arriving after a full day of driving from canyonlands, the grand canyon was the last destination of our running trip. we visited the north rim, because it has far less visitors, and because the access to the colorado river has a little more not-so-steep parts than the trails from the south rim. arriving at the north rim is a spectacle, you park your car, walk to the north rim lodge, enter the lodge, then walk through it to the other side, and the first view of the grand canyon is through the lodge's panorama windows.
- uncle jim point: after a little bit of sightseeing, we decided to take it easy for the first day, because the next day we planned to do the complete trail down to the colorado and up again. so starting from the main parking lot, i headed for uncle jim point, a 8km/5mi roundtrip (probably from the north kaibab trailhead, so starting from the main parking lot adds a couple of km). this is not a very good trail to run on, there are too many loose rocks and too many horses and what they leave behind. the upside is that uncle jim point gives you a decent view of the north kaibab trail, so you have a better idea what you're getting into if you plan to do that trail. 1:16 total running time for this short trip.
- north kaibab trail: the second day was our big day, the plan was to run down to the colorado river and up again. this trip is a little bit more than a marathon (45km/28mi) with a lot of elevation, and temperatures over 35C/100F down in the canyon. we started at 7:30, which was too late; sunrise was at 5:15, and it would be much smarter to start at 5:30 and to better avoid the heat down in the canyon.
running down is fairly easy, of course. the first stretch to the supai tunnel is less than perfect, the trail is very sandy and riddled with horse shit. there's water at supai tunnel , but it only takes a little bit more than 20min to get there, so no need to refill. the next stretch leads to roaring springs, quite a bit further down, crossing roaring springs canyon on a bridge and then continuing on the right-hand side of the canyon. there is a little out and back to roaring springs (the next water source), but no need to refill, with the total time being still less than an hour. the next water stop is manzanita point, where we briefly stopped and refilled. from there, it is only a mile or so to cottonwood campground, the last water stop before phantom ranch. it took us 1:10 to get to cottonwood campground. from there, it's still quite a way to go, but not as steep anymore. it took us another hour to get to the colorado river, arriving at the silver bridge after 2:12 of running. the part between cottonwood and phantom ranch is the prettiest part of the run, well-suited for running and very varied terrain, with a stretch of rather narrow canyon walls for the final miles of the trail.
from the colorado river, it would be quite a bit shorter to continue to the south rim, which is at a lower altitude than the north rim and also not as far away. which means that running from the north rim to the river and back is the longest
rim-to-rimyou can do. after a short break on the silver bridge we headed back and refilled our bottles at the phantom ranch, the last water stop before cottonwood. the trail back to cottonwood is ok, but by the time we were heading back (around 10am), it was already pretty hot, getting there earlier would be a good idea... getting back to cottonwood took well over an hour, getting there after 3:40 of running. short refill, and then continuing on to manzanita point for another refill and a short snack.
from manzanita point, it was mostly hiking for me, the trail is pretty steep and i simply did not have the energy to run all of it (except the few not-so-steep stretches along the way). i again skipped roaring springs, the water from manzanita point is sufficient to get to supai tunnel.
the final stretch from supai tunnel again is less than perfect, too many horses and too much sand. but it's not that far to the top, which is nice. in the end, the whole trip took me 4:30 of running and 6:30 total, most of these additional 2h spent hiking uphill. total elevation gain/loss is 1900m/6200ft. it is a gorgeous trip, and after a quick shower i once more sat on the lodge's terrace and looked down into the canyon - it is a pretty good feeling to be able to say:
i just ran that.
that final run concluded our running trip, and we headed back to las vegas to get on our planes. which turned out to be easier said than done, because there was a rainstorm and flights were not allowed to take off for a while. the eventual start was pretty shaky, but as usual when flying out of las vegas, the views of the desert and the urban sprawl slowly covering it are fascinating. the view also reminded me that i still need to do the north/south loop combination of mount charleston, but this has to wait until the next trip to las vegas.
another thing i would still like to do is a real rim-to-rim run of the grand canyon, i don't really care in which direction. it would just be better to really cross the grand canyon than to just do it theoretically. there is a shuttle service (leaving the south rim at 1.30pm, which would be perfect with an early start on the north rim), but the drive takes forever (about 5.5h for the 355km/220mi). it would be ideal having someone driving over your stuff from one side to the other while you're running, but that requires a bit of organization and sacrifice (on the driver's part).