Hiking the Grand Canyon is a bucket list item I was not willing to pass up along our road trip. Being one of seven natural wonders of the world, we planned the entire road trip around making sure we could spend the day hiking and taking in the sights. We allotted a little over six hours for this stop before we needed to get back on the road. Once we got to the Visitor Center, we decided the South Kaibab Trail would be the best fit for our time frame.
Getting to the South Kaibab Trailhead
All of Aaron and I’s great adventures start at the National Park’s Visitor Center. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center was no exception. Centrally located between the many roads leading to the trailheads, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center is where we parked before getting on the Orange Route shuttle bus that would take us to the Kaibab Trailhead. Ensure to take advantage of the water fountains and restrooms before heading out; there are very few facilities once you set out on your 4-6 hour hike.
There isn’t any parking for private vehicles at the Kaibab Trailhead. For us, the easiest way to access the trailhead was by shuttle buses. If waiting for the bus doesn’t sound like a good use of time, plenty of people walk along the roads to get to the trailheads. The buses running to the Kaibab Trailhead pick up from the visitor center every 15 minutes. If you’re looking to get out on the trail to watch the sunrise, they begin running an hour before to ensure you can pick the perfect spot to watch the sun slice through the morning dawn to welcome in a new day.
Weather and Dressing Appropriately
Once again, I found myself unprepared for a hike. You shouldn’t be shocked at this point, I feel like it’s becoming a part of my brand. I had the best of intentions to dress the part this time! However, I did not think about the type of shoes I would need to scale the steep path spirling miles into the canyon. I promised God and Aaron if I complained about my feet hurting, he could leave me to die at the bottom of the canyon. I may not have had what some would call proper hiking shoes, but I have the next best thing, my Chacos and Darn Tough socks.
It was chilly when we arrived at the visitor center, and while it may be a fashion faux pas, my Chacs with socks were the most comfortable combination on the trail. I don’t consider myself a fashion blogger, but my great sense of style may have turned a few heads along our trek. The Chacos were up for the challenge; even hiking over rock, sand, and gravel, my feet were comfortable the entire day. My socks kept my feet warm and dry; I returned without a single blister.
It is also important to note the weather can change dramatically over a short period. Heeding the warnings of the multiple signs and at the suggestion of the Park Rangers to prepare for cold and warm temperatures, we dressed in layers and had a backpack to store extra jackets.
Kaibab Trail Destination Points
There are three destination points along the South Kaibab Trail recommended for a day hike; Ooh-Aah Point, Cedar Ridge, and Skeleton Point. The National Park service strongly advised not to go past Skeleton Point for a day hike and not to exceed Cedar Point during the Summer months.
Ooh-Aah Point is .9 miles from the start of the trailhead. The entire hike to this point is without a doubt, the most beautiful hike I’ve been on. The trail is one switchback after another, descending you deeper into the belly of the canyon. The canyon’s ridge towers above as you get to Ooh Aah Point. Reaching the sign marking your arrival, you are welcomed with a breathtaking view of the canyon that makes you… “oooo” and “ahhh.” I’m still not sure how they came up with the name.
There were warning signs stating mules would be on the trail and No sooner we began our descent down into the canyon, evidence of their passing had been left in the middle of the path. It wasn’t until we crossed paths with the conga line of pack mules did I begin to feel like I was in a John Wayne movie. We couldn’t have timed it better either. Aaron and I just made it to Ooh Aah Point when the cowboys leading the pack began to clear the route for the meandering line of assiduous mules.
Cedar Ridge is 1.5 miles from the start of the trailhead. If you make it to this point, you’re in luck, this is the only destination with a toilet. Cedar Ridge has the flattest areas to sit and rest; whereas Ooh Aah Point was very crowded on the edge of one of many sharp cliffs. The crowd thinned out significantly by the time we reached Cedar Ridge. Once we arrived at Cedar Ridge I felt less rushed and I could take a moment to see why this place is a natural wonder of the world. The striped layers of the canyon expanded so far I felt like I was looking at a green screen of a movie set with a picture of the Grand Canyon projected on it. I had two thoughts as I remained hypnotized by the scenery, “How is this place real? And I would hate to be the first explorer going west and run into this roadblock.”
After leaving Cedar Ridge the path to Skeleton Point became much steeper. While going deeper into the seemingly bottomless canyon I became starkly aware the journey back was not going to be as easy. If the breathless fellow hikers ascending the canyon walls weren’t warning enough, the sudden sandblasting from the canyon winds was throwing all its might into persuading us to turn back.
We were persistent and made the three-mile hike to Skeleton Point. We sat on the edge of the canyon listening to the distant roar of the Colorado River echo from below. Aaron and I shared our snacks as we watched a curious squirrel scamper around us. Everything noise seemed to be amplified. I could hear the whoosh of a bird soaring overhead and the almost silent pitter-patter of the squirrel’s paws on the rocks. The sun had decided to peek out of the clouds and keep us warm as the cool rushing winds swirled around. It was at this point I told Aaron we have to do a camping hike to the bottom next time. I bet the nighttime views are even more magical.
Hiking Back To The Trailhead
The hike back to the top had many more stops along the way. Our hamstrings were really having to work to propel us to the top. Although climbing back to the top was more difficult, I wouldn’t consider the hike, as a whole, difficult. The path is well maintained, and as long as you pace yourself, stay hydrated, and dress in layers, I would recommend tackling this hike for a first-time visitor.
Our bus driver briefed us of impending rain later in the afternoon. “The weather can change without warning, and you don’t want to be in the elements unprepared,” she warned. She couldn’t have been more right. We started the day with cold overcast clouds. Three hours later, the clouds cleared and allowed us to see the bright layers of the earth making up the canyon walls. In a dramatic turn of events, as we began to load the bus it started to rain, which then turned to snow! As we arrived back at the Visitors Center a thin layer of fresh snow frosted the cars and grass. It was the perfect ending to a great day of hiking.
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