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.
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.
- Distance: 20.4
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 36.085465, -112.08637
Look up towards the north-northwest and you can see Natural Arch at the top of the butte.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 36.098746, -112.087186
The Bright Angel Campground (north side of the Colorado River) comes into view for the first time.
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.
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.
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.
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
Location: 36.060547, -112.086426
Trail leading down to Cedar Ridge and O’Neill Butte. ©Trung Q. Le © Darrin Funk
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