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How to Train for Rim to Rim Hike 1 Day Grand Canyon - 4 Methods, 4 Results North Kaibab Bright Angel

Of the five million + annual visitors to the Grand Canyon in Arizona less than 1% of them will dare to embark on this journey to explore the depths of the canyon below. Of those who try, approximately 250 will need to be rescued each year. So, is a one day rim to rim hike a good idea and if so, how can one properly train for a successful journey? 

If you prefer to watch a video with this information click here.

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

According to the National Park Services website it is NOT a good idea nor is it recommended to try hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim in one day. 

Ideally, those wanting to embark on the hike will camp in the base of the canyon.

Ideally, those wanting to embark on the hike will camp in the base of the canyon at Bright Angel Campground, Cottonwood Campground, or stay at Phantom Ranch. Those staying overnight will need to acquire the necessary permit and of course lodging reservations well in advance. 

Caution Down is Optional, Up is Mandatory! - Signage - Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - Bright Angel Trail

My sister wanted to hike this for her 50th birthday and somehow (because I have severe FOMO and also thought it would make an amazing video) I agreed to go along on the journey. She has run marathons and loves to push the limits of what she can do. 

She has run marathons and loves to push the limits of what she can do.

I, on the other hand, enjoy a nice six mile hike with dinner and drinks afterwards. Or, if I really need a thrill I’ll just join the locals and jump off our nearby 50 foot bridge into the river below. (She is a firm NO on that)

So, why did we go against all professional recommendations and hike from rim to rim in one day?

So, why did we go against all professional recommendations and hike from rim to rim in one day? Apparently, because she knew she could do it. That grit, paired with responsible training and preparation helped us succeed. Failure wasn’t an option….mostly because rumor has it that a rescue from the Grand Canyon comes with a 15K bill. I didn’t know how to verify or deny this rumor, but I knew it was a bit pricey for my pockets.

The birthday trip dream team consisted of 4 of us ladies between the ages of 40-50. Below is a detailed outline of what each of us did to train.

The birthday trip dream team consisted of 4 of us ladies between the ages of 40-50. Below is a detailed outline of what each of us did to train, what if anything we would do differently, and how we felt the training helped throughout the hike. 

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Each of us began our training 2-3 months out from the big day. When training, be sure to wear the equipment that you plan to use on the hike and make adjustments as necessary. Also, pack your backpack with items you plan to take and fill your water bladder so you can get used to carrying the weight.

Becky

Ohio isn’t known for it’s elevation, so aside from a visit to Montana which provided several hikes with elevation gain/loss, most of my training was completed on smaller hills at the nature center, local bike paths, parks, and utilizing the incline feature on the treadmill.

I began training 2 months out.

Becky Hiking - Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Weekly Hikes 

For my weekly hikes I began with 8 miles and added 2 miles a week ending with a 16 mile hike which I did twice.

Daily Activity

In addition to my daily 8,000 steps I would 

Go for daily walks on the treadmill beginning at incline 3 and ending at incline 5

Step Ups - I would step up 3 stairs at a time and back down to work my leg muscles and prepare for the larger steps along the hike. Sets of 100 daily.

Outcome

I felt prepared going into the hike. I was definitely lacking energy during the last five miles or so out of the canyon, but I’m not sure I could have trained differently for this. 

Theresa

I was most concerned about the heat so while I typically exercise in the mornings or evenings, I went midday to run the bleachers at our nearby middle school. With the midday sun shining off the metal it felt like the closest I could get to the actual hike.

Theresa Hiking - Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Bleacher Run

I began the bleacher runs about 3 months out from our journey.

I started with 20 sets (1 set is up and down) of 35 bleachers

Then, I increased the amount of sets by 5 weekly

I ended up at 70 sets which took approximately an hour and 15 minutes to complete. I jogged as many as I could and then I would walk one set and jog the next until I finished.

Endurance Training

Michigan doesn’t have a lot of elevation so most of my hiking was on flat ground with smaller hills. I began 3 months out with 6 miles and added 2 miles weekly until I reached a 20 mile hike which took me approximately 6-½ hours.

Elevation

I was able to visit Janet in Montana and hike to Swiftcurrent Pass in Glacier National Park which is a 12.4 mile hike with similar elevation gain/loss to the Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. 

I was also able to hike sand dunes at Ludington State Park which was great training through the sand. There is sand near the top of the North Kaibab Trail and again along the Colorado River.

Sand on the Trail - Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Outcome

I felt like my training was sufficient. Exiting the canyon was tough but I just kept telling myself at each switchback, “It’s just one more set of bleachers, you’ve got this.”

Tera

I began my training 3 months in advance of our hike. 

Tera Hiking - Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Back Strengthening 

I knew we would be carrying heavy packs so I wanted to incorporate some exercises to strengthen my back.

Endurance

In addition to daily hikes or routines I began weekly with 7 mile hikes 3 months out and added 2 miles each week ending with 20 miles. In Ohio, I didn’t have access to a lot of elevation so most hikes were at the local nature center which provided some hills at least.

At Home

Some days it just wasn’t possible to get away for the amount of time needed to complete a long hike so I would do a driveway routine which allowed me to keep an eye on the kids while working out.

This routine consisted of running up a nearby hill and back down, doing 10 pushups, 10 bicep curls, jumping jacks, and retaining wall step ups. Then, I would run up the hill and down again this time doing 9 reps, then 8 reps, 7 reps, and so on.

Outcome

I felt prepared for the hike and felt like my training was sufficient.

Janet

I live in Montana near Glacier National Park so incorporating elevation gain was no problem for me. I began my training about 3 months out.

Janet Hiking - Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Hiking

I began with local 3 mile - 6 mile hikes with decent elevation gain/loss and interspersed those with a few of my favorites even though they were a bit shorter. I ended with the 12 mile hike to Swiftcurrent Mountain which provided a similar elevation gain to the Bright Angel Trail.

Hidden Lake Overlook - Glacier National Park - 2.9 miles - Elevation Gain 567 ft

Danny On Trail in Whitefish, Montana - 7.2 miles - Elevation Gain 2034 ft

Virginia Falls Hike - Glacier National Park - 2.9 miles - Elevation Gain 452 ft

Mt. Aeneas Jewel Basin - 6.2 miles - Elevation Gain 1781 ft

Avalanche Lake - Glacier National Park - 6.7 miles - Elevation Gain 757 ft

Swiftcurrent Mountain via Granite Park Trail - Glacier National Park - 12.1 miles - Elevation Gain 4238 ft

On off days I would go on 3 mile walks around my neighborhood.

Running

I absolutely hate running, but I knew it was a necessary evil. So, you are probably going to laugh at me when I say I ran a mile. But, seriously, I hated the 1 mile run in high school and always felt like I was going to die, so pushing through when I wanted to quit at a half mile was so good for me. I always feel like running outdoors is tougher than on a treadmill so that’s what I did.

Outcome

The training was sufficient. I noticed during training that my left knee would start hurting, a sharp pain on the back side, about several miles into any downhill trek. I was hoping that since we would be going down into the canyon first that the pain would subside on my journey back out. 

I noticed during training that my left knee would start hurting, a sharp pain on the back side.

This did not happen, however, and I started walking differently to baby my left knee which then produced blisters on my right foot. I don’t feel like I could have trained differently for this. So, I feel like running was extremely helpful because that same grit that I used to mentally and physically push through when I wanted to quit is what I used to keep putting one foot in front of the other and exit the canyon.

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - Silver Bridge - Colorado River - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

And, there you have it. Each of us successfully navigated the rim to rim hike in a day. We went in September and thankfully the high during our day’s journey was in the 90’s not the 130’s. I honestly don’t know if we would have survived the hike if temperatures reached 130 that day. Heat is my nemesis, that’s why I live in Montana. 

We began the hike at 4 am to reach the box (hottest area of the canyon) before the heat of the day.

We began the hike at 4 am to reach the box (hottest area of the canyon) before the heat of the day. I cannot recommend this enough! At the start of our hike temperatures were in the 30’s, but I was the only one with a puff coat. The other ladies were amped up on adrenaline and said they didn’t get too cold. They were also concentrating on their footing in the dark.

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim Hike - Phantom Ranch - North Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

If you’ve hiked this before and have additional training tips feel free to leave them below. If you have questions leave them below as well.

You can view a video of our journey here.

You can view a video of our journey here. The video is 36 minutes so pull up a chair. I stop often along the way to share how we are feeling and how long the hike is taking. We had hoped to finish the journey in 12 hours, but it ended up taking us 14 hours. Another reason our 4am start time was a great idea. We finished around 6:30 pm and it was dark about an hour after we finished.

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