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Hiking Grand Canyon rim to rim - logistics questions

Hey folks,

I'm taking a road trip around the Southwest this spring. I'd like to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim and the rest of my trip can be pretty flexible, so I'm trying to plan it around that. However, I've called the permit office and the visitor center and anywhere else I can think of a bajillion times and only get a busy signal. So I was hoping I could get a little guidance on at least what's possible because I don't know the country at all.

I think hiking rim to rim would be cool. I'm fairly confident I could do it in a day, and if not I'm confident enough in my judgment that I would turn back around if needed. I'd prefer to spread it out over two days, but I know you can only camp in the park with a permit.

So, if I wanted to make it two or three days, are walk-up permits possible this time of year? Or is it too late to even consider getting a camping permit? Is there a minimum group size? It will just be me and maybe my girlfriend, is it common to try to find other small groups to jump in with? If so, is there a common approach for doing this? I'm not picky about campground at all either, I would just enjoy it more as an overnight than a day hike.

I'm also happy hiking the whole thing in a day, but was wondering if there's anywhere on either rim close to the park where you can dispersed camp (NF land for instance) or pay campgrounds (USFS or KOA for instance). Also, it seems from my research that the rim to rim shuttle is only operated during the summer, but maybe there's a private one that operates in the off-season?

Sorry if these sorts of questions get asked a lot, but I've spent the last two weeks researching and Googling this stuff and can't seem to find straightforward answers anywhere.

Thank you!

5 Replies

@Former community member thanks for reaching out! We actually had a conversation happening on this exact topic pretty recently - you can check it out here!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

The question is what is your state of conditioning and what is your experience in hiking in generally dry and arid southwestern US conditions?  Only you know the answer. If you are not familiar with the climate, i would definitely start out easy.  Get a campground permit and take two days.  It will be a lot more enjoyable.  I assume you looked at this website.  I note that the NPS does not recommend hiking to the river and back in one day.  It certainly has been done, but lots of people have called for a mule ride back out of the canyon, which is a thriving business for the concessionaire.

The Canyon is neat country with everything from easy to extremely difficult excursions possible.  Take your time and get acquainted with it over time.  Grand Canyon isn't going anyplace....

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a good experience and enjoy your time there. Incidentally, the desert southwest has many, many fascinating localities.  GC is just the tip of the iceberg.


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I agree.  The SW has so many places to enjoy: the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands, Grand Gulch, San Rafael Swell (The Squeeze), and thousands more.  It is endless.  Look up and check out The Wave in southern Utah....your jaw will drop.


One logistical problem is that once you are on the other rim you have to get back again so probably better to just go down and come up the same side.  There are shuttles but they are quite expensive ~$90 and are a long (4.5 hour) and I image an uncomfortable ride.

If you are going to go, much better to stay a night or two in the canyon. 

As for permits the details are spelled out here...

This is what it says about walkins...

"Last Minute Permit for Corridor Campgrounds

A limited number of last minute walk-up permits are available at the South Rim and/or North Rim Backcountry Information Center for Corridor Campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood Campgrounds). These permits are issued in person only, are for one or two consecutive nights, and cannot be purchased more than one day prior to the start of a hike."

So it seems possible for 2 nights.  You just have to be in line at the right time.  There is a wait list process which is described so you may be hanging around for a couple of days.  To increase your chances try to go Sunday or early in the week rather than the Friday before a holiday weekend. 

If you want to reserve then like most popular places that have usage limits you have to plan about 6 months ahead and there is a kind of lottery.  They use a mail based reservation system which is so much better than having to put your phone on speed dial.   I'm not sure exactly how it works but my impression is that you submit one during the earliest consideration period of you earliest dates and provide a bunch of alternative itineraries.

First of all, you do need to have a permit...and they often distribute unclaimed permits the morning of the permitting day.  I highly recommend to slow down and thoroughly enjoy the trip, the views, the air, the animal/birds you might see.  Life is short, take it all in at your own pace. I have hiked to the bottom 5 times, took my time, saw new things each time and was in awe.