Years ago when I read about crazy people who ran down and up the Grand Canyon, I knew I wanted to be one of those crazy people too. On Thanksgiving of 2017, it became official.
Traditionally a Grand Canyon trail run is considered a “rim-to-rim” run, which implies an adventure from the north rim to the south rim–14 miles of descent from the north, about a mile along the Colorado River, and a 8 mile climb up the canyon walls to the south rim for a total of 23 miles. Due to the extra logistics required for a return to the north from the south rim, we kept it simple and remained along the south rim by running from the South Kaibab trailhead to the Bright Angel trailhead. That also meant a reduction in mileage…only 16 miles to boot! Yay!
Thanks to wonderful weather we spontaneously drove down to the Grand Canyon from San Francisco. We awoke early on Thanksgiving morning, waited in a small line to enter the park (there was already a line at 6:30am!!!), parked by the Bright Angel trail shuttle, and took the first hikers’ express shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead at 7am. By 7:30am we hit the trails.
Who knew that 7 miles of descent would be so hard? It wasn’t just the steep descent; logs, rocks, gravel, stairs, and deep ruts made for a technical obstacle course. The endurance event ended up being a mental challenge focused on injury prevention and quad strengthening.
An hour and a half and 4,780 ft. of descent later, we arrived to the Colorado River.
Down along the river we enjoyed a relatively flat-ish mile before we began the epic climb up the canyon walls–about 8 miles with 4,400 ft. of climbing! There was walking involved.
We did stop a couple of times to enjoy the scenery and grab a few shots.
Finally at 12:15pm we reached the top of Bright Angel trailhead. Total time was 4:42, with a moving time of 4:06. 8 miles with 4,400 feet of climbing was no joke. We’re not going to lie–we were pretty wrecked.
To put the Grand Canyon 16-mile trail run in perspective: We’ve finished two Ironman triathlons and only needed a couple days of recovery before we felt normal again. After this run, we needed 5 full days to feel “normal” again. Talk about brutal.
And of course, we celebrated our accomplishment by enjoying the Grand Canyon the next day with a gentle stroll along the Rim Trail at sunrise.