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View looking north down Windy Ridge in Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon National Park

After a week of rain and overcast, the clouds began to break up on the morning of Saturday, September 17, 2011. View is looking north down Windy Ridge, past some hikers, with O'Neill Butte just beyond. South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park. NPS photo by Michael Quinn.

Hikers seeking panoramic views unparalleled on any other trail at Grand Canyon will want to consider a hike down the South Kaibab Trail. It is the only trail at Grand Canyon National Park that so dramatically holds true to a ridgeline descent. But this exhilarating sense of exposure to the vastness of the canyon comes at a cost: there is little shade and no water for the length of this trail. During winter months, the constant sun exposure is likely to keep most of the trail relatively free of ice and snow. For those who insist on hiking during summer months, which is not recommended in general, this trail is the quickest way to the bottom (it has been described as "a trail in a hurry to get to the river"), but due to lack of any water sources, ascending the trail can be a dangerous proposition.

Grand Canyon is, above all else, a place of extremes. It is necessary to take appropriate precautions depending on seasonal variations in trail conditions. During winter months, the series of tight switchbacks near the top of the South Kaibab Trail will be icy for days or even weeks after a snowstorm. For hikers who insist on entering the canyon from May to September, it is critical to begin hiking well before dawn or in the late afternoon: Success depends upon staying off the trail between 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon (average descent time is 4 to 6 hours). Failure to arrive at Bright Angel Campground by 10 in the morning during hot weather can result in ill health or even death; at the very least, it will be a miserable experience. Ascending the South Kaibab Trail in hot weather is not recommended. Carefully study the National Park Service "Hike Smart" pamphlet issued with summer permits and always practice Leave No Trace.

Download the complete trail description here: www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/South_Kaibab_Trail.pdf