Planning your Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike
A hike from one grand canyon rim to the other requires careful planning. The 25 mile (approx.) hike offers a fine physical challenge and serves up endless wonderful views. Here's a brief summary of issues to consider when planning your rim-to-rim hike:

Click to learn more about our video: Hiking the Grand Canyon:  The Corridor TrailsThe Transportation Challenge
Getting back to your car is not an uncommon problem after a backpacking trip. For rim to rim hikers, this is well, a grand canyon sized challenge. The North and South Rims are only about 10 miles apart, as the raven flies, or about 25 miles apart as the hiker treads. Traveling by road, it is a 220 mile, 5 and a half hour drive, from one rim to the other. What to do? Here solutions worked out by some rim to rim hikers:

  • Do a rim to rim to rim hike. Although this may be a more drastic solution than you desire, it does eliminate the problem altogether.
  • Swap car keys with a group hiking in the opposite direction. Locate another group that will be hiking rim to rim, from the opposite direction, at about the same time as your hike. Make arrangements where to meet after completing your hikes. If you have a large group, consider splitting into Northbound and an Southbound groups. Make sure each group gets its own permit.
  • Use public transportation to get from one rim to the other. Try the Grand Canyon Coaches (928.638-0281) or the Trans-Canyon Shuttle (928-638-2820).

What Trails Should I Take?
The North Kaibab Trail is a given for your rim-to-rim hike. To connect the South rim to the inner canyon you must choose between the Bright Angel and the South Kaibab.

Use the South Kaibab for descending only. There is NO WATER along the South Kaibab Trail. Besides, you'll want the canyon before you as you descend this ridge running trail.

The Bright Angel is good for ascending or descending. Indian Gardens provides both water and a possible campsite a mere 4.5 miles below the South Rim.

Should I hike South to North or North to South?
There are benefits of hiking in each direction. Here are some factors to consider in choosing a direction for your hike:

  • A North to South hike means a shorter climb out of the canyon. The North Kaibab trail head is at about 8200 feet. The South Kaibab trail head is at about 7200 feet. The Bright Angel trail head, at about 6800 feet, is the lowest of the three.
  • If the South Kaibab trail is a "must do" for you, hike South to North. It is best to descend the waterless South Kaibab trail.
  • "Civilization" tends to diminish as you hike from South to North. If you like the idea of seeing fewer people as your hike progresses, hike South to North.

Consider these factors when deciding when to do your rim-to-rim hike:

  • The North Rim is closed from mid-November to mid-May. The road into the North Rim (AZ 67) is closed from the first major snowfall (mid-November, usually) until the Spring thaw (mid-May, usually). All North Rim facilities are also closed during this period.
  • Avoid June, July, and August when planning your rim-to-rim hike. The inner canyon is brutally HOT!!! during these months. See our Weather Planner for the scorching details.
  • The most pleasant times for a rim-to-rim hike are late-May to mid-June, and late-September through mid-November. The cooler temperatures typical of these months will make your hike a much more pleasant and safer experience.

How Long?
Plan to spend at least 3 days and 2 nights completing your rim-to-rim hike. DO NOT attempt to do a rim-to-rim hike in a single day.

Sample Itineraries
Here are some sample itineraries that begin at the South rim:

Day 1: South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground
Day 2: North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood Campground
Day 3: Cottonwood Campground to North Rim via North Kaibab Trail.

A very leisurely itinerary would be:

Day 1: Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens Campsite.
Day 2: Bright Angel Trail and River Trail to Bright Angel Campsite.
Day 3: North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood Campsite.
Day 4. North Kaibab Trail to North Rim.

An itinerary that starts at the North Rim:

Day 1: North rim to Cottonwood Campsite via the North Kaibab Trail.
Day 2: North Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground
Day 3: River Trail and Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens Campsite (ALT: Continue to the South Rim).
Day 4: Indian Gardens Campsite to South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail

Keep in mind that you must obtain a backcountry permit to stay overnight in the Grand Canyon. Info on how to obtain a backcountry permit is available here.

Send us your Tips!
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