Grand Canyon Rim-To-Rim Hike

There’s no question about it, the rim-to-rim hike in Grand Canyon National Park is a classic bucket list adventure. But it’s no stroll through the park, that’s for sure. Being unprepared can have catastrophic results. However, when you’ve trained properly, have the right gear and know what to expect, it can be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.

  • Recommended Route: North Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Trail
  • Length: 24 miles (one-way)
  • Level: Strenuous
  • Best Time to Go: May - October

Hikers in Grand Canyon National Park (OARS)

The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Experience

For the hearty souls who are willing to work for it – less than one percent of the Grand Canyon’s five million annual visitors – the real magic lies below the rim. On this epic Grand Canyon hike, you’ll leave from the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim, challenging your personal limits as you descend 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon before connecting with the Bright Angel Trail and climbing 4,500 feet and 9.6 miles back out again to the South Rim.

Along the North Kaibab Trail you’ll take in mesmerizing scenery as you pass through two billion years of the Earth’s history and eleven layers of ancient rocks. Eventually, after hours of knee-pounding hiking, you’ll reach the sandy banks of the Colorado River. Here, in the heart of Grand Canyon National Park, dozens of massive rock formations will tower above you on all sides. For those with a love of the natural world, it’s pure sensory overload – thrilling, dizzying, enlightening.

Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon (OARS)

At the bottom, you can enjoy a much-needed rest and overnight stay (maybe longer) at Bright Angel Campground, or one of the most exclusive lodges in America – Phantom Ranch – where a cold beverage, warm meal booked in advance, and a cozy bed await. Soak it all in, because the real adventure still lies ahead.

Climbing out of the canyon along the Bright Angel Trail, considered to be the park’s premiere trail, may be rewarding, but it’s no easy feat. However, ample shade, seasonal water sources, and views framed by massive cliffs make it a more pleasant, even enjoyable experience, for most hikers. Many, many switchbacks later when the journey is over, you’ll stand along the top of the South Rim, knowing that you’ve seen the Grand Canyon in all of its glory.

Work For It

Everyone from small children to the elderly have successfully hiked into the Grand Canyon, but even the most avid hikers and physically fit people need to take training seriously. To put it into perspective, many people compare the Grand Canyon’s rim-to-rim hike with climbing Mt. Whitney in California, the Lower 48’s highest peak, which is a 21.6-mile, 6,000-foot undertaking. In preparation for this demanding trek, it’s critical to work your heart, knees, and hips in the months prior to going. Even if you’re in the best shape of your life, whatever work you put into targeted training will make your experience that much more enjoyable and safe.

Hikers in Grand Canyon National Park (OARS)

Gearing Up

Training isn’t the only thing you need to keep in mind for a successful rim-to-rim hike. Bringing the right gear is also critical. To lighten the load, many hikers opt to hire a mule service to transport their gear to the bottom of the canyon and back out again for a fee (only available from the South Rim). But either way, you’ll need to carry a well-thought-out daypack including a variety of clothing and essentials for temperatures that can swing dramatically. At the very least you’ll want a good pair of sneakers or light-weight hiking boots, a hat, sunscreen and lip protection, sunglasses with UV protection, a hydration system or several water bottles, a first-aid kit, and plenty of snacks with a mix of salt, protein, and carbs.

Plan Your Trip

If you’re serious about hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim, you’ll want to start planning more than a year in advance, especially if you plan on staying at Phantom Ranch. Reservations for Phantom Ranch, which is operated by Xanterra, open up 13 months in advance and are best attained by calling 888-29-PARKS. If you prefer to camp, backcountry permits for camping at Bright Angel Campground near Phantom Ranch and the other campsites below the rim – Cottonwood along the North Kaibab Trail or Indian Garden along the Bright Angel Trail – become available on the first of the month, four months prior to your start month. And don’t forget this is a one-way hike. Unless you want to do it all over again, you’ll need to stage cars, leaving one at the Backcountry Information Center on the South Rim for the completion of the hike. Or, plan to be shuttled back to your car at the North Kaibab Trailhead by a service such as Trans Canyon Shuttle.

Of course, if you want somebody else to handle all the planning, including snagging reservations at Phantom Ranch without the hassle, you have options. You can choose to go with an experienced outfitter like O.A.R.S., which has been guiding rafting and hiking trips in the Grand Canyon since 1969, and offers several guided Grand Canyon hiking itineraries.

Looking for more recommendations on trails and treks for all ages and ability levels? Download NPF's Happy Trails: 25 Unforgettable National Park Hikes, a must-have for planning the perfect national park adventure!

Travel Idea and images provided by O.A.R.S. Grand Canyon, Inc., an authorized concessioner and commercial permit holder in Grand Canyon National Park. 

Comments

I would love your training program, Cole. Five ladies in our 40's-50's want to hike it in one day, September of 2022. Thanks so much
Dawn
Frandsen
Reading some of the comment are pretty funny. I did R-R, south to south back in the mid 70's. I was in my mid 30's and my hiking companion was my 8 year old daughter. Both of us were carrying old style aluminum frame back-packs. Mine was fully loaded. We descended on the Kaibab trail and spent the night at the bottom of the canyon where we enjoyed sand soup (It was windy). Headed back via the Bright Angel trail the following day. Easy going until we hit the canyon wall. My daughter was getting pretty tired and kept asking when we would be there. Typical 8 year old. I told her to just keep telling herself we were almost there and just a little ways to go. Every time Dad tried to take a break it was "come on Dad, we are almost there", "just a little ways to go Dad" I had created a monster. I promised her the biggest strawberry milkshake she could handle when we got to the top. What was cute was as we neared the rim we started running into the day hikers. They said " what a cute little girl with that big backpack. How far did you go down?" With pride she replied "We are coming up from the bottom" The look on the faces was cute. As far as training all I can say is: walk, walk, walk and when you are done walking walk more. Every day possible. I didn't really train but I was moving furniture for a living. That was my training. Up stairs, down stairs always carrying a load. That gets you in shape. Just do it, don't quit.
Dennis
Hall
Hi Cole..my husband, who is very fit, wants to do the R to R around his 75th birthday..he is 73. That would give me a little over a year to get ready for this adventure..if you are still sending the training program I would love to see it. I am looking for motivation and need a end goal. Thank you
Artie
Ramirez
Planning a R2R trek (one day) from North to South in May, 2022 and interested in joining someone/group with similar goals. Hiking solo, committed to completing the hike and a team effort.
James
Thacker
Four of us (my wife and the other couple) did this bucket-list trail between Aug. 25-28, 2021 with all the relishes one can gather from trekking down to the bottom and then back up to the surface, somewhat like walking the book of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. Out of all the variations of routes, days, and times, we chose the seemingly most manageable combination: from North Rim (North Kaibab Trail) to South Rim (Bright Angel Trail), three nights and four days backpacking, and only hiking in the morning before temperature reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are some highlights of our journey. Day 1: North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood Campground (7 Miles) No sooner we have a quick group selfie with the North Kaibab Trailhead board (Elev. 8241 ft) than we eagerly jump on the trail at 8am like our long prepared marathon was finally triggered by the inner pistol firing. After about 0.7 miles down, we come to the Coconino Overlook with the first wide open view of the Grand Canyon, where you can savor a deep breath of morning breeze in the lush North Rim forest with many aspen trees. The trail then quickly switchbacks into the canyon. For about 1.7 miles fresh hiking, we catch up with the morning mule ride at the Supai Tunnel (Elev. 6800 ft), the first rest area with water where we meet a park ranger telling us we'd better reach the next rest area, Manzanita, before the temperature gets really high . Heeding the ranger's advice, we immediately start moving in order to cover the 3.7 miles to Manzanita before noon's 110 degrees heat. It turns out this 3.7 miles downhill hiking is most dangerous segment we have experienced in these four days. The single most likely cause is the underestimated of ramping up speed of the heat intensity and its impact on our body's capacity to regulate the heat. As we cross the Redwall Bridge and approach the Roaring Springs, we feel hotter, extra sweating, and more tiring. One of group members is getting some signs of heat exhaustion, fatigue, dizziness, and headache. Another member with weak left knee starts to slow every step down to reduce the pain inflicted by varieties of harder rocks towards the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We are only about a mile away from Manzanita, but the sizzling sunshine blasted on the zero-shade trail and the unrelenting pounding force erect a seemingly insurmountable barrier to break through. Just like everything else in the world, sometimes God intervene at unexpected time. Right after we turn a corner, there comes a short but shaded area on the trail by the overhanging rock. We all quickly rush to the shade, unload our heavy backpacks, and rest for about 15 minutes with some much needed in-take of carbohydrates. After about 15 minutes rest, everyone, esp. the most heat-stressed but tough member, recovers nicely so we can avert succumbing to the excessive heat trap even before reaching the Cottonwood Campground (Elev. 4080 ft). We arrive at the Bright Angel Campground (Elev. 2480) at around 10am and spend the rest of the day cooling down and relaxing in Bright Angel Creek, right beside our campsite. Day 2: Cottonwood Campground to Bright Angel Campground (7 Miles) With overnight rest, all of us feel much refreshed in next morning. By the time we are ready to leave the Campground around 6:30am, most other backpackers are already on the trail. It looks like we are making progress to start early due to yesterday's memory, but still not learning the lesson hard enough to take heat out of equation. The total elevation change for this 7 mile segment is only 1600 feet, so it is an overall much easier descending compared to the day before, but still some uphill climbing adds a little spice to the otherwise smooth hiking or a quick rehearsal of what's coming in the following days. One noticeable change in rock formation as we descend to the level of the Colorado River is the transition from the Bright Angel Shale Layer, which is the gently sloping soft blue-green-gray rock layer, to the Vishnu Basement Layer, which is the oldest metamorphic hard black rock layer and forms the walls of the Inner Gorge. The power of water erosion is amplified while walking towards the bottom layers, and you are constantly reminded of the force of nature where the trail is blocked or altered by the rock slide during recent flash floods in the monsoon season. Since we are in a hurry to finish this leg before 10, we bypass the short side trail to see the Ribbon Falls. Later, we are told by another backpacker, Chris, that due to the flood damage, Ribbon Falls Bridge is closed, so it is an extra effort to cross the creek and get to the bottom of the Fall, which we can kind of see the thin water flowing down right from the main trail. We arrive at the Bright Angel Campground (Elev. 2480) at around 10am and spend the rest of the day cooling down and relaxing in Bright Angel Creek right beside our campsite. A hot meal in the nearby Phantom Ranch with venerable best lemonade ever magically rejuvenate your energy and accelerate your recovery from any fatigue still lingering around after two days hiking down to the bottom. Day 3: Bright Angel Campground to Indian Garden Campground (4.7 Miles) Bright Angel Campground is the point of rendezvous where you meet day hikers or mule riders, or R2R single day hikers or multiday backpackers like us, or rarely R2R2R backpackers like Chris who starts from South Rim at 3am a couple of days ago and hikes to the Cottonwood first day, and then ascend to North Rim next day and coming back to Cottonwood where we meet and converse, then we basically hike the same route from Cottonwood to Bright Angel Campground where we share some of the pool time in the creek and enjoy walking the Silver Bridge across the Colorado River together, but today Chris is going to ascend back to South Rim by the South Kaibab trail in one shot where he parks his car. Before we all go to sleep in our tents around 9pm, his parting words are like, “I want to get this R2R2R thing done and leave it behind me, so I can enjoy the civilization again”. We wish this young, energetic, and big fellow good luck. We stick to our plan like an aged clock ticking but not rushing towards the next oasis, Indian Garden Campground sharply starting at 6am. The branching point between two trails to South Rim is right out of the campground and before you cross the Colorado river: The Black Bridge to get on the South Kaibab Trail and the Silver Bridge to get on the Bright Angel Trail via Indian Garden Campground. The view along the Inner Gorge is just amazing and even more astounding as you gradually hike away from the majestic Colorado river while early morning sunshine cuts through the cool air and projects varieties of shapes and hues on the vertical granite walls along the trail. It is the most magic hiking in my very first backpack experience. As a matter of fact, the hiking is so enjoyable that we don’t even realize we have reached the Indian Garden Campground (Elev. 3800 ft) around 9:30, a 30 minute ahead of our expected arrival time. Day 4: Indian Garden Campground to South Rim (4.8 Miles) The last stretch is supposed to be the hardest one just like any sport or adventure, but as we can already see the top of South Rim from where we camp, sort of like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we feel we just need to slog it out no matter what. On the other hand, my mind is still being constantly reminded of the first day of near-miss experience of heat exhaustion, especially when I see a thermometer hanging outside a shed reading 120 degree. So I consciously encourage our group to get up as early as possible next morning and start our last day before 5:30am, hopefully to reach the top around 10am before the temperature gets really scorching. We manage to get up at 3:30am, to pack everything including all the garbage, and to start the last day hiking with headlamp on at 5am. It turns out that the respect to the nature as well as National Park’s guideline gives us real advantage to hike the last 3 miles with about 3000 feet elevation gain. By the time we reach the final tunnel near the top, we look back the grandeur scheme the mother nature has created for our human being, it is absolutely most rewarding as well as humbling experience I have had for my existence so far on earth! Epilogue Since the first time I see the word, Kaibab, I have been wondering what this geological term means. Looking up on Google gives the following definition: Mountain lying down from a Native American word. I should have guessed that.
Alan
Li
Looking to do a R2R this year (North to South), late September or early Oct. I have about every detail worked out except how to get from the South Rim Bright Angel trailhead into Tusayan. There are no hotel reservations available ever inside the park. Is Uber working there?
Johns
Stevens
I am 58 years old and in very good shape. I CrossFit and run and have my entire life. my 24 year old daughter who was a cross country /track 4 year athlete and still runs wants to hike the rim to rim in Late July to early August. she wants me to do it with her and I really want to see the canyon. we want to do it in one day the entire hike. Looking for advice on how to prepare and where to stay at each end etc... Will we be in shape enough?
Sindy
Jacovetti
I would love a copy of your training plan as well. My husband & I would love to hike the rim to rim and would like some pre-training tips.
Judi
Jamieson
We're planning a rim to rim hike in June of 2022. If we don't secure a reservation via the Phantom Ranch lottery, I suppose we have to plan to camp out. Where should we camp, considering a three day hike, 2 nights of camping. Do we need reservations or passes to camp?
Ron
Hayes
My friend and I would like to do R2R in one day, stay overnight on North Rim for two nights to rest and then R2R back to South Rim. Where can we stay in North Rim and how to get there? I only find info on R2R2R in one continuous hike . We do not wish to camp to avoid carrying that gear and also do not with to break up R2R in the middle by staying at the bottom. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Denisiel
l
We're thinking about April school vacation in 2022. Is that too early to do the rim to rim hike?
Ron
Hayes
North Rim does not open until mid-May every year. It is theoretically possible to do it in April but logistics are much more complicated and hike likely longer and requiring better preparation
Carlos
Aldana
I’m preparing to submit my back country permit application for a trip in June. From what I’m reading, camping reservations at Bright Angel are already filling up for 2021. Do I need to reserve a campsite before I know if my backcountry permit is approved?
Fran
Felton
Planning on doing the R2R in Late April of 2022. Just wondering how the weather is or if anyone has any experience or advice with doing the hike this time of year. Thanks!
Tonia
Stevens
I keep reading that early spring is one of the best times for the R2R hike to avoid crowds and hot weather. I am also reading that the North rim doesn't open until May 15 (mid to late spring). Is it possible to hike R2R in April or early May? We could start at either rim and will hire a shuttle service. We are experienced backpackers and plan to spend 1 night.
Katie
Maguire
I am 62 and planning doing the rim2rim In May 2021. I have Extensive 10 week training plan, I was thinking of doing it in 2 phases ( stay over night)but not sure if I should do it in 1 day. Any suggestions?
Ed
Fleming
My wife and I hiked rim to rim in a day in July 2002. The way to get around the hot temperatures during the summer is to hike the bottom of the canyon during the night. It's an amazing experience, and you don't cheat yourself of the magnificent views from the decent and ascent. We started on the North Rim at 1 pm and came up the South Rim at 10 a.m. We had great head lamps and hiking poles. The only challenging part was the middle portion, where few hike, where the trail is a bit tricky to follow. Not sure night time hiking is sanctioned, but it is a magnificent experience and the only practical way to hike rim to rim in a day in mid-Summer. We both trained hard, doing stadium stairs for 1 to 2 hours a day two months before the hike. And yes, bring lots of water for the first leg of the hike. The hike was still challenging but quite doable after that training.
Joe
Mendez
I am having a baby in mid July and have a goal to hike R2R North to South at the end of September or sometime in October depending on how both I feel and the baby because I want to bring my baby... I need advice though. Specifically how should I pack both smart and light with a baby. Has anyone brought a baby? Obviously I'm planning on being very careful, but I want to hear from others who have tried this. Also how is the weather around this time? I definitely need to be really cautious of the weather with that small of a child. Any advice helps, thanks!
Erin
Smoot
When is the snow/ice melted of on the North rim? Looking to complete South rim to bottom, to top of North rim, then back to bottom and back up south rim, have heard this can be done in one long day starting at 5 am finishing by 9 PM. In March of 2014 my daughters and I started on bright angle at 5 am the path was still snow packed, got to the bottom in just over 2.5 hours, then went back up the shorter south trail in just under 2 hours. The bright angle trail still had some ice on the path, but it was only spotty patches. Looking to complete this years journey the week of April 20, 2020.
Frank
Scarpelli
Hi. I am a 72 year old somewhat fit gentleman who is contemplating undertaking the rim to rim hike this coming September. I took the overnight mule ride several years ago, and enjoyed it, so perhaps now, the hike. I was wondering if there are any other adventuresome people who would be interested in participating. I was considering starting at the North rim, and ending at the South rim, and perhaps staying at the Phantom Ranch if possible (might be difficult to make reservations there), or if not, just camping out. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in participating.
David
Horowitz
Am starting to plan a rim to rim hike of the GC. This has been on my bucket list since I first stood at the South Rim gazing out. I've started training and plan to do the hike in May, Memorial Day Weekend, if the weather allows. At this point all of the campgrounds in the Canyon are booked well out into late 2020 and early 2021 so I'm looking to backcountry camp. As I put together the application for a backcountry permit it's asking for specifics about where I'm planning to camp. My plan is to make this a 3-4 day hike, preferably a 3 day, with a day to get myself back to the Rim where I start. My questions for anyone who has done the Rim to Rim and camped in the backcountry are, where did you camp or where would you recommend camping? I'd also recommend suggestions on which Rim to start at, North or South. I'm thinking starting at the North Rim as it is the highest elevation of the two. Lastly, I'm exploring options to get myself from the Rim I end at, back to the Rim I start at. Any suggestions here would be great. As much as I'd like to hike it back, after doing the Rim to Rim one way I don't think I'd have anything left to even contemplate doing it a second time in succession.
David
Colson
12 years ago at the age of 63 and 11 years after coronary bypass surgery, hiked rim to rim with my 2 sons-in law from the North Rim, staying overnight at Cottonwood and at Phantom Ranch Campground. Did the Hike in late September when cooler. Hard to train in Indiana since no hills or elevation so did some day hiking near Salt Lake City in July. Carried 30-40# backpack while walking in Indiana and used treadmill with maximum incline. Didn't get backcountry permits with 2 attempts, however secured them on-site for day later. GREAT experience--PREPARE, break in hiking shoes, keep hydrated (even in Sept. carried 4 liters), and take time to enjoy the part of the Canyon that few people see.
Kenneth
Petersen
Hello, I am travelling from Australia to Phoneix and have 3 days to explore prior to work. I really am desperate to see the grand canyon and get on a hike..I am pretty fit and have done a lot of hiking. 11-15th October would be fantastic? Can anyone let me know any tours?
Portia
weeks
Are there any hotels on the North Rim? Lists pop up when I Google the question but some on the list are clearly not on the North Rim. Thanks
Bob
Pepin
I just (July, 2019) completed the rim-to-rim hike. I started on the north rim, stayed two nights at Bright Angel campground and then hiked the Bright Angel trail to the south rim. I should have reversed my hike. I left the north rim at 3am but the 'box' (the last four miles of the hike) was an oven. Leave from the south rim and hike down the Bright Angel trail. There is lots of shade past Indian Garden and the heat will not be so intense. Get the 'box' out of the way early in the morning and it will not be too intense. There is also lots of shade going up the north rim.
Katie
OBrien
I’m planning my R2R for July 2020 and have reso overnight at Phantom Ranch but now struggling with the other travel logistics. Where did you stay before/after the hike and how did you navigate getting down one side and up the other side travel wise? Did you have two cars - one on each rim?
Cindy
Sattler
Use Trans-Canyon Shuttle to get from one side to the other https://www.trans-canyonshuttle.com/ We parked at the south rim Lot D near the Backcountry Office, took the shuttle to the north rim & then hiked back to the car. We stayed two nights on each rim.
Terry
Fazio
I just did a Rim To Rim from North to South (North Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Trail) on May 22 and 23, 2019 with an overnight at Bright Angel Campground. Fantastic hike. But weather conditions were very dicey....Highs never broke 60 degrees and the low on our night in camp was just 42!. Of course it rained the entire time in the canyon and was snowing on the North Rim when we left and was snowing on the South Rim when we finished....Still, it was unforgettable. I'd strongly take heed to the training recommendations and I would further recommend using trekking poles to lighten the impact on your knees.....
Mark
Hall
Hi Mark, I am thinking of hiking this trail during the same time next year, can you give me the list of things you packed, I am more interested on what you need for the overnight camping stay?? Thanks Sam
swaminathan
vadivelu
In the mid 80's my buddy and I decided to hike to the bottom on Bright Angel, camp and hike out the next day. It was winter, there was snow on the rim. We took bulky old sleeping bags and a heavy tent in backpacks. It turned out to be about 95 degrees at the bottom. Still glad of the tent, it lessened our fear (perhaps groundless) of nasty bugs and snakes in the night, and of course we had great pillows. On the way out, stopping for frequent rest breaks, we met a middle aged couple on their honeymoon who had rafted in and were hiking out. All of us were taking it easy, resting and chatting sitting on convenient rocks every half mile, although not hiking together per se. Then we turned a switchback corner and found the man down, the wife frantic. My buddy stayed and performed CPR, I ran to the halfway ranger station and used the phone. The man died. We helped move him to a helicopter for extraction and rode out with him. A sad and sobering ending to what had been a wonderful experience. So the take-aways: Find out the canyon bottom conditions before you hike down to camp. Should be easy these days. Second, be overcautious, very overcautious, about heat stroke, heat exhaustion, water intake, etc. The gentleman who died looked fine until, in the space of 30 minutes, he suddenly wasn't. Have fun, but plan and be careful.
Jeff
Ransdell

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