Julie United States 41 Comments

Awe-inspiring, challenging, exhausting, unforgettable…these are all words to describe the trek across the Grand Canyon. If you are up for a big adventure, hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim is one for the bucket list.

This is the land of extremes. In the summer months, the temperature can fluctuate along the trail as much as 80 degrees in one day. You will descend nearly one mile to the Colorado River and then climb back up the other side.

Along the way, you will face heat, cold, fatigued legs, exhaustion, joy, and maybe even despair. You’ll rejoice at the jaw-dropping views, hike on steep, dusty trails, walk through narrow canyons and shady, lush oases, and thoroughly immerse yourself in one the United States most iconic landscapes.

Once you hike rim-to-rim, you will never look at the Grand Canyon the same way again.

Most people hike rim-to-rim on a two or three day backpacking trip. If you are extremely fit and fast, it is possible to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day.

On June 9, 2019, Tim and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day. It’s a massive day hike and not a decision to be made lightly. During the course of one day, we hiked 23.5 miles, descended and then climbed back up nearly a mile in elevation, all while battling high temperatures. It was an incredibly awesome experience.

We have so much information to share with you that it could not all fit into one article. In this article (part 1 of our two part series) learn about the hiking trail. Part 2 covers the planning, training, and logistics to have a successful hike.

Overview of the Rim-to-Rim Hike

This information is for the hike on the North Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground to the Bright Angel Trail.

Distance: 23.5 miles
Elevation Change: 5761 feet elevation loss (North Kaibab trailhead to Bright Angel Campground) and 4380 feet elevation gain (Bright Angel Campground to the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail). As a reference, there are 5,280 feet in one mile.
Difficulty: Extremely strenuous
Length of Time: Usually done as a two or three-day backpacking trip. As a day hike, the median time is 12 hours.
Permits: None needed for the day hike. You will need a permit to camp in one of the campgrounds (if you do this as a backpacking trip). Or, you can enter your name in the lottery for Phantom Ranch.
When to Go: The road to the North Rim is open from May 15 through October 15. Expect high temperatures in June, July, August, and September, with the heat index reaching 130 degrees on parts of the trail.

The hiking distances and elevation data in this article were taken from the National Park website.

Map of the Trail

Map of the trail (from the NPS website).

Rim to Rim Elevation Profile

Elevation profile of the hike, starting on the North Rim and ending on the South Rim.

 

Rim-to-Rim Route

The view from the Bright Angel trailhead. The white line is the approximate location of the trail from the North Rim to the South Rim.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

The North Kaibab Trail

Getting to the Trailhead

The trailhead is located two miles north of the North Rim Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Lodge. The Grand Canyon Lodge runs a free shuttle service multiple times in the morning to the North Kaibab Trailhead. When we did this, the available times were 3 am, 4 am, 5 am, 5:30 am, 6 am, and 7 am.

You can put your name on the list the day before your hike. You will do this at the reception desk at the lodge when you check in. We tried to do it over the phone but they wanted to see us in person before they would write our name on the list.

In early June, sunrise was at 5 am. We took the 5 am shuttle. It’s just a 5-minute drive to the trailhead.

Pro Travel Tip: I recommend starting the hike no later than sunrise. With a headlamp you can start even earlier. During the summer months, you want an early start to beat the heat. The box, a narrow canyon that is 4 miles long, is notorious for being one of the hottest sections of the hike. Try to get through this before 10 am.

Overview of the North Kaibab Trail

Starting Elevation: 8241 feet
Ending Elevation (at Bright Angel Campground): 2480 feet
Elevation Loss: 5,761 feet
Distance: 14 miles
Length of Time: 5 to 7 hours

As you hike down the North Kaibab Trail, there are several landmarks along the way. Here are their distances and elevations from the North Kaibab trailhead.

North Kaibab Trailhead: 8241 feet
Supai Tunnel: 6800 feet, 1.7 miles
Roaring Springs: 5220 feet, 4.7 miles
Manzanita Rest Area: 4600 feet, 5.4 miles
Cottonwood Campground: 4080 feet, 6.8 miles
Ribbon Falls: 3720 feet, 8.4 miles
Bright Angel Campground: 2480 feet, 14 miles

From the rim to the Colorado River, it is essentially a downhill walk the entire way. There will be a few, brief sections where you walk uphill, but these give your legs a nice break from the constant downhill pounding they take.

The steepest downhill section is between the trailhead and Cottonwood Canyon. Once you get to Cottonwood Canyon, the descent is more gradual, which actually makes it easier to pick up the pace.

We started at 5:10 am. It was a very, very chilly 41° Fahrenheit. I wore shorts and Tim had zip-off hiking pants. We also wore a short-sleeve shirt and a jacket. Gloves would have been nice since our fingers literally went numb. But the cold doesn’t last long, since temperatures quickly warm up as you descend into the belly of the canyon.

North Kaibab Trailhead

Trailhead to Cottonwood Canyon

Cottonwood Canyon is roughly the halfway point on the North Kaibab Trail.

The first section of trail, from the trailhead to Roaring Springs, is the most spectacular of day, in my opinion. The red, dusty trail quickly descends into the canyon, switch-backing its way along the canyon walls. You will walk through Supai Tunnel, past small waterfalls, and along sections of trail that cling to the cliffs.

If you have issues with heights or walking on exposed trails, this part of the hike might be challenging for you.

Here are some photos of the trail between the trailhead and Roaring Springs.

Supai Tunnel

Supai Tunnel

 

Hike North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab

Hike North Kaibab

Grand Canyon Hike

Hiking North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail Hike

North Kaibab Trail

Pro Travel Tip: There are water stations at Supai Tunnel, Roaring Springs, Manzanita Rest House, and Cottonwood Campground. However, due to water line breaks and a seasonal schedule, water is not always available at each of these stations. During our visit, water was not available at Supai Tunnel or Roaring Springs. Updates are posted at the trailhead and you can also learn more about water availability the day before your hike at the visitor center.

At Roaring Springs, you can see a waterfall that pours right out of the cliffs. This waterfall forms Bright Angel Creek and provides the drinking water for Grand Canyon National Park.

Roaring Springs

The trail continues past Manzanita Rest Area (toilets and water are available here) to Cottonwood Campground.

Cottonwood Campground to Bright Angel Campground

Cottonwood Campground is a seasonal campground that is open from mid-May through mid-September. Restrooms and water are available here. With a permit, you can camp here overnight, making this the first stop if you are backpacking across the Grand Canyon.

From Cottonwood Campground, the trail continues its descent towards the Colorado River. It’s not as steep now, so it’s easier to walk at a faster pace. The views also aren’t quite as spectacular, so we stopped less frequently for photos.

After Cottonwood Campground

Dr Seuss Plant

Ribbon Falls, just south of Cottonwood Campground, makes a very nice detour. It’s a short hike to a waterfall and lush oasis in the canyon. However, during our visit, the bridge was damaged so we were unable to cross the creek to Ribbon Falls.

A short distance past Ribbon Falls you enter the infamous “box.” The canyon narrows at this point. These tight canyon walls and the lower elevation here are the perfect ingredients for extremely high temperatures in the summer months. Midday, it can get up to 130 degrees inside of the box. This stretch of trail lasts about four miles, ending near Phantom Ranch.

We hiked through the box between 9 am and 10 am. Since we were here relatively early in the day, temperatures were pleasant. In fact, the thermometer on my backpack read a mere 82 degrees. It was a wonderful, beautiful part of the hike, and since we saw no one else on this section of trail, it was one of the highlights of our day.

Rim to Rim in One Day

The Box Grand Canyon

Phantom Ranch

Phantom Ranch is a great place to stop and take a break. Ideally, get here by 10 am. We arrived right past 10 am, so it took us 5 hours to hike here from the trailhead. We moved at a fast pace, passing everyone else that we saw on the trail. However, we were most likely the only day hikers.

At Phantom Ranch, there is a small restaurant that offers cold drinks, ICE!, snacks, and food. They even have air-conditioning.

We sat inside, gulped down glasses of lemonade, reapplied sunscreen, ate some food, all in preparation for part 2 of our big day.

Pro Travel Tip: The water at Phantom Ranch is chlorinated. It’s safe to drink but it tastes like you are drinking water out of a swimming pool. Consider bringing an electrolyte mix or Gatorade powder to mask the taste of the water.

What a difference 30 minutes makes. By the time we hit the trail again, at 10:45, it felt like temperatures skyrocketed. It’s just a short, flat walk through Bright Angel Campground and it felt like it was well over 100 degrees.

Just 9.5 miles to go.

Bright Angel Trail

Overview of the Bright Angel Trail

Starting elevation: 2480 feet
Ending elevation: 6860 feet
Elevation Gain: 4380 feet
Distance: 9.5 miles
Length of Time: 5 to 8 hours

The Bright Angel Trail is shorter and has less elevation gain than the North Kaibab Trail.

The South Kaibab Trail will also get you back up to the South Rim. However, it is more exposed and has more elevation gain than the Bright Angel Trail, and it does not have water stations. During the summer months, avoid hiking up the South Kaibab Trail.

You will need the water at each station on the Bright Angel Trail. We filled up at each station and it was amazing how much water we needed to avoid becoming dehydrated.

As you hike up the Bright Angel Trail, there are several landmarks along the way. Here are their elevations and distances from the Bright Angel Campground.

River Resthouse: 2480 feet, 1.5 miles
Indian Garden: 3800 feet, 4.7 miles
3 Mile Resthouse: 4748 feet, 6.5 miles
Bright Angel Trailhead: 6860 feet, 9.5 miles

Along the Colorado River

By the time you are at rock bottom, your legs will be fatigued and one giant climb still stands before you and the top of the rim.

Cross over the river at the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge.

The trail follows the Colorado River for roughly one mile. You will walk through deep sand in spots and this slows down your progress. It also traps the sun’s heat and this was one of the hottest parts of the hike.

On the day we did this, the heat index got up to 130 degrees at Phantom Ranch. It felt like it was well over 100 degrees at this point in the hike.

Colorado River

Along the Colorado River

At the River Resthouse, the trail turns away from the river and now the real fun begins. It’s time to start the climb back up to the South Rim.

Colorado River to Indian Garden

From the River Resthouse to Indian Garden, it is a 3.2-mile walk. At first, you hike along a small creek. The trail steadily gains elevation but it is really not too bad. It’s a pretty walk but since you are in a canyon, you do not have the same sweeping views like you get on the top of the North Kaibab Trail.

Tim on the Trail

Pro Travel Tip: Along the way, you will cross a creek several times. One of the best ways to cool off is to splash water on you or to even lay down in the creek. I did this several times and it really helped keep me cool as the air temperature climbed.

Eventually, you come to your first series of switchbacks. They don’t last long but they can be tiring and this is a nice preview of what is coming at the end of the Bright Angel Trail.

The Trail

The views open a little bit more. Once at Indian Garden, you have access to potable water and restrooms.

At Indian Garden, the thermometer read 98 degrees at 1:00 pm. There were just a few people here, either sitting in the shade or near the creek. This is your last chance to take a dip in the creek. From here, it’s one massive climb up the South Rim.

Indian Garden

At this point, you should still be feeling good….hydrated and not too tired, yet. If you are feeling exhausted, or if you are feeling weak, dizzy, thirsty, or lightheaded, take a long break here at Indian Garden. Eat more food, drink water and take in electrolytes, to prepare yourself for the last climb.

The final 4.5 miles of the hike is deceptively challenging. The steep climb on fatigued legs at a higher elevation can make this final section of the hike very difficult.

Indian Garden to the Bright Angel Trailhead

From Indian Garden, it is just 4.5 miles to the rim. Doesn’t sound so bad, right?

It’s amazing how quickly you can go from feeling great to feeling exhausted. The final switchbacks drain any energy and power that you have left in your legs.

On the Bright Angel Trail

A view of the final climb, just past Indian Garden.

 

Bright Angel Trail

Switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail.

There are two rest houses along the way and these make great places to stop and take a break.

3 Mile Resthouse is just 3 miles from the end of the Bright Angel Trail. You are now at the point where this hike really begins to feel hard. But since it is at a higher elevation than Indian Garden, it also feels cooler here. This is a great spot to refill your water and take a break before pushing on.

3 Mile Resthouse

1.5 miles later you arrive at 1.5 Mile Resthouse. And then it is just one final push to the top. Just when it seems like the switchbacks will never end, the trail becomes less steep, you pass through one final tunnel, and arrive at the trailhead.

Take lots of photos and celebrate your amazing accomplishment. Never has reaching the end of hike felt as fulfilling as this one. Tim and I were on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.

Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon

The view from the trail.

About Our Experience

Tim and I wanted to do something badass to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and this rim-to-rim hike was perfect.

We did this hike on June 9. Ideally, we wanted to schedule the hike for the end of May, but work schedules and lodge availability pushed our date out into June.

Here are some statistics for the day we did this hike:

High temperature at Grand Canyon Village: 74°F
High temperature at the North Rim: 68°F
Low temperature at the North Rim: 41°F
High temperature at Phantom Ranch: 98°F
Heat Index: We were told by a park ranger that the heat index at Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground reached 130°F
Sunrise: 5:12 am
Sunset: 7:43 pm

We experienced some very hot conditions on the trail, but it can get hotter than this. It’s not unusual for Phantom Ranch to get up over 100°F on a daily basis in the summer months.

The key to having a good hike is to get an early start, get through the box by 10 am, and to keep yourself hydrated. The National Park Service recommends that you stay off the trails during the hottest part of the day, between 10 am and 4 pm.

Well, we did the hardest part of the hike during the hottest part of the day, leaving Phantom Ranch at 10:45 am and finishing the hike at 4 pm. However, we did a lot of training in preparation for this. Tim and I would go on long runs in the midday, muggy, Mid-Atlantic heat, and it paid off. Our training, combined with our water intake and short breaks, had us feeling pretty good as we hiked up the Bright Angel Trail.

Even so, the hardest part of the day was the final three miles. We were simply exhausted by that point.

We finished the hike in 10 hours and 50 minutes. This is relatively fast but I know that there are people who have done this much faster. 12 hours is the median time and it can take much longer.

Here is a breakdown of our times:

  • North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch (14 miles): 5 hours
  • Phantom Ranch to Indian Garden (5 miles): 2 hours
  • Indian Garden to the South Rim (5 miles): 2.75 hours

We also spent 30 minutes at Phantom Ranch and 30 minutes at Indian Garden, for a grand total of almost 11 hours.

Our favorite section was at the very beginning of the hike. Walking down the North Kaibab Trail in the cool morning hours, along the crazy trail on the cliffs was so much fun.

Our fastest section was between Cottonwood Campground and Phantom Ranch. Our hottest section was between Phantom Ranch and Indian Garden. We didn’t experience the 130°F temperatures, but I have no doubt that they were well up over 100°F as we hiked along the river.

The hardest, slowest section is the final 3 miles of the hike. Make sure you are still well hydrated and fueled up with calories before tackling this part of the hike.

Continue to Part 2, the Rim-to-Rim Planning Guide


Did we miss anything? If you have any questions about this hike or if you want to share your experience, comment below.

More Information for Your Trip to the Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon Travel Guide

You Might Also Like:

 

Hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim

Grand Canyon Hike Rim-to-Rim

 

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 41

  1. We hiked rim to rim last Thursday. It as amazing! Thank you for your website. It was invaluable in helping me prepare!! I’d like to get the first picture you have posted that has the white line mapping out the trail. I tried to just pull it off, but it wouldn’t work. Could you please email me that as a jpg?
    Thank you so much!!

    1. Post
      Author

      Congrats!! That’s an awesome accomplishment. Unfortunately, we don’t allow our photos to be used outside of our own business purposes. Cheers, Julie

  2. This is all great info! I am R2R2R (SK2NK2BA) 8-9 Oct. My friend did it last year–she’s a beast–but she struggled and took lots of lessons learned for us. I am a multiple Ironman finisher, although definitely not in that kind of shape right now, sadly. Still pretty good, but I have some reservations.
    Regarding the timeline and considering the time of year, if we had to choose the lesser of two evils (climbing through/out of the box mid-late afternoon) or climbing out the BA from about 0700-1300), what would you suggest? Tentatively we’ll start out about 10am, get to PR, refuel/rest and start the climb about 3pm, and it should be cooling down a couple hours in (with sunset coming about 6pm). With a short twilight nap after we get to NK, we’ll start back, planning on making the PR about sunrise/”breakfast”. So, should we slide our timeline either way? Starting earlier has us climbing NK during hotter portion of day, albeit Oct. But in theory it has us climbing out BA in cooler temps. Thanks so much. One last thing–Bring a sterno to make a cup of coffee before starting back down? Or too much weight? Here we go!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Curt. It’s a tough call and there are advantages to both options. I like the idea of starting earlier, if you can. Even though you will be hiking downhill, you will still feel the heat on the BA trail, so if you can start a few hours earlier, you will be able to get through this with some cooler weather. At BA or PR, take a midday break. Stay cool and stay hydrated. You could hang out until 3 pm (I know that might be a longer break than you want to do) but it’s another way to stay cool. For the next week it looks like it will be about 100 degrees at Phantom Ranch…hopefully will cool off in early October.
       
      I think with the heat, it’s important to take your time and pace yourself on the first leg of the hike. It’s going to be tough on the final hike up BA so taking your time and staying hydrated on the first half is extremely important. Having only done R2R, and imagining what it would be like to retrace our steps back across the Grand Canyon, it will be tough (harder than an Ironman) but epic.
       
      If it were me, I’d leave the sterno behind. You can get coffee at PR, it just might not be right when you want it.
       
      Good luck on your awesome adventure. If you want to write in again afterwards to let us know how it went we would love to hear about it!
       
      Cheers, Julie

  3. Hey Julie, we’ve been training to hike the Rim to Rim in one day for about three months. We live in Iowa, where there is not a lot of elevation or heat. However, as the temperatures have been rising, we’ve been training out in the heat as much as we can. The true question is…we found out a couple weeks ago that we’re about 8 weeks pregnant. Physically, I feel just great, since I’ve always been very active, and I’ve been able to keep up our training schedule without a problem. Of course, we will speak to our midwife about this hike, but I was wondering from a first-hand perspective what you’re thoughts would be. We are planning on hiking the R2R May 25. We’ve bought a lot of gear and will be hiking with extra water and snacks, and heeding all of your advice. We are not worried about hiking it in a certain amount of time and are planning to be on the trail by 5:00a. We currently have about 2.5 hours of scheduled breaks, with a large portion of that being during the heat of the day. Again, we’ll discuss it with our midwife, but I was wondering what your personal take would be. Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Sarah. That’s a tough one to answer. I recommend getting your midwife’s expert opinion. I have worked in the medical field for 20 years…but it was orthopedics, not obstetrics, so I don’t have any firsthand experience to give you a knowledgeable answer. This is a long, strenuous hike, as you know. Temps can easily get up over 100 degrees, even in May. It’s a large stress to put on your body, and with risks like hyponatremia and dehydration, I think this hike is risky while pregnant. You yourself will also feel more fatigued than normal at the end of your first trimester. My gut instinct would be to tell you to not do this hike, just to be on the safe side. It’s hard to say, and it can be hard to hear, especially with the anticipation of a hike like this. But you are a mom now, and that in itself is super exciting. Again, I recommend getting your midwife’s answer. There are still plenty of active ways to enjoy the Grand Canyon, if she also thinks you should skip it this year. Cheers, Julie

  4. Thank you for such a detailed article! After reading your article several months ago, my husband and I started training for this hike, and we’ll be hiking Rim to Rim this May! Do you use a special lens or editing tool for your pictures? We have a really nice Cannon mirrorless camera, but I want to make sure we maximize the photos that we are able to take. Any lens/photo tips would be great!

    1. Post
      Author

      For this hike, we brought our Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-70 mm 2.8 lens. It’s a beast to carry on a hike like this and I have been considering getting a Canon mirrorless camera. All photos were edited in Lightroom. In the early morning hours I set the ISO near 4000 because of the low lighting. As it got brighter I changed the ISO as necessary. I have UV filter on the lens but did not use a polarizer or ND filter on this hike. You could bring a polarizer if you are concerned about getting glare on the Colorado River. For this hike, we wanted to move as fast as possible without long stops for photography. Have fun on your hike…this is a truly incredible experience and one you will always remember. Cheers, Julie

  5. Interesting that most people seem to favour north-to-south. I managed to talk a friend into doing a rim-to-rim hike in a day in 2019, as a sort of joint 50th birthday adventure. The only time we could make it fit our calendars (and our families!) was the second week of June, so the sun is pretty much as high as it gets. Conventional wisdom is to go north-to-south because of the lower elevation of the south rim, and hence much less of a climb out, but I’d like to put in a good word for doing it the other way, in particular the South and North Kaibab Trails.

    First, I think the views on the South Kaibab Trail as you descend are the most spectacular in the corridor. You are heading along a ridge, with the full majesty of the scenery laid out ahead of you and in fact all around you. Going north-to-south rules out this trail for most people (definitely me!), because of the lack of water, so you have to come out up the Bright Angel Trail, which is in a series of valleys, and lacks the expansive feel of the South Kaibab Trail.

    My second and third reasons are to do with the heat and the sun. I did some careful calculations, and they paid off.

    Second, you get through The Box in the relative cool. We got the 4am hikers’ shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead and were at Phantom Ranch before it opened at 8am. The Box is the most feared part of the hike in midsummer because the gorge is so narrow and the rock absorbs such heat that it can feel like an oven. We passed through it between about 9 and 10am, while the sun was still hidden behind the steep canyon walls, even in June, as I had expected. To me, the worst heat was in the stretch just after The Box, leading up to Cottonwood Campground. I resorted to taking the advice of the park rangers we had met earlier, to find the creek and soak my shirt, hat and neckerchief in the cold water and put them back on. Doing that a few times saw me through the worst.

    Third, if you time it right, when you start the steep part of the climb, up Roaring Springs Canyon, to the north rim trailhead, you can find yourself in the shade. We left Cottonwood at about 1pm, after a decent time to recover, refuel and rehydrate after the slog up from Phantom Ranch, and by the time we made it past Manzanita we were hugging the southwestern face of Roaring Springs Canyon and the sun, itself now heading towards the west, was again as I had expected hidden behind the canyon walls much of the time. By contrast, I have also experienced climbing Bright Angel in the afternoon, and it was murder: there is little shade, and the sun is in front of you and beats on you the whole time. On the North Kaibab Trail after Manzanita, we were in strong sun only for the short stretch from the Redwall Bridge up to Supai Tunnel. We arrived at the top just after 6pm with litres of water to spare.

    There’s no getting away from the fact that it is a hell of a long climb, and it does seem to go on for ever, getting steeper and steeper, and the extra thousand-odd feet of elevation is not to be taken lightly. But nevertheless, I think it was the right way to do it – for me, at least.

    Whichever way you do it, though, preparation, training, and determination are key. Enjoy the amazing experience, but be safe.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you so much for writing in and sharing your experience. This is great info!! By the way, we did this hike June 9 2019 so we could have crossed paths. Either way…we did this within days of each other. 😊 You make several great points. The most notable, in my opinion, is being able to hike the South Kaibab Trail. The views are amazing, like you said. If you hike north to south, it’s a terrible idea to hike up the South Kaibab Trail, because of the exposure and the lack of water, but to hike down it when going south to north…what a great way to start the day. And what an epic way to celebrate your 50th birthday. I wish you safe travels and happy hiking! Cheers, Julie

    2. Austin,
      I did South-to-North, after being persuaded by your three reasons. It worked perfectly!
      Left South Kaibab at 4:30am July 8, I arrived Phantom 8am, then 8pm at North Kaibab. You’re right again; the worst heat was not in the Box, but between Box and Cottonwood. It was longer and harder (up and down) than I thought. I was kind of OK (except for minor cramping), but my 15-year-old son felt tired and exhausted when we arrived Cottonwood Camp.
      I add one minor reason for South to North. I want to look around North Rim, comfortably, with my wife who drove from S to N, after (not before) I completed a ‘big’ project.

  6. Your site kept popping up on my recent 6 weeks of hiking in southern Utah. Really helped. After doing North Rim to Ribbon Falls (bridge closed there unfortunately) and back in the worst heat of August, I am planning (this time with a friend))) a rim to rim to rim in the spring. Our only logistical question is how to get from our south rim hotel to the South Kaibob Trailhead (as the 2nd half of our hike) as there is no parking at this trailhead, and we will be leaving well before sunrise and any shuttle buses operate. We really want to do the South Kaibob instead of repeating the Bright Angel. Am I right in believing this will have to be one of those “necessity is the mother of invention” deals?

    1. Post
      Author

      Wow, that’s great…rim-to-rim-to-rim!! You ask a tricky question. It sounds like it’s just the two of you, so you don’t have anyone who could drop you off. You could park as close as you can to the trailhead and walk the extra distance. There are some turn-offs for viewpoints along Desert View Road, near Yaki Point Road. I am not clear on the rules for parking here but it could be an option. I have seen cars parked along this road in the past. You could rent bikes and bike from the hotel to the trailhead, chain them up, and come back for them later. You could also send an email to your hotel to see if they have suggestions. When we did South Kaibab to Bright Angel we got lucky, only 2 of us hiked the trail so Tim dropped us off where Yaki Point Road meets Desert View Road. I wish I had a brilliant idea for you but these are the best options that I can think of. Good luck with the logistics and I hope you have a great hike!! Cheers, Julie

  7. I’m curious what sort of a camera you carried to capture these photos? My husband and I are doing the hike in September, and obviously want to minimize weight, but also don’t want to miss amazing photos!

    1. Post
      Author

      These photos were taken with a Canon 5D Mark IV camera with a 24-70 mm 2.8 lens. It’s a big, heavy camera but I am so happy to have these photos now (especially since we run this blog). Have a great hike! It’s an incredible experience. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author
  8. My husband and I have hiked rim to rim twice. The first experience was such a blast that we decided to repeat the hike the following year. We are both retired and have no time restrictions. For both trips, we started out on the North Kaibab Trail, hiked down to Cottonwood Campground to camp for a night, hiked down to Phantom Ranch to stay in a cabin for 2 nights (yes, it can be done), hiked up Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens to camp for a night, then up to the top. Both trips were made in mid September. After staying on the north rim for several days to enjoy the area and get acclimated to the elevation, we parked our rental car at the North Kaibab trailhead and started down. After spending a few days on the south rim, we took the shuttle back around to our rental car waiting for us on the north rim. This isn’t easy hiking but is so beautiful and great fun! We trained for months walking in our hiking boots or shoes with weighted backpacks. Our entire hike took 5 days. I would say the most difficult part was getting all of our needed reservations and permits. It took us a solid year but eventually everything fell into place. Be tenacious. Most people will not be able to get Phantom Ranch reservations when they first open, but many cancellations are made throughout the year. We checked on it every. single. day. One more tip: We flew in to and out of St. George Utah. That worked well for us since we started the rim to rim from the north side and also planned to visit Zion National Park and White Pocket near Kanab, Utah.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Teresa. Thanks for writing in to us! You shared some great tips: flying into St. George and checking every day for permits. The Phantom Ranch reservations can be extremely hard to get which is one of the reasons we did the entire hike in one day. Thanks for sharing your experience and happy hiking! Cheers, Julie

  9. We just found out we secured lodging at Phantom Ranch in May 2021. We are going to celebrate our 20th anniversary with our 4 teenage kids. We are very active, physically conditioned and have a lot of hiking experience. The last time I was at GCNP, I hiked rim to river to rim with a night at PR but that was 20 years ago. I’ve never done a R2R but since our reservations are 5/21, we can totally make it a bucket list R2R. My questions are mainly regarding the trail out. All my reading seems to indicate BA is the trail to hike our due to water and shade. I seem to remember SK being more scenic. We have a 5 am breakfast, so would be leaving PR early and would be carryIng 2-3L of water each. Do you think it’s possible to hike up SK? Or should we stick with more traditional BA? It may be a game time decision. Also, how bad is the exposed section on NK? My 14 year old has a slight problem with heights but we coaxed her through observation point in Zion a few years back ( not sure if you’ve done that one for comparison). Your site that I just discovered has already helped me with Monument Valley and Moab Which we are incorporating into this road trip as well. Thanks, Amy

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Amy. Congrats on getting lodging at Phantom Ranch!! What a great way to celebrate your 20th anniversary. 🙂 It’s a tough call about hiking up the South Kaibab Trail. In mid-May, you could get very lucky and have low temps…making the South Kaibab doable. But if it is a hot day, the Bright Angel Trail is a better way to go. Maybe it needs to be a decision that you make that morning, or the day before, depending on weather conditions. But yes, in terms of scenery, the South Kaibab is the way to go.

      There is a section of the North Kaibab Trail where there is a lot of exposure. There is a photo of Tim here (in this post), walking along a narrow ledge. This photo is right above the Pro Travel Tip about water stations. If I remember correctly, there are 2 to 3 short sections like this, all near one another. It is similar to the exposure on the Observation Point Trail in Zion. You might have to coax your daughter through these sections. Hopefully, if she stays close to the wall, it won’t be too scary for her. If you think it will be an issue, you can hike down the South Kaibab and up BA. It’s not the “real” R2R but it is still an awesome hike.

      Cheers, Julie

  10. What an amazing article! I went to the Grand Canyon south rim and decided to come back and do a rim to rim hike. However I’m in average shape and starting to train I have been a speed walker for years but know that it will help. I did hike a bit on the south rim on my first visit so got a bit of a taste of the intensity. Was planning to do this in December are there any accommodations in the south rim during that time? Or can I just park at the south rim shuttle to north rim hike down to phantom ranch stay the night then hike to the south rim on day 2 where my car will be? I live in Texas and will be traveling down will stay a night in Sedona the day before and after before flying home. Any recommendations on the route month shuttling etc would be much appreciated!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Carla. For more info on the shuttles and where to stay, check out our Rim to Rim guide. The North Rim is only open in the summer, so to do this one way (rim-to-rim), you can only do it from roughly mid-May through early fall. However, in December, you can hike South Rim to South Rim: take the South Kaibab trail down and the Bright Angel Trail back up. We did this last December and it’s a wonderful hike. It’s also not quite as strenuous as the full rim-to-rim hike since it is considerably shorter. If you do this hike and still like the idea of doing the full rim-to-rim hike, you could come back in 2020 to do it. Cheers, Julie

  11. Amazing trek Julie. Even more amazing write up! You guys must be quite fit, because this is a monster challenge for sure. I get that part about heat index as I attempted a double crossing beginning of August (yes August), as I climbed out on Bright Angel temperature at rest house 3.0 was 96, around 4 PM. I’m not sure, but I think my shoes melted in the sandy areas of the hike before river house? No double for me, I’m just glad I survived making it out 😁

    1. Post
      Author

      Wow!! That sandy section feels miserable in hot weather!! That was probably the hottest part for us, too. Thanks for sharing your experience. Cheers, Julie

  12. Thank you for the great description. I might have missed it, but where did you stay at the North Kaibab TrailHead? Sounds like you stayed the Grand Hotel. But a little confused in how you dropped off your car or what the logistics were from one hotel to the other , as it related to a rental car. Wasn’t sure if using the shuttle the 4 hour one would be a good idea. I’m flying from out of state and trying to figure out the 2 different locatons . hotels . and rental car.

    Thanks again ,

    Tim

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Tim. We drove to the Grand Canyon from the Petrified Forest and spent on night on the South Rim (at the Grand Hotel). The next morning, we parked our car in the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and took the Trans-Canyon shuttle to the North Rim. On the North Rim, we stayed at the North Rim Lodge. The following day, we hiked Rim-to-Rim, ending on the South Rim, where our car was waiting for us. We drove back to the Grand Hotel and spent one final night here. Cheers, Julie

  13. Hi,
    I’m doing this hike in about three weeks. I’m wondering how important hiking poles are? I’m 49 years old and very fit, no joint problems. I’ve run marathons and done Spartan races, but I’ve never anything like this before. I’d appreciate your advice!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Christie. I normally bring hiking poles on hikes with big climbs/descents. However, for the rim-to-rim, I left them at home and was completely fine. I just wanted to carry as little as possible. If you are in great shape with no knee issues, and it sounds like you are, you should be fine, too. I hope you have a great hike and I think that you are doing this at a wonderful time of year. Cheers, Julie

  14. Had never heard of this hike until about a month ago when I stumbled upon this article. Just completed it yesterday with a couple friends using all the info here! Driving up through California now and we plan to use your sequoia/king’s canyon itinerary tomorrow before taking on half dome Thursday. Thank you so much for such an awesome website!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Nick. Sounds like you are on a very exciting trip! I’m glad we could help you out and have fun on Half Dome tomorrow! Cheers, Julie

  15. It’s truly badass of you guys! We are planing the rim to rim too for coming October, but will do what normal people would do:), as a two or three day backpacking trip, depending on the kind permit we can get. . Again truly bold and impressive of what you accomplished!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Ming! Good luck on your rim to rim hike…I think that October is a wonderful month to be in the Grand Canyon. Cheers, Julie

  16. Glad you finally did it and happy anniversary!
    I’ve been busy preparing my epic trip to Norway this late August for the 3 rocks in the south and 4 spots (Munkan, Ryten, Svolvaer, Matind) in the north. Quite some logistics to consider though. 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, but it will be so worth it. To do all of that in one trip…it’s going to be amazing! Have fun! Cheers, Julie

  17. I’ve been planning to do this hike for a long time but I’m still in training! Definitely planning to do it as a 2 day backpacking trip though.

    1. Post
      Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *