With only three days left until the entire country is consumed by costume parties and candy seeking behavior, Hatch’s Halloween Countdown is winding down. BUT, there are still a few more Halloween-y treats waiting for you on your Grand Canyon river trip that we haven’t covered!


Whether they’re growing out of Medusa’s head or crawling through the eyes of jack-o-lanterns, snakes definitely have a reputation in the Halloween scene. Their ability to slither through cracks and crevices can be unnerving for some, and the venomous bites some species can administer probably don’t help endear many people toward these creatures. However, most snakes aren’t harmful to (or even interested in) humans. AND they help keep populations of smaller scurrying creatures, like mice, nice and small.


The two most commons species snakes in the Grand Canyon are gopher snakes and common king snakes. Neither species is venomous, so if you run into one of these guys, you have nothing to worry about.

Gopher snakes are Arizona’s longest, getting up to 92" in length—more than 7 ½ feet long! They range from tan to an orangey-brown with red, brown, or black splotches on their backs. When threatened, a gopher snake will sometimes raise its head and neck like it is prepared to strike or even vibrate it’s tail, making some people think it is a rattlesnake.

King snakes are up to 56" long (over 4 ½ feet long) and black with white or yellow bands. During the hottest parts of summer, a king snake may become nocturnal. When threatened, a king snake will coil itself into a ball, hiding its head in the center.


In addition to these and other non-venomous species of snake, the Grand Canyon is home to a variety of rattlesnakes—6 in all. They are, the Southwestern speckled rattlesnake, the Northern black-tailed rattlesnake, and four subspecies of the Western Diamondback (the Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake, the Great Basin rattlesnake, the Mojave "green" rattlesnake, and the Hopi rattlesnake).

Of these, the Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake is the most common. It lives only in the Grand Canyon. Over time, this snake has adapted to its environment by developing a pinkish tint that allows it to hide among the pink rocks throughout the canyon.

Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake

Photo credit: NPS

If you encounter a snake on your trip (no matter what kind), the best policy is to give it a wide berth. The snakes that live in the canyon have no interest in biting or chasing down humans. Some won’t even stir when you walk past them; others will stand their ground when threatened, but will leave people alone who give them their space. Keep your eyes open, and if you happen find a snake—especially a rattlesnake—in your path, the best thing to do is walk far around it. In the unlikely event that you are bitten by a snake, tell the guides immediately and they will decide the best course of action.

Snakes, like most Halloween creatures, don’t deserve the bad reputation they have. Most of them abide by a live and let live sort of philosophy. If you respect them and their space, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see one of these creatures moving through the desert–watching that kind of grace and strength, you’ll wonder why they are feared at all.

Hatch’s Halloween Countdown: Five Chills and Thrills on Grand Canyon River Trips (#2 Snakes) was last modified: October 28th, 2015 by Jessica Clark

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