The Epic Rim to Rim Hike in Grand Canyon National Park

Sunset North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Sunset North Rim of the Grand Canyon

What would you constitute as a “Bucket List” Hike?

That was the question I pondered as I gazed at my 52 Hike Challenge Adventure Series List for 2018. One of the various “checkmarks” required to complete the challenge was to go on a “Bucket List” hike.
I’m not one for bucket lists. I mean I have nothing against them but I don’t go create a list to scratch something off of it. However the more I thought it about the more I realized what they were asking me (and all other participants) was to dig deep and find a hike that was quite epic and could be deemed as a once in a lifetime hike.

North Rim Grand Canyon Campsite.

North Rim Grand Canyon Campsite.

The suspension bridge connecting the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon.

The suspension bridge connecting the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon.


My list was short. In fact it had three entries based on what I thought was possible in a year with Alaska, Beer Cycling, and Yoga in England already on the docket.
One of them was the supposedly unbelieveable Rim to Rim Hike in Grand Canyon National Park.
My great friend Matt’s father has a house in Sedona Arizona (two hours from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim) and I knew he loved the Canyon so I asked if he would join me. His answer was yes and my bucket list hike was booked.

We were going to hike Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon. (24.6 Total Miles.)

Messages of inspiration at Menzanita Spring.

Messages of inspiration at Menzanita Spring.

There’s a laundry list of facts and know how’s about hiking Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon. I’m hoping to share in this story some must know’s and highlights about the journey!

We chose to do the hike in one day based on not getting a backcountry (overnight) permit on our chosen nights. This was partly due to us requesting on a holiday weekend I believe.
It took us just a shade under 12 hours to complete and we left the North Kaibab Trailhead (North Rim) on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend in 2018 at 4am and finished at the top of the Bright Angel Trailhead at 4pm that same day.

Looking into the Canyon!

Looking into the Canyon!

The NPS recommends to NOT do this hike in one day. They are in charge and I can’t blame them for recommending that. I would do the same. If you are a seasoned hiker and can run a marathon or ultra and know decent survival skills in the wilderness AND you train your ass off then you can try to attempt in one day.

However I think it would be more fun next time to snag a backcountry permit and do it in multiple days with some nights inside the canyon. As I like to say life is different “below the canyon!”
Be smart, train like a boss, and do your research before attempting a hike like this!

Dinner bell at Phantom Ranch!

Dinner bell at Phantom Ranch!

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Items to Consider:

  1. Hiking Rim to Rim North to South will save you an extra 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

  2. The South Kaibab Trailhead does NOT have water spots, is steeper, shorter, and has no shade on it. Therefore Bright Angel Trail is the more popular South Rim trail out.

  3. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is not easy to get to. It’s remote and is only open May 15 thru Oct 15 of each year so plan accordingly!

  4. Grand Canyon temperatures fluctuate drastically. It was in the upper 90’s during early afternoon as we hiked through the “Box” by the river and it was a cool day for September!

  5. I personally drank over 200 ounces of water during the 12 hour hike. Plan accordingly.

  6. Wear long sleeve white cotton T-shirts in the hat and dunk them in every water space you can find. Same with your bandana.

  7. Create a thorough packing list before you go.

  8. I trained by doing 8-12 miles hikes and trails runs in July and August humid days in the midwest at the hottest time of the day. It was miserable but it worked.

  9. Have fun…it will be one of the greatest experiences of your life!

  10. Oh yeah I forgot the actual hike. North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail is 24.6 miles, almost 6,000 feet down, and 4,500 feet back up. Pack your trekking poles (most important behind water and good shoes/socks!)

Only a few options!

Only a few options!

The fun stuff:

  1. I’m shocked how many people I know have never seen the Grand Canyon. We met women from Kenya on the trail who said this was a “Dream come true for us!” It’s easy to brush off as a destination but it’s probably the coolest place I have been in the lower 48 states.

  2. You can stay at Phantom Ranch if you book early enough. I had a cup of coffee there and it’s one of the coolest places to sleep in the world I’d imagine.

  3. Backcountry/overnight permits are available four months out from the first day of the desired month your hike would start.

  4. Rim to Rim is an exclusive club. This isn’t just a day hike. We got high fives and people wanting to take their photo with us because we completed the trail. It’s truly a “bucket list” item no matter how you define bucket list.

  5. We connected with trail runners who were running Rim to Rim to Rim that day! Put our little Rim to Rim hike to shame to say the least.

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In Conclusion…

When I first started thinking about what my bucket list hike would be I had no idea it would lead me to back to one of my favorite places on the planet.
That’s what I adore about traveling though and living with your eyes wide open. Rumi said “What you seek is seeking you” and I am forever seeking the beauty and the feeling I have when I take my life “Below the Canyon.”

The Rim to Rim Hike is not to be taken lightly. However it was one of the more memorable experiences of my life and as my friend Matt and I collapsed in each other’s arms in an embrace at 4pm that Saturday it made me realize if I had the chance to go back to the North Rim at 4am with my headlamp on again to start the trail I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

That’s when you know it’s been a “bucket list” hike!

Where I’d like to spend the night next time I do this hike!

Where I’d like to spend the night next time I do this hike!

Thanks for reading! Check out more Grand Canyon fun HERE and HERE.
Do you have any questions about this hike or the park? Or want to share your favorite experience on your visit to the Grand Canyon?

Comment below, we’d love to hear it! Aaaaaaaaaand…sign up for our newsletter b/c it’s fun!

Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Mike R and the Hashtag 59 Team

Mike R and Matt C at the North Rim Trailhead at 4am, then at the Bright Angel at 4pm all done!

Mike R and Matt C at the North Rim Trailhead at 4am, then at the Bright Angel at 4pm all done!

That was a lot of steps for the day!

That was a lot of steps for the day!

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