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North Kaibab Trail to Colorado River

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Grand Canyon National Park

North Kaibab Trail to Colorado River is a 28 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near North Rim, Arizona that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October.

Distance: 28.0 miles Elevation Gain: 6,866 feet Route Type: Out & Back

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

running

beach

cave

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

no shade

historic site

no dogs

hiking
2 months ago

I did this trail as part of my rim to rim on May 15th, opening day for the North rim. The weather was perfect. Definitely use hiking poles they will save you from falling. I would suggest getting a much earlier start than we did but we couldn't get in the park until the gates opened. Take your time to stop and look around the views are breathtaking. Make sure you check before you start your hike to see where the water is on at. During the winner at the North pipes had burst so we only had one place where we could get water until we hit the very bottom Phantom ranch area. People who had not planned for this were not doing very well.

hiking
8 months ago

I did this as part of a Rim-to-Rim backpacking trip with the Grand Canyon Conservancy. Breathtaking views, amazing wildlife, GRUELING knee pounding...totally worth it. I became a convert to trekking pole and one piece of advice-if you have EVER used (or should have used) a knee wrap, now is the time to put it on...even doing it over two days my knee was aching and would have been really bad if I hadn’t put the wrap on about 1/3 in to the first day. Loved loved cottonwood campground, Ribbon Falls is a must see (and please be respectful of local tradition), and the wonderful relief of lemonade once you get to Phantom Ranch is a delishusss experience.

hiking
10 months ago

Beautiful trail, highly recommend doing this one. Take your time by camping at Cottonwood the first night and Bright Angel the second. Breaking it down gives you more time to explore after dropping your gear at your campsite. Also, Ribbon Falls is a must do. Just make sure to respect the Native American creation story by staying off the moss at the falls.

backpacking
Fri Jun 14 2019

BEAUTIFUL! Much less touristy and crowded than the south rim trails. The views from the top are also nothing like south rim, you can barely see the canyon, it’s like you’re just hiking in the woods when you first start. The first half of the trail is hardly covering any ground, you’re just going down, down, down. The last half of the trail is pretty flat and the canyon gets narrow and windy (my favorite part). Be sure to check out ribbon falls on the way down! Definitely worth the little detour. And train train train for this trail!! It is ROUGH! But of course, AMAZING!!

hiking
Mon Nov 12 2018

We hiked rim-river-rim in one day! It was epic, but definitely wouldn’t recommend it for the casual hiker. We arrived to the North Kaibab trailhead about 11:30p, threw out a couple cots in the 27 degree parking lot, and got a few hours sleep. The star gazing was phenomenal, like there were just streams of stars above you! 4am we were up and readied ourselves for the trek. After 20 min warming ourselves in the car, we set out on the trail at about 5am. Made our way to all the awesome checkpoints of the beautiful roaring springs, manzanita ranger station, cottonwood campground, ribbon falls, etc. Made it down to Phantom Ranch at 12p and enjoyed our sled prepared lunch at a picnic table. Everyone along the trail was delightful. Enjoyed a couple hours exploring phantom ranch and the edges of the Colorado, before headed back. Started about 2:30p. Didn’t seem like anyone else was headed our direction, for good reason, long way out and up! Stopped in cottonwood for our again self prepared dinner, chatted with some other experienced folks. Seems like once you camp in the Grand Canyon you can’t help but come back. Saw about a dozen people headed down from the north after sunset. We trudged along the path and climbed out, arriving back to trailhead at 1am. It was epic, sights unreal, and unlike any “quick” hike we’d ever done. Definitely wish we could have spent more time!

hiking
Tue Oct 30 2018

We hiked the North Kaibab trail just last week and spent 5 nights in the canyon. I've detailed my entire hike on my blog here! https://muskytrails.com/trail-logs/north-kaibab-trail-log-grand-canyon-national-park/ Discussing canyon ecology, trout fishing in bright angel creek, and timing hiking between landmarks and campsites in the canyon. A great read if you are preparing for a backcountry hike of the North Kaibab trail yourself. See you on the trails! Musky Trails

hiking
Tue Oct 23 2018

Doable in a single day - it's practical to go back because of transport. I did it in 10.5 hours. It's smart to leave before sunrise. Think about bringing water, not every water source was open when I went. Anyway, it's a great hike. Going down the canyon is THE thing to do over there. Hiking on the rim isn't the same - you'll get the full experience of the size of the canyon! Also, if you have to choose south rim vs north rim...I'd vote for south rim because it's closer to the colorado river. You also have more decent choices (hermit, britgth angel, tanner)

Wed Aug 01 2018

Hiked from the South to North Rim spending 2 nights at Bright Angel Campground and 1 night at Cottonwood CG. I found the S. Kaibab trail to be steep and by the time I reached Bright Angel CG I was beat.There are restrooms and water on the way down. A dip in Bright Angel Creek cooled me off and was very soothing. Temperature on the thermometer at the CG was 105....Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch is money well spent. Cottonwood CG is a pleasant hike from Bright Angel CG and toilets and water are available. The hike from Cottonwood CG to the North Rim is very pleasant for the first few miles and then turns into what I found to be a grueling accent. Overall, I would rate hiking the Grand Canyon a tough but spectacular experience with breathtaking views.

horseback riding
Tue Oct 10 2017

Rode my horse down my first adventure below the rim, which was a real treat. This trail is rated hard due to two things - steepness and elevation. Otherwise, the trail is well maintained and well marked. GPS does not work in the canyon! My Garmin said I did 24 miles to get from the North Rim to Bright Angel campground. Stayed at Bright Angel campground at the bottom, then went back up the way I came. There are water spigots available every 2-3 miles from the rim to Cottonwood campground. From Cottonwood campground to Bright Angel campground, the trail is gently rolling and there is Bright Angel creek to filter water if you need it. Beautiful views! I plan on doing rim-to-rim next year, also on my horse!

Tue Sep 26 2017

I didn't hike the whole thing, just to the bottom of the canyon and back. Make sure to bring plenty of water, you get easily dehydrated on this trail.

Fri Sep 15 2017

Beautiful views. You can get lulled into going down further than you prepared for. From the bridge to rim, pretty steep switchbacks. Very challenging but worthwhile.

backpacking
Sat Sep 02 2017

Did this on one of my backpacking trips in the canyon. On the 3rd day we went from Cottonwood over the north rim to the pizza parlor and back to Cottonwood for the night before going to Bright Angel the next night. Everything in the Canyon is awesome. Absolutely my favorite place on earth to hike. Wish I didn't live 1.200 miles away.

Sun Jun 05 2016

Helluva challenge. Did in early June under excessive heat warning as per of a r2r hike that started on south kaibab. Hot in the bottom be sure to move through the box during a cool part of the day. Water dips at ribbon falls and pump house stop are a must. If coming up to the north just take the last 1.5 from real slow and rock this- one of the most glorious hikes in America.

Sun Apr 19 2015

Hiked North Kaibab trail from Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood camp on day 2 of my trip, it was Hot! Temps in the 90s again. Then from Cottonwood camp to the north rim and back to Cottonwood on day 3. Got some relief from the heat on day 3, but it got gusty in the canyon on the way down, if it's windy stay on the inside of the trail the gusts could blow you off the trail and there are plenty of places where it's a 300 plus foot fall. Then hiked back to Phantom Ranch on day 4 and had some nice cold beers before heading out on South Kaibab day 5.

hiking
Fri Nov 07 2014

I hiked down to Cottonwood Campground from the North Kaibab Trailhead for a one night campout. I HIGHLY recommend using trekking poles. The way down is not very hard,but the impact on the knees is grueling especially if you're carrying a 20+ pound rucksack. Coming back up the 7 miles the next day took significantly longer (6.5 hours)and we consumed much more food and water so be sure to carry plenty or refill at the designated "drinking water" areas. During this time of year they shut off the water at faucets and fountains,so bring water filtration system,for,replenishing,your bottles,at these,natural water sources. The trails are well maintained,and this hike is a wonderful adventure. One of the best and most challenging I've done yet!

hiking
Thu Oct 16 2014

We did this hike as a 2 day hike to make it easy on ourselves. This is NOT an easy trail. I had read up on the trail and was a bit concerned about how steep and narrow it was supposed to be. You really never know until you arrive. I thought it was steep but probably no worse than the South Kaibab. It was nice and cool at the top. We stopped for the night at Cottonwood and left early the next morning for Phantom Ranch. After Cottonwood the trail is not as flat as people said, but it is more rolling hills than climbs.The box was beautiful and people were enjoying themselves, taking pictures. The difference from the North side of the canyon to the South side is wild. Something you have to experience to appreciate.

hiking
Wed Feb 20 2013

Great Hike. One of the more challenging hikes I've done with a 4-5 day pack. This trail has great views and it has a 1.5 mile off-route to Ribbon Falls. Ribbon Falls is deafinately worth the trip even if your tired. I would recommend dropping your pack off in a bush though, to take a load off your legs, but bring your camera and a snack. This trail has a 2 Stretches that are about 5 miles long without water. One is down near the colorado river and the other is up near the rim. If I had one piece of advice for this trail, it is, Don't Underestimate Your Water Consumption!!! The lower 7 or so miles is pretty easy with some ups and downs. The top 5 miles is very rigorous, with never ending switchbacks, especially if it is your 2nd or 3rd day. I also recommend bringing extra snacks and water for other people you meet. Some will look like they're about to die from lack of preparation. If you take your time on this trail you will likely start before light and end after dark, but you should still take breaks. I'll the views a 5 out of 5 and I give the trail a 5 out of 5 because I like a challenge.

hiking
Sun Sep 02 2012

We hiked this trail to roaring springs. Amazing views! My husband and i did the 11 mile round trip in about 9 hours. Hope to one day do this with the kids.

hiking
Thu Aug 02 2012

We did this hike from the North Rim to South Rim using the North Kaibab and Bright Angel trails. It was a spectacular day and the scenery descending from the North Rim was amazing. Approaching the Colorado river you head through a box canyon with vertical walls all around you. Outstanding. Many people make this a multi day backpack and hiking trip and there are many campsites along the trail. We encountered several trail runners going rim to rim (24 miles) or rim to rim to rim (36 miles) which was really humbling.

hiking
Fri Mar 02 2012

Although we only hiked down to Roaring Springs from the North Rim, I consider this one of my most scenic hikes. My son Ron and I made this 11 mile RT hike on a beautiful day in June. The trail started out nice and easy, the way down was extremely scenic. Crowds of young people were coming up canyon, throughout our hike. I imagine these were the hikers who did the cross canyon route from the South Rim. (we could not get a permit, so we had to settle for this hike). The North Kaibab Trail down to Roaring Springs snaked its way down the narrow switchbacks, through a tunnel, over a bridge across the dry streambed, and finally to a the end of our hike, 3200' below. Roaring springs had a picnic table and water source, after we had lunch and hydrated as much as we could, we started the long trek up. Since I have COPD, the hike up was grueling, but nothing was going to restrain me. My son kept an eye on me all the way, making me rest, taking my Albuterol or hydrating whenever he thought I should. We saw a party coming down on mules, we stood quietly against the wall while they passed. (I could have used one of them, myself) Almost to the top, past the Supai Tunnel, we assisted a young girl who had collapsed and needed assistance (my son had EMT training). I got to the top exhausted but fullfilled. This was the hardest hike I had ever done, damn the COPD.

hiking
Fri Jan 13 2012

Did this one is September. What a great time. Went into the Canyon for six days and sixty miles. I carried a 24 pound pack including 8 pounds of water. My partner's pack was down to 23 pounds. We went all the way to Cheyava Falls. Minimalist Backpacking is fantastic!

hiking
Sun Mar 06 2011

I hiked this trail as the start of a rim-to-rim hike in 1998, at age 45. Most of what I experienced was as described in the 2010 review by Deb L - just in reverse. It was May when I hiked, and the early morning trailhead was chilly, but be careful with those layers! It got to 106 degrees at the bottom. I planned long and obsessively for this hike - the first major hike I undertook outside the Army. It was very tiring, but nothing a dip in Bright Angel Creek couldn't cure. As I pointed out in my review of the Bright Angel Trail, I have heard that less than one percent of GC visitors set foot below the rim. I also recall that 90 percent of the tourists only go to the more easily accessed South Rim. So if you want to joint a fairly elite hiking group, and get spectacular scenery at nearly every step, consider this trail as a bucket list must-do. Ground squirrels outnumber hikers, and those on this trail are far more laid back than their cousins across the river. Phantom Ranch is a scenic and very worthwhile stop. Even if you aren't into souvenir t-shirts, get theirs! You can't get them anyplace else, and the design changes each year. By the way, for those looking for an additional challenge, trail are attracted to this locale, especially for rim-to-rim runs. There are even runners who do the rim-to-rim-to-rim at one shot. Personally, I like to see where I'm going, and they generally start or end in the dark with headlamps. I also have enough trouble walking without stumbling - but, to each, his/her own. Last year, I hiked the bottom five miles with my wife, in the rain. This was a totally different experience, and seeing it through my wife's eyes was fun. This was part of her celebration of five years with artificial knees.

hiking
Thu Feb 04 2010

This trail sees much less use than its counterpart to the south (South Kaibab). At 14 miles long with an elevation gain of 5,800 feet, the North Kaibab Tail is the only maintained trail from the Colorado River to the North Rim. The first half of the North Kaibab--the seven miles between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Camp--are relatively easy as you hike along Bright Angel Creek and through The Box, where the walls of Vishnu Schist in Bright Angel Canyon close in on you. Several footbridges take you from one side of the creek to the other. After Cottonwood Camp heading north, the easier walking ends. More than half of the North Kaibab's elevation gain is accomplished in the top one-third of the trail. Two miles before the end of the climb, you'll pass through Supai Tunnel and can stop for a rest (and a potty break if you need one) before the final push. Potable water is also available here from May through mid-October. Leaving the tunnel, you'll likely start to feel the effects of the higher elevation if you're aren't used to it ... and, even if you are, it can make you breathe a bit harder. The North Kaibab trailhead is located about 2 miles from Grand Canyon Lodge. There is trailhead parking available. A campground (right on the rim) and shower house is open seasonally, so be sure to pack some quarters for the showers if you're gonna want one.

hiking
8 months ago

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hiking
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hiking
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