If hiking the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list but you only have a short amount of time, the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point is for you!
One of the most iconic day hikes of the Grand Canyon, the South Kaibab Trail has plenty of convenient turnaround points. If you have half of a day like I did, the turnabout at Skeleton Point provides you with a challenging workout alongside astounding views.
It’s hard to comprehend the sheer time involved in creating the natural masterpiece of the Grand Canyon.
The flowing waters of the Colorado River started carving the canyon something like five to six million years ago. And when it did, the river revealed rock formations from the Paleozoic era, anywhere from 541 to 252 million years ago.
Because the South Kaibab Trail is such a popular trail, I worried that there would be a lot of people, but for my early November hike, there were very few people on the trail.
There were only a few places where I had to wait for other hikers, but one of those places was at Ooh Aah Point, the first turnaround spot on the trail. I waited my turn to clamber onto the rocks at the lookout point and it was certainly worth it.
In the end, I was glad for the little line. Because the person behind me offered to take a picture of me. And he captured this shot that I seriously love.
The aptly named Ooh Aah Point is just less than a mile or 1.4 kilometers from the trailhead so it’s a great place to turnaround if you want a quick and moderately difficult hike. I think it would take about an hour down and back depending on how long you have to wait in line at the point.
Another .6 miles or a kilometer beyond Ooh Aah Point will take you to Cedar Ridge. It’s like a little gathering place with people and horses and bathrooms.
I had lunch here on my way back up as I really needed the rest and the fuel.
Skeleton Point is about 1.5 miles or 2.4 kilometers down from Cedar Ridge.
Heading three more miles down to the river would be quite the adventure, but there you would find the so-called “basement” rocks of the canyon that are an unfathomable 1.84 billion years old.
But I turned around at Skeleton Point and found it a very challenging but satisfying hike back to the rim.
I felt like I really earned the cancellation stamp I collected for my U.S. National Parks Passport!
Location: Get your National Park Passport stamp at the Visitors Center at the South Rim Grand Canyon Village: S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
From there hop the orange shuttle headed eastbound to the South Kaibab Trailhead.
Length of the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point: 6 miles total / 9.5 kilometers total. Look at this way: three relatively easy miles down and three challenging miles up!
The full South Kaibab Trail is 6.5 miles down to the river where some people camp before joining up with the North Kaibab Trail and hiking out via the North Rim. This is definitely on my bucket list.
Time: Four to five hours. It took me four and I stopped for lunch at Cedar Point and stopped again for a short meditation. But it would take longer on a day when the trail is busier (especially when you get stuck behind the horses and mules as I did!)
Difficulty: Hard (but doable)
Elevation Change: About 2,000 feet
Grand Canyon Tips: I found it really helpful to stop at the ranger station at the visitor center where I was provided with maps and advice on which trail to take and what shuttle would get me there.
Bring water. I know this sounds obvious, but on the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point, there is nowhere to get water so you must bring your own. When I hiked the trail in November, it was cold at the rim and it was seriously warm as I got nearer the river.
Lather up: Don’t forget the sunscreen. It really heats up down there.
Pit Stops: There are bathrooms at Cedar Point and it’s also a really nice place for a trailside lunch.
Best Time to Hike the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point: I found November to be ideal. The weather was cool enough for a stocking hat up top and warm enough for a t-shirt at Skeleton Point. The crowds were minimal.
Daytime temperatures remain cool March through May and September through November. I would avoid the summer season if possible due to major crowds and excessive heat.Fun Fact: The Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon after the extinction of the dinosaurs, but the rock that was exposed from the river’s handiwork is from far before dinosaurs even existed. Click To Tweet