South Kaibab Trail hike

Grand Canyon National Park
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South Kaibab Trail hike

Distance: 15.0mi
Elevation: 4,731ft
Time: 7.5-8h

Difficulty Rating:

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9.7 Overall Rating
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Completing this trail in one-day is only for the fittest of all hikers.  We debated including this hike, as it is so dangerously tough.  Better yet consider getting a backcountry camping permit and staying at the Bright Angel Campground!

South Kaibab Trail hike Map

Getting there

The Kaibab Trailhead parking lot (located on Yaki Point) is closed to general traffic, and must be reached by a bus. The easiest way to do so is to take the Hikers Express which leaves the Backcountry Office at 5, 6 and 7 am. It also passes by the visitors centre shortly thereafter. This bus will take you direct to the trailhead, where you’ll find water bottle refill stations and pit toilets. If you choose to start later (not recommended), or need a ride back after returning, you will have to take the Orange Bus back to the visitors centre, then connect to where you parked your car. Check the hours of the buses when you arrive to confirm you will make it back in time!

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About

When to do

Spring and Fall, avoid summer heat

Backcountry Campsites

Yes, permits required

Toilets

At Trailhead, two along trail

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Out and back


South Kaibab Trail
Elevation Graph


Route Description for South Kaibab Trail hike

After filling up on water, find the trailhead behind the washrooms. The steep trail starts by putting you right in the action; switchback city! Keep an eye out – mules use this trail as well and you will most likely also encounter some dung. Take care and yield to both uphill hikers and mules.

After descending 760ft and going just under a mile you will reach Ohh Ahh Point – a scenic point offering fantastic views down into the inner canyon, and across at the Bright Angel Canyon leading up towards the North Rim. This is a fantastic place to stop if you just want a short hike. Continuing on from here, the crowds will start to thin out and the sun exposure will begin.

After descending a little ways further you will traverse a huge, exposed ridgeline. Soon you will reach the first washroom located along the trail, at Cedar Ridge. This is another great point to turn around, as it is a comfortable 1.5mi from the rim (1120ft). After traversing Cedar Ridge you will descend even more sun exposed switchbacks, then continue along another ridgeline towards Skeleton Point.

Skeleton Point is a very popular destination for a more moderate day hike, as it retains many of the fantastic views found lower down on the trail while keeping the elevation gain to a minimum. Hiking to Skeleton Point is similar in difficulty to going down to Horseshoe Mesa on the Grandview Trail — it is 3.0mi one way, descending 2040ft. It would be rated a 3/5 for difficulty

After roughly 1.4mi past Skeleton Point you will reach the second washroom, called Tip Off. Shortly after this stop you will start seeing views of the Colorado River, and will experience some of the hardest switchbacks on the trail. These red switchbacks are relentless as you descend down a narrow gully all the way down to the river.

Finally at the bottom, you will cross over a neat black suspension bridge. On the other side we recommend resting on Boat Beach, a picturesque sandy beach that you can easily identify from the hike down. You can find some nice shade interspersed here, and you will be able to dunk you feet in the river. Don’t swim, however, as the strong currents of the Colorado are extremely dangerous.

Insider Hints

  • A very popular long day hike or backpack is to descend the South Kaibab and ascend the Bright Angel Trail. If camping, do so at the Bright Angel Campground, though a backcountry permit is required.

  • Head up the well signposted trail to the canteen at Phantom Ranch to grab a snack or a cold drink (with ice!). Though outlandishly expensive, we think lemonade has never tasted sweeter.

  • It is impossible to emphasize enough how important it is to start early. Starting to hike at 3 AM is not uncommon.

  • All the signs at the trailhead suggest eating copious amounts of salty, carbohydrate-dense foods. We find that a can of Pringles or similar chips fit the bill in the most perfect way for these long hikes!

Comments

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Lisa B 2 months ago

What a beautiful hike. South Kaibab Trail is really fantastic, definitely not too miss if you can do it.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
Burokai 3 months ago

For me, this hike was the highlight of the Grand Canyon, more because of how proud I was to do it rather than the views (which were amazing too). It takes lots of effort to do it (starting from very early start ending with the elevation) but is absolutely worth it

Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
9h 00m Time Taken
Mo 3 months ago

it was very nice hike. i take a lot of time but managed to do it in one day. very hot weather

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
8h 15m Time Taken
Mikey 3 months ago

really enjoyed the south kaibab trail. beautiful views, perfect weather, nice people

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
8h 00m Time Taken
4 Comments

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