One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon presents hikers with a myriad of thrilling–albeit strenuous–opportunities. Tackling the 24-mile rim-to-rim hike, which stretches from North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim to Bright Angel in the south, is not for the faint of heart. For the able-bodied and willing, however, it’s an unforgettable experience. Read on to learn more about the journey, including tips on health and safety.

When should I go?

The best time to hike the Grand Canyon is in the dry season, which stretches from May to October. If possible, try to avoid high summer, when temperatures run high (along with the crowds).

What’s the elevation range of the hike?

The total descent is 6,000 feet and 14.3 miles. Once you connect to Bright Angel trail, you’ll begin the 9.6 mile ascent (4,500 feet). It’s especially important to stay hydrated when experiencing severe losses and gains in elevation, so don’t skimp on the water supply.

Are there accommodations available along the trails?

Most hikers split the trip into two halves, completing the descent on the first day before tackling the ascent the next morning. There are campsites available at Bright Angel Campground, but for a true indulgence, make reservations at the illustrious Phantom Ranch.

What exercises should I do to get in shape for the hike?

If a solid cardio workout is already part of your exercise routine, keep it up–your heart will need to be in prime condition before you hit the trails. Walking or running are highly recommended, as your knees and hips will bear the brunt of the activity.

What sort of gear will I need?

Plenty of sunscreen and lip protection is essential, as well as a hat that provides a good degree of shade. You should also bring along UV-protective eyewear, a first-aid kit, and snacks that provide carbs and protein (trail mix is an easy and portable option). Be sure to break in a good pair of sneakers or lightweight hiking boots a week or two before the trip.

Is transportation provided back to the starting point?

Yes, there are some shuttle services available. Alternatively, you can leave a second vehicle at the South Rim and drive back to North Kaibab yourself.

Happy trails, and enjoy the scenery!