Grand Canyon: Hiking South Kaibab Trail

After our six-mile hike on the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, I was feeling prepared for what we should expect hiking the other major South Rim trail our second full day in the park.

The South Kaibab Trail is 6.8 miles to the Colorado River. The National Park Service – in line with its recommendation for Bright Angel – suggests that day hikers stick to a six-mile roundtrip hike on South Kaibab, especially during summer.

South Kaibab has some natural turnaround points at Ooh Aah Point (1 mile roundtrip), Cedar Ridge (three miles roundtrip), and Skeleton Point (six miles roundtrip). We had other things on our itinerary and needed to make it to our AirBnB in Sedona that night so we decided to wake up early and hike to Cedar Ridge before continuing on with our day.

Important to know about South Kaibab: There is no trailhead parking. You can either take a shuttle from the visitor center, or you can go early and try to grab one of the limited street parking spots on Desert View Drive and then hike about three quarters of a mile along the Rim Trail to the South Kaibab trailhead.

We didn’t want to be beholden to the shuttle schedule and were not thrilled with the prospect of sharing a shuttle with people during COVID-19 so we opted to checkout of our cabin early, find parking along the road, and add some extra mileage to our overall hike by walking to the trailhead.

The canyon was beautiful, snowy, cold, and quiet as we began winding our way down.

As we started to wrap around to where the trail was more exposed to the rising sun the snow disappeared. We were amazed that there was no one around – we had the trail completely to ourselves! Also no wildlife – we kept an eye out for sheep and rodents, but no luck.

Before we knew it, we were at the much photographed Ohh Ahh Point. This is a popular spot and if you’re specifically headed there for photos, go later in the day when the sun is above the canyon rim. We were still partly in the shade, which was fine by us for hiking and viewing the canyon, but not as great for taking panoramic pictures.

There were a few people around when we reached the Cedar Ridge turnaround. Everyone was continuing on to Skeleton Point but taking the one opportunity on the trail to hit the facilities before heading down.

I really enjoyed Cedar Ridge as a turnaround point – we were able to walk way out on the ridge and could really take in the entire canyon. The sun was finally high enough that everything was bathed in warm light and the sky was brilliantly blue. It was a perfect morning for this hike!

As we made our way back to the trailhead more and more people were coming down. I’m so glad we went early! That is always the advice, and I try and always take it – especially now when you can’t stay six feet apart on the trail and are trying to huff and puff out with your mask on.

We realized the clumps of people coming down were likely due to the shuttles starting to run and bringing bunches of people at a time. If you prefer to hike alone and can get yourself to the road, I definitely recommend that option.

Ultimately our trip clocked in at 4.73 miles roundtrip and 1,205 feet of gain. From car door to car door it took us about three hours with 30 minutes of stopping time for photos. If you’re looking for a fairly modest half-day hike in the canyon, this is a great one!

2 thoughts on “Grand Canyon: Hiking South Kaibab Trail

  1. Pingback: Hiking in Sedona: Sugarloaf Summits – Heather's Compass

  2. Pingback: Grand Canyon: Driving Desert View Drive – Heather's Compass

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