Canyon Rim to Rim
This is one of the best day
hikes in the world, and a must do for the serious marathon day
tripper. One optimal time for this Grand Canyon Rim to Rim
hike is as late as possible in the season but while the North Rim
Lodge is still open, which around October 15, the day I did it.
It's 21 miles from South Kaibab
trail or 24 miles on the Bright Angel trail. The total elevation
climb is about 6000'. These statistics match a one-day
Mt Whitney hike (24 miles, 6000') but is easier due to 6000' less
altitude - "easier" of course being a relative term. Like
all hikes on this site, you need to be in shape, and plan and execute
the hike diligently. The Park Service and all printed guides
heavily discourage this hike - too many people get in trouble and
need evacuation. Please don't be one.
With dinner reservations at
6pm, the schedule was set. After a taxi ride from a Grand
Canyon rim hotel to the South Kaibab Trail at Yaki Point, I was
on the way by 5:20am. Parking is not allowed at the trailhead,
but there is a free rim shuttle service that would get you a little
later. Sunrise was 6:36am so a small penlight flashlight
was useful for 30 minutes to negotiate the steep, rocky switchbacks,
and the fresh deposits by the mule train that had left 5 minutes
earlier. Trekking poles allowed for a fast and balanced
pace minimizing stress on joints on the steep decline.
Compared to the Bright Angel
Trail, the South Kaibab Trail is more scenic (once daylight hits). The
river and canyon is more visible because the trail follows a ridge
rather than a small valley.
A fifty foot rock tunnel leads
to a large suspension bridge over the Colorado. Another mile
is Phantom Ranch. Then begins a very pleasant 7 mile stroll
(or run as some do) up the Bright Angel Canyon, a large tributary
to the main canyon. With all the talk about heat in the canyon
and dehydration I was pleasantly surprised with the early morning
hours being cool and the east side of the canyon being in the shadows.
Phantom Ranch. Don't bother
getting water until reaching the Phantom Ranch store. There
is water earlier at the Bright Angel Campground but it's out of
the way. All Phantom ranch meals are by reservation, but
there is food available (sack lunch, sport bars).
Ribbon Creek crossing. There
is a fork. The one to the right goes up and over a large
hill. The one to the left, assuming late season, is crossable
by taking your shoes off. This is a good idea. Good
time to change socks and you save some time avoiding the hill.
Cottonwood Campground. Nice
water and rest stop with benches under trees.
Roaring Springs. No need
to go there for water. It's a 20 minute diversion from the
main trail down to the river and back; water (and sometimes a pitcher
of lemonade) is available a mile earlier at the caretaker's house. But
remember, from this point it is the last water for about 4000'
of elevation climb to the top .
North Kaibab Trailhead. Get
there by 4:30 PM to take the free shuttle the 2 miles to the North
Rim Lodge, a very desirable option after a long day.
Arriving at the Trailhead at
3:20pm, I had plenty of time to check-in at the Lodge (get the
more expensive cabin, it's worth it), have a hot shower, sit on
the observation deck to view the sunset and the day's work, and,
make that 6pm dinner reservation for a nice meal and a fine wine. It
doesn't get any better than this.
There are three options for
the return to the South Rim.
1. After an overnight
of comfort, walk back the next day.
2. After an overnight
of comfort, take the shuttle
back and remain in comfort.
3. For the complete masochist,
after reaching the North Kaibab Trailhead, turn around and go back
immediately. The goal is to get back with 24 hours which
requires sleep depravation, pushing muscles to the limit, and convincing
yourself this is a neat thing to do.
For this year, I chose option
2. Maybe I'll try option 1 or 3 next year when I forget how
far it is. Nevertheless, recent research has indicated possible new brain neurons grow with physical exercise. If more exercise means more neurons this hike might make you smarter or prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's Disease
Check-out the DayHiker forum "Favorite
Hikes" for some more hiking tips and cautions about this memorable
extreme day hike.
And for the Grand
Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim totally insane option read this
journal from a internet hiking buddy, Rich Hale, who has done
it 4 times before hanging up his internet site, adventurehiking.com,
a few years ago. He covers a unabridged encyclopedic volume
on this topic and is a must read for those inclined to attempt
this over-the-top (under-the-rim?) saga.
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