It was cathedral quiet. Guests don’t usually make it this far into the nationwide park. My driver, Marcia, and I had been alone at Shiny Angel Level lookout, on the distant North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My goal was to succeed in South Rim – on foot – earlier than the day was out, however from the place I stood it was only a hazy horizontal line far out throughout the ditch.
The mountainous butte named Brahma Temple was nearer. Sculpted over nearly two billion years, the rock presides over the tapestry of decaying ridges and stretching valleys under. Earlier than journeying in direction of the centre of the Earth, Marcia insisted I got here right here to totally recognize what I used to be getting myself into. “OK, level taken,” I stated, returning – humbled – to the trailhead.
Grand Canyon map.
I’d come to the Grand Canyon to try the traditional 23-mile Rim-to-Rim crossing. Eager to keep away from the eight-month ready listing for campsites within the canyon and feeling match from a season of mountain-running races, I set out with a tent-free rucksack in cool November temperatures to hike the complete journey in a single day.
Passing alongside the canyon’s best-maintained trails, the Rim-to-Rim hike provides far more than the standard view of North America’s biggest pure marvel. By mountain climbing the vertical mile to the canyon’s flooring, you expertise the identical number of plant and animal life as you’ll travelling on foot from the Canadian to Mexican border. The Rim-to-Rim is a journey via numerous habitats, in addition to via time itself.

A viewpoint on the North Rim Path. {Photograph}: Alamy
The hike is normally accomplished in a southerly path, starting on the distant North Rim and ending at Grand Canyon Village, with its intensive customer providers and lodging choices. North Rim can also be 400 metres increased than South Rim, and so beginning there saves some climbing on the best way again out.
But this route just isn’t for the faint-hearted, nor the unprepared. Most skilled backpackers will discover a two- or three-day crossing problem sufficient, and can benefit from tenting or lodging choices alongside the best way. Grinding switchbacks, precipitous drops and steep trails are to be anticipated. Excessive summer season turns the canyon flooring right into a furnace, with temperatures reaching 49C, and winter shuts off automobile entry to the North Rim totally. The optimum home windows for mountain climbing are from late Might to June, and from September till the tip of November.

Components of the path are ‘not for the faint-hearted’. {Photograph}: Alamy
Nonetheless, now’s the time to go. Grand Canyon nationwide park faces an unsure future. When Barack Obama determined to not declare the Larger Grand Canyon a nationwide monument on the finish of his presidency, he left it on the mercy of Donald Trump. Plans for brand new uranium mining, an enormous enlargement of the close by city of Tusayan and a undertaking to construct a cable automobile (connecting vacationers to a retail expertise on the coronary heart of the canyon) are actually all again on the desk, having beforehand been shelved.
To the trailhead: practice and automobile from Williams, Arizona, to North Rim

The Grand Canyon Railway. {Photograph}: Alamy
Simply over 200 miles east of the intense lights of Las Vegas, I bumped the rent automobile off Route 66 and rolled into the outdated cowboy city of Williams, Arizona. My plan was to depart the automobile within the Grand Canyon Railway automobile park. From there, I’d journey by practice to South Rim, after which take a shuttle taxi service to the distant North Rim trailhead early the following morning. This manner, once I completed the hike again at South Rim, I might catch the practice again to Williams and my automobile.
The Grand Canyon Prepare runs 65 miles from Williams to the Grand Canyon Village at South Rim, departing every day at 9.30am and taking a leisurely two hours and 15 minutes. A pistol shot sounded 15 minutes earlier than it departed and the Cataract Creek Gang every day cowboy present started beside the platform. Viewers participation is inspired because the practice robbers hustle funds from sport passengers.
Excessive plains punctuated with ponderosa pines crammed the panoramic home windows through the journey. Roaming musicians strummed Dylan and Woody Guthrie tracks and employees inspired passengers to drink eyewateringly robust cocktails.

A musician strumming folks songs onboard the Williams to South Rim practice. {Photograph}: Matt Maynard
It was a sobering view, nevertheless, throughout the canyon after we pulled into the depot and regarded out from the forecourt of the historic El Tovar Lodge (doubles from $263 room-only). The uncompromising enormousness of the Rim-to-Rim mountain climbing route was on full present: the vertiginous distant canyon of the North Rim led interminably all the way down to the Colorado river earlier than re-emerging as a discernible path, weaving like a scorched snake within the desert via the rocky slopes again as much as South Rim.
I spent the rest of the day visiting viewing factors round Grand Canyon Village, all simply reached on the free common buses. An hour earlier than sundown, I headed over to the wonderful Yavapai Geological Museum. Its three-dimensional topographical maps gave me an additional sense of awe concerning the problem forward. The subsequent day I’d catch a four-hour shuttle taxi from South Rim to the trailhead. The alarm was set for 4am. The 211-mile journey across the far japanese arm of the canyon traverses the rocky plains of the Navajo Indian Reservation earlier than climbing into the golden eagle habitat of the North Rim plateau.
Trailhead to Cottonwood Campground – 6.5 miles, 4,160 ft descent
I set out on the well-maintained however sharply switchbacking North Kaibab Path. The pirouetting descent dived via a rush of slender beech and gambel oak and, because the temperature within the sheltered folds of the canyon began to rise, deep blankets of sedimentary rock took me one million years additional again within the canyon’s geological historical past.

A hiker on the North Kaibab Path. {Photograph}: Matt Maynard
After three-to-four hours of quadricep-grinding descent, I reached Cottonwood Campground. Cool, refreshing water runs in Shiny Angel Creek. I used to be rationing my three litres to final me to Phantom Ranch, however had introduced purification tablets to deal with the river water, simply in case. From mid-Might to mid-October ingesting water is obtainable from a faucet on the campsite.
For many who select to remain in a single day, Cottonwood’s 11 pitches supply a country, backcountry tenting expertise, with solar-powered composting bogs and picnic tables. Meals storage containers can be found, to guard in opposition to marauding deer, squirrels or ringtail cats.

Cottonwood Campground. {Photograph}: Alamy
Purposes for tenting at any of the three campsites inside the canyon should be made at the least 4 months prematurely however, throughout my hike, I met individuals who had taken benefit of last-minute cancellations by enquiring on the Backcountry Workplace on South Rim.
Cottonwood Campground to Phantom Ranch – 7 miles, 1,601 ft descent
The canyon flooring is normally 11C hotter than its rim and I took a second to rehydrate and study the desert shrubs that inhabit this broad inner-canyon hall. The deciduous timber of the North Rim are changed by prickly pear cactus and fragrant sagebrush, offering house to lizards, and hawk moths after darkish. Three extra hours of gently descending path now separated me from the Colorado river.

The Colorado river at Phantom Ranch. {Photograph}: Alamy
Over the following few miles, the canyon partitions slowly steepened and the valley narrowed. The trail started to snake round big buttresses of darkish crystalline rock (Vishnu schist): that is the underside layer of the Grand Canyon, fashioned nearly two billion years in the past beneath intense warmth and stress.
On the coronary heart of the canyon hall, and nestled near the river, is Phantom Ranch (dorms $51pp, two-person cabins $149, breakfast $22, dinner from $27), a country lodge constructed of stone and wooden, designed in 1922 by architect Mary Colter. The cottonwood timber she planted are actually mature and the outlying dorm and cabin lodging have a peaceable, no-phone-reception escapist really feel. Bookings must be made at the least 12 months prematurely, however a two-day, one-night Rim to Rim itinerary with a keep at Phantom Ranch has the benefit of not having to hold tenting gear.

A view from close to Phantom Ranch. {Photograph}: Alamy
Early night is gorgeous down in these secret folds. Because the solar disappeared dramatically behind an Arizonan horizon, the sunshine lingered down within the canyon, fading nearly imperceptibly.
An non-compulsory night meal is supplied at Phantom Ranch and the primary breakfast seating is at 5am. Alternatively, there are 33 shaded tent pitches close by on the separate Shiny Angel Campground (permits apply.)
Phantom Ranch to South Rim – 9.5 miles, 4,379 ft ascent
I reached the suspension bridge over the Colorado river at dusk, shortly after leaving Phantom Ranch. The day before today on the geology museum, I realized how this cleaving physique of water started carving via the sedimentary rocks some 5 million years in the past. As I started the swaying crossing, the darkish rush and spray of river under was much more exhilarating than any trendy theme-park experience.

The footbridge at Phantom Ranch. {Photograph}: Alamy
Safely on the south facet, I had a option to make. The nine-and-a-half mile Shiny Angel Path veered downstream for a mile, earlier than climbing at a median grade of 10% in direction of customer providers, parking and transfers at Grand Canyon Village. The South Kaibab Path cuts a good steeper path to an remoted exit close to Yaki Level, 5 miles east of Grand Canyon Village which is served by the free South Rim bus, however has no personal automobile entry.
I picked up the Shiny Angel Path, hoping it might show simpler on my weary knees. Many hours of silent path miles adopted. Mountain lions had been on the market, however the moon was excessive and full. I pushed pointless fears and tiredness away, stopping usually for meals. Campers on the 15-pitch Indian Backyard Campground had been lengthy since asleep as I stole silently previous.

A hiker pauses close to the highest of the Shiny Angel Path. {Photograph}: Alamy
Over the previous few miles, I ended usually to stare up on the layered shadows of rocks towering above. Trying down, I might see the twinkling antennae of different headtorches, labouring ant-like up the switchbacks. It was nicely after midnight once I lastly made it again to the Earth’s floor at South Rim.
Logistics and tenting permits
Intensive planning is crucial for any Rim-to-Rim hike and strolling in a bunch of two or extra is advisable. Allow purposes for tenting at any of the three campsites inside the canyon should be made at the least 4 months prematurely ($10 a allow plus $eight an individual, nps.gov). All three campsites inside the canyon are open year-round.
Transport
• Trans-Canyon Shuttle has two every day mini-bus journeys from North to South Rim, operating from 15 Might to 16 October ($90pp).• Flagstaff Shuttle and Constitution provides bespoke transfers to North Rim till snow closes Freeway 67 (normally round 1 December and reopening on 15 Might); $450 for South Rim to North Rim switch for first three passengers, $45 every further passenger.• Grand Canyon Prepare (Williams to South Rim) from $65, kids $29, plus $12 admission to Grand Canyon nationwide park by practice. Kids beneath 16 enter free.
Lodging earlier than and after mountain climbing

Shiny Angel Lodge. {Photograph}: Alamy
WilliamsLodging choices and extra at experiencewilliams.com
South Rim• Mary Colter-designed Shiny Angel Lodge, doubles from $95, room solely.• Yavapai Lodge, a one-mile stroll from South Rim, doubles from $150, room solely. • Mather Campground on South Rim is open all yr and doesn’t require a allow however reservations are advisable (pitches from $18). • Twenty-five miles from Grand Canyon Village is the japanese entrance and the Desert View campsite (pitches from $12).• There are inexpensive lodge choices simply exterior the south entrance in Tusayan.
North Rim

Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim. {Photograph}: Alamy
• Grand Canyon Lodge has a variety of cabins sleeping three, from $143 and motel doubles are $132. Reserving as much as a yr forward is suggested.• North Rim Campground is open till 31 October in 2017. No allow required however reservations are advisable (pitches from $18).
Guided excursions and mule rent
Guided Rim-to-Rim journeys are supplied by Arizona Outback Adventures. Each its three- and five-day itineraries embrace at the least one night time at Phantom Ranch. The corporate may tailor quicker or slower itineraries, however reservations at the moment must be made as much as a yr prematurely. Its three-day guided hike prices from $1,595pp, and two-night backpacking journeys from $845.
Mule journeys are a sure-hooved different for journeying into the canyon. In a single day rides to Phantom Ranch on the Grand Canyon lodges web site begin at round $588pp, reservation solely by telephone +1 303 297 2757. No operator at the moment provides a full Rim-to-Rim crossing.
• Journey on the Grand Canyon Railway was supplied by Xanterra. Lodging was supplied by the Purple Feather Lodge (doubles from $150, room solely) in Tusayan. Arizona Workplace of Tourism supplied journey to North Rim with Flagstaff Shuttle and Constitution