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Insider’s Guide: The Grand Canyon

From dayhikes to weekends to weeklong hikes our Grand Canyon expert will have you ready to hit this natural wonder in no time. PLUS: Get dialed with essential skills.


Negotiate any pour-off with these tips from Grand Canyon guide Sally Underwood.

1. Don’t go down or up a pour-off that’s five feet or higher while wearing a pack. Lower or raise yours using a 15-foot nylon handline.
2. Use your handline to help your partners up and down slick surfaces if they lack climbing/bouldering experience. Tie off around a boulder or tree, or brace against a stable rock.
3. Beware of black pools. “If you can’t see the bottom, they could be a lot deeper and more slippery than you expect,” says Underwood. “That’s a good way to break an ankle.”
4. Wear sturdy hiking boots. Water shoes and sandals don’t cut it in places where you need to jam your toe in a crack to get up or down.

Avoid trouble–and have more fun– with these tips from ranger Bil Vandergraff.

  • Hide from the sun During warm months (spring through fall) head out in the early morning, late afternoon/evening, or when the path you’re traveling is in shadow.
  • Stay positive but realistic “Inexperienced hikers get to the Colorado River, look up at the rim, and think they can’t make it out,” says Vandergraff. “If you need to, take an unscheduled rest day. We won’t penalize you, and it’s better than a rescue.”
  • Back up your hydration system A rock-solid, leakproof, 3-liter hydration system, in addition to two 1-liter Lexan bottles and a 3- to 5-liter Dromedary for dry camping, are a must in this desert environment.

Flagstaff photographer Elias Butler has spent the last decade traversing perilous terrain to get the perfect Grand Canyon shot. Now you can shoot from his favorite spots.

Yuma Point
Reached from the South Rim via a five-mile hike on the Hermit and Boucher Trails, this sandstone lip above Hermit Creek offers one of the most spectacular panoramas of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. “Always stop down [your camera’s aperture] to achieve the traditional landscape that captures everything near and far in sharp focus,” says Butler. UTM: 12S 0389468E 3994056N

Kolb Arch
Getting to this remote spot requires an all-day, off-trail hike from the bottom of the Nankoweap Trail into an upper branch of Nankoweap Creek below Point Imperial on the North Rim. The reward for the arduous bushwhacking is a rarely seen look at the arch named for the Grand Canyon’s first nationally-renowned photographers, the Kolb Brothers. “The best time to shoot this unique feature is before noon, when the sun is hitting the arch,” says Butler. UTM: 12S 0413064E 4015932N

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