The Rim Trail on the South Rim extends from Hermits Rest to the South Kaibab Trailhead. It starts in Grand Canyon Village and goes both east and west along the rim, with the westbound section of the trail spanning 8 miles to Hermits Rest and the eastbound part extending 3.7 miles past Mather Point to Pipe Creek Vista and now another .8 miles to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Both sections can be very busy, especially near Grand Canyon Village, and both offer stunning canyon views while passing through less-than-pristine rim-top scenery. The eastbound section is paved (from Maricopa Point to Pipe Creek Vista) and easy to traverse; the westbound part is longer, more rugged, and has lonesome stretches. Much of the westbound section runs close to Hermit Road. The new educational Trail of Time extends 1.3 miles from Verkamp's Visitor Center to Yavapai Point in the eastbound section.
West on the South Rim Trail
Highlights: Beats riding the bus to the overlooks (though you can get on and off the bus at any of the viewpoints and walk as long as you like). Drawbacks: Seeing and hearing the buses, and the crowds at the overlooks. Difficulty Level: One steep climb; tricky footing in isolated locations.
Don't let this trail's name confuse you. The Rim Trail on the South Rim meanders east and west along the canyon's South Rim, from South Kaibab Trailhead through Grand Canyon Village and all the way to Hermits Rest. (If you go looking for the canyon's west rim, you may end up in Lake Mead.) It parallels Hermit Road and passes through all the same scenic overlooks described in the Hermit Road driving tour. Walking (instead of driving) this stretch is a great way to see the canyon while putting some elbow room between you and the crowds.
The trail is paved from South Kaibab Trailhead to Powell Point; unpaved between Powell Point and Monument Creek Vista; and paved between Monument Creek Vista and Hermits Rest. The 1.9-mile distance from the village to Powell Point is paved, with one 200-foot climb. Past Maricopa Point, the trail planes off and the pavement ends. For the next 4 miles, there's a well-defined dirt trail that meanders through piñon-juniper woodland along the rim (when not passing overlooks). The scenery is lovely, and the crowd thins as you move farther west. The nicest stretch lies between the Abyss and Pima Point, where the trail becomes the greenway and heads toward the canyon. This is one of the few places on the trail where you won't hear an occasional bus. Allow 2 to 3 hours to get from Powell Point to Hermits Rest, and about 1 hour to get from Grand Canyon Village to Powell Point.
As 16 miles might be too much hiking for 1 day, I recommend hiking out on this trail from Grand Canyon Village and taking the shuttle back (mid-Mar to mid-Oct). By doing so, you can avoid revisiting the same overlooks on the shuttle ride back -- the shuttles stop at every turnout en route to Hermits Rest, but only stop at Pima Point, Mohave Point, and Powell Point on their way back to the village.
If you don't want to walk the whole 8 miles, here's a list of distances to help determine how far you've gone and whether you want to continue to the next lookout:
Trail head to Trailview I: .7 miles
Trailview I to Maricopa Point: .7 miles
Maricopa Point to Powell Point: .5 miles
Powell Point to Hopi Point: .3 miles
Hopi Point to Mohave Point: .8 miles
Mohave Point to the Abyss: 1.1 miles
The Abyss to Pima Point: 2.9 miles
Pima Point to Hermits Rest: 1.1 miles
8 miles to Hermits Rest from Grand Canyon Village. Access: Rim-side sidewalk at Grand Canyon Village's west end. Water sources at Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest, Park Headquarters, and Yavapai Point. Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map, Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
East on the South Rim Trail
Highlights: Paved, easy to walk on, and close to the edge. Drawbacks: More crowded than the westbound section. Difficulty Level: The sidewalk is so wide, it's more like a road than a trail.
This smooth, paved trail connects Grand Canyon Village and Mather Point. Around the lodges, the path is a flat sidewalk teeming with people. Between Verkamp's Visitor Center and Yavapai Point is the new Trail of Time, a 1.3-mile walk from the village to Yavapai Geology Museum in which every meter (think of a long step) equals a million years of history. This interactive walk, representing 2 billion years of Grand Canyon history, allows you to see and touch rock samples from the canyon's various layers.
The crowds dissipate between the village's east edge and Yavapai Point. Near Yavapai Point, there are many smooth, flat rocks along the rim -- great places from which to contemplate the canyon. Located 1.75 miles northeast of the village's historic district, Yavapai Point has a historic observation station (it was built in 1928) with large windows overlooking the canyon and geology-related exhibitions. From here, you can walk another .7 miles to Mather Point on a portion of the park's Greenway Trail, then past Pipe Creek Vista on to South Kaibab Trailhead. This 10-foot-wide, paved walkway is usually within a few feet of the rim, away from crowds and providing ever-changing canyon views. If you grow fatigued, you can catch shuttles at Mather Point, Yavapai Point, or Pipe Creek Vista. Allow about 1 hour to walk this trail.
2.4 miles to Mather Point. Access: Grand Canyon Village, along the rim behind El Tovar Hotel. Water sources at Grand Canyon Village, Park Headquarters, and Yavapai Point. Maps: Trails Illustrated Topo Map, Grand Canyon Sky Terrain Trail Map.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.