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#49326 - 03/06/17 08:23 PM Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim
Steve Chamberlin Offline


Registered: 06/17/11
Posts: 55
Loc: California
Has anybody here ever hiked or run the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in a day, and can give me a general sense of the difficulty as compared to hiking up and down Whitney in a day?

A friend of mine is trying to convince me to hike (or run) Grand Canyon R2R with him this fall. The distance and elevation change are both similar to Whitney. I hiked Mt. Whitney a couple of years ago, so maybe R2R is of similar difficulty, but I suspect R2R may be worse.

- R2R begins with miles of steep downhill to trash your quads, and puts the hardest climbing at the very end when you're already exhausted
- it can be crazy hot down in the Grand Canyon, even in the fall
- huge temperature swings require carrying lots of clothes
- only a few places to get water
- when you finish, you're a 5.5 hour car trip from where you started

This is not a "which hike is best" contest - I'm just trying to get a sense of what to expect if I agree to do the R2R trip.

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#49327 - 03/06/17 09:06 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve Chamberlin]
DUG Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Wildomar
I did a main trail hike on Mt Whitney (my 18th) and I did Grand Canyon R2R2R last year. The Grand Canyon run/hike was longer in miles and hours (17), but Whitney was the harder hike. If you really want a buttkicker of a challenge try Cactus to Clouds to Cactus (no tram). We knocked that out as well.

This year is Telescope Peak from Shorty's Well and a 1/2 marathon in Death Valley. In July.

But yeah, Grand Canyon is super chill compared to Whitney. For me anyway. Your mileage may vary..................DUG

EDIT - I just reread and noticed you're only going one way. Should be even easier.


Edited by DUG (03/06/17 09:08 PM)

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#49328 - 03/06/17 09:45 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: DUG]
Steve Chamberlin Offline


Registered: 06/17/11
Posts: 55
Loc: California
Thanks, that helps. Yes, we'd be doing Grand Canyon one-way R2R, not round-trip R2R2R.

It sounds like you've done some very challenging hikes and runs.

I'm surprised you found R2R2R to be easier than Mt. Whitney. By the numbers, R2R2R looks much harder: 42 miles and 10500 feet of climbing, vs "only" 22 miles and 6100 feet for Whitney. Plus R2R2R puts the hardest part last, when you're already most tired. What do you think made R2R2R feel easier than Whitney? The lower altitude? Better trail surface?

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#49329 - 03/06/17 09:58 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve Chamberlin]
DUG Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Wildomar
Oxygen. I'm a fan............................DUG

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#49330 - 03/06/17 10:08 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve Chamberlin]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6944
Loc: Fresno, CA
I did the R2R in May, 2013. It sure seemed easier to me than Whitney. Something about a slow climb out of the heat into cooler air. Those pounding miles at the end of the day on the Main Whitney Trail seem to get to me.

I trained by doing a Four-Mile-Panorama Trail hike in Yosemite 2 weeks before, then a Happy Isles to Clouds Rest + Half Dome and back 1 week before. That mileage and elevation was similar to the R2R, so once I did that, I knew I was good for Grand Canyon.

I left about 4:30 AM, made it to the Colorado by 9 or 10. Toughest part was the hot slog up to Cottonwood Camp from the river. After that, it cooled down and temps were pleasant. Of course that was in May.

Best part was the car swap before the hike, and key-swap at Ribbon Falls. My car was waiting for me at the North Rim. I drove to Mesquite NV that night before stopping for the night.

Here's the TR: Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim day hike


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#49331 - 03/07/17 05:36 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve C]
Golden Ram Offline


Registered: 05/14/15
Posts: 5
Loc: North Carolina
I did R2R in 2015 and I have summitted Mt Whitney twice (2013, 2016). I found R2R orders of magnitude harder than Mt Whitney. The trails are setup more for mules than humans, and it is hard to get an even gait while hiking so I found I expended more energy. The heat affected me more than does the lack of oxygen affects me on Whitney. Of course, this was mid-June and AZ was in an early heat wave, it was around 111 that day.

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#49333 - 03/07/17 10:17 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve Chamberlin]
John Sims Offline


Registered: 04/20/12
Posts: 496
Loc: Sunnyvale, California
Originally Posted By: Steve Chamberlin
Thanks, that helps. Yes, we'd be doing Grand Canyon one-way R2R, not round-trip R2R2R.

It sounds like you've done some very challenging hikes and runs.

I'm surprised you found R2R2R to be easier than Mt. Whitney. By the numbers, R2R2R looks much harder: 42 miles and 10500 feet of climbing, vs "only" 22 miles and 6100 feet for Whitney. Plus R2R2R puts the hardest part last, when you're already most tired. What do you think made R2R2R feel easier than Whitney? The lower altitude? Better trail surface?


Hi Steve,

Not sure what route your are planning, but the South Kaibab route is 41.2 miles roundtrip, or about 21 miles one way, approximately the same distance as Mt. Whitney MT roundtrip. I've done both, and agree with DUG. Altitude is the difference, although as you point out the R2R does finish "Uphill". Be very sure to take sufficient food. You will need the energy to get out of the canyon (based on my experience).

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#49335 - 03/07/17 10:42 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve C]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 281
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Thanks for posting, everybody. R2R has been on my ďmaybe Iíll do that somedayĒ list for years. Maybe Iíll get serious about it now. The heat will definitely affect me more than the altitude on Whitney.

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#49336 - 03/07/17 11:51 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: bobpickering]
DUG Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Wildomar
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
Thanks for posting, everybody. R2R has been on my ďmaybe Iíll do that somedayĒ list for years. Maybe Iíll get serious about it now. The heat will definitely affect me more than the altitude on Whitney.


Don't go when it's hot........................DUG

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#49337 - 03/07/17 02:38 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: bobpickering]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6944
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
Thanks for posting, everybody. R2R has been on my "maybe I'll do that someday" list for years. Maybe Iíll get serious about it now. The heat will definitely affect me more than the altitude on Whitney.


Bob, I think it would be a cake walk for you! The bigger part of the issue, though, is the logistics of getting back to your car. You can pay a shuttle service, but there is the problem of where to spend the night (either before starting, or after the hike.)

North rim options are particularly scarce, South Rim not so bad, if you maybe extend your search to the town of Tusayan, ~five miles from the rim. ...This might work, but I haven't checked things out: Drive to north rim, spend night maybe in the car (could even be outside the GC boundary, but the drive is farther "in" to the trail head.) Hike across, have a room lined up, as close as possible (likely in Tusayan). Next day take a shuttle back to N. rim. I highly recommend doing it in May -- as soon as the N. rim is open to the public. Temps at the bottom are already ~90 at the river in May.

If you line up ideal accommodations, you need to start up to a year in advance.

By the way, for Bob and Steve Ch: I ended up carrying a quart of water through the entire hike without using it -- I was worried about emergencies (and the heat). I saw where I needed to ask (and I did the day before the hike) about the availability of water at the usual water stops, and was told they were all operational. By drinking a pint or more at each stop, I really didn't need to carry the extra several pounds of water. Of course, the temperature wasn't so bad on my hike.

Another BTW: Say, with Steve and his buddy going, and Bob interested, you guys could set up a car and key swap situation. That really does make it easier to plan the trip. I guess the biggest issue is that one party might bail on the trip.

If you have long-term plans, and can set it up, this is another possibility: Set up lodging overnight at either end, hike across one day, spend the night, then hike back the next. I talked with a woman at Phantom Ranch who was doing that.


Edited by Steve C (03/07/17 02:47 PM)

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#49339 - 03/07/17 08:46 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Online


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Reno, NV
I backpacked R2R north to south coming up the Bright Angel Trail. There is some parking right at the Bright Angel trail head. This could be a factor in planning. Us old folks camped two nights, first night at Cottonwood second at Indian Garden. Easy peasy. We luckily had a friend who helped with the logistics. We stayed before the hike in Tusayan at the Red Feather Lodge, left a car at the Bright Angel trail head, drove to the North Rim, and hiked down to Cottonwood to camp the first night.(We were on the trail around 1pm) Our friend hike down with us and camped the first night, hiked back up the North Kaibab Trail, camped at the North Rim, then drove to the South Rim to meet us (he and one in our party then went up to Great Basin Park)

I tried unsuccessfully to get camping permits twice. After some input from a ranger I was successful the third time. There are only 10 campsites at Cottonwood so they are always booked. We went the first week in October and the weather was very comfortable - mid 50's at campsites at night, around 85 mid day at Phantom Ranch.

The Bright Angel Trail is very popular and has two rest area/water stops between Indian Garden and the South Rim. Very conveniently spaced. Lots of tourists come down the trail a ways then head back up.

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#49350 - 03/09/17 05:53 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: RenoFrank]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 578
Loc: Manchester, NH
I've not done a R2R, but have done the loop down N. Kaibab & up Bright Angel three times as a dayhike. I've done Mt. Whitney as a dayhike about 15 times. Of the two, the above GC loop is easier. Not easy - easier. And, for context - I'm not a superhiker, nor marathoner. Will turn 70 this year, and enjoy hiking.

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#49454 - 03/24/17 10:58 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: Steve Chamberlin]
cantare Offline


Registered: 04/07/14
Posts: 8
Loc: California
Discounting the potential for extreme heat in the GC, I'd say Whitney's tougher than R2R. Same elevation gain, but you're 6000' higher and the trail is significantly rougher. Now if you make it R2R2R in a day, that's definitely harder!

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#49466 - 03/26/17 04:52 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: cantare]
DUG Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Wildomar
Originally Posted By: cantare
Discounting the potential for extreme heat in the GC, I'd say Whitney's tougher than R2R. Same elevation gain, but you're 6000' higher and the trail is significantly rougher. Now if you make it R2R2R in a day, that's definitely harder!


We did R2R2R in a day. Still think Whitney is harder...............................................DUG

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#49476 - 03/27/17 11:13 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: DUG]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 281
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Originally Posted By: DUG
Originally Posted By: cantare
Discounting the potential for extreme heat in the GC, I'd say Whitney's tougher than R2R. Same elevation gain, but you're 6000' higher and the trail is significantly rougher. Now if you make it R2R2R in a day, that's definitely harder!


We did R2R2R in a day. Still think Whitney is harder...............................................DUG

I havenít done R2R, let alone R2R2R, but Iím pretty sure R2R2R is harder than Whitney. I HAVE done a Whitney double. THAT might be harder than R2R2R. Or maybe not. It depends on whether you like hot weather better than thin air.

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#49480 - 03/27/17 07:27 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: bobpickering]
over1812 Offline


Registered: 07/24/16
Posts: 23
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
What's a Whitney Double??

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#49481 - 03/27/17 08:35 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: over1812]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6944
Loc: Fresno, CA
Whitney summit from Whitney Portal, twice in one day.

One guy has done a Whitney triple. He used the North Fork route.

Whitney Triple: mission accomplished

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#49482 - 03/27/17 09:12 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: bobpickering]
DUG Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Wildomar
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
Originally Posted By: DUG
Originally Posted By: cantare
Discounting the potential for extreme heat in the GC, I'd say Whitney's tougher than R2R. Same elevation gain, but you're 6000' higher and the trail is significantly rougher. Now if you make it R2R2R in a day, that's definitely harder!


We did R2R2R in a day. Still think Whitney is harder...............................................DUG

I havenít done R2R, let alone R2R2R, but Iím pretty sure R2R2R is harder than Whitney. I HAVE done a Whitney double. THAT might be harder than R2R2R. Or maybe not. It depends on whether you like hot weather better than thin air.


It wasn't hot when I did R2R2R. Either time. R2R2R is a lot easier to run, with better trail than Whitney. Less need to carry much water, allowing for even lighter loads. I've actually done both and feel that Whitney is more difficult. When you try R2R2R, don't go when it's hot. Simple......................................DUG

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#49549 - 04/04/17 09:33 PM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: DUG]
DayHiker Offline


Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 5
Loc: California
Right now, the North Kaibab trail is closed for repair at the Redwall Bridge due to a rock slide and the trail from Pipe Creek to the silver bridge is also closed for repair.

http://stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/201...s/#.WORyCjvyuM8

My husband and I have done the R2R2R many times, starting from the south rim, but we stay overnight at the north rim before hiking back to the south rim. We think the Mt. Whitney day hike to the summit and back down is harder because of the altitude.

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#49558 - 04/10/17 10:04 AM Re: Compare Whitney day hike vs Grand Canyon rim-to-rim [Re: DayHiker]
BFR Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 29
Loc: Santa Monica, CA
Reading this post made me wonder - would be a real challenge to hike Whitney AND do R2R in the same day. (Would also mention that in the summer, Arizona is on the same time as California). Looks like the distance betweeen Whitney Portal and the Grand Canyon is 490 miles for the North Rim and 520 miles for the South Rim. Seems like this drive could be completed in ~7.5 hours (per Google maps). Super fast hiking times for Whitney Portal and R2R are both around ~8 hours.

So conceivably, a day could look like this:

12am-8am: Whitney Hike
8am-3:30pm: Whitney to GC North Rim
3:30pm-12am: R2R

Would be a fun challenge - wonder if it's ever been attempted.
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