Planning Your Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike

Nov 2018

A line of hikers making their way down a trail.


Planning on hiking Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon and need Phantom Ranch reservations or hiking permits? The challenge of this epic 21-mile hike has attracted many adventurers over the years. Those planning to hike Grand Canyon Rim to Rim have trained hard, purchased gear, organized food and water, and spent hours studying the terrain, only to realize getting Rim to Rim hiking permits is actually the toughest part of this process. As one of the most popular bucket list routes in North America, hopeful rim-to-rimmers need to be armed with not only a stout set of legs, but a stout resolution to do whatever it takes to get the golden permit ticket. Some people choose the grueling one day option, but those who want to really enjoy the sights of Grand Canyon are advised to consider to stay a little longer.  Follow along for tips on how to plan to hike Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, get Rim to Rim hiking permits, and get permits and reservations to hike to and stay at Phantom Ranch.


Organized Groups

You are defined as an “organized group” by the National Park Service if you are a non-commercial group* of any size wanting to hike from one Grand Canyon rim to the other without staying overnight at a campsite or at Phantom Ranch, and you meet any of the following:

You are a school group, church group, scouts, club, non-profit, or similar organization who have:

  • Advertised your trip to the general public
  • Required individuals to sign up prior to participation
  • An organizer who has been compensated, including subsidized participation

*A commercial group, like a guided tour for example, may not provide 1-day rim to rim trips and is required to operate under a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) for all other trips. CUAs are issued through a competitive application process that requires the holder to meet certain strict requirements. Find out more here.

If you are planning a 1-day rim to rim and are an organized group based on the specifications above, you will need to obtain a Special Use Permit (SUP) from the National Park Service. This will require you to fill out an Application for Special Use Permit in which you will be asked to name your organization and a contact, plus describe your trip in detail. You’ll need to submit your application, along with a cashier’s check or money order (or fill out the credit card authorization on the permit application) to cover the non-refundable permit fee of $175. Mail the application and payment information to:

Grand Canyon National Park

Concessions Management Office

PO Box 129

Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Or fax (credit card payments only) to (928) 638-7701

Allow four weeks for your application to be processed. Most applications that meet the necessary requirements are approved for a SUP, which will then be mailed to you. The final step is to sign the permit and mail it back to the park for final review. Remember to carry your signed and counter-signed Special Use Permit with you at all time during your event!


Everybody Else

If you are not an organized group, as defined by the National Park Service, and still want to hike across the Grand Canyon in one day, you probably don’t need anything other than training and good preparation. The new set of rules, as detailed above, was created by the Park Service to control the number of large groups of rim-to-rim hikers attempting the challenge of rim to rim in a day or anything related (rim to river to rim, or rim to rim to rim) in one day. If you are an individual or a group of friends/family hiking rim to rim, you need only to pay your entrance fee (recently raised to $30 per car) and start hiking!

Alternatively, if you are spending the night anywhere along the trail, whether at Phantom Ranch or in a campground, you do not need a rim to rim permit. However, each of these locations requires other park-issued paperwork and carries its own fees. If you are camping in a campground (Cottonwood, Indian Gardens, or Bright Angel) you need a Backcountry Permit. These are more easily obtained than the Special Use Permit and require only an application (submitted by fax, mail, or in person) and a refundable fee of $10 per permit plus $8 per person or stock animal per night. Permit applications are accepted on the first of each month up until 5:00pm MST, up to 4 months out from departure. You can send in your request up to 10 days early but they will all be processed on the same day. A system for walk-up permits (last-minute, in-person permits issued for 2-night stays occurring within 24 hours of the purchase) is also available. Find out more about walk-up permits and get your Backcountry Permit Application here.

If you plan to stay at Phantom Ranch, enter the Phantom Ranch Lottery  online 15 months prior to the time you want to stay in the canyon. All of the remaining spots are accepted starting at 7:00am MDT, on the first of each month, 13 months prior to departure, by calling Central Reservations at 888-29-PARKS (888-297-2757). To learn more about successfully making Phantom Ranch reservations, see our “Staying at Phantom Ranch” post here.

Good luck, happy hiking, and stay safe!