How to do the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike

The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike is one of the penultimate hikes for those who love hiking.  It's one of the most accessible and doesn't require a lot of permits.  There are a number of resources along the trail to make it exceptionally easy to complete.  Here's how I did the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike by myself and how you can do the grand canyon rim to rim in 3 days.

how to do the grand canyon rim to rim hike

My EXPERIENCES Hiking below the rim of the Grand Canyon

I am not exceptionally in shape.  In fact, I have been battling with weight issues for most of my life, but even more so the past 7 years.  For my 32nd birthday I hiked to the bottom of the grand canyon.  I am 5'8' and at that time I weighed 155.  My pack was 35 pounds for that hike.  My route was South Kaibab Trail over night at Phantom Ranch up Bright Angel Trail with an over night at Indian Garden Campground.

It was a magical trip and I didn't find it incredibly difficult, which I expected it to be.  Instead, the trail was fun and enjoyable.  I listened to music most of the way and enjoyed myself.  I met a few new friends who I still stay in touch with today.

solo woman grand canyon rim to rim hike

In 2010, I decided to hike the North Kaibab Trail to Cottonwood Campground with a friend.  I had not hiked on the North Side of the Grand Canyon and I really wanted to do both sides of the canyon.  At this time I weighed 141 pounds and my pack was around 32 pounds.  I found the hike to be unusually easy this time.  That surprised me.  I had expected it to be much harder because the elevation gain is higher and faster than the bright angel trail.

Between Cottonwood Campground and the North Kaibab trail head it is 6080 feet elevation change over 6.8 miles.  From Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel trail head it is 6860 feet elevation change over 9.9 miles.  You can find a complete list of mileage and elevation change on these three trails on the NPS website click here.

Grand Canyon Cottonwood Campground

I tell you all this history for two reasons because I want you to know that I am an experienced Grand Canyon Hiker.  Hiking the Rim to Rim was not my first time hiking in the Grand Canyon.  I've also hiked Hermit's Rest and the Rim Trail at the South Rim.  I've hiked all but one of the established trails at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The best way to train for a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike is to actually hike in the grand canyon.

why a Solo Woman Grand Canyon Rim to Rim?

Fast forward 9 years.  In that time I've opened a very successful business in Las Vegas and it is eating me alive.  My health is in decline and I've gained 70 pounds.  If I didn't make my health a priority it's likely that I wouldn't live much longer.  A doctor's visit revealed that I have high triglycerides, high cholesterol.  Officially, I am in the obese category at 213 pounds.  This is the most I've weighed in my life.

I think many of you can empathize with my situation.  I was miserable.  Reaching all of my dreams, but at what expense.  I was lonely and isolated.  Food became my drug of choice as I indulged in the bacchanal culture of Las Vegas.

I decided to take control of my life again

Wanting to take my life back, I sold the business, bought an RV, and moved into the wild.  First trip, a month at the Grand Canyon North Rim.  I hiked every trail I could there and after about two weeks I realized that I could realize my dream of hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike.

I called the Phantom Ranch and found out the dorms had one night open on October 5th.  I booked it and set to planning the hiking the grand canyon.  I am now going to do the Rim to Rim Hike and I am 210 pounds.  My pack is 26 pounds.

This time the trail was very difficult, but not impossible.  The Rim to Rim hike was an accomplishment.

***Coming soon**** For a full-list of my Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hiking Gear Click Here

Planning a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike

Do this First!

Download or have a hard copy of this book sent to yourself.  This is an incredible resource for everything about hiking the Grand Canyon.  You will want to have this book.  I got the downloaded version on the kindle app so I could have it on my phone while I hiked the rim to rim.

grand canyon hiking book
When to Hike

You will want to hike when the water is on if you want to keep your pack weight down. That means hiking below the rim between May and October.  Personally, I prefer to hike the Grand Canyon in May or October because the weather is more tolerable.  You don't have to carry as much clothing either so your pack will be lighter.  

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only open from mid May to mid October.  Make sure you check their open dates before deciding when to hike.  You will not be able to get out of the North Rim by car once it closes for the season.  Also, the water will be turned off making the hike up more difficult.

Be flexible if possible

The more flexible you are, the more likely it will be that you will get a bed at the Phantom Ranch.  If you call Phantom Ranch and ask them when they have availability for one night for a single woman at the dorms, being available for any date will help your chances of hiking the rim to rim tremendously.  Hiking the Grand Canyon as a single woman is one of the easiest ways to get down there.  More single men hike overnight below the rim than women.  

For those of you worried about safety, do not.  This is a heavily trafficked trail and you will see hundreds of people along the way.  It's not likely that you'll fall off the edge as the trails below the rim of the grand canyon in this area are significantly worn and easy to see.

Book your Trans Canyon Shuttle and Housing

You'll want to book a shuttle from one end of the canyon to the other.  You can do that here.  You can book your shuttle from the Bright Angel Lodge or from the North Rim Lodge.  

I did the North to South route of the Grand Canyon because the North Kaibab trail is longer.  Looking back on it, I might do the South Rim to the North Rim instead because I had a lot of trouble going down with my knees and less trouble going up.  I also had difficulty making it to dinner by 5pm which wouldn't have been the case if I had taken the Bright Angel trail to Phantom Ranch.

You may need camping or a hotel the night after your trip.  If you have a rental car I suggest leaving the car at the side you plan to end on and then taking the shuttle to the side you want to start your hike through the grand canyon on.

I stayed at The Grand Canyon hostel in Williams.  Williams is a fun route 66 town and the hostel was inexpensive.  I got my own room verses staying in the community room.  The hostel is run by the Grand Canyon Hotel so make sure you mention you want the hostel as it's in a different location.  I have stayed at the Grand Canyon Hotel as well and it was a beautiful historic hotel.  They didn't have any rooms the last time I hiked in the Grand Canyon.

Do some Pre-Hike Training

The best way to train for a Hike in the Grand Canyon is to Hike the Grand Canyon.  If that's not possible then try to get at least 4 hours of strenuous exercise in each week for the month preceding your hike.

A study done on successful hikers of the John Muir Trail showed that hikers who prepared by doing four hours of strenuous exercise in the month preceding the hike were more likely to finish.  The John Muir Trail is 220 miles so this would be a solid exercise plan for a shorter, but still difficult hike like hiking rim to rim at the Grand Canyon.

How was the Hike?

I enjoyed it!  The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike was difficult and challenging, but overall rewarding.  See for yourself in this video detailing the entire trip.  The video is PACKED with information on the trail, rest stops, water stops, trail markers.  You'll get to see Phantom Ranch and the beauty of the canyon.  Have a look for yourself and let me know in the comments what you think or questions you might have.

Thank you!

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