Too many years had gone by in visualizing a Grand Canyon hike that was due to come true this Labor Day weekend. The digital and mental pictures of this place don’t deliver much of the greatness that the Grand Canyon actually possesses. Its natural aesthetics offer a unique hiking experience into the canyons that inspires hikers to explore more of the grand landscape than their previous explorations every time. In a strenuous 4-mile hike (round trip) on the South Kaibab trail I embarked on, I ran down some steep edges, shared the narrow trail with mules, squirrels and other humans, gawked at the marvelous views, gasped for air, rested on rocks to regain strength, made hiking friends, photographed nature and strangers, asked to be photographed (which I rarely do), doubted my decisions, made back in one piece and much more. The distance doesn’t sound like much but solo hiking really is something in the South Rim. There is so much to take in from jaw dropping scenery to self validation, all because it’s the Grand Canyon.
South Kaibab is among the many fun filled and popular hiking trails for day hikes, although a bit underrated and quite strenuous. To hike down the trail, catch an Orange line shuttle at the South Entrance Visitor Center and get off at the South Kaibab trailhead. Following a few steep switchbacks, the trail takes you down to the Ooh-Aah point 1 mile into the hike – now imagine why it must have been named as such. Continue down for another half a mile and stop at the Cedar Ridge Point and enjoy the canyons from this level looking down the ridge on both sides. If you’re absolutely sure of your physical abilities, pull that brave and continue about a mile further down to the Skeleton Point and enjoy a change in the vantage point that make the canyons look much bigger, prettier and grander. But always (and I can’t emphasize this enough – ALWAYS) keep in mind that every step on the hike back is many times as difficult as it is going down. Carrying plenty of water and snacks is a must, particularly for this trail (thank god for the 2 liters of water and the apple I had slipped into my backpack, I lived to write my experience).
The best way to experience this trail though, is to go on a backpacking adventure all the way down to the Colorado river and kayak to acknowledge the nature’s grandiosity it quietly offers. Bear in mind to not overestimate the physical capability and attempt to hike down to the river and back on the same day. There is a reason why there are signs on the trail that warn you not to do that. The heat and elevation gain is unforgiving on the way back. If you’ve simply made up your mind to disregard the warnings, it’s a good idea to at least start off at the trailhead in the wee hours before the sun even wakes up to wish you good morning. As easy a hike it might be running down the literally edgy canyon trail, it’s many times harder to gather the effort to summon you back at the trailhead.
All in all, no matter how many trips you’ve taken, your next trip to the Grand Canyon always awaits with more adventure and a new bucket list to cross off.
(click on images to enlarge)
Hiking trails in South Rim to consider for day hikes:
South Kaibab Trail – No water in the trail
- Up to Ooh-Aah Point – 2 miles round trip
- Up to Cedar Ridge Point – 3 miles round trip
- Up to Skeleton Point – 6 miles round trip
Bright Angel Trail – Occasional water availability, best to carry your own
- 1.5 Mile Resthouse – 3 miles round trip
- 3 Mile Resthouse – 6 miles round trip
- Indian Garden – 9 miles round trip
- Plateau Point – 12 miles round trip – Extremely Strenuous
Hermit Trail – 3.5 miles round trip to Hermit Trail Junction – No water
Grand View Trail – No water
- Coconino Saddle – 2.2 miles roundtrip
- Miners Spring Junction – 6 miles roundtrip
- Horseshoe Mesa – 6 miles roundtrip
Closest airports to Grand Canyon:
- 1.5 hrs from Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Flagstaff, AZ (FLG)
- 3.5 hrs from Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix, AZ (PHX)
- 4 hrs from McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, NV (LAS)
- Grand Canyon Village
- Tusayan, AZ
- Flagstaff, AZ
Closest Towns from South Entrance:
- Tusayan: 5 minutes
- Flagstaff: 1.25 hrs
- Sedona: 2 hrs