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*Phantom Ranch Updates - for the most up-to-date information, please check the official Phantom Ranch Lodging page.
Hiking to Phantom Ranch, the Grand Canyon’s historic oasis at the bottom of the canyon, is one of the most unique and adventurous hikes I’ve done. Although the hike to the bottom of the canyon is challenging, hiking below the Grand Canyon rim is the most rewarding and intimate way to explore one of the most visited National Parks in the United States!
Out of the 5 million annual visitors to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, only 5% hike below the rim…and only 1% make it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!! Which makes hiking to Phantom Ranch that much more of a magical experience.
In this Phantom Ranch hiking guide, I’ll share with you:
I bet you had no idea that at the bottom of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is a historic oasis, known as Phantom Ranch!
Built in the 1920s, Phantom Ranch is made up of rustic cabins and a charming canteen and is the only lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for visitors to stay overnight. Phantom Ranch is one of the most unique travel destinations in the world and on many adventurer’s bucket list!
But if you’re not lucky enough to book a reservation to stay at Phantom Ranch, you can still visit during a day hike in the Grand Canyon (no permits required)!
Want to stay overnight at Phantom Ranch? Check out my "Ultimate Phantom Ranch Travel Guide” for everything you need to know to plan your trip, including how to make a reservation and what to expect.
*Note: From December 1, 2023 - April 14, 2024, a portion of Bright Angel Trail will be closed due to construction on the park’s water pipeline system. All hikers must use the South Kaibab trail to hike to and from Phantom Ranch from the south rim.
The hike to Phantom Ranch is challenging, but an incredibly rewarding experience! You can start the hike to Phantom Ranch from either Grand Canyon’s south rim or north rim. Many adventurers hiking Rim-to-Rim (from the north rim to the south rim or vice versa), will stay overnight at Phantom Ranch. Even if you can't get a reservation to stay overnight at Phantom Ranch, you can still visit Phantom Ranch on a day hike!
The time it takes to hike to Phantom Ranch depends on which Grand Canyon trail you take:
To hike to Phantom Ranch, we started on the south rim and hiked the 7.5 miles down the South Kaibab trail to the bottom of the canyon. At a pretty steady pace with a 45-minute lunch break at Tip-Off Point, the hike to Phantom Ranch along the South Kaibab trail took us around 5 hours to complete.
Although the hike to Phantom Ranch was challenging, the hike OUT of Phantom Ranch was even more brutal! Due to the extreme elevation gain, expect the hike out of the Grand Canyon to be more strenuous and to take longer. We hiked out of Phantom Ranch back to the south rim along the 10 miles up Bright Angel trail, which took us about 7 hours to complete.
No matter which trail you take to get to Phantom Ranch, the hike will be challenging due to how steep the canyon descent/ascent is! I do recommend you prepare physically and mentally for the hike, especially up and out of the canyon when you leave Phantom Ranch. However, as long as you take your time and go at your own pace, you’ll be able to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch!
You do not need a guide to hike to Phantom Ranch! We did not use a guide because the trails to and from Phantom Ranch are extremely well-marked and very populated.
However, the benefit of hiking to Phantom Ranch with a guide through an adventure or tour company is being guaranteed a reservation to stay overnight at Phantom Ranch if you haven’t been able to get one on your own (which is extremely difficult and requires a ton of luck!).
The best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is spring, fall, and winter when canyon temperatures are safe for hiking below the rim. However, I highly recommend hiking to Phantom Ranch in the fall (September - November), when there are fewer crowds and the temperature is cooler.
I hiked to Phantom Ranch in early November of 2023 and truly loved the experience. Although I’ve hiked several times to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in various months in winter, spring, and fall, November has been the best time to hike in the Grand Canyon. There were moments during my hike when I was completely alone on the trail and got to enjoy the serenity all to myself!
Hiking along the South Kaibab trail and Bright Angel trail in November, I experienced day temperatures from the low 40s (at the top of the south rim), to the low 90s at the bottom of the canyon. Night-time temperatures at Phantom Ranch in November were in the mid-40s, which was comfortable for sleeping and stargazing below the rim.
Another bonus of hiking to Phantom Ranch in November is the golden leaves and other fall foliage making an appearance!
The two most important things to know before you hike in the Grand Canyon are:
Don’t forget to always pack a water treatment system if you hike in the Grand Canyon! The park’s water distribution system is fragile and the water can be contaminated at any point. Just a few months before I hiked to Phantom Ranch in November 2023, E. Coli was found in drinking water. Even though I didn’t need to treat my drinking water, I still packed water treatment drops. Imagine hiking below the rim without any drinking water available because the water is contaminated and you don’t have any kind of water treatment system…no thanks!
Hikers cannot park their cars at the South Kaibab trailhead. Instead, you’ll need to ride the Grand Canyon’s shuttle to get to the South Kaibab trailhead.
If you’re hiking down the South Kaibab trail, here’s where you should park your car and how to get to the trailhead:
Don’t underestimate the temperature change you’ll experience as you hike below the Grand Canyon rim. As you hike below the rim and towards the bottom of the canyon, the temperature will increase and it will be hotter and hotter. The temperature of the inner canyon can be anywhere from 20-30F hotter than the temperature at the rim of the canyon! I once hiked to below the rim in early March, where there was ice and snow by the trailhead…but by the time I got to the bottom of the canyon, I was hiking in a short-sleeve shirt and sweating!
To prepare for the temperature change when you hike in the Grand Canyon, be sure to layer your clothing to make it easy for you to keep cool as you hike below the rim.
Although I don’t recommend hiking in the Grand Canyon in summer (June - August), be prepared for extreme heat in the canyon, where temperatures are well above 100F. Start your hike early, avoid hiking between 10 am and 4 pm, and be aware of signs of heat exhaustion/heat strokes.
Hikers aren’t the only ones who enjoy the Grand Canyon trails. Trail runners and mule riders often use these trails to get below the Grand Canyon as well. Make sure to understand proper trail etiquette and know who has the right of way.
When it comes to sharing the trail with mules, ALWAYS listen to the instructions from the wranglers!
Never underestimate the hike out of the Grand Canyon! Hiking below the rim may feel like a breeze, but hiking up and out of the Grand Canyon is a different story. This part of the hike is challenging due to the extreme elevation gain and will typically take longer to hike than when you hike down the canyon.
Take your time, take as many breaks as you need, and allocate more time than you think to hike out of the Grand Canyon!
Whether you’re staying a few nights at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona or day hiking below the rim, Phantom Ranch is not to be missed! Hiking to Phantom Ranch is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the most rewarding way to explore Grand Canyon National Park and can be done as a day hike.
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