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Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Crossing (Single Day Hike)

A group of four friends from Minneapolis, MN made a one day crossing (rim to rim) of the Grand Canyon on September 28, 2007. Following months of planning and training we took our shot. We scheduled our trek to coincide with the full moon (none of us figured on the clouds) and during the late season so the temperature range would be more amenable (north rim 5:20am 50 F - colorado river 2:15pm 95 F - south rim 8:15pm 48 F). We chose to cross from the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail to South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail so we would have easy access to water and the steeper trail / higher elevation change on the down leg. We crossed in just under 15 hours and had the experience of  our lives!

L to R: R. Mehrer, D. Klenk, P. Mehrer, B. Spencer view from south rim 
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L image: At 8:15 pm on the South Rim at the end of the 9/28/07 Rim to Rim crossing.
From left to right Roger Mehrer, David Klenk, Philip Mehrer, Brad Spencer
C image: View of canyon crossing from the South Rim, note Indian Garden (lush area) in center of photo.
R image: Roger and Colleen Mehrer on the North Rim at sunset 9/27/07

 

 OUR EXPERIENCE IN NOTES AND PHOTOS 

We couldn't have done it without the help and assistance from Colleen Mehrer who drove the rental van for over 6 hours from the starting trailhead on the North Rim to pick us up on the South Rim following our crossing. Thanks Colleen!

 

We departed at 5:22 am on 9/28/2007 (temp 50 F) from the North Rim near the Grand Canyon Lodge (elev 8,241 ft). Headlamps and hiking sticks are a must. Link to GrandCanyonHiker.com Trail facts for North Kaibab Trail.  
Click here to view a map of the North Kaibab Trail as posted on Grandcanyonhiker.com
L to R: P. Mehrer, R. Mehrer, B. Spencer, D. Klenk. North kaibab Trailhead 5:20am 9/28/07 Trail Head sign - North Kaibab trail  We begin in the dark
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L image: Departing 5:20 am - North Kaibab Trailhead
CL image: North Kaibab Trailhead marker
CR image: We begin the descent in darkness
R image: lookin' good Mr. Klenk!

Followed the North Kaibab Trail down to Supai tunnel (elev 6,800 ft) at 6:25am where we were able to shed our long pants and extra shirts. Sunrise!
David and Brad in Supai Tunnel At Supai Tunnel View of winding trail below Supai tunnel
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L image: David and Brad in Supai Tunnel
C image: Rest area at Supai Tunnel
R image: View of trail below Supai Tunnel

Past Supai Tunnel the trail is beautiful, switching back and forth winding down through Roaring Springs Canyon. Narrow in places but even the height averse members of our group were largely unaffected.
the trail belos Supai is certainly interesting! Phil contemplates his fear of heights Now thats an interesting trail!
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L image: Below Supai Tunnel the trail takes on a special beauty
C image: Phil contemplates his childhood fear of heights.
R image: An interesting trail lies ahead.

A side hike to Roaring Springs (elev 5,200 ft) arriving at 7:50 am (60 F). Found the site somewhat disappointing, would skip if we do this trek again. Enjoyed the first of our peanut butter "burritos".
On the trail to Roaring Springs Heading towards Roaring Springs Phil enjoys a peanut butter burrito! Roaring Springs 
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L image: heading to Roaring Springs.
CL image: The trail becomes lush with vegetation.
CR image: Phil enjoying his first PB Burrito!
R image: Roaring Springs, GC

Then continuing on North Kaibab down toward Cottonwood Camp.
Trail to Cottonwood Camp from Roaring Springs Trail to Cottonwood Camp from Roaring Springs Along the trail to Cottonwood Camp Trail to Cottonwood Camp
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L image: North Kaibab Trail between Roaring Springs and Cottonwood Camp.
CL image: Below the rim the canyons features are truly stunning.
CR image: Unknown structure. Water, Basketball hoop.
R image: David and Roger still looking pretty fresh!

Arrived at Cottonwood Camp (elev 4,080 ft) at 9:15 am (90 F). Met "officer friendly" - Word to the wise - use the very nice latrines.... "Wet up" here, it is a long hike to Phantom, especially if you side trip to Ribbon Falls.
example of a campsite at Cottonwood Camp Phil's favorite "shed" Ranger quarters at Cottonwood Camp L to R: David, Brad, Phil, Roger at Cottonwood Camp. Photo by Ranger C. Sypher
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L image: a campsite at Cottonwood Camp
LC image: Phil on the step at his favorite building....
RC image: Ranger quarters at Cottonwood Camp.
R image: L to R David, Brad, Phil, Roger at Cottonwood Camp. photo by Ranger C. Sypher

We took another side trek, this time to Ribbon Falls. The thin waterfall landing on the large moss covered egg shaped rock is enchanting.
bridge to ribbon falls trail trail to ribbon falls Our first view of Ribbon Falls
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L image: Bridge over Bright Angel Creek to Ribbon Falls trail.
C image: Trail to Ribbon Falls.
R image: David below Ribbon Falls.

Arrived at Ribbon Falls at 10:10am. Hands down one of the most beautiful places we've ever been to. If you skip this side hike you'll be sorry! Stayed for half an hour until 10:40 am. Hike around behind the falls and you will find the falls are easily accessible. Water is cold but very refreshing! Learned it is smart (or would have been) to keep your boots and socks dry!
Brad cooling off in Ribbon Falls Roger cooling off in Ribbon Falls Phil posing for the cover of SI ? snack break before leeaving ribbon falls
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L image: Brad cooling off in Ribbon Falls (with his boots still on.......)
LC image: Roger getting a free shower in Ribbon Falls.
RC image: Phil's attempt at a Sports Illustrated cover shot
R image: view from Ribbon Falls and a great place to have a snack.

Snacked on energy bars and another peanut butter "burrito" and then returned to North Kaibab Trail toward Phantom Ranch. Word to the wise, there is a Y in the trail allowing you to shortcut* back to North Kaibab bypassing the bridge and a nasty little hill but you might get your feet wet so bring dry socks. Definately would have been worth it had we known in advance! *on a subsequent crossing Roger tested this shortcut theory. Result - no time saved, take the hill and keep your feet dry.
Trail from Ribbon Falls towards Phantom deeper into the canyon
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L image: Near the botton of the canyon the trail follows Bright Angel Creek
C image: The rock ledges now tower above more than below
R image: The beauty of the lower in-canyon trails is a must see

Continued on North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch. This stretch of trail felt a lot longer than we had expected it to be. Be sure to have plenty of water!
Trail to Phantom To Phantom on North Kaibab trail Geological formations enroute to Phantom
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L image: Some trails appear to have been blasted out of rock walls.
C image: Other trails appear as fill behind hand built stone walls like this one along Bright Angel Creek.
R image: The striations in the rock formations are rarely horizontal within the canyon testifying to the magnificent pressures that must have existed to create this world wonder.

Arrived at Phantom at 1:10 (95 F). Rested there until 2:00. Peanut butter & honey burritos tasting really awful now! Brad packed a 16oz Miller all the way down to Phantom - somewhat warm but well worth it!
First view of Phantom Ranch Cabins at Phantom Ranch Brad enjoys his beer at Phantom Ranch. Worth packing it down North Kaibab! Resting up at Phantom Ranch
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L image: First glimpse of Phantom Ranch.
CL image: Cabins at Phantom Ranch.
CR image: Brad enjoys the beer he carried the length of the North Kaibab Trail.
R image: Resting up at Phantom before beginning the journey out of the canyon.

Departed Phantom at 2:00 pm through Bright Angel Campground.
Ranger Stationa at Bright Angel camp Leaving Bright Angel camp (click on any image to view full size)
L image: Ranger Station at Bright Angel Campground
R image: Small bridge leaving Bright Angel camp towards the Colorado River.

Arrived at the bottom of the Canyon at 2:15pm. Colorado River is very muddy this day.
Colorado river looking east Colorado River looking west from silver bridge (click on any image to view full size)
L image: view east from Silver Bridge. Suspension bridge on the South Kaibab Trail is visible.
R image: view west (down river) from Silver Bridge.

Crossed the Colorado River on the Silver Bridge / Bright Angel Trail (elev 2,425 ft).
Sign marking the silver bridge silver bridge over colorado river Brad on Silver Bridge from the south side of the silver bridge
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L image: Sign denoting the Silver Bridge
LC image: Silver Bridge, one of two suspension bridges crossing the Colorado in canyon.
RC image: Brad on the Silver Bridge
R image: View from the south side of the Colorado River, Silver and South Kaibab bridges in background.

The stretch of the Bright Angel trail from the south side of the Silver Bridge along the Colorado River is known as the River Trail and winds along the ridges and hills before turning south and upwards toward Indian Garden.

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L image: The River Trail follows more ridgelines and has frequent elevation changes both up and down.
C image: These ridgeline trails offer spectacular views as we prepare to climb out of the canyon
R image: The River trail has some steep drops - enough to wonder what riding them on a burro's back would be like!

Climbing out toward Indian Garden. Link to grandcanyonhiker.com trailfacts for Bright Angel Trail. click here to view a map (.pdf) of the Bright Angel Trail as posted on Grandcanyonhiker.com.  The water bars / steps are at such odd intervals as to be truly painful at times!

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L image: Steps made from log water bars frequent the steeper portions of the trail.
C image: A shady spot along the trail is a great place to pause and take in the views.
R image: looking back at our zig zag trail up Devil's Corkscrew to Indian Garden

Arrived at Indian Garden (elev 3,800 ft) at 4:40 pm. Beatiful spot, saw both deer and dears? We were able to contact Colleen via Motorola talkabout from here to let her know we were safe and on time schedule. Good line of sight to south rim, hard to believe the next 4.5 miles would take over 3 1/2 hours.
Arriving at Indian Garden Deer at Indian Garden
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L image: Arriving at Indian Garden
LC image: Deer at Indian Garden
R image: Signpost at Indian Garden

The last 4.5 miles remain now. Colleen has arrived at the South Rim and is waiting for us at the top. The shadows are lengthening, the south face of the canyon is magnificently steep.
Ranger station and view of south rim from Indian Garden South Rim from Indian Garden (click on any image to view full size)
L image: Ranger station and view of south rim from Indian Garden.
R image: closer view of south rim face from below.

Steepening switchbacks up the south face. Arrived at 3 mile rest stop at 6:00 pm. Energy shots are helpful but tend to upset the stomach. Electrolytes are not terribly appealing anymore, plain water was preferred. 

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L image: Averaging about 1.5 miles per hour at this stage.
LC image: The trail begins to steepen. View back towards the Colorado River.
RC image: One of the many switchbacks as we ascend the wall of the canyon.
R image: View from halfway up the wall looking back.

Arrived at 1 1/2 mile rest stop at 7:00 pm. Switchbacks so close together you can see where you were half an hour ago. Final leg out on Bright Angel Trail up the never ending switchbacks through the final tunnel to the South Rim.
view from below south rim near sunset final tunnel below south rim
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L image: Shadows lengthening as we climb out.
LC image: Great view looking down at the switchbacks climbing up to the south rim (photo taken the next morning). Zoom in on upper right quadrant - 1.5 mile rest stop is visible along the trail.
RC image: The waterbars make for extra work when you're tired. Rest stops were called at nearly every switchback.
R image: The final tunnel before the trailhead at the top of the south rim.

Arrived at South Rim (elev 6,680 ft) ending our crossing at Grand Canyon Village, emerging next to Kolb Studio, at 8:15 pm (48 F) near the Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar Hotel. One way mileage (not including side trails to Roaring Canyon and Ribbon Falls) 23.8 miles

Left to Right: Roger Mehrer, David Klenk, Philip Mehrer, Brad Spencer at the end of our 15 hour Rim to Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon on September 28, 2007. Photo taken by Colleen Mehrer.

 

                                    Plan your hike & Hike your plan

Most official park literature, signage, and trail guides advise not to attempt single day rim-to-rim or rim-to-river round trip day hikes because of the inherent danger of that level of exertion in such climates. Keep in mind that hiking the Grand Canyon is similar to mountain climbing upside down, you get to do the uphill portion when you're tired! The North rim is over 8,200ft elevation, well over a mile and a quarter higher than good old Minneapolis, Minnesota! Temperature from rim to river on your hike can vary by 45-50 F or more! Being well prepared, planning for emergencies, proper equipment & training, good physical health, and not hiking alone are highly recommended. Understanding the body will burn 5,000 - 10,000 calories on such hikes and being extremely diligent about hydration are keys to a successful trip. Good quality hiking poles like Leki or similar will help keep the pressure off your toes on the descent and may save you some toenails. They also come in handy when you are tired and on the climb out! Good hiking boots or shoes that have been broken in will be critical. Personal choice as to style and type of sole but they must fit well and be used to the point that they are known to work with your feet! We wore layers of moisture wicking clothing (Under Armor / Gortex), hats and sunscreen. Small backpacks with hydration bladders worked extremely well. Some of our calories came from the electrolytes, sweet tasting types like gatorade worked well early, more bland types like Ultima were more palatable later in the hike. Nutrition was a problem, figuring out easily digestible, high protein snacks was difficult. We chose to use peanut butter and honey (or jelly) rolled in a tortilla as a quick source of calories. The first couple were OK but that third and fourth one.....Ugh. Once you are past the midway point nothing eaten will be digested quickly enough to help so we switched to nuts, candy and energy shots. The energy snacks, beans, cubes, gels all seemed to help but some of our group had stomach trouble following their ingestion. Try these out on practice hikes would be the best advice we could offer. Anti-inflammatory meds like ibuprofen taken before and during the hike can be helpful.
 
B^)
 

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