A bridge on the rim to rim trail in Grand Canyon National Park. (Mike Godfrey, At Home in the Wild Spaces)
Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes
Publisher’s note: This article is the first in a three-part series that looks at the necessities before trying endurance hiking and how to accomplish the Grand Canyon’s most difficult hike safely and responsibly.
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – The Internet is a great tool, but it can easily be used irresponsibly, feeding misinformation.
And that’s a serious problem, especially in an Internet culture obsessed with “bucket” and “to do” lists, which can be questionable at best.
As problematic, or even oxymoronic, as those terms are, there’s simply no way around these lists in the Internet age. With everyone seemingly on social media, looking to shorten travel preparations and armies of “influencers” sharing their trips and selling the next “bucket list” experience; It’s hard to talk about outdoor recreation without being tied to such misleading terms.
And like other areas of interest, the online hiking and adventure economy is severely lacking in genuinely reliable information, especially when it comes to so-called “bucket list” experiences.
The legendary “Rim-to-Rim” hike through the Grand Canyon is a perfect example. Year after year, crossing the Grand Canyon from rim to rim is making its way onto more and more bucket lists, but there are very few influential people offering good advice for hiking or crossing the Grand Canyon, and the consequences are often dire.
According to the Grand Canyon National Park public affairs office, there were 23 documented deaths in the park in 2021, nearly double the number in 2020. Grand Canyon National Park also earned the somewhat infamous distinction of being the nation’s national park. The US with the highest number of search and rescue incidents each year, as noted by USA Today.
And those emergency calls and search and rescue operations are increasing dramatically. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Grand Canyon National Park claimed to have responded to nearly 200 emergency calls resulting in nearly 20 search-and-rescue incidents over Memorial Day weekend 2021.
There were more than 400 search and rescue incidents in calendar year 2021, a huge increase from the 290 documented search and rescue incidents in 2017, according to rescue and emergency data provided by Grand Canyon National Park. Many of these emergency calls and search and rescue operations involve hikers and backpackers.
We are in the midst of what has been called the gold rush of disinformation, and it is not only infecting the world of politics.
Social media, along with the so-called “must do” and “bucket list” mania, is mixing mountains of misinformation and bad advice online. You are leading aspirational but ultimately ill-prepared and/or ill-advised adventurers into areas with few or no safety rails, and into a place where Mother Nature plays by a very different and often harsh set of rules. .
As a result, the occurrence of outdoor injuries and deaths has accelerated across the country, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Times reported. Even the most wholesome hobbies are being tainted by ill-informed and often popular internet personalities with tragic consequences.
The internet gives everyone a voice and a platform, but many of those voices qualify as unreliable.
What you need to know before you climb the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim
If you want to explore the great outdoors safely and responsibly, and ensure you get the most out of your travels, then you only need the best information. And, again, the legendary ride known as Rim-to-Rim is the perfect case study for the importance and value of legitimately trusted information.
Hiking trails typically fall into three categories: “easy,” “moderate,” and “strenuous.” But Rim-to-Rim cannot be classified in such simplistic terms. This hike is so challenging and potentially dangerous that the National Park Service strongly advises against everybody Grand Canyon visitors attempt such a strenuous trip in a single day.
About the length of a full marathon, with about 1 mile of elevation disparity between the rim and the canyon floor, and traversing five separate climate zones, Rim-to-Rim is perhaps the granddaddy of all-day hikes.
But this is simply not a hike that the vast majority of Grand Canyon visitors should attempt. If you do try, preparing smart and getting only the best information will be critical to your safety and success.
Featuring unrivaled HDR images of the Grand Canyon’s inner depths, this video series includes details and information not available anywhere else online.
This first part focuses mainly on training smart for hiking. Later parts will focus on fueling your body smartly and how to select and pack your gear like a pro. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll ever be ready to Rim-to-Rim, the information presented is wonderfully suited to all types of hikes and adventures and can help you reach heights and places you may have thought were just out of reach.
And even if you’re an experienced hiker or runner, be careful. The Grand Canyon has a long history of humbling and yes, even claiming the most experienced hikers and runners.
The video above outlines a six week training schedule that can be altered to ensure you are physically prepared to cross the Grand Canyon.
And remember, beyond your personal safety, caring for and protecting our parks and public lands should be the top priority for all outdoor travelers. Do your part to preserve the natural splendor of the Grand Canyon and all other wilderness. They are the definition of irreplaceable and deserving of deep respect and affection.