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M Grand Canyon Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim

by Andrew Skurka

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Article Summary:

In early April, during a four-day slideshow tour through Arizona, I was fortunate to have a day off to actually experience - as opposed to just talk about - some of Arizona's abundant backcountry. Grand Canyon National Park seemed like the obvious place to go, and running from the South Rim to the North Rim and back, a distance of 41.8 miles with 21,420 feet of vertical change, seemed like the obvious thing to do - at least, I thought so.

While perhaps a touch extreme, running Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (RRR) is not uncommon: within trail running circles, it's regarded as a classic, a must-do. And I was not at all surprised to pass two other groups running the Canyon that day, including a threesome from Vancouver, B.C.

But within hiking circles, this trek does not seem to garner much attention, when there are few trips, mile-for-mile, hour-for-hour, that compare. Think about it: in one day, you pass through 1.6 billion years of geology (four times) and span the grandest Big Ditch in the world (twice). This is a fantastic undertaking for hikers who have limited vacation time; have limited free time during a family vacation to the Canyon; do not want to take a complete overnight backpacking kit on an otherwise casual vacation; seek high bang-for-the-buck backcountry routes; want to test themselves with long days and exorbitant vertical change; and/or who cannot obtain the necessary permits to go RRR the traditional way: a slow-and-heavy four- or five-day affair.

This article provides the critical information you need to hike or run RRR. It's targeted towards fast-and-fit hikers and for ultra-runners who do not want to overnight. I do realize that covering forty-two miles in a day is not feasible or desired by some, so at points I have included applicable information for the overnight backpacker as well.


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