One of the true bucket list hikes/runs in the world. The R2R2R Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim run takes you across one of the most picturesque canyons in the world… Twice. Traveling 47 miles with 10,500+ ft of elevation gain accumulated over two climbs. This challenge draws hundreds of hikers and runners each year. But not all will make it, with many catching the shuttle back from the opposite side.
Below is a guide to running the R2R2R. Tips on when it’s open, where to park, where to stay, links to maps and more. So let’s get to it and here are some quick links to get you started!
- What Route do Most People Take?
- Leaving From the South Rim
- Leaving From the North Rim
- Weather Info
- Water Info
- The Phantom Ranch Info
- Shuttle Info
- Gear List
- R2R2R Video – A good look at what the trip is like.
R2R2R – Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Info
Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim Trail Info
Total Distance: 48.7 Miles
Total Elevation Change: 20,000ft +
Elevation Gain: 10,000ft +
Elevation Decent: 10,000ft +
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
North Rim – North Kaibab (NK)
South Rim – South Kaibab (SK) & Bright Angel (BA)
Official Trail Distance and Info form the National Parks Service, click here.
Permits: Permits are required if you are staying in the Canyon overnight. You can find more on back country permits by clicking here.
What Route Do Most People Take / What Side do People Leave From
Most people prefer to go from the South Rim to the North Rim and back. Taking the South Kaibab trail down to North Kaibab trail up, then the North Kaibab trail to Bright Angle trail up.
South Kaibab is almost 2 miles shorter than Bright Angel which is why it is preferred for the descent. Which South Kaibab has potable water located halfway up the trail. Meaning you have to carry less water on the climb back up. North Kaibab is the steeper climb as it has no water once you start your accent. Another reason people prefer to get it done as their first climb.
Logistically it is also easier for most people to get to the South Rim. With places to stay close to the trail heads, more parking, and it is open year around. While the North Rim parking lot closes from October 16th to May 14th.
R2R2R Leaving From the South Rim
The biggest advantage of leaving from the South Rim is ease of access, the availability of lodging walking distance from the trails heads, and year around access. If you are planning on doing the R2R2R leaving from October 16th – May 14th, then you have to leave from the South Rim. The North Rim gate is closed until May 15th.
Leaving from the South Rim you will have two trailheads to choose from. The South Kaibab & Bright Angel. South Kaibab starts roughly 400ft higher and is 1.5 miles shorter in length than Bright Angel. Bright Angels on the other hand has shade and potable water half way up. Most people recommend descending South Kaibab and ascending Bright Angel.
If you decide to leave from South Kaibab it’s important to note that the Mule Train running resupplies to Phantom Ranch runs daily at first light. You don’t want to get caught behind them on the on the narrow trail decent. So make sure you plan your start time accordingly.
Where to Stay:
You have a few options when it comes to places to stay. There are a few lodges within 4 miles of the trail head. A few camping options but having shower is highly recommended after doing the R2R2R in one day. An hour outside of the park is Williams AZ. Which has better prices compared to locations near the Grand Canyon. And you can also stay in Flagstaff, about a 90 minute drive away. The biggest question is, how much do you want to spend?
For Hotels, Flagstaff AZ will have your best pricing. Followed by Williams and then the in Park Lodges.
Here are a couple links to lodges that come recommend:
A popular option for camping is the Mather Campground about 40 minutes from the SK trail head. With sites priced as low as $18 the facility also has a coin operated shower. So make sure to bring about $10 in quarters per person just to be safe.
Where to Park:
There is parking available next to the Bright Angel trailhead by the lodge. For south kaibab you can park at the lookout on Rim Road if you get there earlier enough. If this is full you can try parking at the Pipe Creek Vista lookout parking a little further down. There is also parking at the Backcountry Office. As with most popular trails, getting there early (before 4am) is advised during high season, as parking lots can fill up.
If you don’t want to drive you also have the option to take taxi service. You must pre-book your taxi. Do not call day of and expect service. During low season there may only be one cab running in the early hours, so take this into account when planning your starting time. Especially with larger groups that can’t fit in one car.
South Rim Transportation
In the high season (May – October) the service is open daily, twenty-four hour. 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 book your appointment over the phone/text. They fill up fast in high season. Click Here
Low season, make sure to call 7 days before your trip during the day to make sure they will be available at the hour want to be picked up. For most runners this will be 3-4:30am. During low season they often only have one vehicle operating. Take this into account if your group is to big to fit in a standard 4 door sedan with the drive.
South Rim Shuttle Information
Below is a link to all of the Grand Canyon South Rim shuttle information.
R2R2R Leaving From the North Rim
The North Rim parking lot is open from May 15th – October 15th. It’s 10.5 miles from the gate if you are looking to make the walk while it is closed. This tends to be the busier side of the Canyon for day tripping tourists, so it can be crowded. There are several potable water stops and restrooms on the North Kaibab trail which can be beneficial on your way out. But when closed from mid-October to mid-May there is no water source on the North Kaibab trail. Besides this there are a few reasons most people choose to leave from the South Rim.
If you leave from the North Rim you will be facing the toughest climb for last. 5k of gain in less than 7 miles. The North Rim is located 3.5 hour from Flagstaff compared to 1.5 from the South Rim. And there tend to be more places to stay, closer to the trail heads on the south rim. Just something to think about when planning your trip.
Where to Park:
There is parking at the North Kaibab trailhead. I’ve read reports that this lot can fill up as early as 3:30am during high season. So make sure you get there early!
Where to Stay:
The North Rim doesn’t have as many options for lodging as the South Rim based on its location. There is camping at the north rim itself but they sell out fast so you will need to be on the lookout.
Beyond camping there are few lodges scattered around the area you can check for availability or you can check out the city of Marble Canyon which has a few affordable options.
North Rim Camping – https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/cg-nr.htm
Grand Canyon Weather
When planning your rim-to-rim-to-rim run one of the most important things to take into account is the weather. During the winter months (November-March) the trail may be covered in snow and ice making it impassable. And in the dead of the summer the canyon temperatures can sore well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Often times between the time you start and finish you can experience a 50 degree plus difference in temperature. Not including the wind on the north rim. And in general you can expect the temperature to increase 5.5 degree for every 1,000 feet you descend. Make sure you are prepared for everything!
Late April to mid-June is considered to be one of the best times a year to make your R2R2R trip. If you’re looking to catch some snow but still have the trail completely doable, it depends on the years weather but late March through early April can be a wonderful time.
To get up the minute weather and live weather cams at the National Parks Service official site click here.
Average Temperatures Fahrenheit
Average Rainfall in Inches
Grand Canyon Trail Water Source Info
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
South Kaibab Trail Water Sources
Bright Angel Trail Water Sources
- 1½-Mile Resthouse (mid-May to mid-October)
- 3-Mile Resthouse (mid-May to mid-October)
- Indian Garden
Grand Canyon Trail Bathrooms
North Kaibab Trail Bathrooms
- Supai Tunnel
- Manzanita Rest Area
- Bright Angel Campground
South Kaibab Trail Bathrooms
- Cedar Ridge
- Tip Off
Bright Angel Trail Bathrooms
- 1½-Mile Resthouse
- 3-Mile Resthouse
- Indian Garden
Nestled into the bottom of the of canyon is the Phantom Ranch. A rustic in founded in 1922 that allows guests to stay at the bottom of the canyon. While staying at the lodge itself involves entering a lottery (more info here) and and a little luck. Passers through have the option to stop by the Phantom Ranch Canteen and grab a bag lunch, water, beer, or their famous lodge made lemonade.
The canteen in open 8am to 4pm and is located on the north side of the canyon. Just north of Bright Angel Campground on the North Kaibab trail.
Lemonades are $5 and there are $1 refills.
*Durring covid you can not go into the canteen but they are still serving to go food and drinks through the side window.
Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim 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
Click Here for Booking Info
Schedule October 16th – May 14th
Departs North Rim: 2pm
Departs South Rim: 8am
Click Here for Booking Info
Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Gear List
Here is the complete list of the gear I brought on my R2R2R Grand Canyon trip. I felt more than adequately prepared and don’t feel I over packed at all. After reviewing with my fellow runner (Kyle), he felt the same. So I wanted to put together a list with link 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.
Note: This doesn’t include fuel/nutrition/food, I’ll cover that below.
My Complete Gear List
- Trail Running Shoes – Something comfortable you have trained in.
- Running Socks – Do not wear cotton. Some people bring a back up pair..
- Gators (Optional) – Keep larger rocks out of your shoes.
- Underwear (optional/sometimes built into your shorts) – Brand you trust and have trained in.
- Shorts – Brand you trust and have trained in.
- Shirt – Brand you trust and have trained in.
- Hat – You are going to be in the sun.
- Windbreaker – Anything packable should work.
- Sunglasses – Make sure they are polarized.
- Cooling Buff (optional based on hat) – Look for a cooling buff.
- UV Sleeves (optional) – 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. You should always know what time it is and have some way to gauge your pace. There is good chance your phone will run out of battery.
Grand Canyon Rim-2-Rim-2Rim Video
If you want a good idea of what to expect and some of the amazing views, check out my this video. It will take you from South Kiabab to North Kiabab, then retuning via Bright Angel.