The Complete Grand Canyon Rim To Rim Hiking Guide

There are so many different ways to hike the Grand Canyon Rim To Rim. We’ll cover the most popular here and offer a number of recommendations. We are going to summarize each of the types of trips and then we’ll dive into the details around each one. 

Rim To Rim Grand Canyon Route View Google Earth

Grand Canyon Rim To Rim Hiking - 5 Most Popular Trips

Rim to Rim Day Hike – 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.

Rim to Rim Day Hike Twice – 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 North Rim Grand Canyon Resort & Kaibab Lodge for a night then return to the South Rim. Same tips as above. Please contact us as early as possible because we do fill up.

Phantom Ranch Overnight – normally done in 2-3 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) are difficult to get and are based on a lottery system. Check out the Phantom Ranch lottery page for more details.

Backpacking Trip – normally done in 2 or more days. Can go from North to South or South to North. It’s easier to go from North to South because the North Rim is 1,000 feet higher. Our shuttle services are available for your return trip, or you can park your vehicle at the South Rim and take the shuttle to the North Rim to begin you hike the next day. Camping also requires a permit, which like the Phantom Ranch, is done by lottery if you are going to camp overnight in the canyon. 

Fully Guided Backpacking Trips – Just like it says, these trips are fully guided, with all the gear provided. This includes sleeping bags, tents, sleeping pads, walking sticks and more.

 

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hiking - Key Facts & Figures

Grand Canyon Rim To Rim Hike Cross Section Map
Grand Canyon Rim To Rim Hike - Trail Facts

Rim To Rim By The Numbers

Total Distance:

21 Miles (South->North)
24 Miles (North->South)

Other Routes

23.5 Miles

Hiking Time

9 – 14 Hours

Difficulty

The Hike is considered very difficult

Total Ascent

6200 feet

Highest Elevation

8297 feet

Fees & Permites

Park Entry Fee
Park Back Country Permit If Camping

Dogs Allowed

No

Alerts & Closures

Park Phone

928-638-7888

Popular Rim To Rim Itineraries

South To North 1 Day

  • Park At South Rim
  • Hike To North Rim
  • Overnight Stay At North Rim Grand Canyon Resort
  • Shuttle service back to South Rim

South To North 1 Day

  • Park At South Rim
  • Take Shuttle to North Rim
  • Overnight Stay At North Rim Grand Canyon Resort
  • Hike to South Rim

Phantom Ranch

  • Park At South Rim
  • Day 1: Hike to Phantom Ranch
  • Day 2: Hike to North Rim
  • Overnight Stay At North Rim Grand Canyon Resort
  • Hike to South Rim

Camping

  • Three campgrounds to choose from:
    • Bright Angel
    • Cottonwood Campsite
    • Indian Garden
  • Must carry tents & Gear

Rim To Rim Hiking Temperatures

Rim To Rim Hiking Grand Canyon Temperatures

Being prepared for the temperatures you’ll encounter is really important.  The North Rim of The Grand Canyon is currently open from May 15 – Oct 15. So, this is really the window of opportunity you have to hike rim to rim. Within that window, if you’re trying to find the perfect dates for the best temperatures to do the rim to rim hike your basically look at May 15 – May 31, and from Oct 1 – Oct 15th. 

All that being said the Grand Canyon Rim To Rim hike is being done over the entire summer you just need to really be prepared to manage the heat, bring lots of water, take the recommended rest breaks. 

No matter what route your taking, or what time of year, you are always better off starting off your day as soon as first light makes it safe to do so.

Grand Canyon Sunrise / Sunset

Grand Canyon Sunrise Sunset Times Annually

Rim to Rim Frequently Asked Questions

21.3 miles if you take the South Kaibab/North Kaibab route and 23.9 miles if you take the North Kaibab/Bright Angel Route.

The recommended route for doing the rim to rim hike for the first time is from the South Rim to the North Rim via the South Kaibab Trail (and not the Bright Angel Trail although this is an option):

  • This route is 3 miles shorter than the other.
  • The north rim is higher in elevation, which means more climbing, however, but it is spread out over a longer distance making the climb easier.
  • It’s only about 7 miles to the bottom of the Canyon. If you leave early you can generally clear the hottest part of the hike before the hottest part of the day.
  • Arriving at the North Rim is a much more peaceful experience. You’ll have left the desert-feeling South Rim and arrive at a higher altitude pine forest on the North Rim. It feels like you’ve really hiked to someplace different. Contrast that with arriving at the South Rim, where you’re faced a place literally teeming in tourists and tour buses. 
  • If you can get the overnight at Phantom Ranch this is a big win, if not, the day hike is the way to go if you don’t want to carry camping gear or cannot get a back country permit.

Why not Bright Angel to North Kaibab? You can certainly do the South to North hike this way, and plenty of people do. It’s nice because you can park at the trailhead and start your hike. However the South Kaibab option is definitely more popular because of its beauty and shorter distance.

  1. 12-15 hours (includes recommended breaks).

May 15 until October 15 = when the North Rim facilities are OPEN (but you can hike it up until December 1 unless snow closes the access road sooner).

While not recommended, if taken on responsibly and one is well prepared, it can be done in one day.

  1. The Rim to Rim Hike of the Grand Canyon is an extremely difficult hike. Less than 1% of the 6 million annual visitors embark on this hike and most prepare for months even years for this hike. You have an elevation gain of 5,781 feet on the North Kaibab trail, 4,800 feet on the South Kaibab trail, and 4,400 feet on the Bright Angel trail (elevation gain based on river to each rim).
  2. Do you need a permit for the hike? No, unless you are with any group that publicly advertises a trip from rim to rim you will need a permit. Any organized, noncommercial, group conducting rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running, including rim-to-river-to-rim, and rim-to-rim-to-rim in the inner canyon is required to obtain a Special Use Permit from Grand Canyon National Park. If you are CAMPING below the rim you will need a permit. If you are day hiking this hike and/or staying at Phantom Ranch and not any of the above mentioned groups, YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT.

No, unless you are with any group that publicly advertises a trip from rim to rim you will need a permit. Any organized, noncommercial, group conducting rim-to-rim and extended day hiking and running, including rim-to-river-to-rim, and rim-to-rim-to-rim in the inner canyon is required to obtain a Special Use Permit from Grand Canyon National Park. If you are CAMPING below the rim you will need a permit. If you are day hiking this hike and/or staying at Phantom Ranch and not any of the above mentioned groups, YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT.

Yes, but not on the South Kaibab trail. Water is sourced via the Trans-Canyon pipeline but always check the status of each water stop and the pipeline before embarking on your hike.

You will be on your own dime for a rescue so take on this hike responsibly and respectfully while being well prepared.

South Rim: Hikers can park at the Backcountry Information Center (parking lot D). It is a short walk over to the Bright Angel Trailhead. A free hikers’ shuttle goes to the South Kaibab trailhead from the Backcountry Information Center, Bright Angel Lodge, and Yavapai Lodge. Private automobiles are not allowed to access the South Kaibab trailhead. Taxi service is available 24-hours a day, 928-638-2631. Backpackers with permits in the Boucher and Hermit areas are given the gate combination for Hermit Road. Drivers must yield to shuttle buses and observe posted speed limits. With regards to backpacking the South Kaibab/Bright Angel Loop, park at the Backcountry Information Center and take the free Hikers’ Express shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead or walk to the Bright Angel Trailhead.

North Rim: There is a parking lot at the North Kaibab trailhead.

If you have only one vehicle, it is best to park it near the trailhead where you exit the canyon. Be sure not to drive off-road, block another vehicle, or otherwise obstruct traffic when you park. Valuables should be secured out of sight (in a trunk if possible), glove compartments left open for inspection and the vehicle locked. On the South Rim, the Bright Angel Lodge offers a storage service for valuables for a fee on a space available basis.

There are very few. Not all campsites have toilet facilities. Be prepared to provide your own toilet paper. Where toilets are available, you must use them. Only human waste and toilet paper should be deposited in the toilets. Where toilets are not available you must carry out your used toilet paper (a plastic ziplock bag works well) and bury feces in a small hole about 6 in / 15 cm deep. Be sure you are at least 200 ft / 60 m from trails, campsites, and water sources. Along the Colorado River, urinate directly into the wet sand at the river’s edge.

In warm months each hiker should carry and drink about a gallon (4 liters) of water per day. Watch your “ins and outs”. Drink enough so that urine frequency, clarity, and volume are normal. You are not drinking enough water if your urine is dark, small in quantity, or non-existent in the course of a day’s hiking. In addition, eating adequate amounts of food will help you replace the electrolytes (salts) that you are sweating.

During the summer months, your fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed two quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Because the inner canyon air is so dry and hot, sweat evaporates instantly making its loss almost imperceptible. Do not wait until you start feeling thirsty to start replacing lost fluid. By the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Your body can absorb only about one quart of fluid per hour. Drink one-half to one full quart of water or sports drink each and every hour you are hiking in the heat. Carry your water bottle in your hand and drink small amounts often.

Purified drinking water is only available at a few locations in the canyon along the Corridor trails. NOTE: all pipelines in the canyon are subject to breaks at any time of year, cutting off water supplies. Always carry water with you.

Water availability along the Corridor trails:

  • Mile-and-a-half and Three-Mile resthouses (on the Bright Angel Trail) => May to Sep
  • Indian Garden => year-round
  • Bright Angel Campground => year-round
  • Phantom Ranch => year-round
  • Cottonwood Campground => May to mid-Oct
  • Roaring Springs Trail Junction => May to mid-Oct

Visit the Backcountry Updates and Closures page for current information on the availability of drinking water along the Corridor trails.

For other locations, water may be obtained directly from the Colorado River, creeks, and potholes, but must be treated before drinking. Be aware that many water sources in the canyon are intermittent and unreliable.

Plenty. Eating is equally important to both day hikers and overnight backpackers. Carry high-energy, salty snacks as well as meals. The hike out is much easier when you provide your body with enough calories to support the extreme physical activity you are engaged in.

When you make camp, or any time you leave your pack unattended, be sure to hang your food and trash in nylon stuff sacks or place in food storage containers when provided. There are many small animals that will damage your pack and eat your supplies if not secured properly. Do not feed wildlife! Improper food storage and feeding harms wildlife. Violators will be cited.

Ranger stations are located at Indian Garden (staffed year-round) and Phantom Ranch (staffed year-round). There are emergency phones at the ranger stations, at the Bright Angel Trail rest houses, and at the junction of the South Kaibab and Tonto trails. These phones are connected to the park’s 24-hour dispatch center and do not require coins. There may be times when these phones do not function; be prepared to send a member of your group up or down the trail to request emergency assistance. It is recommended to send two people for help in case of injury of those seeking help. Fatigue is not an emergency.

Since hiking the canyon is a challenge you are ready to try, consider a day hike. Often a day hike can be a safer and more enjoyable choice than an overnight trip into a difficult area that is beyond the capabilities of an single member of your group. Or you could try to obtain a permit by adding your name to the waiting list for last-minute space at the Backcountry Information Center. Participation is limited to WALK-IN VISITORS ONLY and obtaining a same-day permit is unlikely (anticipate a 1 to 3 day – or longer – wait). You may participate in the waiting list for as many consecutive days as you like. However, those on the waiting list must be present at the Backcountry Information Center at 8am (Mountain Standard Time) each day to maintain their position on the waiting list. Be aware that permits are very difficult to obtain during the popular season.

You are required to carry out all of your trash, including toilet paper, to rim disposal facilities. To do otherwise is littering. When in camp, be sure to hang your trash with your food sack to prevent wildlife from getting into it. Enclose all plastic and aluminum in nylon stuff sacks. Wildlife will eat plastic and aluminum that smells of food, and may die as a result. You are required to carry out all toilet paper and hygiene products in areas that do not have toilet facilities.

Probably not. Cell phone service throughout much of Northern Arizona is difficult to maintain. It is nearly impossible to get and keep a signal at Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon, Arizona Strip, and area tribal lands. Satellite phones are being tested with some success in places outside of the narrowest portions of the canyon.