If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim, South Rim, or Tuweep, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center. The earlier you plan your hike and apply for permits, the more likely you will be to get the dates and itinerary of your choice. The earliest you can apply for a permit is the first of the month, four months prior to the proposed start month (see table ).
Each year Grand Canyon National Park receives approximately 30,000 requests for backcountry permits . The park issues 13,000 permits, and close to 40,000 people camp overnight in the backcountry at Grand Canyon. The majority of Grand Canyon hikers are here for the first time, and although many are avid hikers, they find that hiking the Grand Canyon is very different from most other backpacking experiences. They tend to react to the experience in one of two ways: either they can't wait to get back, or they swear they'll never do it again. Depending upon how prepared you are and what the canyon serves up at any particular time, your trip can be a vacation or a challenge, a revelation or an ordeal.
You will be hiking in a desert climate, where water and protection from the elements make the difference between life and death. Your trip begins at a high elevation (7000-8000 feet) and requires a bone-jarring descent at the beginning of your trip, when your pack is heaviest. You will face a long climb out when you are already tired. Grand Canyon National Park encompasses more than 1.2 million acres, the vast majority of the park is inaccessible due to the predominance of cliffs, and inhospitable to all but desert plants and animals. The Colorado River bisects the canyon; hikers can cross the river only at Phantom Ranch. If you choose to hike from rim to river to rim, you will have to deal with an elevation differential of more than 10,000 feet from start to finish.
If you are interested in guided hiking and/or camping trips, please contact one of the Hiking Guide Companies. Rangers recommend that you plan your trip well in advance of your arrival at the park, and when possible, indicate flexibility as to the dates and routes you request. Permit requests for popular hiking seasons - spring, summer, and fall - generally must be made as early as possible . While summer is definitely not the ideal time to hike in the canyon, it remains the busiest hiking season.
Despite the fact that canyon hiking is extremely demanding, requests for backcountry permits far exceed the use that the canyon's fragile desert environment can sustain without serious resource damage. Therefore, overnight camping in the canyon and in undeveloped areas along the rim is carefully monitored and controlled, and demand usually exceeds availability. Day hiking is a rewarding alternative if you are unable to obtain an overnight permit. Day hiking can be a safer and more enjoyable choice than an overnight trip into a difficult area that is beyond the capabilities of any single member of your group. Be sure to prepare for your day hike as carefully as you would an overnight trip, and do not attempt excessive mileages. Permits are not required for non-commercial day hikes.