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Grand Canyon National Park: Mather Point Pano 03

Classic Trail Runs of the Grand Canyon

Whether you’re planning a R2R2R traverse or simply looking for some exercise, this guidebook will pair you with your perfect run during your visit to the Grand Canyon

Trail Running Easy, Moderate, Difficult, Severe

Grand Canyon National Park: Mather Point Pano 03
Grand Canyon National Park: Mather Point Pano 03 Photo: Grand Canyon National Park


The immense beauty of the Grand Canyon draws visitors from around the world. Stand alongside massive sandstone cliffs, cross the mighty Colorado River by bridge, explore red rock mesas, or simply reflect on the magnificent and vibrant landscape from above. No matter how you do it, these are the classic trail runs of the Grand Canyon that must be explored.

One of the most notable accomplishments in the ultra and trail running communities is the iconic Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) traverse. There are two ways to complete the run: Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail. The South Kaibab Trail is shorter, but significantly steeper. Bright Angel is longer but offers multiple options for drinking water as you return to the South Rim. Many choose to descend South Kaibab and return via Bright Angel. As of 2019, the fastest known time (FKT) was held by Jim Walmsley at just 5h:55m:20s! Though this elite athlete completed the run in less than 6 hours, many runners allocate 12 – 15 hours for the feat, often departing before sunrise to finish by sunset.

For those seeking to avoid the logistics of the full Rim to Rim to Rim Traverse, consider a Rim to Rim run instead! This route can be shuttled or run as a loop utilizing the South Rim Trail. It passes through a variety of ecosystems, offers epic views, and visits both major thoroughfares into the canyon.

Branching out from the South Rim Visitor Center, you are welcomed by trail runs such as the Grandview Trail Loop to the east, or the Hermit and Dripping Springs Trails to the west. Lesser visited than others, these trails showcase the beauty and diverse terrain of the canyon, including its massive sandstone walls and numerous springs. Remnants of former mining operations can also be found as you explore these lesser-traveled paths.

If you’re seeking an easier alternative to those listed above, consider the South Rim Trail (and loop) or the Tusayan Greenway. Both are suitable for novice runners and can be run as mapped or altered for fewer miles. These routes are mostly paved and offer minimal elevation gain compared to trails that descend into the canyon. Free buses operated by the National Park Service offer numerous shuttle options for any of these routes.

Open May 15th through October 15th, anyone visiting the North Rim should consider the Bright Angel Point Loop or Uncle Jim Trail during their stay. Overnight visitors can access either from the campground, lodge, or the North Kaibab Trailhead. Both explore beautiful, vibrant forest, wildfire remnants, and offer commanding views of both Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons.

Sources: https://fastestknowntime.com/route/grand-canyon-crossings-az

Routes included

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