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Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim via South Kaibab

An internationally-recognized trail run through the United State's largest canyon.

Trail Running Severe

66 km
4 km
4 km
1 day +
Low Point
738 m
High Point
2.5 km
Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim via South Kaibab Map

There isn't a trail runner in the world who hasn't dreamt of running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim. A bucket list route, even those who have completed it often come back for seconds. It stands boldly as one of the most recognized epis in all of the US, maybe even the western hemisphere. On average, it takes most runners between 12 and 15 hours, most choosing to start between 3 and 4am.


Beginning at the South Rim, you have two options to descend into the canyon. The South Kaibab Trail (seen here) is the shorter option, but significantly more challenging than its counterpart, the Bright Angel. Overall, this route saves 3 - 5 miles depending on which bridge you utilize to cross the Colorado River.

Additionally, every morning around 5am, a mule train carrying supplies to Phantom Ranch departs from the trailhead. It's recommended to start well before 5am to ensure you don't get caught behind them on the tight and narrow path. A popular option among many is to go down South Kaibab and return via Bright Angel. If you do that, check on the bus schedule to make sure you will have a ride back to your campsite or vehicle.

When the Grand Canyon was first added into the National Park System in the early 1900s, the only way into the canyon was by way of the Bright Angel Trail. At the time, a local named Ralph Cameron charged visitors a toll to utilize the trail and "refused to give up his claim" when asked. According to this article, "National Park Service officials decided to build their own trail. They achieved this by constructing the South Kaibab Trail and later the North Kaibab Trail to complete the first trans-canyon trail in the popular Grand Canyon Village area. Experienced engineers and miners perfected techniques for creating inner-canyon trails by their work on the South Kaibab Trail."

Organized groups are required to obtain a permit through the National Park, though the criteria for "organized" is vague. There is also an entry fee to get into the park, and most runners choose to camp there during their trip. The Grand Canyon's popularity makes it difficult to secure campsites certain times of the year, so plan accordingly and reserve a spot long before your trip.

The traverse is best attempted in the fall and spring, when the weather is at its best. Seasonal water sources along the trail are turned off mid-November, so check with the park regarding the latest status. The pipeline that provides water along the trail is also outdated and experiences frequent shutdowns for maintenance. Always carry a water filter or other purification system just in case.

Though the entire run is loaded with views, the push up to the north rim is often the most memorable for trail runners. Narrow bench cuts along rock bluffs and several bridges line the way up. Even in November, it's possible for the bottom of the canyon to reach 70 degrees during the day, with deep snow blanketing the north rim.

Sources: http://grcahistory.org/sites/rim-to-river-and-inner-canyon-trails/south-kaibab-trail/ https://ultrarunning.com/features/destinations/grand-canyon-basics-rim-to-rim-to-rim/



High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

in March, April, May, October and November

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area