As usual I’m itching to get past the introduction and get to the trails. I have the same itch when I’m in the trailhead parking lot – a desperate need to get on the trail. Admittedly I have left many a needed item in the car as a result, (matches, hiking poles, sunglasses, hat, gloves etc.). I’ve also taken the wrong trail in my general agitation to get started, more than once! So I’ll take a deep breath and slow it down just a bit.
Here is what we’re doing today:
- Take a look out from Shoshone Point
- Take a look into Hermit Trail
- A peek at Bright Angel Trail
- An Ooh Aah view from South Kaibab Trail
We’ll start at Shoshone Point on the South rim of The Grand Canyon. This is one of the only points within the accessible section of The National Park where you will get away from the crowds without dropping down into the canyon. It is an awe inspiring overlook that gives you unrestricted views west, north, and east. It should not be missed. If so spectacular then why so quiet? Couple of reasons: it’s not on the Park Service map; and it requires a walk of a mile or so to get there.
Heading east on Desert View Drive (Route 64) from Grand Canyon Village you’ll see, (or miss), a small parking lot on the left around Mile 446. The trail, a Jeep trail, passes a gate that states permits are required. This is only for group use and/or to drive the mile to the point. You can walk in without a permit. Follow this for about a mile till you reach a picnic area with a toilet. Pass through this to the point itself. Carefully make your way out past a standing rock to the most jaw dropping view you will likely ever see!
If you are lucky, or unlucky, you may come across a wedding or other ceremony. People can book the picnic area which has a number of open and covered tables. You still have access.
A short drop into Hermit Trail to get a look at the trail and the view. This trail is the furthest west in the main section of the National Park. You can drive there in the winter months but must take the shuttle service the rest of the year, (unless you have a Backcountry Permit).
The Hermit Trail will take you down to the river but at 8.5 miles one way that is too much for a dayhike for most of us. Instead, a trip down to Dripping Springs (1.8 miles one way), or to Santa Maria Spring, (2.3 miles) is more manageable.
We’re just having a quick look at Bright Angel Trail today. Even in January there is a steady stream of hikers and intrepid tourists. The trail drops of the rim in a beautiful series of gently sweeping switchbacks. Very quickly you will pass through a tunnel cut through the limestone. As you pass through have a look up at the rock face above on the left and you’ll see red pictograph created by the Havasupia. Beyond the switchbacks the trail traverses the canyon side to reach Mile-and-a-half Resthouse.
The trail will take you to the river or if you want to make a horseshoe hike you can combine Bright Angel with Tonto over to South Kaibab and back to the South Rim. We’ll do that a little later in the year when there is more daylight
Down to Ooh Aah Point on South Kaibab Trail. The trail follows a tight series of switchbacks before traversing the north cliff down to Ooh Aah Point. As the name suggests, the views here are stunning. With your eye you can follow the trail down another series of switchbacks to Cedar Ridge, along the east face of O’Neill Butte before plunging again. Before reaching the river, (a very long way away), you’ll pass Skeleton Point, the junction with the Tonto Trail, and the Tipoff. For unrestricted views within the Canyon it is hard to beat the South Kaibab Trail.