Squirrels at Grand Canyon National Park: Why they are THE WORST

Squirrels at Grand Canyon National Park: Why they are THE WORST

You’re exhausted. It’s hot, you’ve been hiking. You are trying to relax and take in the magnificent scenery that is the Grand Canyon, but something keeps bugging you, stealing your attention- and it’s not the person next to you with the deliciously melting ice cream.

It’s a squirrel. Or maybe two.

Ahh, the infamous Grand Canyon squirrel. The culprit for the number one injury by animals in the Grand Canyon- the squirrel bite. Isn’t that crazy? Nothing extreme like an elk or mountain lion attack, or even common like a car accident with a deer…a silly squirrel bite is the number one injury from animals. Don’t be a statistic (or an idiot) and get bit by one.  

How do you avoid the dreaded squirrel bite you ask?

Well, it starts by understanding that these guys aren’t scared of you in the least. In fact, they know you and your habits more than you do and are ready and willing to pounce at any moment.

They are waiting for you to put down your bag, lose your attention, or drop a little snack. They know the most common pockets food is kept in in a backpack and aren’t afraid to climb on the bag resting on your leg.

They know you will first try to shoo them with your hand (and probably the word “shoo”) and they won’t budge.

They know next comes others also shooing them and/or some foot action to move them away. Followed by trying to move the bag or stomping. They know the drill. And they aren’t scared of it.


Squirrel story time.

Just to give you some perspective. Cause I know, by now (if you’ve even made it this far), you are like “ok Cali, some squirrels, I get it, don’t be dramatic, it can’t be that annoying or big of a deal.” But, IT IS. Here’s some squirrel encounters we had in only 1.5 days.  

Bill and I hiked the Rim to Rim trail in May 2018 and when at the bottom and while at water refill stations along the Bright Angel Trail, the squirrels were insane and incessant and downright annoying.

For example, near the canteen at Phantom Lodge, the lodging area at the bottom of the canyon, we saw 4 packs- including one of our own- get ripped into in the span of no more than a half hour.

Unknowing hikers would sit down their pack and walk into the canteen. Before they had even made it to the door, the squirrels were sizing up their bags and swiftly beginning their tearing terror. I’m talking ripping through the sides of a $100+ backpack in 2 seconds flat. Who wants to a.) have their stuff ruined b.) lose their food c.) have to hike back out of the canyon with a ripped bag?

This same thing happened to Bill’s bag and we were sitting right next to it. They didn’t care that we were right there, shooing them, moving the bag around, or at one point literally throwing rocks to scare them (don’t freak out animal lovers, we weren’t trying to hurt them, just get them to move). They still ripped a hole in the side pocket and got to his trail mix.

Even worse, we saw some squirrels climbing on people who were napping, trying to get into their pockets. The nerve! They did the same thing to Bill as he was napping so I stood guard as the amazing (and neurotic) girlfriend that I am.

Proof that I’m the best 😉

Around the same time, someone saw us struggling and mentioned that they had had all their food stolen by squirrels just the day before. They had left their pack at their campground for 15 minutes and came back to a destroyed pack and no food. Packs of ramen, rice packs, Clif bars, and trail mix all gone! Poor guy had to buy food from the canteen (which is expensive and slim pickings!).

Then, while at the campground attempting to make lunch, you had to keep watching your table and around it as the squirrels would basically surround you and wait for you to drop something or look the other way. It was really inconvenient to say the least. Thank goodness they give you boxes to store everything in though, otherwise you wouldn’t have a pack left in the morning!

Our last encounters with these guys came at the water refill station at Indian Garden Campground and at the top of the South Rim. It was the same old story, ignoring your pack for a second would lead to figuring out how to safely remove a squirrel from your stuff. At one point my pack was literally surrounded by squirrels on three sides, with me on the other. I almost gave them the pack. They were seedy little guys.


So what are you to do? Honestly, I don’t know. But here are some things that worked for us and that others seemed to approve of too:

  • We found that wearing our packs they didn’t bother us at all, that’s obviously not great all the time, but the more you can just hold onto your bags, the better.
  • If you are camping- absolutely put your food (and smelly things) in the box(es) provided to you by the park, if you don’t, it’s guaranteed the squirrels will get into your pack- and probably not through the nice opening at the top like you would.  
  • Have someone watch your stuff while you go to the bathroom/take photos/nap.
  • Do not keep your pack/food inside your tent thinking that will stop them, they will bite right through!

(If you have other tips, please share, we could all use your help!)

So there’s my PSA- beware of the squirrels! Do no feed them. Do not try to touch them. Be aware of your belongings at all times (if you don’t want them to be ripped to pieces and have new holes). When trying to get a squirrel to leave your stuff alone, be careful to not use your body parts that could get hurt.

And hey, don’t get the wrong idea from me here- the Grand Canyon, both at the rims and in the canyon itself is worth a visit, regardless of the annoying squirrels. Just come prepared and watch your stuff, you never know who else is watching it closer.


What do you think, are squirrels still not a big deal? Or did I scare you away? Let me know in the comments!


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