With more than 5 million annual visitors, the Grand Canyon is our 4th most visited national park. And if you’ve ever experienced the grandeur of this amazing landmark, it’s not hard to understand why. Folks come from all over the country and world to see this stunning geological feature on the Colorado Plateau. The canyon is 278 miles long, 18 miles wide in spots and up to 6,000 feet deep. The National Park Service manages more than 1.2 million acres of the canyon. But most of those 5 million visitors never venture out on more than a couple hundred of those acres. And only 1% of them—about 50,000, hike or ride a mule to the bottom of the canyon. Most visitors don’t step foot at all into the canyon.
I recently returned from an October weekend trip to Grand Canyon National Park, and except for my short visit to the Visitors Center and Geology Museum, crowds were not an issue. I hiked down the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch at canyon’s bottom and enjoyed prolonged periods of solitude. I hiked out via the Bright Angel Trail and mainly shared it with a few handfuls of rim-to-rim hikers and a couple of backpackers. The trail got a little busier beyond Indian Gardens to the Rim, but it was never crowded.
And I had the same experience on the 13 mile long Rim Trail that runs from Hermit’s Point to the South Kaibab Trailhead. This is a great easy paved in places trail that runs along the rim passing amazing viewpoints. Except for the 2 mile stretch in Grand Canyon Village, you can roam it without crowds. Again most visitors don’t venture far from the easily accessible Mather Point. Some will take the shuttle to Hermits Rest and just get out at the viewpoints, take a few pictures and hop back on the bus. We took the shuttle all the way to Hermits Rest and hiked 9 miles back to the village and enjoyed long stretches of trail where we were alone.
Yes, our trails and national parks are experiencing record visitation. But peace and quiet is still possible. Go that extra mile, seek out that quiet stretch of trail and let the huddled masses continue to congregate at the easily accessible and popular spots. The Grand Canyon is a massive place, yet most of its millions of visitors don’t venture on more than a miniscule fraction of this amazing place. I can’t wait for a return visit. I have several trails new to me planned—and I am pretty much guaranteed that those trails will provide me with plenty of solitude even if another million visitors find their way to the Grand Canyon in the near future.