A rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon is not to be taken lightly.
Every wild place disguised as a national park seems to bring out the collective poor decision making skills of the people who visit.
And while many of them make it out alive, this hike can be deadly if not planned properly.
We hiked the classic route from the South Rim to the North Rim along the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails, for a total of 20.9 miles. The mileage may be manageable. The conditions, however, are what you need to be concerned with.
What makes hiking the Grand Canyon different from any other national park?
For starters, it’s hot. Unbearably hot. Midday summer temperatures soar well past 100°F.
There are dozens of heat related warning signs in several languages along any given trail basically saying you will die if you do not take the appropriate precautions.
Sadly, people do die every year simply because they were not prepared.
You’re asking for trouble when you combine an unforgiving desert environment with steep, rugged terrain and an ill-prepared hiker.
Of course, there are a few steps you can take to enjoy your rim-to-rim trip. Many successful hikers have gone before you. Follow their lead.
You need to stay hydrated, obviously. Plan on drinking at least one gallon per day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Drink water at regularly scheduled intervals. Know where water is available (for the most part, it’s not).
You’ll be amazed how many dehydrated zombies you’ll encounter deep in the canyon with only a small water bottle in hand.
Keep in mind that drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia.
To prevent hyponatremia, eat plenty of salty snacks and drink sports beverages containing electrolytes. We carried one small container of powdered Gatorade to mix with our water.
Forget about your diet. It’s no fun, anyway. Your body will require a ton of fuel for this trip, so load up as often as you can.
Getting to the bottom is optional. Getting to the top is mandatory. Give this concept serious thought.
Once you reach the bottom, you are essentially at the mercy of the canyon. You must hike out. Chances are slim the park service will call in a helicopter unless you really are close to dying.
Hiking in (that is to say, going downhill) is almost more challenging than hiking out. Your knees and ankles will be completely shot by the time you reach the Colorado River. Consider using trekking poles to alleviate pressure on your joints.
Take your time, and rest often. This is not the place to be an overzealous macho power walker. Listen to what your body is telling you.
Most importantly, hike within your abilities, and do so with a few good friends. An inexperienced solo hiker will probably be beat down, Grand Canyon style.
No matter what you do, the terrain here will kick your ass. Always keep this fact in mind.
People routinely underestimate the Grand Canyon. And they die. Simple enough.
It all boils down to respect for the canyon.
Know that for the numerous hardships and twists and turns of a rim-to-rim hike, you will be rewarded with nonstop awe-inspiring scenery. Highly recommended.
Enjoy your walk.