By Michael Lanza

The Grand Canyon’s appeal to backpackers may seem elusive. It’s hard, it’s dry, it’s often quite hot with little respite from the blazing sun. But while those aspects of hiking there are rarely out of mind, when I recall backpacking in the canyon, I conjure mental images of waterfalls, creeks, and intimate side canyons sheltering perennial streams that nurture lush oases in the desert. I think of wildflowers carpeting the ground for as far as the eye can see. I recall campsites on beaches by the Colorado River and on promontories overlooking a wide expanse of the canyon.

And, of course, I picture the endless vistas stretching for miles in every direction, where impossibly immense stone towers loom thousands of feet above an unfathomably vertiginous and complex landscape.

After several backpacking trips in the Big Ditch, I find that the more I go there, the more I need to go back again. This place really hooks you (see reason no. 5, below). And my perspective is shaped by more than three decades of backpacking all over the United States, including formerly the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog. I’ve taken many of the best multi-day hikes out there—some of them multiple times. (See my lists of “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips” and “The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Southwest”—and yes, the Grand Canyon is on both.)


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop.
” data-image-caption=”David Ports backpacking the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop. Click photo to read about that trip.
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker on the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop.” class=”wp-image-23908″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=200%2C133&ssl=1 200w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?resize=670%2C447&ssl=1 670w,
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