How long does it take to hike South Kaibab?
The South Kaibab Trail is perhaps one of the most popular, well-known, and beautiful trails not just in Grand Canyon, but in the entire National Park System. Of the over 6 million people that visited Grand Canyon in 2016, nearly 10% set foot on South Kaibab, each with their own intentions. Like any hike, you can spend 2 minutes or 2 days on the trail, it’s really up to you. But since we field this question with some regularity, we wanted to dive into a bit more detail.
South Kaibab starts from its perch at over 7,000 feet above sea level just east of the South Rim Visitor’s Center at Grand Canyon. Most folks hop on the park shuttle to get to the trailhead, as passenger car parking at the trailhead is not permitted. The following are the general specs for the trail in its entirety:
Length: 6.9 miles to the Colorado River
Elevation Loss: 4,700 feet
Difficulty: Keep Reading
Like any trail in Grand Canyon, South Kaibab presents outlandish scenery and unique challenges. The most challenging aspect of any hike in Grand Canyon is regaining the elevation that you lose. It is akin to hiking a mountain in reverse, and many visitors breeze a few miles into Grand Canyon before realizing that they need to get back to the rim. South Kaibab is in the Corridor Zone, which means it is patrolled by NPS Rangers, is well-maintained, and you have a high likelihood of seeing other hikers on the trail. The trail is generally pretty wide, route-finding is not something that one need worry about, and there are even facilities along the trail should nature call.
So You Want to Hike South Kaibab….
There are a couple of excellent day hike destinations along South Kaibab, as we (along with NPS and anyone who is not insane) do not recommend going to rim-to-river and back in one day. Here they are with times estimated for the average hiker in good weather:
Ooh-Ahh Point: 1.5 miles round-trip to a spectacular overlook of the Colorado River. (2 hours)
The Tipoff: 6 miles round-trip to the top of the Redwall Limestone and the shaded oasis of Bright Angel Creek. This is one of the most popular day hikes in Grand Canyon ( 6 hours)
Cedar Ridge: 3 miles round trip to a stunning overlook and fabulous respite in the Hermit Shale (3 hours)
Now, more to the point, the hike down South Kaibab is a more direct and therefore steeper route than the at-times meandering nature of its neighbor Bright Angel. This also makes it more challenging, especially on the way up. Though we never recommend that even the most fit hikers in the best conditions attempt this hike in one day, we will quote you a time of at least 11 hours to get to the river and return to the rim. The lack of water, lack of shade, and steep relief make this an arduous single-day adventure, and should not be undertaken.
As always, the best way to see Grand Canyon and the South Kaibab Trail is on one of our guided tours, where you will be treated to the epic scenery along with the fascinating story of how this canyon was built layer by world famous layer.
Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience. Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea. For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip. They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.
Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides. Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef. Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore. In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience. Don’t be shy, and call us!
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For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!
For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.
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