Living legend: Craig’s John Jepkema seeks world record as oldest man to hike Grand Canyon rim-to-rim |

Living legend: Craig’s John Jepkema seeks world record as oldest man to hike Grand Canyon rim-to-rim

John Jepkema completed a historic rim-to-rim backpacking trip in late October, becoming the oldest person to ever complete the trip.
Courtesy Photo

Craig resident John Jepkema has seen it all in his travels on foot.

From walking all throughout Craig and Moffat County, trails in Palisade and Utah, and three trips rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon — six times total at the bottom of the Canyon, Jepkema has always had his walking boots on.

His last trip rim-to-rim in October was a historic one though. Jepkema, at 91 years old, become the oldest man to ever complete the trip, setting a Guinness Book of World Record in the process.

John Jepkema, far left, poses for a photo with his hiking group at the Right Angel Trailhead following the completion of his historic backpacking trip from rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon.
Courtesy Photo

Jepkema completed the backpacking trip in October with Craig resident Ann Wagner, 70, and Loveland residents Craig Mortensen, 68; Pete Bergmann, 66; and John Whinery, 66. During the trip, the crew documented Jepkema’s journey for the record, allowing him to submit an application to the Guinness Book of World Record for the rim-to-rim hike.

“It was special this time because we were able to document it for the record,” Jepkema said. “It’ll be a few months before we get confirmation back that it’s the record, but we know for sure I’m the oldest to do it.”

At 91, Jepkema spent 5 days hiking from the North Kaibab Trailhead at the North Rim to the Bright Angel Trailhead at the South Rim. Training for four months leading up to the hike, Jepkema started seriously training in July and walked roughly 5-8 miles a day, five days a week, allowing him some recovery time.

John Jepkema stands at the Coconino Overlook during his 5-day hike from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon.
Courtesy Photo

Despite needing to walk around town to train, Jepkema was quick to point out that

With his age and the record open, Jepkema decided to go for it.

“I’m pretty competitive by nature,” Jepkema said. “I knew it was an open record, so I decided to go for it.”

The backpacking trip through the wilderness over the 5 days allowed for plenty of time to socialize with the rest of the group, making for a good time for all.

At the end of the walk, it wasn’t the accomplishment that struck Jepkema. It was the amount of people lined up to take pictures with the nonagenarian hiker.

“That was pretty special,” Jepkema said. “I am not sure how many lined up to take photos, but it had to be between 20 and 30 people.

“I wasn’t expecting that, but it certainly boosted my ego,” he added with a laugh.

Now that the record is set, Jepkema says he’ll take a break from hiking to possibly get back into competitive shooting, something he’s done for more than 70 years.

Jepkema shoots a .22 pistol and mainly attends matches in Denver.

“I started competitively shooting with some friends years and years ago and just kept at it,” he said. “It will be nice to get back into that.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.