How long does it take to Hike
Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon
Of the many bucket-list items that people set for themselves, hiking rim-to-rim at Grand Canyon National Park is among the most cited with most anybody interested in hiking. Ask anyone who has done it, and they will tell you that it is a true badge of honor, an indelible memory, and the experience of a lifetime. A rim-to-rim hike is rigorous, rewarding, and right within your grasp should you be willing to take the challenge. Among the many questions about this epic adventure, the most asked question about a rim-to-rim hike typically is: how long does it take?
That question, although simple, has a somewhat complicated answer that depends almost solely upon the person asking it. A rim-to-rim hike in Grand Canyon can quite literally take anywhere from several hours (for the ultra-hardcore only), to several days (for the more scenically, less insanely inclined).
North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail
The most traveled path on a rim-to-rim at Grand Canyon takes you down from the North Rim descending the North Kaibab Trail. Camp is made at the Colorado River before heading up either the South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails, emerging at the South Rim. The total mileage is roughly 18.5 miles from start-to-finish, and trust us when we say that those miles will make you earn it, especially on the way back up.
Typically, the rim-to-rim hiker will make it down to the Colorado River in one day, and back up to the rim in two days, splitting up the arduous hike out into two days. This is especially true when backpacking as most do on rim-to-rim sojourns, as carrying your entire life on your back can make for a challenging trudge. The uphill side of Grand Canyon is particularly relentless, no matter your skill level, and there are only a few places where hikers can safely cross the river without a pack raft or other floating device, so this somewhat limits your options.
In fact, North Kaibab to Bright Angel or South Kaibab is the only officially recognized rim-to-rim trail by the National Park Service. All other rim-to-rim hikes are considered routes, and are recommended for only highly experienced Grand Canyon hikers and/or guide services. A very popular alternative to rim-to-rim, is rim-to-river and back, which takes just over 9 hours and covers 21 miles.
North Bass to South Bass Trail
Our personal favorite trip takes five days and utilizes the handy pack raft. Starting at the South Bass Trailhead, we embark on one of the most fabulous backpacking trips Grand Canyon has to offer. The Bass Trails connect in central Grand Canyon west of the Great Scenic Divide, a true geological marker in the Grand Canyon that separates the open sweeping vistas of temples and buttes from the more stark plateau country and Inner Gorge. South and North Bass are located in the latter, west of the divide, and views from the trail illustrate some of Grand Canyon’s most complex geology and geologic history.
After camping at one of the most spectacular white sand beaches in Grand Canyon, we break out the old pack raft for an epic flat through Bass Rapids, beaching on the north side and following a faint route up the North Bass Trail, one of the most challenging developed not just in the Grand Canyon, but perhaps in the entire National Park system. Day one sees us down to the river, day two sees us exploring a shipwreck, an old orchard, and epic side canyons, day three sees a pack raft and challenging route finding, and days four and five imbibe in more exploration, crazy scenery, solitude, and great times in Grand Canyon before breaking the seal at North Rim.
Of course, we always think that having a guide by your side is the best way to hike rim-to-rim, but if you choose to cruise without us, we understand. Be sure to have a good map, plenty of water, know exactly where and how you’re going, and remember that going down is optional, but coming up is mandatory!
Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience. Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea. For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip. They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.
Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides. Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef. Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore. In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience. Don’t be shy, and call us!
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For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!
For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.
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