Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike - Practical Infos

Notes by Lorenzo Casaccia

Go back to the Rim To Rim 2003 page || Pictures & Characters || Il Labirinto

This page collects practical infos (and pointers to even better infos) about the Rim to Rim hike. If you are curious about more personal details of our experience go here.

(Where two times are indicated one is the arrival time and the other is the departure time)

Trail Name Intermediate Point Altitude Distance Time
South Kaibab Trail South Kaibab Trailhead 2213 m 5.15
Cedar Ridge 1926 m 2.4 km 5.50 - 6.00
O'Neil's Butte 1743 m 6.20
Skeleton Point 1591 m 6.30
Junction with Tonto Trail 1219 m 7.1 km 7.05 - 7.10
Colorado River 813 m 9.7 km 7.50 - 8.00

Bottom of the Canyon

Bright Angel Campground 740 m 10.3 km 8.15
  Phantom Ranch 808 m 11.1 km 8.20 - 8.50
  Ribbon Falls Bridge 1162 m 20.1 km 10.55

Cottonwood Campground 1247 m 22.5 km 11.25 - 13.15
North Kaibab Trail Water Stop (house of the Springs manager) 24.5 km 13.55
Roaring Springs 1613 m 26 km 14.15
Supai Bridge 1828 m 29.1 km 15.35
Supai Tunnel 2113 m 30.4 km 16.15 - 16.30
Coconino Overlook 32.6 km 17.05 - 17.10
North Kaibab Trailhead 2543 m 33.6 km 17.30
  12 hrs 20 mins


A Rim to Rim Hike of the Grand Canyon basically consists of three hikes:

#1 - A downhill hike on the South Kaibab Trail.
#2 - A (pretty much flat) hike at the bottom of the Canyon.
#3 - An uphill hike on the North Kaibab Trail.

#1 is quite steep but fairly easy.

#2 can vary between very hot and impossibly hot. If you leave early in the morning (as we did), it will be very hot. The eleven kms between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Campground are nearly flat, but the problem will be the sun. The first half of this stretch is inside an inner canyon (called The Box). This is ok. The second half of this stretch has no shade and the heat will be a serious issue. Be seriously prepared.

#3 will be for the most part in the shade. But the problem now will become the fact that the trail is steep, at 2000 meters and you will be very tired. Also, you can't go back, of course.

Needless to say, this is a wonderful hike. The landscape changes a lot, from postcard views of the Canyon to walks in the desert to an ascent in the mountains.


A more comprehensive description of the trail (by Piero Scaruffi) can be found here. Most of his tips turned out to be very useful. The template of this page is also similar to his one. I didn't want to duplicate the info that he has already written. Therefore what follows are just some additional notes.


Before attempting the rim to rim hike, you should try to hike from the South Rim to the river and back to the South Rim in one day. This is also discouraged by the rangers, but it will give you an idea of the rim to rim hike (which ultimately is twice as hard). We did that in 2002. A description of this can be found here.


In retrospective, looking at the schedule above, I believe that we hiked too fast between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Campground. Keep in mind that the later you leave Cottonwood Campground, the easier the ascent will be (because it will be mostly in the shade). At the same time, the later you leave Cottonwood, the more stressed out you might be because you have to make it to the North Rim before sunset.


The water stop after Cottonwood Campground is managed by a very friendly couple who also manages the Roaring Springs themselves (whose water is the same water you have in all the lodges and at Phantom Ranch). When we hiked, they were even offering lemonad to hikers.


Another page with info is here. However, this page suggests that there is purified water at Roaring Springs. The only thing is, you have to go and get it with an extra hike (off the main trail), and at that point you won't probably do that. Therefore, don't rely on the water at Roaring Springs.


This is another good source of information. This page tells about a Rim-to-Rim done in October, which gives some advantages at the price of risking bad weather and of a shorter daylight period.


Obviously, how to come back to the South Rim is an issue.

One option is to find friends that are willing to come to the South Rim with you and then drive around (5 hours) to the North Rim while you hike, so that they will pick you up.

The other option is to call Trans Canyon Shuttle (928-638-2820). If there are at least 6 hikers, they will send a shuttle for you (65 $ per person), and you can negotiate the pick-up time (the shuttle tends to show up 1 hour earlier). We used this option.

The ride back is going to be a never-ending trip in the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere. Probably the last thing you want to do after a 13-hour hike is to bounce 5 hours in a shuttle. But - hey - that's still better than hiking back to the South Rim !


More general infos are here. This page assumes that to hike rim to rim in one day is impossible.


Since we (and others) did it, the rim to rim hike is not impossible. None of us is an athlete but surely we were at least in decent shape.

At the same time, this hike is seriously tough. This hike is 34 kms. Half Dome (in Yosemite Park) is 25 kms. So you could think "well, the rim to rim is just 9 kms more". Wrong. The rim to rim hike is at least twice as hard as Half Dome.

Make sure you know what we are talking about.