If you’re looking to challenge yourself while seeing one of the most beautiful trails in the world. Then the R2R Grand Canyon rim-to-rim run might just be the perfect adventure for you. Taking hikers and runners roughly 25+ miles across one of the world’s natural wonders. The rim-to-rim features over 6,000ft of gain and in one climb. Challenging even the most veteran outdoor enthusiast.
Quick links to get you started:
Where do most people start & finish?
Leaving from the south rim
Leaving from the north rim
How to Get Back – Shuttle Info
Grand Canyon Weather
Water on the Trail
The Phantom Ranch
R2R – Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim
Below is a quick guide to Grand Canyon rim-to-rim (R2R). An overview of where to stay, park, water, how to get back to the north rim, and more. Let’s get to it. I’m providing some quick links below to help you find the info you’re looking for!
Rim 2 Rim Trail Info
Total Distance: 25+ Miles
Total Elevation Change: 12,000ft +
Elevation Gain: 6,000ft +
Elevation Decent: 6,000ft +
Highest Elevation Point on Trail: 8,325ft (North Rim)
Lowest Elevation Point: 2,400ft (Colorado River)
North Rim Elevation: 8,250ft
South Rim Elevation: 7,260ft
South Rim – South Kaibab (SK) & Bright Angel (BA)
North Rim – North Kaibab (NK)
Official Trail Distance and Info form the National Parks Service, click here.
Alltrails Link: All Trails Link Click here
Permits: Permits are required if you are staying in the Canyon overnight. You can find more on backcountry permits by clicking here.
What Route Do People Take / Where Do People Start & Finish
There are two ways you can do the Rim-to-Rim. From north to south, or south to north. Leaving from the south rim and going north is the more difficult hike.
Most people doing the R2R start at the South Rim and end at the North Rim. Then either have a ride or use a shuttle to get them back to the South Rim after. It should be noted that it is a 4+ hour drive from one ri to the other. More info on this below.
R2R Leaving From the South Rim
The reason most people leave from the South Rim is that it is much closer to the Flagstaff and Phoenix airports. Where most people end up flying into. There is also a small airport near the South Rim. Next, there are a lot more hotel options on the south rim. You can typically find options 3-4 months out. There is a general store and view options for restaurants to eat at.
If you decide to leave from the South RIm you will have two options to leave from. Either the Bright Angel trailhead or the South Kaibab trailhead. The difference between these two trails is that Bright Angle (BA) is roughly 2+ miles longer (9.5 miles from trailhead to Bright Angel Campground), less steep, and has water stops on the way down. South Kaibab (SK) is 7 miles from the trailhead to the Bright Angel Campground, is more steep, and there are no water stops on the way down.
If you choose to take the SK trailhead to start, beware there is a mule train that leaves at first light taking supplies to the Phantom Ranch. Most people prefer to get on the trail ahead of them.
Where to Stay at the South Rim
There are a good number of hotel options to choose from on the South Rim. Just make sure you start looking early as hotels tend to fill up months in advance. As a backup you can also look in Williams, AZ. This is about an hour away from the South Rim.
The other option is to camp. I recommend the Mather Campground about 40 Minutes from the SK trailhead. You can get spots as low as $18 and there are showers on site. They run quarters, so make sure to bring at least $10+ worth.
Where to Park
One of the advantages of leaving from the BA trailhead is that there is a good amount of street parking. Just make sure to get there early!
At SK there is no parking at the trailhead. You can look for spots at the intersection you turn down off Rim Road to get the trail. Or if you can try the parking lot for Pipe Creek Vista short ways down.
Another option is to park at the South Rim Visitor Center. With shuttles running to the BA and SK trailheads starting at 4am. And running until 8pm. This schedule can change and you should double check this at the park when arriving.
Lately you can use a taxi/shuttle service to get you to the trailhead. These should be booked in advance. Do not expect to call and get a taxi the morning of.
South Rim Shuttle Information
Here is a link to the Grand Canyon South Rim shuttle information. Click Here
In the high season (May – October) the service is open daily. Service is available to the Grand Canyon Airport, trailheads, and other destinations. Call (928) 638-2822 or (928) 638-2631, ext. 6563.
You can pre-book your shuttle through Williams Taxi. I highly recommend booking your appointment over the phone/text. They fill up fast in high season. Click Here for taxi info
R2R Leaving From the North Rim
Leaving from the north rim can be a bit more challenging logistically for travelers. The north rim is incredibly remote. 3,5 hours from Flagstaff and 4+ hours from the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village. The North Rim is also closed mid October through mid May. With one major hotel option that books up incredibly fast (best to try 8-12 months advance), and camping.
Where to Park
There is plenty of parking directly near the North Kaibab (NK) trailhead. This area sees a lot less visitors so parking tends to be readily available most of the day. There is potable water available at the trailhead too.
Where to Stay
There is one major hotel on the north rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim. Expect to book 12+ months in advance. But if you can get a reservation… GO!
The next option for most people is camping at the rim. Reservations are required for the campground. But a lot of people get away with sleeping in their cars for a night before doing the crossing or day hiking the area.
How to Get Back- Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Shuttle Info
You have a couple options on how to get back once you get to the other side of the canyon. These include having someone pick you up, dropping a car in advance, hitching a ride, going back across the canyon, or taking the shuttle.
Having someone pick you up is ideal. I personally don’t recommend trying to hitch a ride. This can be a risky proposition. And the more people in your group, the harder it will be. Below is the shuttle info.
There is a shuttle that runs from the North rim to the South rim and the ride takes approximately 4.5 hours.
Schedule May 15th – October 15th
Departs North Rim: 7am & 2pm
Departs South Rim: 8am – 1:30pm
Schedule October 16th – May 14th
Departs North Rim: 2pm
Departs South Rim: 8am
The Grand Canyon’s Weather
When you are planning your rim-to-rim journey, one of the most important things to take into account is the weather. During the winter (from November to March) the trail can be covered in snow and ice. Making it unpassable unless you have the right gear. And in the middle of the summer the canyon’s temperatures can climb well above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. People die from the heat every year and it is something to take very seriously. There can be a drastic difference of up to 50 degrees between the bottom and the North Rim.You can expect the temperature to increase roughly 5.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet you descend. So make sure you are prepared for everything!
Late April to mid-June is considered the best time a year to make your R2R trip.
To get up to the minute weather and live weather cams at the National Parks Service official site click here.
Average Temperatures Fahrenheit
Grand Canyon Average Rainfall in Inches
Grand Canyon Trail Water Source Info
Bright Angel Trail Water Sources
- 1½-Mile Resthouse (mid-May to mid-October)
- 3-Mile Resthouse (mid-May to mid-October)
- Indian Garden
South Kaibab Trail Water Sources
North Kaibab Trail Water Sources
- Supai Tunnel (mid-May to mid-October)
- Manzanita Rest Area (mid-May to mid-October)
- Cottonwood (mid-May to mid-October)
- Bright Angel Campground
Grand Canyon Trail Bathrooms
Bright Angel Trail Bathrooms
- 1½-Mile Resthouse
- 3-Mile Resthouse
- Indian Garden
South Kaibab Trail Bathrooms
North Kaibab Trail Bathrooms
- Supai Tunnel
- Manzanita Rest Area
- Bright Angel Campground
At the bottom of the Grand Canyon is the Phantom Ranch. An historic inn founded in 1922. Guests lucky enough to win reservations in the lottery (more info here) are treated to rustic 4 bunk cabins and meals. There is also a cantine insite that sells bag lunches, beers, sodas, and their famous lemonade.
The canteen is open 8am to 4pm and is located just north of Bright Angel Campground on the North Kaibab trail.
Lemonades are $5 and there are $1 refills.
*During covid you can not go into the canteen but they are still serving food to go and drinks through the side window.
Rim-to-Rim Gear List
I wanted to put together a list with links for easy access. I’ll work on going more in depth on another post. But if you have these items you will just need to worry about fuel.
- Trail Running Shoes – Something comfortable, make sure you have tested them out.
- Running Socks – Do not wear cotton. Some people like to bring a back up pair.
- Gators (Optional) – Keep rocks out of your shoes.
- Underwear (optional/sometimes built into your shorts) – Brand you trust.
- Shorts – Brand you trust.
- Shirt – Brand you trust.
- Hat – You are going to be in the sun a lot.
- Windbreaker – Anything packable should work.
- Sunglasses – I like polarized but it’s not a must.
- Cooling Buff (optional based on hat) – Look for a cooling buff.
- UV Sleeves (optional) – My go to. Great to start the day and cover yourself if you start to burn.
- Running Vest/Bag – You’re going to need something comfortable to carry your water, fuel, and gear.
- 4 Water Bottles – I Like soft flasks.
- Water Filter – I’ve tried them all. This one is the easiest and fastest.
- Hiking Poles (optional) – You’re going to want something light and fully collapsible.
- Body Lube – This one is a must!
- Sunscreen – Travel sized 2 pack.
- Wet Wipes – For emergencies on the trail.
- 1 Small Roll Athletic Tape – For quick fixes on the fly.
- Phone/Camera – Make sure your phone is easily accessible while moving.
- 2 Plastic Bags – 1 for your camera and 1 for your money/wallet.
- Headlamp – You will probably be starting or ending (or both) in the dark.
- Extra Set of Batteries – Amazon Makes Batteries!
- Watch – Even if you’re not tracking your run it’s smart to know what time it is.