What to Know Before Hiking The South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon South Rim

The Grand Canyon is America’s most famous natural wonder, and there’s no better way to see the South Rim than by hiking the South Kaibab Trail. Though there are many other routes you can take, the South Kaibab Trail offers a combination of secluded hiking and canyon views that can’t be beat.

The best part is, you can hike as little or as much as you want. It’s a great trail for beginners and those looking to experience the canyon without too much of a commitment. The elevation is just over 7,200 feet so pace yourself, but don’t expect to experience any serious air shortages.

The Grand Canyon itself is a little over 1,900 square miles long. You have the North, South, East and West Rim all open to visitors. The South Rim is by far the most popular, followed by the West Rim and its Skywalk. The South Rim also hosts mule rides and is home to Phantom Ranch, discussed in more detail below.

You can drive to the South Rim in just four short hours from Vegas, and even hit Antelope Canyon as a side trip before heading back. There’s so much natural beauty in Arizona it’s hard to capture it all in just one trip, but the South Kaibab Trail is a great place to start.

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South Kaibab Trail Parking

South Kaibab Trail

One of the hardest parts of visiting a national park is parking. I literally had to drive onto a curb at Zion because it was so packed. Thankfully, the Grand Canyon is prepared for the influx of visitors it gets year-round and there are several large parking areas. Follow the signs towards the Bright Angel Trailhead, since that’s where you’ll be boarding the shuttle.

You’ll find a visitor’s center, small cafe with food and beverages and restrooms here. This is a good place to get your bearings, pick up a map and check and see any Canyon updates for the day. Make sure to fill up on your water before you leave here, you’re going to need it.

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South Kaibab Trail Shuttle

The Grand Canyon runs a free shuttle service that takes you to and from various trailheads on site. The Kaibab Rim is the Orange Route–they’re colored coded and maps are posted by the lines and at each boarding point so you can verify where you’re going. Shuttles run every 15 minutes from 6am to an hour after sunset. Get off at the South Kaibab Trailhead stop–simple!

Cedar Ridge

South Kaibab Trail

Cedar Ridge is a great destination for those who want to experience the hike but have enough stamina left to climb back up the same day. The Suuth Kaibab Trail is a descent, and every step you take going down feels 10 times harder on the way back up. To Cedar Ridge and back it’s a 3 mile trail, with no water available and very little shade. You definitely want to do this hike early and avoid the mid-day sun. Be careful as the path has gravel and can be slippery.

Expect to take at least 3 hours to go and come back, and allocate some time to enjoy the view once at Cedar Ridge. The next stop, Skeleton Point, is another 1.5 miles away and you will see signs everywhere warning you not to go any further if you’re attempting to walk back the same day.

Ooh Aah Point

South Kaibab Trail

Ooh Aah point is your middle ground and resting spot on the way to Cedar Ridge. It’s only .9 miles from the start, 1.8 miles roundtrip if you decide you want to stop here. Lots of people like to make inappropriate gestures with the sign given the name, i.e. sit on it.

You can have fun with it, it’s a great photo spot and offers amazing views of the canyon.

Phantom Ranch

South Kaibab Trail

You’ll see horses or mules on the trail, often times going to or coming from Phantom Ranch, the only lodging below the Grand Canyon Rim. Reservations to stay here book up about a year in advance and the experience is a bucket list item for many. Demand is so high that in 2019 they’ll be converting to an online lottery system, so if you want a guaranteed spot you need to go quickly!

Make sure to make way for the mules and step aside–it’s canyon rules. There’s usually 20-30 in a row so have a seat, it could take a while for them to pass. If you’re interested in riding a mule generally, the South Rim offers the opportunity to do so year-round, but the shorter day trips are more inland and don’t offer the same canyon views.

Know Before You Go

South Kaibab Trail

I cannot emphasize this enough–there is no water on the trail. Bring plenty of it, and a few granola bars to snack on. There are also no restrooms or shaded spots so be aware of your own limitations and if you feel you can’t go any further, stop at Ooh Aah Point.

Take your time because the trail is slippery and there’s nothing stopping you from falling. Go early in the day or in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the Arizona sun.

Above all, enjoy! The Grand Canyon is one of those rare tourist attractions that exceeds expectations, and hiking the South Kaibab Trail is a much better way to interact with your surroundings than joining the crowds at a designated lookout point.

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Till next time, safe travels!

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What to know before hiking the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon South Rim, USA.The South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon South Rim offers great view. Learn about stops along the way, including Cedar Ridge and Ooh Aah Point, and logistics for a successful South Kaibab Trail hike.

2018-04-14T23:58:39+00:0018 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Katchutravels July 25, 2017 at 1:11 am - Reply

    Hey Jen Loved the mules on the trail and your picture against the grand canyon standing on a tree looks adventurous!

    Regards

    Kartik

  2. vipul July 25, 2017 at 2:41 am - Reply

    perfect place to hike out <3

  3. Echoesofhervoice July 25, 2017 at 4:41 am - Reply

    Beautiful pics!

  4. Tahnee July 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Oh Jen! This is just beautiful and the canyon is not bad either!! 😉😉 such an incredible experience for you and thank you for sharing it xx

  5. Lisa July 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Oo-ah! lol! The Grand Canyon is such a sight to see. Great tips about bringing water and possibly a diaper? LoL. Your pictures are great too, as always:)

  6. Fatima July 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Woww. Beautiful!!!

  7. Kirti July 26, 2017 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    OMG. the pictures are so beautiful and I’m sure they are not doing justice to the beauty of this place.
    Ooh-Aah point is definitely the highlight coz the name is so funny! the imagination runs wild 😉

  8. Andrei Iliescu July 26, 2017 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Been there in 2010 and I remember being terrified of the heights. There was also a glass platform from which you could see the sights, but I did not dare to step on it.

  9. Kasia July 26, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    This looks absolutely amazing. I’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. I had no idea there were so many hiking trails there too. This is a must to do with my bf in the future. Beautiful photos.

  10. Mercy (Zen Maud) July 27, 2017 at 7:44 am - Reply

    I love hiking, especially in the morning when the sun isn’t too cruel, so thanks for the tips about bringing enough water. The grand canyon is famous and I love your photos. They give off this old American Western feel. Definitely on my bucket list. The Kaibib Trail sounds eastern or middle eastern? Is the name related to ancient historic migrations in anyway?

  11. Niki July 27, 2017 at 9:33 am - Reply

    I would LOVE to see the Grand Canyon one day! Good to know the info you shared. I much rather going the alternative way and I’d definitely take the route you suggested. Rhetoric question: since there is no water… I guess there is no WC either, right? (problem)

  12. naren July 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    i like the place, i hope you had a good time, nice pictures 🙂

  13. Balt August 1, 2017 at 1:08 am - Reply

    I always found grand canyon fascinating. hopefully i can visit it in the future.

  14. Kaustubh August 1, 2017 at 4:52 am - Reply

    Grand canyon always held the reputation of being a treat to a tourist’s eyes. And u justified it pretty well. Great blog and great pictures

  15. Agness of Fit Travelling August 8, 2017 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I love your pictures! Hiking the Grand Canyon is a dream thing for me. Do you have any tips I should consider before doing so?

    • Jen on a Jet Plane August 10, 2017 at 2:36 am - Reply

      Hi Agnes! I definitely recommend you take plenty of water and pace yourself. Other than that, there are plenty of trails to choose from and you can go for multiple days if you want to try different ones out. The South Kaibib Trail was most easily done in a day for me. Also, don’t miss scenic viewpoints nearby like Desert Tower!

  16. Serena April 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    So useful! i’m going there in 2 weeks, great to learn more about this.

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