Trail Report: How to hike the Grand Canyon in one day

Ask anyone who works in the park or has hiked in it. To truly understand the beauty and sheer magnitude of the Grand Canyon, you have to venture in. This is why you need to hike the Grand Canyon in one day.

You’ll quickly realize how steep the walls are and how small you are compared to the enormity of the canyon. Most national park visitors won’t do more than walk around the top. Some, though, head in and make it to the 1.5-mile house. (Not a leisurely stroll by any means.)

Even fewer will consider a Grand Canyon hike to bottom – and back up all in one day. But that’s why you’re here.

It’s a grueling, full-day hike that should not be taken lightly or embarked upon unprepared. But if you want to, hiking from the Grand Canyon’s south rim is where you’ll start.

How to hike the Grand Canyon in one day

Hiking grand canyon south rim
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon
hike the Grand Canyon in one day

Key Figures:

Miles: 16 – 18

Difficulty: Strenuous

Beauty Level: Stunning

Estimated Time: 9-13 hours

Planning the Grand Canyon Hike

Dates for a Grand Canyon hike to bottom

You’ll want to cross off the entire summer when planning this out. Just draw a line through those months and then figure out when you want to do this. Simply put, if you do this hike in the dead of summer, you’re putting your life on the line. Don’t do that.

The best time to plan for this is March through May and September through November. (Even when writing this, I’d stay away from early September, but always check the weather forecast as usual.) While the top is at 7,000 feet, and you might feel chilly in the morning, temperatures will quickly rise as you get close to the river. Of course, you can do this hike in the winter, but that’s an entirely different ball game, as you’ll have to bring winter gear to handle the snow on the trail. Personally, I’d instead do it without an icy trail at the top.

hike the Grand Canyon in one day
Hiking grand canyon south rim

The Route 

My recommended route to hike the Grand Canyon in one day (and everyone’s recommended route) is South Kaibab down and Bright Angel up.

There are two reasons for this. First, South Kaibab doesn’t have water, so it’s unwise to do this on the way up. Second, South Kaibab is also steeper, so I’d guess that most of you would instead take this down than up. On the flip side, Bright Angel has water at three points on the way up; Indian Gardens, 3-mile house, and, 1.5-mile house. Bright Angel is also less steep (though not easy), making it slightly easier on your legs going up.

Backcountry Trail Distances

All Trails Map


This is hard.

No matter how good of shape you’re in, you’ll be swearing internally (or externally) by the 1.5-mile house and have your eyes set on the ice cream at the top. When I did this, we started around 7 am and finished around 4 pm on Halloween. Then, we took a good hour’s break at the bottom for lunch and put our feet in the river to cool off.

The way down took us probably three hours. And the way up was likely five and some change. Depending on your physical fitness, I’m not sure you should plan for nine hours, but 11-13 hours should be reasonable.

Grand Canyon hike to bottom
hike the Grand Canyon in one day
Hiking grand canyon south rim
Grand Canyon hike to bottom

What to Bring – Grand Canyon hike to bottom

This is the easy part. You don’t have to bring much. With water available every 1.5 miles on the way up, you don’t need to overdo it. (Don’t read this as don’t bring water.) A 2.5L bladder, another water bottle, and Gatorade should be good. However, if you like to drink water, bring more. Considering you don’t need to bring much water, you can add more food weight to the pack. I’ll let you figure that part out on your own. As for clothes, I’d suggest bringing only what you will hike in when you finish. You might be a bit chilly at the start, but you’ll quickly warm up, and you won’t have to carry extra clothes for 85% of the hike. Also, don’t forget hiking poles, a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock. (I’ve heard it’s sunny in AZ…)

Grand Canyon hike to bottom
Looking up at the steep walls of the Grand Canyon

Training – Hiking grand canyon south rim

I’m not going to give you a set workout plan, but being active will be critical. Running, hiking, cycling, and lifting weights five days a week for three months will get you into good enough shape to conquer the Grand Canyon. I’m a pretty active person and am exhausted for nearly a week afterward.

Wrapping Up

If you do your physical and mental preparation beforehand, you’ll be able to hike the Grand Canyon in one day. The views will floor you, and the experience will humble you. When you finish at the top, you’ll belong to a relatively exclusive club that has completed down and up the Grand Canyon in one day.

But remember, the Grand Canyon will kill you if you don’t prepare. So please, do your due diligence and make sure you’re safe on this trek.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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