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If you can only do one hike at the Grand Canyon, then South Kaibab Trail is the top best choice. Be prepared to be amazed by the sweeping views as you hike along a dramatic ridgeline. Above all, you will get to see the spectacular beauty of the Grand Canyon from blow the rim.
Where Is South Kaibab Trail Located
South Kaibab Trail is located on the South Rim. Specifically, it begins south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road.
How to Get to South Kaibab Trailhead
Access to South Kaibab trailhead is by shuttle bus only. Consequently, no private vehicles are allowed.
Orange Route/Kaibab Rim Shuttle Bus
To start with, take the Orange Route/Kaibab Rim Route Shuttle Bus and get off at South Kaibab Trailhead. I usually park at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and catch the shuttle from that location.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is a good place to get your bearings. There is a small cafe with food and beverages. And, there are clean restrooms as well. If you need a map, then stop by the ranger station and get one. Above all, check if there are any weather warnings for the Canyon. Lastly, make sure to fill up on your water before you leave, you are going to need it.
Hikers’ Express Shuttle Bus
Another option of getting to South Kaibab Trailhead is to take the Hikers’ Express Shuttle Bus. It is an early morning bus with service to South Kaibab Trailhead. I highly recommend it, since there is nothing better than watching the sunrise while descending into the canyon. It is simply a phenomenal experience.
Hiker’s Express Shuttle Bus departs from Bright Angel Lodge bus stop on the hour. The second stop is at Backcountry Information Center. The third stop is at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Finally, the last stop at South Kaibab Trailhead.
Bus leaves Bright Angel Lodge at:
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in March
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in April
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in May
4 am, 5 am, 6 am in June, July, August
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in September
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in October
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in November
8 am, 9 am in December, January, February
Read more about the Grand Canyon South Rim Shuttle System
Map of South Kaibab Trail
How Long Is South Kaibab Trail
To start with, the Grand Canyon Park rangers warn not to attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day. All in all, it is a good advice. Consequently, majority of the hikers trek to Ooh-Aah Point or Cedar Ridge and back. Some hikers continue on to Skeleton Point. It is entirely up to you how far you want to hike. Given these points, following are the distances between each stopping point:
- South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh-Aah Point – .9 miles – distance one-way
- Ooh-Aah Point to Cedar Ridge – .6 miles – distance one-way
- Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point – 1.5 miles – distance one-way
How Long Does It Take to Hike South Kaibab Trail
It usually takes 2.5 to 4 hours to hike from South Kaibab Trailhead to Cedar Ridge and back. Keep in mind, if it took you 2 hours to trek to Cedar Ridge, it might take you twice as long to cover that same ground on the way back. Needless to say, hiking out of the canyon is tough. Furthermore, plan your hike according to your capabilities. Above all, hiking is not a race, take your time and immerse yourself in a beautiful scenery.
- For example, to hike from South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh-Aah Point will take you about 1-2 hours round-trip
- Next, if you decide to continue to Cedar Ridge and back, it will be about 2-4 hours round-trip
- Finally, if you hike to Skeleton Point and back, it will be about 4-6 hours round-trip
What Is the Elevation Change on South Kaibab Trail
Hiking from the rim down is an opposite what a usual hike is for me. With South Kaibab Trail, you start with a descent and finish with an ascent. I think that is why it could be so misleading and you might underestimate the time needed to get back to the rim. As a rule of thumb, if it took you about 1 hour to hike down to Ooh-Aah Point, then reserve about 2 hours to get back to the rim.
Following are elevation changes:
- First of all, South Kaibab Trailhead sits at elevation of 7,260 feet. There is a 600-foot descent from South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh-Aah Point.
- Next, Ooh-Aah point is at the elevation of 6,660 feet and there is 540-foot descent from Ooh-Aah Point to Cedar Ridge.
- Finally, Cedar Ridge sits at elevation of 6,120 feet and the descent from Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point is 920 feet, with Skeleton Point being at elevation of 5,200 feet.
Furthermore, while you are descending down the canyon, think about your physical capabilities and plan accordingly. Consequently, once you reach Skeleton Point or any other points along the way, you will have to start your trek back to the trailhead.
South Kaibab Trail Quick Facts
- Ooh-Aah Point – .9 miles one-way (1.8 mi round-trip)
- Cedar Ridge – 1.5 miles one-way (3 mi round-trip)
- Skeleton Point – 3 miles one-way (6 mi round-trip)
- Elevation Change
- South Kaibab Trailhead – elevation 7,260 feet
- Ooh-Aah Point – elevation 6,660 feet
- Cedar Ridge – elevation 6,210 feet
- Skeleton Point – elevation 5,200 feet
- Difficulty Level – Strenuous
- Access – South of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road
South Kaibab Trail – What You Need to Know
In all honesty, the trail is definitely doable as long as you pace yourself, take the breaks, snack along the way and hydrate!
To start with, the trail begins with a series of switchbacks. Keep in mind , that the switchbacks are fairly steep in some places.
Next, after the switchbacks, the trail levels off and starts to descend at a gradual pace. After .9 miles, you will reach Ooh-Aah Point.
Ooh-Aah Point lives up to its name! As soon as you start checking out the views, I assure you that you will turn in one direction and declare “ooh” and then you will turn in the other direction and say “aah”. This spot has been very aptly named and the views are breathtaking.
By the way, it took me about 30 minutes to reach Ooh-Aah Point and about 45 minutes to ascend.
If you decide to continue, you will notice that the trail starts to run along an exposed ridgeline. In addition, the difficulty level intensifies at this point as the trail becomes a series of steps made out of logs and dirt. However, I think the views become more spectacular as you are descending. After .6 miles, you will reach the viewpoint at Cedar Ridge.
Cedar Ridge offers incredible 360-degree sweeping views. It is a great spot to re-energize and re-fuel your body. In addition, it is a good turn-a-round place for the first time canyon hikers.
If you are up to it, continue to Skeleton Point. You will encounter steep switchbacks along the way. After 1.5 miles you will catch the first view of the river. It is a very beautiful sight, something you will remember forever.
As soon as you are ready start your hike back to the rim. As I said before, hiking out of the canyon is tough. Take your time, take breaks, eat your snacks and drink water.
Following is a list of essential hiking gear and some hiking tips.
Essential Hiking Gear And Hiking Tips
Appropriate footwear – trail shoes are great; hiking boots are even better since they offer more support.
Plenty of water – without enough water your body’s muscles and organs simply cannot perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
Food – food will help keep up energy and morale.
Rain gear and extra clothing – the weatherman is not always right. Be prepared for unannounced rain or a cold spell. Dress in layers. It will allow you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
First aid kit – prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter.
Knife or multi-purpose tool – these enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, etc.
Sunscreen and sunglasses – especially in the summer time , you will need sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
Daypack/backpack – you need something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in.
Trash Bag – this will make sure that the trail will stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip-lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.
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