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2-3 hours: DISCOVER THE NORTH RIM
Grand Canyon National Park spans 1.2 million acres, but 90 percent of its visitors flock to a handful of viewpoints on the easily accessible South Rim. Come summer, escape the crowds on the Cape Final Trail, 40 minutes east of the North Rim visitor center on Scenic Drive. The leisurely 4.4-mile round-trip crosses the Walhalla Plateau through piñons and junipers silhouetted against salmon-colored canyon walls. The old fire road tapers off near a small butte about 200 feet from the rim, but it’s an easy scramble to Cape Final’s brass survey marker–and a gaping canyon vista. On a clear day, you’ll see some 10,000 feet of relief, from the canyon bottom to the top of Humphreys Peak, 55 miles southeast, in Flagstaff. USGS quad: Walhalla Plateau
5-7 hours: EXPLORE A DESERT OASIS
The South Rim’s Hermit Trail passes some of the lushest springs on this side of the canyon. Take the Hermit’s Rest shuttle from Grand Canyon Village (from late spring to early fall). The switchbacked trail drops 1,800 feet to Santa Maria Springs, passing several streams and a creek where animals like desert bighorn sheep and kangaroo rats come to drink. At Santa Maria Springs (2.5 miles down), rest under a rustic shelter built in 1913 and peer into the abyss of Hermit Basin. To stay on schedule, turn around here. To make it an all-day affair, keep hiking: The trail hugs Redwall limestone with a screaming drop-off, then tips toward the Colorado River for another 2,000 feet and 6.4 miles–for a rim-to-river total of 8.9 miles. USGS quad: Grand Canyon
10+ hours: BAG A GRAND CANYON CLASSIC
A day on the Grandview Trail, which leaves the South Rim from Grandview Point on Desert View Drive, combines 360-degree panoramas with glimpses into canyon history and even a living cave. The narrow trail switchbacks through steep cliffbands past an old stone ruin en route to the piñion- and juniper-covered island of Horseshoe Mesa. Stop at the Last Chance copper mine cookhouse (mile 3), built in the 1890s, or slip into the Cave of the Domes, a stalagmite and stalactite exploration 1/4 mile down the mesa that demands you follow the three-light-source spelunking rule. Legs still fresh? Head west on the Cottonwood Trail and drop another two miles and 1,200 feet to Cottonwood Springs,1,500 feet above the canyon floor. USGS quad: Grandview Point
Contact http://www.nps.gov/grca, (928)638-7875 (Call between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. MST, Monday-Friday)