Arizona is a stunning state for backcountry enthusiasts, a remarkable, challenging landscape that offers amazing experiences for hikers and lovers of the great outdoors.
The jewel in the crown is, unsurprisingly, the Grand Canyon, one of the most-visited National Parks in the US, and a truly breathtaking place to visit.
Hiking the Grand Canyon is one of the greatest challenges that hikers can take on and is understandably a feature of many adventurous bucket lists. But even fit, healthy, in-shape hikers should not take this adventure lightly – the Grand Canyon is a serious feat and requires serious preparation.
From desert conditions to huge elevation changes, not to mention the altitude and the sheer physical endurance required to take on the hike, anyone wanting to hike the Grand Canyon needs to take their training seriously.
This post is part of our outdoor adventure series
For those planning to take on this challenge, here are a few tips on training for your next hiking adventure in Arizona.
One of the trickiest parts of a Grand Canyon hike is the vast variety of conditions it encompasses. To start with, the North Rim is around 8,000 feet above sea level, while the canyon floor along the Colorado River is just 2,400 feet above.
This means that not only will you be facing some serious ascents and descents, but you will also have to deal with significant changes in altitude. Just breathing can be a challenge at the top! It is also a desert landscape, which means temperatures of 100+ degrees in the summer, with little to no humidity.
In the winter, however, snow can cover the canyon floor quickly, and temperatures are extremely changeable year round.
The most obvious way to prepare for a challenging hike is by hiking! If you have access to some decent trails near where you live, then nothing really beats getting outside and putting one foot in front of the other.
In Arizona, you can go hiking in Scottsdale or along the Arizona Trail in preparation, but there are great routes across the country that will help you get ready for the Grand Canyon.
Even if you can’t find great hiking trails, there are plenty of other options available. Adding in as many stairs as possible to your daily routine will give a good leg-up (pun intended) for the climbs you’ll face on the trail in the Canyon.
Heading to the gym for strength and conditioning training, as well as working on your core and your overall fitness, is a great way to train. Strength training is key, but don’t overlook cardio either – cycling, running, and cross training are all great ways to improve your fitness levels and give you a solid foundation to build on.
General tips to prepare for a hike
The right gear can make all the difference, so make sure you are stocked up. A good, lightweight backpack, lightweight wicking clothes, some light waterproof layers, and comfortable hiking shoes are the basic necessities, and it is vital that you train with the gear you intend to use before you set off!
Don’t forget that food and drink is one of the most important parts of a successful hike, before, during, and afterwards. Make sure you know what you need, when you need it, and again, don’t debut anything new for the main event – your body will be dealing with plenty of challenges without discovering how new energy bars or isotonic drinks affect your stomach!
Not all hiking training is about strength and endurance. Being flexible and fresh is also key. Add stretching (yoga or pilates, for example) to your routine, and be sure to allow enough time in between training sessions for your body to recover. It is also worth giving yourself a few days break before the big day, so you are fresh for the challenge!
Read more about how to encompass a stop at the Grand Canyon on an epic tour of the US Southwest.