South Kaibab Trail,
Grand Canyon National Park
Distance: 8 miles Time: 6 hours Type: There and back
A full three and a half years late and during a very different period of my life, I returned to the Grand Canyon. This time I was touring Southern Arizona and Northern Utah and visiting places which I hadn't had time to see during my first trip to the area. The high density of national and state parks, the unique beauty and the diversity of landscapes make this a very special part of the world and an area well worth coming back to. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon was from the north side, which is closer to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, but more remote and less developed than the south side. On that occasion, I hiked into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail (see here); this time I tried out the other end of the same trail - the South Kaibab Trail - from the south rim.
To access the trail, you'll need to park at one of the parking areas (most likely at the village) and then take one of the free shuttles, which run frequently. The trailhead is a short distance along Yaki Point Road.
The trail offers the most direct route to the bottom of the canyon from the south rim and follows exposed ridges most of the way, affording brilliant views from the get-go. A hike to the Colorado, or beyond to Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch, takes most of a day so, as a return trip, would need to be done over 2 days (unless you are extremely fit and prepared to start very, very early). Otherwise, how far you go along the trail is up to you - just remember, you will need to hike out (and up) whatever you hike in. That's when the real work begins. There are lots of signs warning hikers not to go too far - there is no water on the trail and you will be fully exposed to the sun in summer. Don't take these warnings lightly.
The first marked viewpoint is Ooh Aah Point, about one mile along the trail. Those wanting a short (and easy) walk can turn around here but it's well worth continuing a short distance further to Cedar Ridge, which affords even better views (and a nice area for a pit stop).
Skeleton Point, around 3 miles along the trail and a 2,000 drop in elevation, is perhaps the best destination for a day hike. The views are truly remarkable, as you can see the Colorado and steep drops which seem to continue forever. The terrain also drops quite steeply at this point. I hiked until the bottom of the switchbacks beyond Skeleton Point and returned at a fairly leisurely pace. Just bear in mind that, even here, you are only half way in terms of descent to the river. It isn't called Grand for nothing.
Most visitors remain on the rim but a hike below gives a completely different perspective on - and appreciation for - the Canyon. Take some water, take a camera and soak in some of the best views on Earth.
For more information, see: