My husband turned 40 this year. And as many people do, in prep for this milestone birthday, he wanted to plan something epic. Now, as the much younger spouse (who turns 40 next year…), I told him I would fully support whatever he felt called to do.
Then he decided he wanted to hike across the Grand Canyon. Rim to Rim, as it is called, is a 25-ish mile trek from one side of the canyon to the other. On foot. Typically performed in a day. I mean, a swim up bar in a tropical location is what calls to me, but sure, let’s hike across the Grand Canyon.
Full transparency, my husband did basically all of the planning. Now in hindsight, his planning was excellent. We were well prepared, had everything we needed, and the big day went as smoothly as one could hope a big event could go.
So, if this is an undertaking you have considered, read on for how 2 parents of 4 in their (almost) 40s did it!
- My husband started physically prepping for this adventure long before I did. Consistent local hikes and long walks were his method of choice. As someone who works out regularly, I just kept up with my usual routine of CrossFit, yoga, cycling and hoped for the best.
- This is a VERY popular quest. Pending the route you choose to take, lodging and accommodations book up close to a year in advance. Plan accordingly. *Tip: If you are staying at the North Rim, there is only one restaurant (outside of a quick serve counter and pub) and reservations also book quickly. If you are wanting a sit down meal, be sure to make a reservation here as well far in advance.
- Our route: for various reasons, my husband selected the North>South Rim route. We booked a room at the lodge on the North rim and planned to park our car close to the trailhead at the South rim. We then booked a shuttle from South to North rim. *Note: the lodge and shuttle were both more costly than I would have expected.
- Timing: we hiked at the end of September. There is a point in the year where you can’t access the North Rim by vehicle. Conversely, though it is cooler at the top of the canyon, the base is subject to high heats in the warmer months. Late September was perfect. Our weather was great – it was still very warm at the bottom but not unbearably so.
- Gear: We each had an Osprey hiking backpack with a 3L bladder for water. Keep in mind, anything you need for the overnight plus the hike itself has to be carried with you the whole time so we kept things to a minimum as best we could. Because water availability was an issue just prior to our hike, we got a Life Bottle for filtering water from the creeks. We also got headlamps, hiking poles (a must IMO), cooling towels, wide brimmed hats, several pairs of good wool socks, and packed a first aid kit with moleskin (for blisters) and all the things you could imagine you might need on a hike (Alieve, bandaids, tweezers for cactus, etc)
- Resources: There are some great Facebook groups you can join to ask questions, get updates, and just generally connect with others completing some variation of this hike.
- We left our home in NE Mesa on a Wednesday morning (our kids stayed with Grandparents and our nanny). We would hike Thursday and then return home Friday morning. *Tip: We notified their schools and daycare provider that we would be out of pocket for that time since cell phone reception would be non-existent for most of the hike. We made sure they had our back up contacts just in case.
- The day of the hike, we woke up around 3:30, got dressed, fueled up a little and made our way to the trailhead.
- Since the weather would range from high 40s in the morning to mid-90s in the canyon, I wore hiking shoes, shorts, a moisture wicking tank, a performance long sleeve shirt, a thermal light hoodie, and a beanie. Layers layers layers. I was surprised how quickly I started peeling things off once we got going. I also wore some compression knee sleeves on the way down – my husband did not need these but I felt like they gave me a little extra support.
- My husband had done a ton of research on the nutrition/hydration aspect of this hike. We kept an empty bottle hooked to our packs and at each water stop, filled it and added electrolytes, alternating LMNT packets and Nuun Sport with Caffeine. We had a ton of snacks including dried fruit, beef jerky, Uncrustables, nuts, olive packets, protein bars, and candy! Your body will need calories and those quick hits of sugar really did wonders when our energy started to deplete. We also brought salt tablets – though we didn’t eat a ton of those, these are crucial if you start to cramp up.
- We rested at the major water stops for 15-30 minutes depending. This is when we would refill our water, eat larger snacks, change socks etc. It felt so good to take the pack off and kick our feet up!
- Must Dos: there is a detour to a natural waterfall called Rainbow Falls. It added about 90 minutes to our hike but was well worth it! We also planned our longest rest at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon – ice cold lemonade and snacks for purchase plus you can send a postcard home which is brought out by mule. Our kids loved receiving this after our hike!
- We had loosely set a goal of finishing before the sun went down and though that did not happen, we climbed out around 8pm completing the full R2R in about 16 hours. The last 3 miles were very challenging given everything that came before it, but we made it!
- We picked up our car and drove to the Yavapai lodge in the village. Though some people will drive home right after, there was NO way I would have wanted to spend 4 hours in the car.
- Our lodge had a great little restaurant where we refueled and had a celebratory drink before turning in for the night. A shower has never felt so good.
- Waking up the next day, it was obvious we had just hiked 25 miles the day prior. “The Canyon Shuffle” is apparently a real thing…walking was comical and ibuprofen was my friend.
- In terms of recovery, mobility/stretching, epsom salt baths, light movement and a visit to the chiropractor were all in my regime. I was back to my usual gym routine a few days later.
All in all, an epic experience. I can’t say right now that I would do it again, but I imagine it is kind of like childbirth….get a little ways away from it and suddenly it seems like a good idea again.
Want to hike but not ready for the Grand Canyon? Check out some of our family friendly hiking posts here!