Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails

Key information: Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails

  • These two outstanding hikes down into the world's most famous canyon between them constitute the Grand Canyon's best known crossing, and a magnificent (if over-popular) long return day walk, if that is what you are seeking.
  • Revel in huge views across the vast canyon; enjoy the changing colours and fantastic shapes of the cliffs, buttes and spires.
  • Enter another world with wildly varying ecosystems as you plunge deeper into the gorge.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating93
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest20
  • Human interest2
  • Charisma38
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating93
  • Note: Neg: crowds

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Kaibab Trail is 35km / 3 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,440m (North Kaibab trailhead)
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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WALK SUMMARY

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a World Heritage Site, and geological heaven. It is hard to overpraise the canyon's raw, outlandish shapes and formations: they are justly famous. The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is astounding. Up to 1,830m (over a mile) deep, 450 km long and up to 25 km wide, it is the one against which all other canyons are measured.

The South Kaibab Trail is (along with the Bright Angel Trail) one of two "corridor" trails down into the Canyon from the South Rim that are patrolled and good options for novice walkers - but can be hugely crowded.

 

The Bright Angel Trail: a wonderful name but is very crowded as it starts from Grand Canyon Village, tumbling seven spectacular and dramatic miles to the Colorado River. Some say this is the best day hike for newcomers to the Canyon (bear in mind that this is a very long day if you are returning the same day).

The "classic" route across the canyon is by the South and North Kaibab Trails - the Kaibab Crossing. Usually:

  • Day 1 (7.5 miles) - Yaki Point to Bright Angel Campground
  • Day 2 (7.5 miles) - Bright Angel Campground to Cottonwood Campground
  • Day 3 (7 miles) - Cottonwood Campground to North Kaibab Trail Head

Beginning at the south rim trailhead at Yaki Point near Grand Canyon Village, the South Kaibab Trail makes a quick descent from the cool(ish) forest of the rim to Cedar Ridge, tumbling seven miles down from Kaibab limestone to Cocorino limestone, passing through nine layers of the Canyon. Unlike most trails down, which follow side canyons, the South Kaibab Trail sticks to ridgetops, so you get huge views much of the way down, which are awe-inspiring along Cedar Ridge. Across the sloping Tonto Platform, the scene of the eponymous lateral trail, you drop steeply to the river, and a suspension bridge that allows access to the North Rim. The first night will be spent at the Bright Angel Campround or Phantom Ranch on the north side of the Colorado River.

The following day is a 12 km hike up the North Kaibab Trail along the Bright Angel Creek.  After starting with a meander through the deep, deep chasm known as The Box, the walk up by Bright Angel Creek is gentle and beautiful, passing side-canyons and giving the opportunity to seek out some of the Canyon?s stunning flora and fauna.

The third day starts gently, then becomes, after Roaring Springs, a tough switchback haul to the North Rim.

Alternatives

 

If you want a long day - or, better, a night in the canyon - but a return to the South Rim by a different route, popular alternative is to descend on the South Kaibab Trail, and either join the Tonto Trail, which meanders for miles along the Tonto Platform deep in the Canyon, then returns to the rim on the Bright Angel Trail; or overnight in the Canyon and re-ascend to the South Rim from the depths the next day on the Bright Angel Trail (which is a longer and less steep route than the South Kaibab, so more suitable as an ascent).

 These are the most famous of all trails and commensurately crowded, so, if you are an experienced walker and like (relative) solitude, you will want to consider other alternatives.

The Cicerone guide has good information on these walks. 

See our Grand Canyon page for much more on the canyon, and detailed practical information.

Public domain image from http://www.nps.gov/grca/grandcanyon/maps/. See http://www.nps.gov/disclaimer.htm ("Information presented on this website, unless otherwise indicated, is considered in the public domain.") for license information.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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