Climbing in the Grand Canyon: 5 Things You Need to Know


Few landmarks are as well-known as the Grand Canyon, a geological wonder that stretches 277 miles long, spans 18 miles wide and encompasses four states. It’s truly an epic sight to behold, deserving of its title as one of the natural wonders of the world.

Ecotourists from all corners of the globe visit this amazing site, and if you’re the type that enjoys hiking or climbing then you should visit as well. Just remember a few key things if you’re planning on climbing in the Grand Canyon in the near future.

  1. Always Stick to Marked and Tested Routes

See a line that you want to try out? You probably shouldn’t. Many of the walls in the Grand Canyon are made of shale-like Kaibab formation stone. While there are routes that exist in places where Kaibab is prevalent, the stone is liable to crumble and break off in untested areas, making free-climbing a bad idea.

If you choose to go climbing in the Grand Canyon, stick to marked and tested routes to avoid a dangerous fall.

2. You’ll Probably Have to Hike In and Out

Many of the Grand Canyon’s more popular climbs involve a little preliminary legwork. The popular Zoroaster Temple climb requires you to make it to the canyon floor and then hike several additional miles in.

You might want to take a break, but camping in the park is illegal unless you obtain a special backcountry camping permit from one of the park’s information centers. For some of the more remote climbs, you should start your camping inquiry early to ensure that you won’t be out of compliance when you first embark.

Be prepared with the proper clothing, equipment and nourishment. You may need to pack water and supplies to last for a day or longer without restocking. It’s best to find a reliable backpack in the range of 60 to 80-liters if you’re planning a more involved trip.

3. Experienced Climbers will Have More to Do

While some of the climbing in the Grand Canyon could accurately be described as “moderate,” there isn’t much here for those who are brand-new to climbing. A trip to the canyon for first-timers out of the climbing gym might prove frustrating if your party plans to explore some of the longer climbs that Grand Canyon makes available.

With that said, there are some options for novice climbers in the form of…

4. Short Climbs and Bouldering

While a little more than half of the climbs in the Grand Canyon region are fixture-driven trad climbs, the area is also home to a good selection of sport climbing and bouldering problems. The popular climbing database “The Mountain Project,” lists 11 bouldering problems in the park, which might make for a safer alternative to the more advanced trad climbs that constitute around half of the climbing in the area.

While bouldering doesn’t necessarily let newbies get as far off the ground, it’s a great way to develop skills in a safe setting. Some bouldering problems, as you may know, can be extremely challenging even for veterans. The newbies aren’t the only ones who can improve their skills in the scenic beauty of Grand Canyon’s bouldering areas.

5. Consider the Weather

The Grand Canyon is a famous and beautiful place, but it can also be a formidable challenge. During the summer months, temperatures can exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring plenty of water, sunscreen and breathable clothing.

However, it’s the colder temperatures during nights and winter months that can be even more severe than the Arizona sun. In the depths of the canyon, temperatures can dip well below freezing and stay there during winter months and evenings.

Make sure that you consider this if you’re planning an expedition in the Grand Canyon. Not only will you need extra insulation, food and water, you’ll need to pack it all as well. Snow can cover the ground in many parts of the park, making waterproof hiking shoes a necessity for you to feel well enough to climb once you reach your destination.

Alternatively, you could just choose to climb during the summer. The park is more crowded, but the shoulder-season between September and November, for example, can be the nicest time to visit.

Take These Five Points Into Consideration

The Grand Canyon park has the potential to be a great destination for climbing. Just be sure that if you go, you bring the right equipment, understand the rules of the park and are prepared to do some travel on-foot.

Be safe and happy climbing!