Friday, March 13, 2009

Hiking the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

To get a real sense of the magnitude of the Grand Canyon and to get views from within, we hiked down the South Kaibab trail to Cedar Point. This trail is the only person-made trail in the park and begins just southwest of Yaki Point. The trail immediately descends through a series of tight steep switchbacks that were cut through the side of sheer rock cliffs.

Once through this area, the trail levels a bit and continues without switchbacks following along the contour of the ridge. From this area looking to the left under the rim, you will see the first of several micro-climate zones. This zone is a small forest of Douglas fir trees which seem truly out of place in this desert landscape. These trees only exist under the shadow of the rim where it’s much cooler and has more moisture than the surrounding areas. Continuing on the trail, as you start getting closer to Ooh Aah and Cedar Points, the trail becomes a series of large steps created by timbers laid across the trail. These steps are hard to hike down (or up), for the mule and hiker traffic over the years has made the steps very deep so you have to take long unnatural strides to transverse.

Ooh Aah Point is the first viewpoint that you come to where you can see down the Grand Canyon to the east. This viewpoint is 0.9 miles from the top with a descent of 600 feet. From here you are a little more than halfway to Cedar Point. This is a great place to take in the enormity of the canyon and gain a perspective on how large the Inner Canyon really is, in comparison with the entire Grand Canyon (two huge canyons in one). Pushing on a little further, you reach Cedar Point which is a small plateau. This is a wonderful place to get expansive views down the canyon in both directions (east and west). Here you can really see the canyon open up. Cedar Point is 1.5 miles from the top with a descent of 1140 feet. This is a great place to have lunch, take some incredible photos and use the pit toilets before you hike back or continue down into the canyon.

While we were resting and exploring at Cedar Point, a team of pack-mules packing out trash from Phantom Ranch (which is at the bottom of the canyon) stopped for a needed rest. They invoked a nostalgic feeling of the canyon’s historical past and although these mules are hard on the trails and leave their waste, they are still necessary today to provide access to the canyon that would not be possible otherwise.

This hike took us 1 hour and 45 minutes round trip, not counting the hour we spend at Cedar Point. From the rim to Cedar Point you pass through 10 million years of geologic history and for each step you go back in time 2000 years so take your time and enjoy this wonderful hike and experience.


1. Bring plenty of water and wear proper supportive hiking shoes.

2. When going up, walk on the sides of the trail or even on the inside bordering rocks for it’s much more level. You won’t need to take such big steps thus making it much easier.

3. Make sure you stop and look at the canyon at various times along your hike. We found the lighting was always changing, thus significantly changing the colors and shadows of the canyon.

4. You can’t drive and park at this trailhead. You must take the free shuttle bus from the Canyon View Information Plaza.


Jerry and Suzy said...

Brad and Suzanne, that's a hike we've never taken, and surely will not take in the future. Thanks you for taking us along with you and sharing the beauty of the canyon in your photos!

Joy and Phil said...

Oh ... to be young again! I would love to hike down into the Grand Canyon (one daughter went down when she was 13 [she is 48 now] with her Aunt and Uncle so lords it over everyone in her immediate family) but will just have to be content to peer over the edge and drink in the beauty from above.

That is when we ever get there. The big GC continues to be on our list of places to go and things to see.
Thanks for the tag-along! It was great. Loved the mule picture.

Joy and Phil

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