North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail

There are 3 popular trails that bring hikers down into the canyon – South Kaibab and Bright Angel from the South Rim, and North Kaibab from the North Rim. People will attempt rim-2-rim by hiking down North Kaibab, stay overnight within the canyon and hike up either Bright Angel or South Kaibab. For day hikers, the park advises against hiking all the way down to the river and back up in a day due to extreme heat within the canyon. The furthest they recommend going down to is Roaring Springs which is 4.7 miles from the rim (the entire North Kaibab trail is 14 miles in length). My initial plan was to hike to Roaring Springs, but because I wanted to be back at the trailhead before 10AM to avoid the heat, I ended up cutting my hike down to 3.8 miles each way.

We hit the trail by 5:15AM. The temp was a chilly 60F. At 8000ft, the north rim sits 1000ft above the south rim. At this altitude, it is cooler with more snow during the winter, and more forested area compared to the south rim.

Again, Joe went at his pace because of his injured ankle, and I took off trying to gain as much distance as I could.

The Coconino Overlook is just 0.7 miles from the trailhead
Beautiful striations of the Kaibab limestone
Coconino sandstones up ahead. In comparison to the south rim, where the trail starts out exposed, there’s more tree coverage on the north rim. This is something we’ve come to appreciate later as we made our way back up the trail when it got hotter.
The majority of the canyon remained in the shade for the early part of the morning. Notice the soil color changes to red once we entered the Hermit Group geological formations.
Supai tunnel, blasted out by the park service in order for the trail to continue on, is 2 miles from the trailhead.
The red walls of the Supai group on the other side of the tunnel
The view as soon as you exit the tunnel – possibly the best view of this hike. You can see the Redwall Bridge at the bottom, which is 2.6 miles from the trailhead. Luckily, Joe got a view of this before turning around.
The section between the Supai Tunnel and Redwall Bridge is, in my opinion, the prettiest section of the trail. Red rocks and switchbacks make me happy.
Crossing the Redwall Bridge
Looking back toward Supai Tunnel @ 12 o’clock and the bridge @ 5 o’clock.
The red stepped walls form the Supai formation, which owes its color to iron oxide.
Path right along the edge – trail blasted into the Redwall limestone cliffs
The gentleman on the path did a rim-2-rim-2-rim – he had hiked down North Kaibab 5 days ago, spent a night at Cottonwood, another in Phantom Ranch in the canyon, hiked up South Kaibab, back down Bright Angels, and now back up North Kaibab.
View of the Roaring Springs rest area (white structure)
Mile 3.8. Made it to the Redwall formation (the gray colored rocks). This is where I turned around after hiking downhill for 2 hours. Getting ready for the almost 3000ft climb back up to the top.
Glad I had turned around when I did because the sun started to make its appearance on portions of the trail.
Hikers on the switchbacks leading into the Supai Tunnel . Luckily the entire trail between the bridge and the Supai Tunnel was still in the shade, as this was a steep climb.
Made it back to the tunnel with shade to spare. Past this point, the trees offered enough shade to make the rest of the hike tolerable.
Made it to Coconino Overlook in 2 hours – if you know where to look, you may be able to spot the Redwall Bridge (hint, trace the trail in the distance). Another 30 minutes, and I was back at the trailhead.

Key to enjoying this day hike is to start early to take advantage of the cooler temperature and shade. Later in the day also means more mule piss and poo, making the first 2 miles smell like a petting zoo. Make sure to bring tons of water. I had 3 Liters of water with me, and was really sucking it down on my way up. Hiking poles help absorb the shock on the knees on the way down – miss those days when I could take my knees for granted.

We made it back to the lodge for a quick shower before check out, and then it was a 4 and a half hour drive to Las Vegas.

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