This panorama was taken at the top of the South Kaibab Trail on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is here that hikers begin an enthusiastic descent into the Grand Canyon, and here that the return, often very satisfied and equally exhausted. The housing paddock for donkeys that carry tourists and supplies down the Grand Canyon are here, and, when not carrying out their work duties, so are the donkeys. In this picture you can see the very beginning of the trail, and a number of walkers reaching the top in the late afternoon.
The trails and pathways in the Grand Canyon allow visitors to explore the riverbed and the cliffs - and of course innumerable places which demand a photograph! South Kaibab trail is one of the most popular, descending past O'Neill Butte to Skeleton Point, an outcrop which gives 360° panoramic views across the Grand Canyon (4 hour return). The trail then continues down to the Colorado River and back up the other side of the Grand Canyon via North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim (and the wider Arizona Trail network which extends into Utah and Mexico). South Kaibab trail is a designated "corridor trail", which means that it is regularly maintained and patrolled by Park Rangers. You will probably meet, and have to give way to, trains of trail donkeys.
A Geologists dream, the South Kaibab Trail has many notable features, including the "Pustule Dome", named in 2007 for the protrusion of Permian-age sedimentary evaporite deposits pushing up through the softer limestone, here at the Toroweap Formation. The trail continues on past this feature to Ooh-aah Point, aptly named for the spectacular views. As the Kaibab Sandstone runs into Coconino Limestone, the Trail reaches Cedar Ridge, where there are rest and toilet facilities. On to O'Neill Butte, then through Hermit Shale and Supai Group to finally reach Skeleton Point, some three miles from the trailhead.
From here, the trail changes as it descents rapidly through the grey coloured Redwall Limestone into an arduous path toward the junction with Tonto Trail, again with toilet facilities. En route, you can see Phantom Ranch and there are many switchback paths through the Muav Limestone and Bright Angel Shale. By this point you have descended 1200ft from the trail-head and walked around 4.5 miles. At this point the path joins other paths to Horseshoe Mesa, Hance Rapids and the Indian Gardens. There is an emergency phone near the Tipoff.
If you still have energy and are not daunted by the ascent hike back to the trail-head, you can press on downwards on an even steeper gradient (about 1:5 or 22%) towards the eastern end of River Trail, six miles from the South Kaibab Trail head. A half mile beyond here is a tunnel leading to the Black Suspension bridge across the Colorado River. Another crossing is available downstream at the Silver Suspension bridge.
Across the river, some seven miles from the Southern Rim entrance to the South Kaibab Trail is the junction between River Trail and the North Kaibab Trail. There's toilet and water facilities at this point and nearby is the Bright Angel Campground - the only authorised place to camp, for which permission in advance must be sought from the Park Authorities.
As one small section of such a vast and breath-taking natural wonder, South Kaibab Trail gives a flavour of the delights of the Grand Canyon. Exploring can be arduous and hazardous, with extremes in temperature, water shortage, wildlife and, although pathways are maintained, they do have loose rocks. Enquire with the National Park Authority for advice about trails and amenities suitable to all appropriate abilities.
TRAVEL DIRECTIONS AND GETTING THERE
The South Kaibab Trail is accessed from the trail head on the southern rim. Either take a free shuttle bus from the Grand Canyon Village, or park at the end of the trailhead road and walk in (about half a mile)