Quick tips for the Rim to Rim hike of the Grand Canyon:
- Day hike it – no permit required. Tips include starting very early, sitting out the hottest part of the day in the shade, bringing plenty of sweet and salty snacks. Hike with at least 3 liters of water and a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face.
- Day hike it twice with rim lodging – get reservations at a South Rim Lodge (El Tovar, Bright Angel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird, Maswik, or Yavapai), hike across the Canyon (23.9 miles), stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge for a night then return to the South Rim. Same tips as above. Reservations are difficult to get. If you go this route consider booking a day again at the South Rim to relax and recuperate. You also have hotel options in Tusayan, Arizona which is just outside the park (South Rim).
- Phantom Ranch – normally done in 3 days. Can go North to South or South to North. Hike down to Phantom Ranch, spend a night or two, hike out. same tips as above. Phantom Ranch reservations (1 year in advance on the 1st of the month). Difficult to get.
- Backpacking Trip – normally done in 3 or 4 days. Can go from North to South or South to North. Easier to go from North to South (North Rim is 1,000 feet higher). You will need a shuttle for return trip. * You only need a permit, which is where lottery drawing comes in, if you’re going to camp overnight in the Canyon.
How we hiked Rim to Rim:
What started out as a bucket list item soon became a reality when my buddy and I lucked out a cancellation for August 18 at Phantom Ranch. I called Xanterra Resorts every week in April of that year and finally had a reservation for Phantom Ranch in the women’s dorms. This was our green light as my buddy Sandy and I wanted to take on Rim to Rim in two days. This is how we did it in addition to some guidance and links to help you.
We started the journey early in the morning (5:20 a.m.) due to the expected heat in August down in the canyon in particular “the wall” which is the hottest part of the hike as well as we needed to have our buddy John take us in from Jacob Lake Campground (where we spent the night prior to our hike = you also have the option of staying at the North Rim but reservations are difficult = booked through Forever Resorts) into the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park (North Kaibab Trail = approximately 50 minute drive from Jacob Lake).
Sandy and I had a great day 1 and enjoyed our hike as it was a bit overcast that morning. We felt the bathrooms and water stops were in perfect spots as right around each of them is when we needed to re-fuel. We enjoyed our 14.3 trek from North Kaibab to Phantom Ranch. Day 1 was in the books and we looked forward to our overnight stay at Phantom Ranch. We put dibs on our bunks (there were 8 others soon to join us in the dorm), took showers and than chilled out awaiting our dinner call. I can’t tell you how appreciative we were for the mules that carried down supper for all of us hikers. We enjoyed dinner, met some new friends and than proceeded to head to bed as we had an early rise the next morning.
Day 2 started with an early rise (4:00 a.m.), breakfast at Phantom Ranch, and off we were on the trail by 5:30 a.m. Day 2 took us over the Colorado River up the Bright Angel Trail. We had a 9.6 mile climb ahead of us. Thanks to my off season training (stair master, stair master, stair master), I was ready for it.
We made great time up Bright Angel and before we knew it we were smelling fresh cologne and seeing people in sandals coming down. We knew we were near the top and the completion of our first ever Rim to Rim hike. We arrived at the Bright Angel trailhead just before lunch and while our room at Kachina Lodge was not quite ready yet we (and we are still apologetic) took our sweaty bodies and packs into El Tovar Dining Room for a well deserved lunch. That diet coke over ice never tasted so good as my body was craving a bit of caffeine. We toasted to the completion of the bucket list item and simply just enjoyed time off of our feet. Our room was ready and we showered and literally worked on our legs learning how to put one foot in front of the other again. As the day went on my muscles became even stiffer. I was so happy we booked a night at the South Rim so we could just relax and reflect on what we just had accomplished.
Later that evening we decided to hobble out to dinner (at the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge and right next to our hotel) and ironically met up with our bunk mates from Phantom Ranch. We all smiled, laughed and toasted to ALL OF US completing the hike. The meal, the conversation, and the stories we shared ranks as one of the best experiences of my life!
Day 3 was all about getting up sore as ever for our 1:30 p.m. shuttle back to our car at Jacob Lake (we camped out there before the journey began). We spent the morning taking it all in as well as gathering post cards and other gifts for our loved ones back home. It was on the return trip on the trans-canyon shuttle where I had the epiphany “why don’t I start a club for all of us that have hiked Rim to Rim as well as a place to inspire others to take on this hike?”. Since there was no such thing, I created the Rim to Rim Club, the website, official logo, and began the journey of building rim to rim products to commemorate the hike.
This entire hike was about perspective for me. It inspired me to start this club and encourage others to experience the trail. It was the best experience of my life and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to take the time to listen to their soul again. Our pictures can be viewed on our photo page of this website as well as the photos from other hikers. We welcome you to share your photos on our page by joining our group. My suggestion to those of you that have not taken on the hike yet, don’t view too many pictures as the first time you see the trail for yourself will be priceless and reserved for your memory.
Tips and links for a Rim to Rim hike:
The first question you must ask yourself is do you want to do the Rim to Rim hike in one day?
* Our recommendation is take two or more days to hike this and truly “experience” the Canyon.
The second question is do you want to camp out or stay at Phantom Ranch?
* We recommend Phantom Ranch (rest, recover, ramp up) if it is your first time.
If you choose the Phantom Ranch (which we did) you have several positives which would be a shower, bed, two meals (dinner after day one trek and breakfast before day two trek) and a lighter load!
If you want to camp out you must obtain a Backcountry permit (up to months in advance). You can call the Backcountry office at 928-638-7875 to request your permit. There are three campgrounds if you backpack (Cottonwood, Bright Angel, and Indian Garden) but again we preferred staying at Phantom Ranch.
For Phantom Ranch you must make advance reservations. Reservations are advised one year in advance unless you have a flexible schedule and can grab an opening. Again, I kept calling Xanterra Resorts (303-297-2757) in April to see if there were any cancellations for the fall. I called once a week. There was finally an opening for two in August in the women’s dorm. Yes, August (HOT), but we wanted to hike Rim to Rim so I grabbed the reservation for the one night and booked our meals.
I also booked a room at the South Rim (Kachina Lodge through Xanterra) so we would have a day to recuperate and reflect on the experience and adventure of our Rim to Rim hike while gaining perspective of the Canyon from the top.
Again, our itinerary was to hike down North Kaibab Trail in one day, stay at Phantom Ranch overnight, hike up Bright Angel early next morning and get to South Rim for lunch. All went according to plan and that is why this is our recommendation for the “in pretty good shape” hikers (that want to carry a pack of less than 25 lbs. and could hike it in trail shoes) to try our option. Our experience was awesome (to include a quick break at Ribbon Falls on day one – go see this as it is less than 1 mile off trail) where I proceeded to soak my feet in the water. Don’t do this unless you have something to dry your feet off completely as you will get blisters.
Our recommendation for hiking Rim to Rim is to hike it from North Rim to South Rim via the North Kaibab Trail (8,241 ft – 14.3 miles – mostly a descent) and the Bright Angel Trail (mostly an ascent – 9.6 miles – 6,850 ft) which is estimated to be a total of 23.9 miles.
* North Rim Lodge and facilities are open May 15-October 15 (October 31st for campground) – South Rim is open year round.
Other Option was to hike down North Kaibab Trail up the South Kaibab Trail (7,260 ft) but there is NO WATER on the South Kaibab Trail. It is shorter (7 miles versus 9.6 miles for Bright Angel Trail) but steeper, and trust us, you will appreciate having water along the way.
If you have completed the Rim to Rim hike like us you are in the Rim to Rim Club. Become an official member of the club by filling out our form on the right side of this website (the club is free). You can also post and update your hiking endeavors by liking us on our Rim to Rim Facebook page.
Here’s to YOUR CLIMB!
What you do need:
1. Great trail or hiking shoes and good socks – I hiked in trail shoes and wicking/wool socks.
2. Back Pack/Hydration Pack with proper clothes – I used a hydration pack with enough water and room in pack to bring change of clothes (fresh socks, change of undergarments, wicking socks, shirts, and shorts = 2 days worth)
3. Hat or Bandanna – I wore a technical bandana that I came to appreciate as I could dip it in the river.
4. WATER – drink and fill pack with water at all stops – STAY HYDRATED
5. Food – salty snacks, protein, and some carbs. We carried beef jerky, energy bars (protein/energy), Fig Newtons, pretzels and CamelBak elixir to add to our water if we felt a potential “bonk”. We also had the dinner and breakfast at Phantom Ranch which was awesome. Please LEAVE NO TRACE on the trail!
6. Moleskin and Band-aids = just in case you blister (also try and bring an anti-chafing cream).
7. Sunscreen and lip balm.
8. Toiletries – Trial size it! I carried a small toothbrush, small toothpaste, and small deodorant. * optional – Hiking poles. I used them on the descent only (North Kaibab) as I was post ACL/microfracture surgery and it helped. If you bring them make sure you have the ones that fold up so you can pack away.
Tip: If you stay at Phantom Ranch in the dorm you will have bunk mates. We had wonderful ones and that is a great thing because we traded what we needed for next day to get us through and traded out what we didn’t need for the hike up Bright Angel (i.e., pack light). If you make the mistake of packing too much you can have the mules take your pack up the next day for a fee. They hike down daily with the food and supplies for Phantom Ranch and up with the mail and bags packed too heavy, etc. We had tremendous gratitude for these animals as we appreciated the food at Phantom Ranch that they carried down for all of us. Just be prepared for some of their “treats” on the trails as they can’t help themselves!
* Day hikes and hikers staying at Phantom Ranch are not required to have permits.
* You only need a permit, which is where lottery drawing comes in, if you’re going to camp overnight in the Canyon.
To camp overnight in the Grand Canyon, you are required to have a camping permit. For the Rim to Rim they’re very competitive to secure, so plan on trying several times before getting a permit. Permits become available 4 months in advance. For example if you want to hike in October, you’d apply on June 1st. You fax your application in to the Backcountry Information Center. Information can be found on the NPS website.
Rim to Rim Merchandise: Please visit the Rim to Rim® Store
Hiking tips: Please visit the Grand Canyon National Park hiking tips page
Product tips: check out our Rim to Rim Club® You Tube Channel
Trail etiquette: please visit the Leave No Trace website
Lodging information: please visit the Grand Canyon National Park lodging
Rim to Rim guided hikes: please visit Wildland Trekking Company
Shuttle information: please visit the Grand Canyon Shuttle
Donate to the Trail: please visit the Grand Canyon Association
Support for the Rim to Rim Club®: please visit the Rim to Rim Store