South Kaibab Trail | Grand Canyon
The South Kaibab Trail is a hiking experience of lifetime. This well worn path leads thousands of travelers down the steep canyon walls and onto the canyon floor where it meets the mighty Colorado River. Located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, this hike is a must for any hikers bucket list!
- Distance: South Kaibab to Bright Angel Campground: 7.0 miles one way
- Elevation: 7260
- Gain/Loss: 5140
- Difficulty: 4.5
- Rating: 5
- Solitude: 2.5
Located on the South Rim, the South Kaibab Trail is only accessible by shuttle bus only. I will not go into depth about how to time out and where to access the bus routes but here is the website that will give you all the information you need (BUS ROUTES). The trail begins south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. From the very beginning the trail offers breath-taking views of the canyon. Pictures just cannot describe the depth and awe of the magnificent canyon. You will ride the bus packed with tourists who will take thousands of pictures at the trailhead. Once you hit the trail, however, there really was not as many hikers as I imagined. We encountered about a dozen hikers at around 9 a.m. hiking to Ooh-Aah Point which is .9 miles from the trailhead. This point offers a spectacular view of the canyon and makes a great day hike for many tourists.
From Ooh-Aah Point, the trail will continue on to Cedar Ridge 1.5 miles from the trailhead. This is a good turn-a-round for first time or casual canyon hikers. The trail gets a little narrow and was a little scary for us to pass because the wind was unbelievable at this point in the hike. We hiked in February and it was overcast, cold, and windy most of the morning but the hike is so unreal that the weather was nominal. After Cedar Ridge you will come to Skeleton Point (3 miles from trailhead) where you will catch your first glimpse of the mighty creator of this vast canyon, the Colorado River. I was taken back when I saw the river itself. I don't want to get all weird here but it was almost an emotional experience looking down the canyon and beholding the magnificence of this water. It was truly spectacular. The color of the water also took me back. It was a very green color, not the ugly green but more like a aqua green color. It was beautiful.
The trail continues down the canyon wall and towards the river the rest of the 4 miles or so to the bottom. The next prominent feature you will encounter is the Kaibab Bridge. This is a pretty cool suspension bridge and makes for cool pictures of the Colorado. It was during this section of the hike that we ran right into a big horned sheep. The sheep was obviously used to human interaction because it looked right at us from a distance of only a few feet and continued to graze. It was really cool to see one up close. From the bridge you are just about to the campground. This would be a good place to stop and refill your water bottles at one of the filling stations (which are marked). It is also a cool spot to eat lunch on the sandy beach next to the river. I don't recommend swimming and I actually think I remember that it is not allowed because of the swift undercurrents.
Once at the bottom the campground is less than 1/4 mile from the bridge. There are 33 campsites which consists of 31 small group sites (1-6 people) and 2 larger group sites (7-11 people). You will need a backcountry permit to stay overnight anywhere in the inner canyon including Bright Angel Campground. This campground is extremely popular and permits are very difficult to obtain so I suggest researching and planning several months in advance. More details on backcountry permits can be found using this website. Once you have stayed your time at the bottom I recommend visiting Phantom Ranch which is 1/4 mile from the campsites using the North Rim Trail. My Thoughts: This was an amazing hike. It has been on my bucket list since I was a child and it took over 20 years for me to finally get out there and do it. My wife and I actually left our home on a whim and visited the Grand Canyon on a weekend. I recommend this hike to every healthy and able bodied person. The actual hike is not very long and will only take a few hours to get down at most. The exhausting part is the almost 5000 ft. elevation gain on the way back up. I will forever remember my time on the trail and will be making several return trips in the future.
- BRING WATER. There is no water sources on the South Kaibab Trail until you get to the bottom of the canyon.
- The weather is very deceiving. At the top of the canyon it may be freezing cold but the inner canyon can be scorching. The weather is very different at the top than it is at the bottom. Check out the weather dangers with this link.
- A camera is a must have.
- Plan your trip several months in advance. Do tons of research.
- Day use does not require a permit. Only backcountry backpacking requires a permit.
- Stay at least 3 days. There are a lot of finger trails to explore so take your time.
- If you would are staying the night but don't want to pay the fee to stay at a campsite or lodging in the park, we camped just a few miles out of town on national forest land for free. I was surprised to find nicely graded forest service roads and campsites. We did not see anyone else while finding our own spot. This tip was actually given to me by a police officer who pulled me over in the park! I was looking for a campsite (everything was full and it was dark) and I accidentally ran a stop sign in the park.
- Hit the trail as early as you possibly can. There will be less crowds and it makes for awesome sunrise photos.
- DO NOT ATTEMPT to go rim to canyon to rim in one day. Although this is exactly what we did I do not recommend it for two reasons; 1. It is fairly dangerous and it sucks losing 5000 ft. and gaining it back the same day and 2. You have to really book it down and back up to make it in one day. This leaves very little time, if any, to explore and take in the views of the canyon.