The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim is an epic challenge where you can navigate through one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The epic Grand Canyon attracts nearly 6 million visitors. Of those, less than 1% ever hike below the rim.
I had the fantastic opportunity to hike Rim to Rim, from the North Rim starting at the North Kaibab Trail, down to Phantom Ranch, and up the Bright Angel trail during the pandemic.
Words can’t describe the beauty, but I will try, breathtaking, left me speechless, and made my heart sing are just a few phrases that come to mind.
Are you up to the challenge?
What Does Rim to Rim (R2R) mean?
It means traversing from one rim of the Grand Canyon to the next.
Starting on the North Rim:
- North Kaibab Trailhead to the Bright Angel Trailhead. This is the recommended route because of access to water.
- North Kaibab Trailhead to the South Kaibab Trailhead. This is NOT the recommended route because of access to water.
Starting on the South Rim:
- South Kaibab Trailhead to Phantom Ranch and returning to the South Rim up to the Bright Angel Trailhead.
- South Kaibab Trailhead to the North Kaibab Trailhead.
How to get around?
If you find yourself wanting to complete it as a one-way trip, there are shuttle buses available for pre-booking on both sides of the canyon, which will take you back to your starting location.
Distances in the Grand Canyon from Trailheads
Here are the deets. This Grand Canyon adventure should not be undertaken without some serious training.
Elevation Gain and Steps from the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch to The Trailhead. Distances and Elevation Change from the National Parks Service.
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One-day R2R Itinerary
The trekking route starts at the Grand Canyon National Park North Rim. We spent the night at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge.
Before you go, please check the National Park Service Grand Canyon information before you make the trip. So that you know – essential announcements will be posted there.
The Night Before the Hike
The night before, we enjoyed the sunset over the Grand Canyon on the patio at the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim.
We picked up a few gifts at the Grand Canyon Lodge Gift Shop and ordered pizza and wine from the North Rim General Store.
After dinner, we got to bed by 8:30 pm, right after the sunset.
North Rim at the North Kaibab Trailhead
We had a 4:45 am wake-up call. My son dropped our crew off where the trail begins at North Kaibab Trail. We started with headlamps on the sandy trail.
This was my first trek from R2R; about half our crew goes yearly. They cautioned us on taking less time at each rest area to get from the north rim to the south rim. Or goal was to arrive at the Bright Angel Trailhead before sunset.
Phantom Ranch next to the Colorado River
We changed our socks and used our phone battery packs to charge our phones. My Garmin 735 needed to charge as well. I used my Garmin GPS device to track my distance.
My friends used their Apple Watch. None of our distances matched. Don’t get discouraged if your GPS says you should be at a location and you are not there.
I Phantom Ranch is 13.6 miles (21.8 km) miles from the North Kaibab Trailhead. You may think that you are more than halfway to the other side.
Oh, contrary, This is when the hard part starts. The next 9.0 miles (15.9 km) is all up, with plenty of switchbacks up to the top.
We took our time and were thankful for our Wednesday training at the Victory Steps in Verrado.
We got stuck in the rain at the Indian Garden Campground. This delayed our trip up the Bright Angel Trail. We planned to be at the trailhead by sunset. We missed it by an hour.
Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim
My T-Mobile cell phone didn’t have service through the canyon. It started workout at the Mile and a Half Rest House.
It may seem like you are almost done here. But it is a very slow trek up that last mile and a half. We took about 90 minutes from the rest house to the Bright Angel Trailhead.
With tired legs and happy hearts, we headed home. Driving back was tiring. In hindsight, I recommend staying an extra day or two on the south rim in one of the hotels in the Grand Canyon Village or Tusayan, Arizona.
Questions and Answers about Hiking Rim to Rim!
Best Time to Hike R2R at the Grand Canyon?
The best time to hike is mid to late May or late September to mid-October.
These small windows of time are when it isn’t too cold on at the top, not too hot at the bottom, and the water is on at the rest spots.
How to get around without a driver at the Grand Canyon
The National Park Service offers a Trans Canyon Shuttle Service. Book your shuttle early.
What Permits are needed?
No permits are needed for day hikers, overnight stays at the dormitories, or cabins at Phantom Ranch. Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips.
What about Water?
Water is available across the Corridor trails. Purified water is available at a few locations. Plan on refilling water at every water stop. Pipelines across the canyon can break.
You don’t want to be without the water in the canyon. Carry a Life Straw or iodine table in case of emergency and you need to use unfiltered water.
In the warmer months drink a gallon of water per day. Your urine should be pain yellow.
If your urine is dark or non-existent you are likely dehydrated. Drink more. Add electrolytes to your food and water to replace the electrolytes lost during the hike.
- Havasupai Gardens
- Bright Angel Campground
- Phantom Ranch
Water May to September
- Mile and a Half Rest House
- Three Mile Rest House
May to mid-October
- Cottonwood Campground
- Roaring Springs Trail Junction
What Food Should I Bring?
Plan on carrying all the food you need for the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim Hike. Depending on the weight of your pack and how fast you are going, you can burn up to 1000 calories per hour.
Because of this, you want to make sure you bring energy-dense food with you for your hike.
Hiking Food Ideas for the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim
- Trail Mix
- Meat Sticks
- Clif Bars or Bloks
- sFuel Packs (this is what I use)
- Bring Cash for Lemonade and Snacks at Phantom Ranch
What to do In Case of Emergency while hiking Rim2Rim
Hike with at least one more person. Let friends and family know when you are going into the canyon, what your route is, and when you will be leaving the canyon.
It is unlikely that your cell phone will work through most of the entire canyon along the rim2rim trail. There is a chance for service at the 3 Mile and 1 1/2 Mile Rest House. Other rest stops are not likely to have service.
Carry a satellite communication device like a Garmin inReach or SPOT X. Both have been shown to work well through the Grand Canyon Corridor. I have a Garmin inReach and love it.
Where can I use the restroom?
Pit toilets are along the canyon. Only human waste and toilet paper should be put in the pit toilets. When you see a pit toilet, don’t delay. You will want to stop regardless if you have to use it at the time. Without a doubt, this is better than having to search for a bush off of the trail.
Pit Toilet Locations
North Kaibab Trail
- Supai Tunnel
- Manzanita Rest Area
- Cottonwood Rest Area
- Phantom Ranch Canteen
South Kaibab Trail
- 1 1/2 Mile Rest House
- 3 Mile Rest House
- River Rest House
- Indian Gardens
North Kaibab Trail
- The Tipoff
- Cedar Ridge
- South Kaibab Trailhead
Be prepared with toilet paper, just in case you have an emergency. If this happens, choose at least 200 feet from trails, water sources, or campsites.
Final Thoughts on Taking on this Epic Rim to Rim Adventure
Looking back, I am almost ashamed to say it took me 51 years to get to the Grand Canyon, let alone hike across. My advice is to take your time. Plan a trip, train for the hike, and DO IT! You won’t regret it!
Are You Ready to Hike Rim to Rim but Want Support?
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Check out our other articles about running.