A gorgeous hike that provides sweeping views along a dramatic ridgeline is exactly what you will find along the South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge. Prepare to be blown away by the spectacular beauty of the area and to get a glimpse of what the Grand Canyon looks like from below the rim.
If I could choose just one trail to day hike on the South Rim, this one would be it. Hiking the legendary South Kaibab Trail is a breathtaking experience! This trail boasts the fastest access to the river of any of the Grand Canyon corridor trails and dramatically travels through some of the best scenery in the country. The viewpoint at Cedar Ridge offers incredible 360-degree views from a more central location between the rims, providing an amazing panoramic experience of the gorgeous Grand Canyon.
What You Need to Know
Hiking the Grand Canyon can be a challenge, so be sure to come prepared. Make sure that each member of your party is carrying plenty of water. Water is available at the trailhead but is nowhere to be found along the trail. Refuel your body consistently with high protein snacks as well to keep your energy levels up!
To give you a better idea of where you’ll be hiking, check out this picture of Cedar Ridge as seen from Mather Point. The trail starts at the top of the canyon (out of sight), follows along the first layer of rock, dips down to the second layer of rock, and then traverses the very top of the ridge.
The trail to Cedar Ridge begins at the canyon’s rim at the South Kaibab Trailhead and works itself out to a ridge line with spectacular views of the painted cliffs. Narrowly winding down the cliff, the South Kaibab Trail is immediately hypnotizing and provides magical views of the Grand Canyon while descending below the rim.
The safest way to lose hundreds of feet of elevation is by way of switchbacks, and this hike has some of the the most exhilarating switchbacks in the country. They are steep in some places and I recommend bringing trekking poles along to take some of the impact off of your knees.
After the switchbacks, the trail levels out and descends gradually while hugging the cliffs on one side. This section of the hike is mild and enjoyable. It offers a small amount of shade (a real luxury in the Grand Canyon!) and the pinyon trees beautifully frame the view.
After 0.9 miles, get ready to say your oohs and aahs at Ooh-Aah Point. This rock outcropping offers a thrilling panorama of the Grand Canyon as you’ve never seen it before. The hike back up to the top is significantly harder from Cedar Ridge than it is from Ooh-Ahh Point, so this is a popular place to soak in the views and then turn around if you do not want to continue hiking to the ridge.
Beyond Ooh-Ahh, the trail intensifies. Stairs made of logs, dirt, and stone emerge as you drop lower into the canyon. The route begins to trek along the ridge line, exposing the astounding canyon views that you’ve been waiting for!
As the route opens up to your destination, so do the phenomenal views! This is likely the nearest that you have been to the center of the Grand Canyon and the immensity of this incredible place begins to set in. Take some time to admire the seemingly infinite crags, cliffs, and crevasses that adorn the landscape.
Cedar Ridge has a small, primitive bathroom with no running water or garbage cans (pack it out!). It also has a hitching post for the mules that carry people and supplies in and out of the canyon. It is common to find mules along the Grand Canyon trails, so be sure to quietly stand to the side and let them pass if you encounter any during your hike.
While at Cedar Ridge, we ate lunch in the shade of a small tree, watched the mules make their way up the trail, and explored the edge of the ridge to marvel at the stunning vista that engulfed us.
The South Kaibab Trail is incredibly humbling. After spending a few hours hiking deeper into the canyon, you will begin to realize that the surface has barely even been scratched. Not only does the trail keep going, but there are still numerous layers of rock between you and the canyon floor. The river that sculpted the canyon isn’t even visible yet! Reflecting on the enormity of the landscape and your place within it is what makes hiking into the Grand Canyon such a rewarding experience.
You may be tempted to hike farther down the trail. While Cedar Ridge is recommended as the stopping point for most people (and always during the summer months), it is possible to day hike another 1.5 miles to Skeleton Point if you are adequately prepared. Do not attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day.
Hiking out of the canyon is hard….significantly harder than hiking in. Plan on taking twice as long to cover the same ground on your way out. The trails in the Grand Canyon consistently rank as some of the most dangerous on the planet! This is because people often underestimate the actual difficulty of the trail and overestimate their preparedness and ability to conquer it.
Just because the trail is difficult doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy it. Rest as needed and immerse yourself in the fabulous scenery — you just conquered a section of the Grand Canyon’s legendary South Kaibab Trail!
The trail to Cedar Ridge is 3 miles roundtrip with an elevation change of 1,120 feet, making this hike strenuous for the average hiker. For a slightly less-challenging hike, consider turning around at Ooh Aah Point, which is 1.8 miles roundtrip with a 760 foot elevation change.
For the general public, the South Kaibab Trailhead is only accessible via the Park Shuttle System. Catch the ORANGE Kaibab/Rim Route Shuttle Line from the Visitor Center.