Recently I had the pleasure of hiking the Grand Canyon, rim to rim. If you don’t know “Grand Canyon lingo,” that means starting on one side of the canyon, hiking to the bottom and hiking out the other side of the canyon for a total of 23.9 miles. My trip went from the north rim (North Kaibab Trail) to the bottom where I stayed two nights at Phantom Ranch and then hiked out via Bright Angel Trail to the south rim. Needless to say, it was SPECTACULAR.
You may be wondering, how does one go about preparing for a hike that long? What do you wear? What do you take to eat? Where do you stay? How long does it take? I had all the same questions before my trip and thankfully I hiked with a group of ladies that did a lot of research. I greatly benefited from their research, and I’m going to share what I learned with you.
How to Prepare
The trail is well maintained, well-marked and not too difficult. I was surprised that portions of the trail were very sandy. It was like hiking on the beach in loose, deep sand. Other portions of the trail were steps made of logs or rocks that helped you as you climbed. The gals I hiked with live in Southern Colorado so they prepared by hiking in the mountains several times prior to going. I live in Oklahoma where a few hills in my neighborhood had to suffice for my training. I walked the hills around where I live in my hiking boots, wearing my backpack with a 10 pound dumbbell inside. I also jogged some (for endurance) and climbed A LOT on the stair climber in the gym. I think that really helped on trail coming out of the canyon from the bottom. Parts of the trail were quite steep. I don’t know that there is a way to prepare for the long down hill climb (over 14 miles), but surprisingly, I didn’t find that to be too difficult. I had read about people losing toenails and having a hard time going down hill.
What to Wear
There are many opinions about what to wear, so I will just share what I wore and why. I did get a good pair of day hikers, not heavy boots but more than a “trail” running shoe. At least half the people we saw were in running shoes and seemed to do just fine. The advantages of a hiker is the thicker sole since the trail is rocky. The disadvantages to wearing a hiking shoe/boot are BLISTERS. I didn’t have any trouble with my shoes, but others in my group had a lot of problems with blisters and hot spot even though they had hiked in their hikers many, many times. A pair of flip-flops in my backpack were perfect for the day we spent in the bottom. I wore a jog bra with a tank top while hiking with a breathable sun cover over it. It was PERFECT except at the top of the north rim where it was 39 degrees when we started our hike. I was a bit cold, but that didn’t last too long. I wore moisture wicking hiking shorts and a skort for the hike down and up. Both were perfect for me. I didn’t have any trouble with the heat or sun. I wore no-show smart wool socks and had a great Marmot rain/wind jacket for just in case (I never needed it). I also wore a hat to protect my head and face. It was all perfect for the conditions we faced (mostly hot and dry).
What I Ate
In my backpack, I had a 2 L camelbak of water and I carried two 20.0 oz. water bottles in my side pockets. I used one of those bottles for electrolytes (I used Isagenix because it tastes good). I only did one bottle of electrolytes each way which was plenty for me. I don’t know if I really needed that, but it’s recommended so I drank it. There are water stops along the trail so I had no problem keeping my water full and I drank often while on the hike. I also took jerky and salted nuts along with a few Quest Nutrition bars (which you can order from this site). I did not eat very much but plenty to keep me feeling energized. They suggest salty snacks due to the heat and how much you sweat. We reserved meals at Phantom Ranch in the bottom which was a huge help.
Where to Stay
Lodging is not easy to come by at the canyon. My friend and I had 5 phones between us calling the reservation line on the first day of the month, a year before our trip. We did get lodging on the south rim the first night, on the north rim the second night, and in a bunk house at Phantom Ranch while at the bottom. Some of our group had to camp the first night at the bottom because there weren’t any available beds at the ranch. We stayed on the south rim the night we came out of the canyon at El Tovar before hitting the road home.
How Long Did it Take?
I honestly didn’t keep track of how long the hike took. Our group was a little slow going with lots of rests and some issues the heat and blisters. We spent part of the day just resting and waiting out the heat as they recommend you don’t hike in the “box” (lower part of North Kaibab Trail) in the heat of the day. It is very possible to get to the bottom by early afternoon if you kept moving, but we stopped, took pictures, worked on blistered feet, …. so it was a long full day. Coming out, I joined some other hikers and was out by 1pm, having left the bottom around 5:30 or 5:45 am. People do rim to rim in a day and some do rim to rim and back to the rim they started on in a day (IMPRESSIVE). It all depends on your fitness level, your ability to deal with the heat and your desire.
Would I do it Again?
ABSOLUTELY! I would do it again tomorrow. I really enjoyed the whole experience! When I do it again, there are some things I would do differently. We paid a duffel service to take a lot of the gear, a change of clothes, and extra snacks down via mule. It was well worth it since some of our group had a to camp and it would have been a struggle to carry it all. I would take fewer clothes and snacks. I didn’t use any of the snacks I brought for the trip out of the canyon. I had plenty left over from the trip down. Staying in the bunk house at Phantom Ranch was great. It was nice to have a shower and a very comfortable place to sleep. Next time, I would only stay one night.
All in all, I am so thankful for the experience and so very thankful that 6 years ago I decided to totally change my LIFESTYLE. I would have been able to do the hike when I was heavy, but it was SO much more enjoyable now that I am fit and active. I lost 10 pounds in one month prior to my trip which will be the toptic of my next post. Be sure to be watching for that.
Have YOU ever hiked the Grand Canyon or had an adventure like that? Share it with me; I’d love to hear about it.