I did the 23.4 miles rim to rim day hike through Grand Canyon during the last week of November (Thanksgiving weekend) 2017. Unlike most hikes like Mt. Whitney, the hard part (ascent) comes later, and therefore, it is easy to get trapped. Be confident of your fitness level before you try this.
What to carry
- There are multiple water stops, some seasonal, some permanent, check the current situation at the NPS website. The water supply comes from Roaring Springs, and it has high Chlorine content.
- I carried ~3L of water and 1L of Gatorade. I think the 2L of water is the absolute minimum to avoid the risk of dehydration. Also, get a hydration pack so that you are drinking more frequently and without stopping.
- Wear good trail hiking boots since many parts of the trail are rough.
- Carry protein bars and trail mixes for snacking.
- Cache the map of the Grand Canyon in Google maps since there is no network connectivity inside the canyon.
- Carry a detailed list of the checkpoints you are going to encounter, along with the distance to track how well you are doing. You can download a sample tracking sheet from Grand Canyon hiking time tracking sheet, and you can see my full sheet under “My Journey” section in this blog post.
About the Journey
- The road AZ 67 to the North Rim closes on the first snowfall, therefore, check it’s the current situation before leaving.
- The North Rim is less touristy, less accessible, and higher elevation than the south rim, therefore, start the hike on the north rim and end it on the south rim.
- There is precisely one trail to take on the North Rim, that’s North Kaibab trail. The total length of the trail is about 14 miles, and the elevation change is about 5800 ft.
- There are two trails one can take to go up the South Rim, South Kaibab trail or Bright Angel Trail, Bright Angel trail is longer but has lower elevation gain and has one water stop (Indian garden), therefore, take the Bright Angel trail while going up the South Rim. The total length of this trail is about 9.4 miles, and the elevation change is about 4400 ft.
- On average, it seems it takes anywhere between 12 to 15 hours to finish the hike.
Download a copy of this sheet for your use here.
I started at 6:45 AM, and it took me about 10 hours and 45 minutes to finish the hike. This duration included 4-5 breaks of 5 minutes each along the way. Here are some photos of the major checkpoints along the way. The first of them is a short tunnel called Supai Tunnel.
After the Supai Tunnel, the next major milestone is Roaring Springs. The actual springs are a bit off the route. Therefore, I would recommend not going there.
Manzanita Rest area was the first stop where I got potable water, and being 5.4 miles away, this is the first major checkpoint on the way. And it’s an excellent time to evaluate how you are doing on time. If it has already taken you three hours or more to reach here, I would highly recommend turning back. Cottonwood campground is a little over a mile from here. From here on, the trail is next to the water stream.
Till Cottonwood, the descent is steep. Beyond that, it becomes much more smooth and pleasant to walk. From here on, it becomes a long walk towards the Phantom Ranch.
Eventually, I reached the Phantom Ranch. It’s a small town in the middle of the canyon. I refilled my hydration pack here. They do seem to serve food to day hikers.
Bright Angel campground, a much smaller campground, is only 20 minutes away from here. Bright Angel campground is 14 miles from the start and is the lowest checkpoint of the hike. Here I encountered the board that I am finally crossing over to the South Rim.
Soon after this, I came across the Silver Bridge on Colorado river. This bridge is used for crossing over to the south side of the canyon.
The temperature was climbing up now, and I was sweating due to the intense sun. That’s when I came across more smarter travelers.
Next, I saw this cool cave. Being alone, I decide not to take the risk, but I am still unable to get this off of my head.
From here on, the hike becomes a strenuous climb.
Seven-and-a-half hours into the journey, I reached Indian Garden. It’s an Oasis in the middle of the desert and is the last point to get potable water before the final leg of the journey. While Indian Garden is only 4.7 miles away from the Bright Angel trailhead, it is 3000 ft below that, so I had to climb an average 12% gradient in the last leg of the journey.
The next major stop is 3-mile Resthouse, which is 3 miles from the Bright Angel trailhead. From here on, one encounters many day hikers who are coming down from the south rim for the shorter hikes.
Eventually, I crawled to the final checkpoint 1.5-mile Resthouse.
Finally, a view from the top.