Side Hikes on a Grand Canyon River Trip: What You Need to Know

What are the Side Hikes Like on Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting Trips?


Many guests mention that the highlights of a whitewater adventure trip include the many awe-inspiring side hikes throughout their rafting trip. The rapids on a Grand Canyon rafting trip provide unmatched excitement, but it’s the magical places found when venturing away from the river that can provide even more intrigue.

Hike Length

Side stops and associated hikes can range from longer hikes like Nankoweap (~2 miles with 990 ft elevation gain – the Grand Canyon Stairmaster!) to short stops such as Redwall Cavern, where the rafts pull up along the beach and guests are free to get out and play in the sand within this cavern. Hike to the Nankoweap Granaries and Deer Creek Patio provide guests with a bit more vigorous exercise. The breath-taking vistas and scenery are well worth the effort.


Group hiking a little above the Colorado River

There will be plenty of opportunities for side adventures during your Grand Canyon rafting adventure


people hiking in side canyon in Grand Canyon

Some side canyons in Grand Canyon are easy flat walking while other have plenty of river stones that like walking in deep sand.


Trail Conditions

Please note that trails in Grand Canyon are not regularly maintained and thus can be rocky and uneven. Some guests bring hiking poles to aid them with the rugged terrain. Many of the hikes involve scrambling and exposure. These hikes can require the use of your hands to assist in pulling you up and over boulders or hanging onto ledges over exposed areas above ravines. For these, the use of a backpack or Camelbak can be very useful, so your hands are free to assist you with the hike. If you are ever uncomfortable with the elevation gain or loss, or heights and exposure involved in a particular hike, feel free to sit back at the boats and relax along the Colorado River. On our full canyon trips, none of the hikes are mandatory.  Though they generally are not long in distance, some hikes can be a bit more strenuous. Training before the trip can greatly enhance your experience. Check out our physical requirements for more information.


Hiking up a steep rough trail in the Grand Canyon

Trails in Grand Canyon are not maintained (except for the major rim-to-river ones like Bright Angel or Kaibab Trails). Some can be like this photo: steep, rocky, and in the bight sun.


Hiking along a narrow ledge through Deer Creek Canyon to reach The Patio oasis above the Colorado River in Grand Canyon

Guests walk along a ledge in Deer Creek Canyon to reach The Patio oasis in Grand Canyon


Wet Hikes

Some side stops such as the confluence of the Little Colorado River provide an easy hike along sandstone up to the river for swimming and splashing. Other hikes take guests directly through or alongside creeks. These are what are called “wet hikes” where the hiking takes place in the water. This is where sport sandals come in handy!


people walking through a shallow area of the colorado river

Wet hikes involves walking through water or across wet surfaces.


People hiking in Grand Canyon to Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Falls is a beautiful site right next to the Colorado River. Take a steep hike up into the side canyon to reach the Deer Creek Patio oasis.


Choose Your Own Adventure

Guests may take part is as much or as little hiking as they like when Grand Canyon whitewater rafting. For those looking for leisure and comfortable hiking, feel free to bring a book when those hikes look a bit too daunting. Discuss the hikes with the guides and make sure to feel comfortable with what’s ahead.


people hiking down to the Colorado River while on a motorized whitewater rafting trip

Finishing a hike and heading back to the rafts.


People relaxing at the waters edge in camp chairs by the Colorado River in Grand Canyon

You can always sit in the Colorado River to cool off instead of going on a hike. (Camp chairs are just for camp though.)


Book your Grand Canyon whitewater rafting adventure today to see these breathtaking spots for yourself!