Setting out to traverse Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon requires a fair amount of planning prior, especially if you are not going to attempt to do the trip in one day. Early 2023, I decided to look to book options for this excursion for the fall time period. I knew that October was an ideal time to attempt this adventure. My first goal was to secure lodging on the north side of the rim, since that is where we were planning on starting from. We opted to hike the North Kaibob Trail to Bright Angel Trail for our trip. We made a short side detour to Ribbon Falls.
In February, I began to look for accommodations on the North Rim. Everything was booked for October in the North Rim Lodge. I was able to find one room at the Kaibob Lodge on the north side for the second weekend in October, it happened to be October 14th and I knew services would shut off mid-October but was not sure when. The Kaibob Lodge is about 15 miles from the North Rim. The options on the North side are extremely limited and they book out a year in advance. My suggestion is to find a reservation there first, even if you are planning on finishing at the North Rim.
After we booked the North Rim, we then decided to apply for a permit to sleep at the bottom. You have two options at the bottom of the Canyon, booking a cabin at Phantom Ranch or camping. We chose the latter and applied for the permit. This process happened in May. It is a lottery and you can only apply once, even if you are traveling with a group. The permit asks for date flexibility and extensive information on your group in terms of hiking and endurance history. We knew the permits were limited and that there was a good chance we would not get one. However, we lucked out and we got a permit for one night at Cottonwood Campground. This meant we would be carrying larger packs to account for the tents and food that we would need for the trip.
Once we had the permit, we planned the remainder of the trip. We chose to fly into Flagstaff, Arizona. While it meant connecting on a flight and a little more expense, it put us only 1.5 hours from the South Rim. I figured when we finished the hike, we were not going to want to have a 4 hour car ride back to Phoenix, which would be the other option. Side note, Flagstaff has 6 flights per day, two that go to Dallas and four that go to Phoenix – the airport is TINY.
We opted to stay in Flagstaff once we arrived since it was much cheaper than staying on the South Rim. We flew in on a Thursday afternoon and left Friday to pick up things we could not fly with and get everything ready to go. We needed fuel for the camping stoves and we opted to purchase our dehydrated meals. We had an afternoon to explore Flagstaff where we went to see the Aspens and the Lowell Observatory where we got to see some amazing stars.
On Saturday morning we drove to the South Rim with our packs. We parked as close as we could get to the Bright Angel Trailhead and we took the TransCanyon Shuttle over to the North Rim. The shuttle ride is about 4 hours long and you have limited cell service as you approach the north side. We had packed sandwiches and breakfast for the next morning as there are no services really on that side of the canyon. We also booked a shuttle ride to the North Rim for 5:30 a.m. the next morning. TransCanyon Shuttle is the only real option, unless you have a private driver that is going to take your group.
We planned to hike the 14 or so miles the first day, with a short detour to Ribbon Falls. This put us through the bottom of the canyon and just before the Colorado River at Cottonwood Campground. The following day we would finish the hike up the Bright Angel trail to the South Rim. Of note, you need to make sure you are aware which water sources are on during the hike. It varies by day and some had been shut off for the season by the time we hiked. This year, the last day of services on the North Rim was October 15th. Our first option for water was 5.1 miles in at Manzanita Rest Area. We did opt to purchase a hot breakfast from Phantom Ranch for the morning we started up Bright Angel. Well worth it in my opinion as we got a good meal prior to another long day of hiking,
Inside My Pack:
- A 2.5 liter bladder full of water, a soft flask of 18oz with Skratch.
- 32oz Nalgene bottle that was empty at the start.
- Fuel for 7 hours each day with a variety of bars, Uncrustables, chews and salt tabs.
- Food for dinner for when we camped.
- Sleeping bag, tent poles, mess kit, lights, emergency blanket, water purification system, sunblock, and hiking poles.
- Clothes which included two pairs of hiking shorts, long sleeve, half zip, four pairs of socks, a hoodie, two t shirts and a pair of Keens for the water crossings.