no places to refill your water supply along the trails, so it’s always better to overestimate how much you’ll need, even if it does add extra weight to your pack.

3. Don’t Forget to Protect Yourself from the Unforgiving Sun

Grand Canyon

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At an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet, the Grand Canyon is much closer to the sun than the places most people are used to. Plus, the environment offers little to no shelter from powerful UV rays, which means sunscreen is 100 percent necessary for any hikes in the park. Bring extra with you so you can re-apply as necessary. Also, consider wearing clothing that keeps much of your skin covered, even though the weather can be hot. Hats, breathable long-sleeve shirts, and hiking pants are all excellent things to do on the day of your adventure. Remember to grab your sunglasses; you’ll certainly want them once the sun reaches its brightest point during your climb.

4. Start Your Journey at the Crack of Dawn

Grand Canyon

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The sooner you hit the trail, the less time you’ll be forced to spend in the glaring sunlight and dry environment. Wake up while it’s still dark outside and arrive at the trailhead prior to the first rays of sunrise, if possible. This will help you conserve water and energy simply because you’ll spend less time moving around during the hottest hours of the day. Plus, the sunrises in the Grand Canyon are to-die-for, so it’s a perfect opportunity to catch one as you begin your day.

5. Pace Yourself and Enjoy the Adventure

Grand Canyon

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Although safety and conscientiousness are absolutely necessary on a trip into the canyon, don’t forget that hiking into this natural wonder is an experience unlike any other. Keep a steady pace so that you don’t wind up stuck in an unfavorable location once the sun sets, but also take the time you need to really soak in the majesty of the national park. Allow yourself to take snack and water breaks while surveying the staggering views. Snap photos often so that you can relive your adventure once you’re back home. This is your hike, and as long as you are prepared, you can move at the pace that best suits you.

Your Turn

Hiking the Grand Canyon is not about skill. Any tenacious adventurer who takes the time to prepare can tackle this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and should you embark on a trail into the stunning depths of the national park, you’ll forever be thankful that you did. Just be certain that you know what you’re getting yourself into so that the trip is memorable for the right reasons.