Rim to Rim at the Grand Canyon?
June 8, 2006 6:49 PM   Subscribe

What's it like to run/hike from rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, all in one day?

I'm in pretty good shape and I live in Arizona, so I figure that I'll run from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other. Might as well, considering it's close by and I've always wanted to try it. I have all the requisite gear -- a camelbak 'n' all that good stuff, as well as a wife who will pick me up on the other side of the run.

I figure it'll be about 20-24 miles... which is well within my running range.

With all that said, I guess I'm just curious to hear from other folks who might've done it. When's the best time of year to go? What trails did you take? Did you go South to North... or vice versa? Was it more brutal than you expected? Is it a horrible idea to do it alone? (And if it is, how the heck can I find other folks who want to do this?)

Is there anything else that I should keep in mind?
posted by ph00dz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I inquired about hiking from one side of the canyon to the other via the ranch in the centre and was told that it was a three day hike. As far as I understand it, the temperature inside the canyon is really hot, the terrain is rugged and the path is hardly a straight line. Not sure if this helps or not, but from the little I know, running across the bottom of the canyon would be very difficult. Although I suppose if you have lots experience running over rocky terrain and are very well prepared then maybe you could do it.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:59 PM on June 8, 2006

i know a few crazies who've pulled this off. it's do-able, but that's all i know at this point. i will try to make a couple personal inquiries in the next couple days.
posted by RockyChrysler at 8:03 PM on June 8, 2006

I've hiked it and yes it's three days. Of course we were carrying tents, etc. The trails are rough and there are plenty of patches of shit from the burros as well.

It's also a huge change in elevation. If I remember it's about 5,000 foot change in elevation from the South Rim to the bottom of the canyon. The bottom of the canyon can be 15-20 degrees warmer than the rim.

Also, what are you doing for water?
posted by MasonDixon at 8:16 PM on June 8, 2006

Upon review, do you really think a camelback is going to carry enough water for you?
posted by MasonDixon at 8:18 PM on June 8, 2006

I passed a guy who was finishing a rim-to-rim hike of the grand canyon while I was hiking there. He looked pretty beat but also didn't look to be in the best of shape. I believe it took him about 12 hours. His friends, however, were doing a rim-to-rim-to-rim run, if you can believe that.

reveals this useful looking site, as well as a number of other links.
posted by pombe at 8:32 PM on June 8, 2006

Response by poster: I think so, MasonDixon -- I've got the monster 100 ouncer and I'm used to running long distances on trails with it. My understanding is that there's water along the trail, too... so I wasn't too worried about it.

Thanks, RockyChrysler... I'd appreciate anything you can find out. Course, the REAL crazies do the rim2rim2rim, if you can imagine that. (I'm not sure I can...)
posted by ph00dz at 8:35 PM on June 8, 2006

On mountaineering trips, my rule of thumb is that an extra 1000 feet of elevation gain is equivalent (in terms of time and effort) to 2 or 3 extra miles of distance. Glacier climbing is a lot different from canyon running, but expect a similar effect. Take elevation change into account for your planning and training.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:16 PM on June 8, 2006

Hah... my first experience in the canyon ended in heat exhaustion at the bottom after trying to hike from the rim to the river and back. I turned back before reaching the river and needed a long rest in the shadei before I could move again. it was late april and over 100 degrees with not a cloud in the sky - do NOT attempt a long hike in this weather! (don't even think about july or august, unless you can do the majority of the hike at night.) once we were walking uphill in the sun it was impossible to walk for more than ten minutes without resting.

However I was out of shape and unprepared for the exertion and climate. If you are comfortable with long distance desert hikes I am told it can be done. One lady I met during my rest had a friend who had done the rim to rim to rim run. She said her friend had left food drops along the way but the squirrels dug them up so she had to do the whole thing with only a pack of jolly ranchers! After going through bags of trail mix and still barely being able to walk I don't know how this is humanly possible, but some people can do it.

Re: water along the trail - there is water at rest stops along the bright angel trail from the south rim. there is no water along the south kaibab trail. I don't know about the north trails. be careful and double check everything. I think the north trail is much longer than the south trail. You have to prepare very seriously because you are taking your life into your own hands - many people have died from heat stroke while hiking in the canyon due to unpreparedness or pushing themselves too far in the extreme desert conditions. But it can be done if you know what you're doing. Good luck!
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:18 PM on June 8, 2006

I did the rim to river and back in one day about 6 years ago, down Kaibab and back up Bright Angel, with some hiking around down at the bottom, roughly 26 miles round trip, total travel time about 12-13 hours. It wasn't easy, but it was doable. As others have mentioned, it's the temperature changes more than anything that you need to be prepared for. I did the hike in August; when we started out it was around 50 degrees outside, and by the time we were ready to begin our ascent back up from the river, it was over 110.

I was 17 when I did it, but in pretty bad running shape (I was exclusively a swimmer at the time). I'm 23 now and a MUCH better runner and more experienced hiker, and am confident that I would be able to do it again, probably quite a bit more smoothly than I did last time.

Also, I should mention that I was joined on the hike by my 14 year-old brother and 40 year old mother, and apart from some light heat exhaustion suffered by my mother, as well as some minor foot pain experienced by yours truly (as a result of wearing Chuck Taylors for the hike, in true dumbass teenager fashion) no real ill effects were experienced by any members of our group, besides intense exhaustion on the bus ride back to our hotel.
posted by saladin at 9:50 PM on June 8, 2006

that's an awesome story, saladin. your mom sounds like quite a lady
posted by growabrain at 9:58 PM on June 8, 2006

My wife and I did the rim to rim hike a few years ago. Starting at the north rim. It is incredibly beautiful and we took our time and did it in 3 days. We saw plenty of people running and I was told that the record was rim to rim to rim in 24 hours. That seemed absolutely nuts to me. I found the hike to be fairly grueling because I didn't have any treking poles, was carrying most of the gear, and 15 miles and 3000 feet of vertical drop or whatever killed my knees. But, I'd do it again.
posted by trbrts at 10:27 PM on June 8, 2006

I went rim to river and back in one day a few years ago. I was totally out of shape and it was completely grueling. Started going down at 7am took approx 4hrs then stayed at the river until about 4pm before heading back up. Got back to the rim by 10pm or so. Need to try and stay out of the sun during mid-day and there was no water, except down at the bottom where a store was open. My legs were sore for a week.
posted by 5bux at 11:02 PM on June 8, 2006

My experience paralled 5bux pretty closely. In 1999 I hiked down South Kaibab Trail to the river and back up Bright Angel which works out to 18 miles or so I believe. We left at 8 am, got to the river around 12 and stayed for a couple of hours. On the hike back up we all went at our own pace. I reached the rim after 8 pm in the middle of our group.

Here they recommend the North Kaibab to get to the north rim.
posted by euphorb at 11:33 PM on June 8, 2006

Best answer: A Rim to Rim to Rim in one day is a popular ultrarun. There's a fair amount of discussion about it on the ultra list, and you could search the archives here with grand canyon and rim as keywords to get a lot of information about logistics etc. It's completely doable, but you may be past the time to do it this year, it might already be too hot.
posted by OmieWise at 5:26 AM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Neat, OmieWise... I never thought I'd join the ultramarathon list, but it's pretty interesting. I'm considering doing my first Ultra next spring, so that'll really come in handy.

I'm pretty sure that I'm going to wait until September to give this a shot. There's no rush, really -- but I wanna make sure that I do whatever advance planning I need to.
posted by ph00dz at 6:55 AM on June 9, 2006

I've hiked it in October, and the weather was great -- a little chilly at the rims, and pleasantly hot (not super hot) at the bottom. If you're already doing very long runs with that kind of elevation change both up and downhill, go for it. If you're not used to running up or down switchbacks for hours and hours on end, you should probably consider hiking it first to get a feel for the trail. It's a great hike, and it'd be a shame to run it the first time and miss most of the beauty that you can only see if you're not running.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:33 AM on June 9, 2006

Just a few random comments.

First: People die in the Canyon from trying to hike far beyond their physical capacity. This is not just something that's happened once or twice, either, so make sure you realize the risk.

Second: Last year, in April, I did rim-river-back in a day on Bright Angel. Down in 3 hours, back out in 4, and honestly I barely felt a twinge. I had spent about four weeks prior training a few times a week on Camelback, but I was far from being an athlete.

Two weeks ago I did rim-Plateau Point-back in a day (much shorter and easier than going all the way down to the river) and was almost crying by the time I got out :). It was MUCH hotter, and I hadn't trained at all.

Personally, I'd suggest a rim-river-back trip first, just to make sure you understand what that whole vertical mile thing is all about. Plus it's completely beautiful and fun, especially if you're in decent shape. There are plenty of water stops on the upper half of Bright Angel, although the more grueling lower half doesn't have any. But a 100oz bottle will get you past that. And doing this in the summer gives you extra bragging rights.

Have fun!
posted by BruceL at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2006

I have not done rim2rim, only the dayhike from the south rim to the river and back up. I'll only suggest three things to think about: Consider doing the run from the North Rim to the South Rim, so that you'll have less elevation gain to worry about, since the North Rim is higher than the South. Second, since there is water available on the Bright Angel trail, you should probably come up that route. Third, while it will be less of an issue in September, consider using the full moon and some part of the night to avoid the heat of midday.

Enjoy it... I'll be jealous.
posted by mhespenheide at 2:58 PM on June 9, 2006

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