Although people tend to think of the Grand Canyon as a single location, it’s actually divided into North and South, with slightly different hikes, weather, and experiences to offer. About 20 miles (32 km) apart, the two destinations have enticing activities that attract millions of visitors each year.
The South Rim is more crowded but more developed—that is, there are restaurants, shopping opportunities, and places to stay; the weather here is a bit warmer than in its northern counterpart, and for anyone staying in or coming from Las Vegas, the South Rim is much more suitable for a day trip. Thus, almost everyone who visits the Grand Canyon comes to the South Rim.
Another benefit of choosing the South Rim is that it’s open year-round, unlike the North Rim (which is usually closed from mid-October to mid-May).
For day hikes, you won’t need a backcountry permit—only if you’re spending the night below the rim do you need to buy one. You will, however, need to make reservations for any organized rides or trips (like mule rides, rafting trips, or Jeep tours), since many people books six months in advance or more.
A popular hike is the Rim Trail—from Kolb Studio to Hermits Rest, about 12 miles (19 km); this has spectacular views, some of which you might even recognize, and shuttle stops along the way, but the downside is that you’ll never be alone. Other common hikes are the steep, unshaded South Kaibab Trail (starting at Yaki Point Road); the less-strenuous Bright Angel Trail; the Hermit Trail up to Santa Maria Springs and Dripping Spring (recommended only for experienced desert hikers); and the Grandview Trail, a very steep hike to Coconino Saddle and Horseshoe Mesa.
As always, pack for unpredictable weather and conditions. Wear proper shoes, bring sunblock, and keep track of where water is available so that you always have more than you’ll need.