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Three Ways to Hoof the Hole
By John Annerino

Of some 250 miles (402 kilometers) of inner-canyon trails, just 30 miles (48 kilometers) are maintained. But even the canyon's most trafficked routes have been known to pummel seasoned hikers. Be conservative in estimating mileage, and start with a tried-and-true trek like one of these standouts.

How much water you need...
How much water you need depends on how deep you're going. Plan carefully: On most rim-to-river trails, the only reliable water source is the Colorado River itself. Above: Round-trip, per-person water needs in moderate canyon temperatures.

Chiseled through stone that ranges from 260 million to 1.8 billion years old, the steep switchbacks of the South Kaibab Trail offer day hikers superior views of the inner canyon. It's just a 780-foot (238 meter) descent to panoramic and aptly named Ooh Aah Point (one and a half miles round-trip) (2.4 kilometers); or continue down past the rust-red pyramid of O'Neill Butte to a dizzying river-view perch on Skeleton Point (six miles round-trip) (9.6 kilometers).

The North Rim's rugged Thunder River Trail is a mesmerizing desert route to plummeting cascades. Cave the headwater passageway (permit required), trout-fish Granite Narrows, and hike across Surprise Valley to Deer Creek narrows to see a mosaic of prehistoric handprints (24 miles round-trip via the Bill Hall Trail) (39 kilometers).

It's an all-time classic: the Grand Canyon traverse, from the cool 7,000-foot (2,134-meter) ponderosa pine forest on the South Rim's Coconino Plateau down into the inner canyon's blistering desert and back up to the North Rim's alpine forests. Follow the Bright Angel Trail 4.7 miles (7.6 kilometers) to the oasis of Indian Garden. Pitch your tent and walk to Plateau Point for a raptor's view of the Colorado River. The next morning, hike the remaining 4.8 miles down the Devil's Corkscrew to historic Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground. Spend a day or two exploring Phantom Creek Narrows (beware: summer is flash flood season) and writing postcards that will be carried out by mule. From the ranch, follow the North Kaibab seven miles up to Cottonwood Campground and spend the afternoon exploring a deep tributary chasm known as the Transept. It's 6.7 more miles (10.8 kilometers) up to the North Rim, where you can collapse in luxury at the Grand Canyon Lodge before catching the shuttle back to the South Rim.

For Adventure's full Big-Ditch coverage—including a fact-packed mega-map—pick up the March issue.

Online Extra
Four million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, but you can have the great gorge all to yourself by downloading our Grand Canyon desktop image. Download image >>

From the print edition, March 2004

The Grand Canyon Tool Kit: Essential strategies for doing the canyon right
Hiking the Grand Canyon: Three ways to hoof the hole
Rafting the Grand Canyon: The best way to run the Colorado
Canyon Legends: Three unsolved mysteries
High Holy Days: Cleansing your karma on Tibet's Mount Kailas
The Adventures of Tim Cahill: Why a little bird is picking on a whale
Special Report: Wreck diving's deep frontier, on the S.S. Aleutian

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Related Web Sites

Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets. An IMAX Film

Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets
Experience the thrills of the great gorge with a preview of the IMAX film Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets

Grand Canyon Maps
For the maps you need to explore every inch of the Grand Canyon—including Trails Illustrated's new topographic version—visit National Geographic Maps.

Grand Canyon Quest
While prolific author David Quammen kayaked the Colorado in September of 2001, the whole world changed—except the Grand Canyon. Check out photos and audio dispatches from his trip.

Grand Canyon Travel Guide Online
Get in-depth information from National Geographic, including historic sites, driving tours, photographs, links, maps, and more online.

Grand Canyon National Park
For more tips on traversing the Grand Canyon, consult the National Park Service.

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March 2004

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