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The South Kaibab Trail leads six and a half miles from the South Rim near Yaki Point to the Colorado River. It is a steep, dry descent of over 4,700 feet.

This trail leads north from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon along East Rim Drive to the Kaibab Suspension Bridge across the Colorado River. The trail twists and turns nearly six and a half miles descending 4,720 feet. Along the route are two rest areas with toilets, but no running water. This trail is recommended as the first leg of a backpacking trip during the cooler months of the year. It should not be ascended during the hot summer months.

Begin the South Kaibab Trail from the Yaki Point Access Road. The trailhead is the first road to the left after turning north from East Rim Drive. Park at the trailhead or take the free south rim shuttle that runs during the peak season.

From the trailhead the route traverses northward along the canyon rim then makes a sharp turn to the left as the descent begins. At the end of this switchback the trail turns sharply to the right, then leads northward under Yaki Point. Less than a mile from the trailhead the route gains Cedar Ridge then switches back to the western side of it. Descending steeply the trail makes a few more short traverses on the ridge reaching Cedar Ridge Restrooms two miles from the trailhead.

As you hike through the rock striations on the South Kaibab Trail metal signs along the route name the layers. At Cedar Ridge Restrooms you'll have expansive views into the canyon, over O'Neill Butte and up to Yaki Point. (Remember, there is no drinking water here only pit toilets.) Continuing northward the trail follows a few more switchbacks then drops to the eastern side of the ridge. It leads toward O'Neill Butte periodically using switchbacks to descend further. Once the route reaches the base of the butte the trail veers eastward to skirt the base of the formation. On the northern side of the rock pillar the trail swings westward and resumes its course along northern Cedar Ridge.

From the northern tip of O'Neill Butte the South Kaibab Trail follows Cedar Ridge for another half mile then begins to descend the eastern side. A long series of short switchbacks brings the trail to the eastern base of the ridge. It then contours northward around the ridge to the Tonto Platform. Four and a half miles from the trailhead is a junction with the Tonto Trail at 4,100 feet.

Beyond this junction the trail continues along the Tonto Platform another quarter mile to The Tipoff. At The Tipoff are restrooms and an emergency telephone, but again no water available. From The Tipoff the trail begins to descend from the Tonto Platform into the Tapeats sandstone. The trail makes some long traverses through the Tapeats then enters the Vishnu Schist. In this dark layer of the inner gorge the trail switches back several times to reach the Kaibab Suspension Bridge approximately two miles from the Tipoff. It's another half mile to the Bright Angel Campground from the river.

Directions: From South Entrance Station, Drive northward on South Entrance Road to East Rim Drive. Turn right and drive one mile to the access road for Yaki Point. Turn left and drive to the well-marked trailhead. An alternative to driving to Yaki Point is to take the shuttle, which runs from Grand Canyon Village during the summer months.

Elevation: 7,200 feet

Ending Elevation: 2,480 feet

Usage: Heavy

Difficulty: Strenuous

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Expert Review of South Kaibab Trail

Active and Adventure Review of South Kaibab Trail

Away Travel Expert: Bill Weir
expert favorite Active Expert Favorite
ActiveExpert Rating 5.0 out of 5 Recommended for:
Day Hiking,Trekking and Backpacking
Active and AdventureExpert Tips & Helpful Hints
  • At the bottom, you can cross either of two footbridges—the first one is the shortest way—to Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch. You'll need a backcountry permit to stay in the campground or a reservation to stay in a dormitory or private cabin at Phantom Ranch. The ranch serves meals by reservation.
  • Stay a few nights at Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch if you can; there's a lot to see nearby. You could make a day hike up the North Kaibab Trail, perhaps branching off and climbing Clear Creek Trail for the views or wading up pretty Phantom Creek (no trail).
  • An emergency telephone is located at the Tipoff, 4.4 miles below the rim, where the trail begins a descent into the inner gorge.

Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 86023
Parking: always open, weather permitting

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: 928-638-7875 (Backcountry Information Center, 1-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.)
Fax: 928-638-2125
Transportation: shuttle
Neighborhood: South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.