By Robert Earle Howells

Nankoweap Trail

When to Go: September to May

Round-Trip: 28 Miles, 3 to 4 Days

Level: Challenging Backpacking Trip

Of all the Grand Canyon rim-to-river routes, the Nankoweap is the most challenging and the most rewarding. In the course of 14 miles from the North Rim trailhead on the Kaibab Plateau, the trail plummets 6,000 feet. Allow one to two days to hike down, two to hike out. All the glories of the canyon are on view—buttes and hoodoos, cliffs of sandstone and redwall limestone. But the real reward is a solitary camp beside the Colorado River near the echoing roar of Nankoweap Rapids and a chance to explore ancient granaries of the Ancestral Puebloan people.

Insider Tip: On the way out, lay over at Nankoweap Creek, and be sure to top off your water bottles—the final 14 miles are bone dry.

World's Best Hikes: Rim to Rim to Rim

America's Best Adventures: Row Down the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park Guide

Grand Canyon Photos

Your National Park Photos

Buy a Grand Canyon National Park Map From Trails Illustrated

Hit the Trail With National Geographic Maps

Adventure Photos

  • Picture of a man biking in Snodgrass Mountain Trail, Colorado

    Bike Across America

    A coast-to-coast bicycle ride is just one of our favorite 10 classic adventures.