Grand Canyon Backpacking - Rim to Rim - North Kaibab to Bright Angel

Trip Length 5 Days
Group Size 4–9
Activity level
Starting from
$1,899 for REI Members
$2,089 for non-members
Departures Sep 2020-Sep 2020

Spend 5 days along one of North America’s most iconic backpacking routes.

High on the wish lists of intrepid backpackers across the globe is a Rim to Rim journey through one of the seven wonders of the natural world: the Grand Canyon. By starting the trek on the rugged North Kaibab trail and finishing up along the spectacular Bright Angel trail, we follow a route that offers the most diverse and breathtaking terrain in the National Park.

The serene yet challenging North Kaibab sits on the North Rim and takes us through a small sampling of almost every ecosystem found within North America. With every step the canyon surprises us with an assortment of breathtaking views, lush, spring-fed oases, brightly colored wildflowers—even a tumbling waterfall.

As one of the most beloved trails within the Grand Canyon, the Bright Angel provides some of the most spectacular and sweeping views within the National Park system. Snaking up the winding path of Bright Angel trail, we savor the magnificence of almost 40 layers of rock exposed within the canyon walls. Finally, following in the footsteps of only the most resolute backcountry explorers, we’ll celebrate our Rim to Rim accomplishment along the edges of the canyon’s magnificent South Rim.

Important permitting notes: Reservations for this trip cannot be 100% confirmed until we secure permits through the National Park Service, usually 3–4 months before your departure date.

Because of the popularity of this route, and the limited campsites available, we must allow for some flexibility of dates when applying for National Park permits. To increase our chance of permitting success, we typically plan around a travel window of one week before and one week after the listed departure dates.

Our routes and campsites may also vary depending on National Park permitting.

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Trip Highlights

  • Backpack one of the most challenging & iconic routes in North America
  • Enjoy the lush hidden oases along the North Kaibab trail
  • Visit the famed Phantom Ranch and learn about its rich cultural history
  • Enjoy spectacular views while climbing up the beloved Bright Angel trail


This trip is rated Strenuous [5]. Participants will carry daypacks weighing 35–40 pounds from Day 2 through 5 of this trip. Participants will be hiking up to 8 miles each day with elevation gains and losses of up to 4,200 ft. Most importantly, we will be traveling consecutive days in a row on rugged, uneven, steep and often exposed terrain. Participants should be prepared and train for the mental and physical requirements needed to successfully complete this trip.

Both the descent and ascent to/from the floor of the canyon are challenging for even very fit hikers. We recommend a conditioning regimen beginning at least 3–6 months prior to departure which includes hiking with as much elevation gain and loss as possible with a weighted multi-day pack, layering in as much additional cardiovascular exercise as manageable.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Van transportation from Scottsdale/Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and return; park entry fees; all camping fees; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; gear noted under the "Included" section of the designated Gear List.


Established Front Country Campsite, 1 night; Primitive Backcountry Campsites, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hit the road on a fun filled trip to the North Rim

We meet at 8am this morning at our host hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. After introductions and a brief orientation, we’re on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. En route, we stretch our legs at some of our favorite regional highlights, including Cameron Trading Post and Navajo Bridge. Once on the North Rim we set up camp and enjoy a tasty meal before heading to bed early in preparation for our first day on the trail. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 1–2.5 miles, Elevation gain: minimal; Van transfer: 6–7 hours (broken up with stops along the way)

Day 2

Travel along the spectacular and challenging North Kaibab trail

We begin our trip into the canyon along the North Kaibab trail. Our 4,161' descent takes us through almost every single ecosystem found in North America and offers an opportunity to study thousands of years of natural history. Along its steep and winding path we take our time to enjoy a treasure trove of spectacular panoramic views. Finally, after a full day on the trail we retire in the shadow of the spectacular North Rim canyon walls at Cottonwood Campground. All meals included.

Backpacking: 6.8 miles, Elevation loss: 4,161'

Day 3

Explore along the Colorado River and enjoy an evening at Bright Angel campground

Cutting through the heart of the Grand Canyon is the mighty Colorado River, which for many is a destination all by itself. Today we get a face-to-face introduction to the Colorado as it continues its 1,450-mile journey to the Sea of Cortez. After a day of exploring the abundant natural and cultural history of the canyon we spend this evening relaxing under the stars at Bright Angel campground. All meals included.

Backpacking: 7.2 miles, Elevation loss: 1,600'

Day 4

Visit Phantom Ranch before crossing the mighty Silver Bridge

We start the day with a visit to the historic Phantom Ranch. For those interested, we can write and send postcards from the famed outpost, which will be carried out of the canyon by mule. Later, we cross the Colorado via the Silver Bridge, which takes us from the north side of the canyon to the south. Passage over the bridge provides a significant milestone in our journey. It also gives us a close-up view of one of the most important engineering accomplishments within the Grand Canyon: the Transcanyon Water Pipeline. As we start our ascent up Bright Angel, we encounter the infamous Devil’s Corkscrew, an impressive set of switchbacks that snake through picturesque desert terrain. We finish the day with a relaxing evening at Indian Garden Campground. All meals included.

Backpacking: 4.7–8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,320'–2320'/-1,000'; Optional hike to Plateau Point: 3 miles

Day 5

Celebrate our triumphant Rim to Rim journey

We rise early to take advantage of the cool temperatures and morning shade. Our first mile of trail offers a gentle slope; a perfect warm-up to the day. We then make our way up Jacob’s Ladder, a series of tight switchbacks winding through the stunning Redwall Limestone which Grand Canyon National Park is famous for. A breather at Three-Mile Rest House provides the perfect stop for last-minute reflections. Finally, as we reach the South Rim a wave of emotion and relief washes over us. We’ve done it! We celebrate our enormous accomplishment with a well-earned lunch along the South Rim before making our way back to Scottsdale for our final farewells.

We estimate arriving back in Scottsdale at about 5:30pm today. But please note this time may vary depending on group pace, trail conditions, weather, traffic and other factors beyond our control. To be safe, do not book travel out of the Scottsdale/Phoenix area until after 8pm today. Breakfast and lunch included.

Backpacking: 4.8 miles, Elevation gain: 3,060'; Van transfer: 3–4 hours

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.