Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim

March 2009 Run through 1.6 billion years of geological history (twice) during this 42-mile out-and-back across the Big Ditch. 8 hours 2 minutes.


During a 4-day slideshow tour through Arizona in early-April 2008, I was fortunate to have a day-off in order to actually experience—as opposed to just talk about—some of Arizona’s abundant backcountry. Grand Canyon National Park seemed like the obvious place to go, and running from RRR (that is, from the South Rim to the North Rim, and back), which is a distance of 41.8 miles with 21,420 feet of vertical change, seemed like the obvious thing to do. At least I thought so.

While perhaps a touch extreme, running Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (RRR) is not uncommon: within trail running circles, it’s regarded as a classic, a must-do. And I was not at all surprised to pass two other groups running the Canyon that day, including a threesome from Vancouver, B.C.

But within hiking circles, this trek does not seem to garner much attention, incorrectly I believe: there are few trips, mile-for-mile, hour-for-hour, that compare. Think about it: in one day, you pass through 1.6 billion years of geology (four times) and you span the grandest Big Ditch in the world (twice).

This is a fantastic undertaking for hikers who:

  • Have limited vacation time; have limited free-time during a family vacation to the Canyon;
  • Do not want to take a complete overnight backpacking kit on an otherwise casual vacation;
  • Seek high bang-for-the-buck backcountry routes;
  • Want to test themselves with long days and exorbitant vertical change; and/or,
  • Cannot obtain the necessary permits to go RRR the traditional way: a slow-and-heavy 4- or 5-day affair.

The information on these pages are reprinted here with permission from Backpacking Light Magazine.