Rim to Rim hike

things I learned hiking the Grand Canyon

The view when we finally reached the top.
The view when we finally reached the top.

The week before last, I hiked the Grand Canyon with my best friend. The original plan was to do the Rim to Rim hike (start on the South Rim, hike down, across, and up the North Rim). That’s not what happened. Instead, I got dehydrated pretty bad on the way down—despite drinking 80 oz. of water (with electrolytes) and snacking on salty foods—so we ended up at the ranger’s station so I could get checked out, since I didn’t have the “normal” signs of dehydration. Then, we stayed overnight at the bottom of the canyon, at Phantom Ranch, and hiked out the next day.

Longest two days of my life.

But I did learn some things on the hike.

“Grand Canyon miles” are not the same as “regular” miles. Not at all. I’m sure the altitude was affecting me more than I could tell at the time, but it took us something like 2 hours to go 1 ½ miles on the way up. Seriously? Yes, I know we were hiking up the freaking Grand Canyon, but both of our trackers said we’d been something like 5 miles, not the measly 1 ½ miles the posted signs claimed.

The most beautiful part of the hike, the bottom half of Bright Angel.
The most beautiful part of the hike, the bottom half of Bright Angel.

Hiking the Grand Canyon is not a good way to get over acrophobia. I am terrified of heights. Hiking down the Kaibab trail, which is basically 7 miles of stairs down the face of a cliff, is not a therapeutic way of dealing with this fear. My BFF kept saying things like “Oh, how beautiful. Look!” My response was something along the lines of “Nope. Take pictures. I’ll look when we get back.”…while staying as close to the wall of the canyon as possible, eyes glued to the two foot of ground immediately in front of my feet. My mental reply was more like “Absolutely not! I’m clinging to the side of a cliff and you want me to appreciate scenery?! The only scenery I’d appreciate right now is the flat ground at the top of this canyon. I DON’T CARE!”

Side note: I’m still afraid of heights.

Just above the first stop on the way down Kaibab.
Just above the first stop on the way down Kaibab.

Heed the warning signs. There are signs posted everywhere, at the top of the canyon, on the way down, everywhere, warning people not to hike to the canyon floor and back. They are correct. You shouldn’t do it.


I don’t care how beautiful it is—and it was absolutely breathtaking—nothing is worth the complete misery that was this hike. 7 ½ hours down 7 miles of uneven “stairs” on the side of a sheer cliff, 9 miles up a more-gradual ascent up through a ravine (We took an “easier” trail up. Ha. Where “easier” means “still virtually impossible and insane. But not quite on the very edge of the freaking cliff.). There were times I considered jumping off the cliff, just so it would be over. True story.

Beautiful, yes. Repeatable?  No.
Beautiful, yes. Repeatable? No.

This hike is what hell is like. Hiking up, or down (which is worse) interminable switchbacks on the side of a cliff, with no water, while demons run along behind you, stabbing you with a pitchfork at every step. That is what this hike felt like.

Bottom line: I’m glad I got to see the Grand Canyon. I’d have been even more glad to see it strictly from the rim. If you’re ever tempted to hike it, don’t. It’s not worth it. No matter how pretty it is.

I think this was on the way up, but I really can't remember.
I think this was on the way up, but I really can’t remember.

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