Grand Canyon National Park: Yaki Point to Phantom Ranch

On this 13.7-mile out-and-back trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon tour rugged canyons, cross the Colorado River, and take in stunning river-to-rim views.
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On this 13.7-mile out-and-back trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon tour rugged canyons, cross the Colorado River, and take in stunning river-to-rim views.

This 13.7-mile route starts at South Kaibab Trailhead on the Grand Canyon's South Rim and immediately descends into the belly of the Grand Canyon on South Kaibab Trail. Along the way, the route passes O'Neill Butte, Skeleton Point, and breathtaking views of the surrounding canyons. At the bottom, cross Black Bridge, a suspension bridge over the Colorado River, and head west to Phantom Ranch and the mouth of Bright Angel Canyon.

PLAN IT

GUIDEBOOK AND MAP Hiking Grand Canyon National Park, 3rd Edition, Ron Adkison and Ben Adkison ($19, falcon.com). Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon ($12, natgeomaps.com). Plan other trips in the park using BACKPACKER's Grand Canyon National Park page.

CUSTOM TOPO MAPS Download tracks and waypoints, print or order custom topos, from the map tools menu on the web version of the trip report.

SEASON March to May and October to November. From June to September, inner canyon temps from are often above 100°F. Start early to beat the midday heat. Also, don't forget it is much easier to descend into the canyon than climb back up. Expect to spend at least double the time climbing than descending

KEY GEAR Wide-brim hat and six liters of water storage.

PERMITS $10 per permit, plus $5/person per night. Apply for a permit on the first of the month four months prior to your hike date (e.g., June 1 for a hike beginning in Nov.) and fax it to (928) 638-2125

CONTACT Backcountry Information Office: (928) 638-7875 (from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday), nps.gov/grca

STOCKUP Canyon Village Marketplace, South Rim. (928) 638-2262 http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

FREE TRIP PLANNERS Get news on vacation deals and lodging at mygrandcanyonpark.com

10 Summer Hiking Essentials

Water - Plain and some with electrolyte replacement.
Food - especially salty foods. Eat twice as much as normal.
First Aid Kit - bandaids, ace wrap, antiseptic, moleskin, etc.
Map - while many trails are well-marked, maps are helpful tools.
Pack - to carry the essentials.
Flashlight/Spare Batteries - allows you to hike out during the cool of the evening.
Spray Bottle - fill with water for your own personal air conditioning system.
Hat/Sunscreen - to keep the sun off you and protect your skin.
Whistle and/or Signal Mirror - for emergency use.
Waterproof Clothing - poncho or jacket; especially usefull during monsoon season (mid-July to early September).

The South Rim: Open All Year

The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All visitor services: camping, lodging, and restaurants are available year round.Reservations are strongly recommended during the busy summer season. Some facilities are closed during the winter. A free shuttle bus system operates in the Grand Canyon Village area. Make your visit easier by parking your car at the Visitor Center and using the free shuttle buses to get around the village.

Market Plaza is the Business Center of the Village. Here you will find a general store and deli, a bank, post office, and cafeteria at Yavapai Lodge. Market Plaza has a large parking lot (B) and is in a central location. It is a good place to park and access the park's free shuttle system.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 20.4

Waypoints

YPR001

Location: 36.053414, -112.083553

Head north from the South Kaibab Trailhead (port-a-potties are available here). From May to mid-October, fill water bottles at the spigot near the bus stop. Caution: There are no other water sources along the South Kaibab Trail.

YPR002

Location: 36.061469, -112.087061

Pass the first viewpoint, which reveals views of countless buttes to the east. If possible, time this stretch with the sunrise. Next, the trail snakes down the canyon on a multitude of switchbacks (supported by metal rebar and pipes). The switchbacks and well-maintained, paved trail make this potentially steep descent less difficult. As you descend, you'll get an up-close view of the canyon's various layers.

YPR003

Location: 36.064052, -112.089484

Head north along Cedar Ridge, a wide ridge that resembles a plateau (stunning bird's-eye views of the canyon). There are established composting toilets here.

YPR004

Location: 36.071722, -112.088702

As the trail winds to the east behind O'Neill Butte, you'll catch more views of the canyon below.

YPR005

Location: 36.081294, -112.09

Pass Skeleton Point, which offers the first views and sounds of the Colorado River. Look down to the east to see the numerous switchbacks ahead.

YPR006

Location: 36.085465, -112.08637

Look up towards the north-northwest and you can see Natural Arch at the top of the butte.

YPR007

Location: 36.090067, -112.088899

The trail travels across The Tipoff (there is a phone here that could be used in an emergency). Start marveling at all the buttes and points that surround you in every direction. Continue straight on the South Kaibab Trail at the next two intersections with Tonto West Trail, and Tonto East Trail. The metal stalls in the middle are used to tie up mules on their way up and down the rim.

YPR008

Location: 36.095302, -112.091193

Hike past an overlook with views of the Colorado River. Ahead, the dirt trail turns a reddish color, which stains shoes and socks.

YPR009

Location: 36.096245, -112.086652

First views of Black Bridge, a suspension bridge over the Colorado River. Look down on the series of switchbacks to come.

YPR010

Location: 36.097414, -112.087912

Soak up views of the Colorado River and surrounding canyons from this trailside overlook. The Colorado River becomes louder as you descend to the suspension bridge.

YPR011

Location: 36.098746, -112.087186

The Bright Angel Campground (north side of the Colorado River) comes into view for the first time.

YPR012

Location: 36.099344, -112.088872

Stay right @ Y-intersection on the South Kaibab Trail (toward Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground). River Trail enters on the left.

YPR013

Location: 36.100433, -112.089064

Walk across Black Bridge. To the west, you can see the Silver Bridge, as well as Bright Angel Campground. Below, whitewater rafters and kayakers take breaks on the beach next to the Colorado River.

YPR014

Location: 36.099838, -112.093966

The trail passes 800-year-old ruins along the banks of the Colorado River. Turn left @ 3-way intersection to cross Silver Bridge. Potable water (seasonal) and a bathroom are available here. Ahead, the brownish-grey dirt trail transitions to a reddish color.

YPR015

Location: 36.10414, -112.095748

Trail passes through Phantom Ranch. Refreshments are available at the general store. You can also find potable water (seasonal) and bathrooms. Look across Bright Angel Creek to the west for the Trans-Canyon Telephone Line, a nationally registered Historic Place.

South Kaibab Trail

Location: 36.058781, -112.085053

Descending the South Rim via switchbacks on the South Kaibab Trail. ©Trung Q. Le

Views from Cedar Ridge

Location: 36.066063, -112.09033

Views to the east from Cedar Ridge. ©Trung Q. Le © Darrin Funk

View from Skeleton Point

Location: 36.081257, -112.089645

The switchbacks from Skeleton Point to the canyon floor. ©Trung Q. Le © Darrin Funk

O'Neill Butte

Location: 36.060547, -112.086426

Trail leading down to Cedar Ridge and O'Neill Butte. ©Trung Q. Le © Darrin Funk

Natural Arch

Location: 36.085213, -112.08625

©Trung Q. Le © Darrin Funk

Black Suspension Bridge

Location: 36.096249, -112.086525

View of the Colorado River and Black Bridge. ©Trung Q. Le

Black Suspension Bridge

Location: 36.099672, -112.088785

©Trung Q. Le

Bright Angel Canyon

Location: 36.106641, -112.093978

At Phantom Ranch, the canyon slowly encloses around you. ©Trung Q. Le.jpeg