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

Hi Cole, My sons and I will be doing this hike in August. If you are still offering your training plan, I would really like to use it to train my sons for this hike. I really want them to enjoy it to the fullest and not be miserable the entire time. Thank you! Robyn
Robyn
Mahoney
I'd love a copy of your training plan as well. My friends and I are planning to hike rim to rim in one day this September.
Tara
Gee
Cole, I plan to do this hike in September with my daughter and niece. If you don't mind sharing I'd love to get a copy of your training plan. Regards, Filiberto
Filiberto
Gurrola
Cole I would love your program. Thanks
Jared
Emerick
Hi Cole... I would love to have access to your training program!
Sharon
Kielma
Cole, I am 69 with good knees but who knows how long so now's the time! I would love to get your training program. Thank you.
Ted
Tolles
Cole, I would love that training program also. Thanks for any and all help!
Nicole
Limbach
Cole, I also would be very thankful if you could send me a copy of your Training regiment
David
Lintz
I would also love a copy of your training plan. I am 50 years old and have been working with a personal trainer, more cross-fit type training. Going on the R2R2R hike at the end of June, so not much time left, but any last minute tips would be appreciated.
Susan
M
I would love a copy of your training regimen. Thanks!
Tiffany
Watkins
I am interested in your hiking training program. I am an active outdoors person, and one of my goals for this year is the North to South Rim hike. Thanks!
Eleene
Darger
Hi Cole - I don't know if your offer was available to all, but a friend just asked me if I wanted to do this hike with him this September. I am 59 and in pretty good shape but have never done any rigorous hiking that involved carrying back packs for any distance. Deeply appreciated!
Russ
Peterson
Hi Cole, If you are still seeing this thread—I know ai need help preparing to hike rim to rim in September—training advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Samantha
Samantha
Rhodes
Hi Cole, I would love to get one of your training programs as well. I bike regularly and have hiked Mt. Timpanogos at least once a year the last several years. I would love to do the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim and would be interested in anything you have for that. Thank you!
Lyndsi
Godfrey
I would love to have a copy of your 6 week training program! I am 76 and my family wants me to join them for the rim to rim hike in September. I hike on a regular basis, but not nearly that far in one day! Thanks!
Kay
Smith
Cole, If your training program is available, I also would like a copy to prep for the hike. Thanks
Frank
Mack
Add me to the list for your training program! This hike is on my bucket list and want to be prepared so I can enjoy it.
lea
fox
Cole - I am going to make the hike with a friend of mine in October and you mentioned that you would be willing to share a training program. Would like to be prepared so that we can enjoy our trip.
Tony
Bultinck
Hi Cole, I'm also interested in your training plan! I will be doing the hike with my sister (28) and my dad (65) in October, so would appreciate any training tips. Thanks!
Allison
S
Hi Cole, my husband and I are both 57. We along with a couple of our adult sons are planning on doing a Rim 2 Rim (North Kiabab to Bright Angel) hike next year. We're hoping to be able to spend 2 nights at Phantom Ranch before hiking up Bright Angel. We would love to get a training program from you. Thank you in advance!
Chrissie
Hengesh
please email me the training program.
Steve
Clark
I would really appreciate your training plan for a rim to rim hike.
Walt
Sayer
Cole, would you please send me a copy of your training program? Thank you, Ryan
Ryan
Barker
Might I have a copy of your training program. I am 55 and plan to go in October 2022.
Gina
Robertson
Hi Cole! We are planning to do the R2R for 1 full day. Would love to have a 12weeks training plan. I’m 54yrs old. Thanks!
MARIA CARINA
ANGELES
I would greatly appreciate it as well. If there’s a fee I understand
Catherine
Shockome
Cole. I would LOVE to get a copy of your training plan. I’m 65 and my husband is 67. We are couch potato but have committed to our kids to do R2R a year from now so need LOTS of advice.
Deb
Chamberlain
I would take one as well please!
Sara
Yu
Can I have training program as well please.
Sahana
Gudi
Hi Cole, could you please email me your 4-6 week training program for a r2r 2 day hike?
Brenda
Stewart

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