Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hike #46: South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

Length: 7.5 miles

Although the South Kaibab Trail is accessible only by bus, the trail still receives a considerable amount of foot traffic; however, the vast majority of these people tend to make to no further than a mile or so down the trail.

The trail begins with an immediate descent through a series of sharp switchbacks. Although this first segment can be extremely busy, the magnificent panoramic views make one completely forget the crowds. After 1.5 miles of continuous descent, one reaches the Cedar Ridge Resthouse. Cedar Ridge is little more than a restroom and lone shade tree; however, it does serve as the turning point for most the casual visitors. (Note: There is no source of water at Cedar Ridge or anywhere along the South Kaibab Trail.)

From Cedar Ridge, the trail passes over O'Neill Butte, one of the only level areas of this trail. Unfortunately, the flatness is short-lived, and the trail soon passes through the most dramatic drop yet! With another set of dramatic switchbacks, the trail falls steadily with a series of rough stairs made from old railway ties. Look carefully to the left, and one can see the first glimpse of the Colorado River below.

After finally completely the steep limestone stairs, the trail pass the second set of restrooms and emergency phone. From here, the trail becomes gradually less steep as it passes through an intensely "red" portion of the Canyon. Eventually, views of the river become increasing common, and the historic Black Bridge becomes visible. Built in 1921, the Black Bridge serves as the main passage over the Colorado for both hikers of the South Kaibab Trail and the mule trains coming down the Bright Angel Trail (the mules are apparently afraid to pass over the bridge build along the Bright Angel Trail.)

After passing through a rather long tunnel and across the bridge, the South Kaibab Trail continues west, on the opposite site of the river, and enters the Bright Angel Campgrounds and Phantom Ranch after about a ¼-mile.

To view more photos of the South Kaibab Trail, click here.

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