By Michael Lanza

Minutes after we started hiking down the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail, we descended through short, tight switchbacks where the trail clings to the face of a cliff. The earth dropped away precipitously beyond the trail’s edge; we gazed down nearly a vertical mile into the bottom of The Big Ditch. Not much farther along, we stopped, awestruck, at a breathtaking overlook of perhaps the most famous canyon on the planet.

Those first vistas laid bare the audacity of our plans: to walk across this awesome chasm in one push, on a 21-mile, nearly 11,000-vertical-foot, rim-to-rim dayhike.

On a visit to the Grand Canyon in mid-October—one of the two brief windows annually that offer ideal weather for this adventure—my wife, Penny, and I, joined by our friends David and Kathleen Ports, made what has become possibly the most coveted grail for avid and very fit hikers and trail runners. A rim-to-rim hike traverses one of the most inspiring, rugged, vast, vertiginous, arid, and unforgiving landscapes in America. And that’s just a short list of the applicable adjectives.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A hiker on the upper South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.
” data-image-caption=”My wife, Penny, hiking the upper South Kaibab Trail. Click photo for my e-guide “The Complete Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim.”
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?fit=300%2C197&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?fit=900%2C592&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”592″ src=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?resize=900%2C592&ssl=1″ alt=”A hiker on the upper South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.” class=”wp-image-36511″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?resize=1024%2C673&ssl=1 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?resize=300%2C197&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?resize=768%2C505&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?resize=1080%2C710&ssl=1 1080w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gran7-099-Penny-hiking-the-upper-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon.-2.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />My wife, Penny, hiking the upper South Kaibab Trail. Click photo for my e-guide “The Complete Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim.”

I have both hiked and run the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim (r2r2r) in one day—42 miles and over 21,000 vertical feet—and hiked rim-to-rim-to-rim over two consecutive days (that time combining all three corridor trails, making it 44
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