If you are interested in getting away from the overwhelming crowds along the South Rim and venturing into the Grand Canyon, hiking the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point is the perfect adventure for you! This section of the South Kaibab trail features some of the best views in the Grand Canyon and culminates with an incredible vista at Skeleton Point. While most visitors never leave the rim, hiking into the Grand Canyon is the best way to truly experience the majesty of the Canyon and find some peace and solitude away from the crowds. In the article below, we explain that makes the hike to Skeleton Point via the South Kaibab Trail amazing and give you all the information you need to complete this epic Grand Canyon adventure!
- Overview | Grand Canyon Skeleton Point
- About Grand Canyon National Park
- South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point Hike
- Highlights and lowlights
- How difficult is hiking to Skeleton Point?
- Modifications to the hike
- South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point hike details
- Getting to the Grand Canyon
- When in the best time to hike to Skeleton Point?
- What to pack for the Grand Canyon Skeleton Point hike
- Tips for a great hike
- Where to stay in the Grand Canyon
About the Grand Canyon
You have probably seen pictures of the Grand Canyon at some point in your life but nothing will prepare you for the magical moment of seeing it in person for the first time. You just can’t comprehend how majestic and massive it is. Few places have literally taken my breath away and made me audibly gasp upon seeing them but the Grand Canyon is one of them!
Like I said, you can’t truly comprehend how massive the Grand Canyon is but to give you some sense for size – it stretches for 277 miles from east to west, is typically about 10 miles across and is over a mile deep!
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular National Parks and the crowds along the highly-developed South Rim can be insane. The number of people around may make you feel like you are in Disney World or Times Square – not an ideal environment to enjoy one of the seven wonders of the natural world!
And while there is nothing wrong with the easy accessibility of the Grand Canyon, if you are like us, you will quickly be overwhelmed and annoyed rubbing elbows with throngs to tourists. The best way to escape the heavy crowds is to leave the rim and head into the canyon itself!
About Skeleton Point in the Grand Canyon
Skeleton Point is a beautiful viewpoint below the rim of the Grand Canyon that gives hikers a glimpse of the mighty Colorado River and is accessible via a 3-mile hike on the South Kaibab Trail. If you’re looking to escape the crowds of the South Rim and feel like you’ve truly experienced the Grand Canyon, hiking below the rim is a must and the hike to Skeleton Point offers one of the best views in the park!
Although the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point hike is only 6 miles round trip, it is challenging with plenty of elevation gain which should not be underestimated!
Hike Overview | South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
- Hiking distance | 6 miles
- Elevation gain | 2000 feet
- Total time | 5 – 8 hours
- Epic-ness rating | 9
- Difficulty | Hard
Find this hike on AllTrails: South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
- Sweeping views of the Grand Canyon throughout the entire hike, culminating with the best view at Skeleton point
- Escape the crowds at the Grand Canyon South Rim
- Trail descends into the canyon, making for a steep, challenging hike back up
- Shuttle is required to reach the trailhead
How difficult is hiking to Skeleton Point in the Grand Canyon?
South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton is a challenging hike, dropping over 2,000 feet into the Grand Canyon in just 3 miles. While getting to Skeleton Point may feel like a breeze, it’s important to remember that the toughest part comes at the end when you have to climb back out.
For this reason, rescues in the Grand Canyon happen all too often, as hikers frequently underestimate how far they’ve hiked. Please remember that your safety is your responsibility and know your limits before starting the hike.
For those with a fear of heights, the South Kaibab Trail may give you a but of trepidation. It hugs the wall of the Grand Canyon with a sharp drop off to the side of the trail for the majority of the hike.
During the winter, spring, and fall, the trail can be icy, so microspikes are often necessary to stay safe. For reference, I (Sarah) often have a fear of heights and this one didn’t bother me.
Modifications to the hike
There are a few ways you can customize the Grand Canyon Skeleton Point hike depending on your interests and how much time you have.
How to shorten the hike
If you’re looking for a shorter hike, there are a couple other viewpoints on the South Kaibab Trail along the way to Skeleton Point that make for good turnaround points:
- Cedar Ridge | 3 miles roundtrip, 1,100 feet elevation gain
- Ooh Aah Point | 2 miles roundtrip, 685 feet elevation gain
Continue to the Colorado River and Bright Angel Trail
From Skeleton Point, you can continue on the South Kaibab trail until you reach the Colorado River and then return to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail. This 17-mile South Rim to South Rim hike is an awesome way to explore even more of the Grand Canyon and will certainly give you a workout!
Please be aware that the park service does not recommend completing this hike in one day, especially during the summer. That being said, it is doable if you’re an experienced hiker, in good shape, and the weather conditions are amenable.
If you’re interested in taking on this challenging trek, we’ve put together an article that provides all the information you need to prepare:
Hike Details | Grand Canyon Skeleton Point via South Kaibab Trail
In the section below, we’ve detailed each part of the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point hike to help you decide whether to add you’d like to add the hike to your Grand Canyon itinerary!
We hiked to Skeleton Point as part of a longer hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail. The views from the South Kaibab trail and Skeleton Point are absolutely incredible, and catching your first glimpse of the mighty Colorado River was a surreal experience.
If we had just one day in the park, we’d do this hike again in a heartbeat and can’t recommend it enough!
When hiked on a very cold, rainy, and foggy morning in early March. As we descended the South Kaibab Trail, the rain came and went, so unfortunately we missed out on some of the views. Luckily we purchased ponchos (see photo below) at the camp store the night before our hike, so we managed to keep relatively dry.
Despite the rain, this hike remains one of our all-time favorite hiking experiences to this day.
Getting to the trailhead
The trailhead for the South Kaibab Trail is located near Yaki Point off Yaki Point Road. You cannot drive directly to the trailhead, so the best way to get there is via shuttle bus. There are two shuttle options:
- Orange Line: Departs from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and takes about 10 minutes to reach the trailhead (via the Eastbound bus)
- Hiker’s Express shuttle: One-way shuttle that departs from Bright Angel Lodge, the Backcountry Information Center, and Visitor Center. It will take about 20 minutes to get from the Bright Angel Lodge to the trailhead. The key advantage of the Hiker’s Express Shuttle over the Orange Line is that it departs earlier in the morning.
Parking on Desert View Drive
If you prefer not to take the shuttle, there is limited parking available near the trailhead on Desert View Drive. However, parking here will add about a mile roundtrip to the hike, and finding a spot may be difficult. It’s definitely easier to just pick up a shuttle to the trailhead.
Starting the hike
As soon as you step foot on the South Kaibab Trail, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the orange and purple canyon walls. The trail is very steep as it descends quickly, clinging to the edge of the canyon. Luckily, these epic views continue the entire way to Skeleton Point!
Ooh Aah Point
The first major viewpoint along the South Kaibab Trail is Ooh Ahh Point, aptly named after the sound you’ll make when you reach this stunning vista! Ooh Aah Point is a popular turnaround point for a moderate 2-mile round trip hike that gives you a smaller taste of the South Kaibab Trail.
As you can imagine, the crowds thin out the farther along you go, so expect to see other people at Ooh Aah Point, especially later in the day. If you start the hike early, there is a higher chance you will avoid the crowds. We arrived around 8:00am when we hiked in March and had the spot to ourselves!
Continue past Ooh Aah Point for another half a mile until you reach a clearing at Cedar Ridge. Cedar Ridge marks the halfway point on the hike to Skeleton Point! From here you can see O’Neill Butte below and a series of seemingly never-ending switchbacks that continue down to the canyon floor.
If aren’t planning to hike all the way to Skeleton Point, Cedar Ridge is a good turnout point for a 3-mile round trip hike.
After 3 miles of hiking downhill, you will reach Skeleton Point. From here you will be treated to the best views of the hike and catch a glimpse of the Colorado River! This is a great spot to have lunch, soak in the views, and rest up for the climb out of the canyon.
At this point on our hike, the rain was heavy and the fog was thick, so I just barely managed to grab a photo of the mighty Colorado. We could not see the rim through the fog and it felt like we were in a totally different world.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Colorado River changes color with the season?! The river appears a light green color from fall to spring, but changes to a reddish brown during the summer due to sediment in the water, caused by heavier rains in the summer months.
Once you’ve taken a break and soaked in the views from Skeleton Point, gear up for the hardest part of the hike! Returning back to the South Rim is a tough climb, gaining 2,200 feet of elevation over 3 miles. Make sure to save enough time and energy to get back to the rim!
Logistics | Planning your Grand Canyon Skeleton Point hike
In this section, we’ll help you plan all the logistics for your hiking trip in the Grand Canyon.
How to get to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is located in northwestern Arizona, about 2 hours from Sedona, 2.5 hours from Page, 4 hours from Phoenix, 3.5 hours from Kanab, Utah, and 4.5 hours from Las Vegas, Nevada. The Grand Canyon is an essential stop on any Southwest Utah and Arizona road trip itinerary!
Be aware that lines to get into Grand Canyon National Park can get very backed up, especially later in the day. We drove from Sedona and arrived at the Grand Canyon around noon, only to wait in traffic for an hour to get into the park! We’d recommend arriving at the park early in the morning to avoid waiting.
Grand Canyon entrance fees
Entrance to the Grand Canyon costs $35 per vehicle and is good for 7 days. Alternatively, you can purchase an America the Beautiful Pass for $80 which gives you access to all parks in the United States for an entire year.
It almost certainly makes sense to purchase an annual pass if you plan to visit 3 or more parks in the next year.
When is the best time to hike to Skeleton Point?
Spring and fall are the best times to hike to Skeleton Point. Summer (late May through early September) in the Grand Canyon can be brutal, making this hike dangerous.
The Park Service does not recommend hiking past Cedar Ridge during the summer months, as lack of shade and extreme temperatures can easily cause heat exhaustion and dehydration. In the winter, the trail may be snow and/or ice-covered, especially near the rim.
“Hiking to the Colorado River and back in one day is not recommended due to long distance, extreme heat, and a nearly 5,000 foot elevation change. If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger…”
Grand Canyon Skeleton Point packing list
Below are the essentials we wore/carried with us on this hike:
- National Parks Pass: gives you access to all U.S. National Parks for one year
- Hiking poles (Black Diamond Distance Z poles)
- Backpack with bladder (Hers: CamelBak Helena 20L, His: Camelback Rim Runner 22L)
- Hiking boots (Hers: Danner Mountain 600s, His: Salomon Ultra 4 Mid GTX)
- Hiking pants (Hers: Athleta Headlands pants, His: PrAna Stretch Zion Pants)
- Long sleeve base layers (Hers: Smartwool All Season Baselayer)
- GPS Device (Garmin InReach Mini)
- Sunscreen and chapstick
- Headlamp (Black Diamond Storm 400)
- First Aid Kit
- Plenty of water (3 liters per person)
- Food (Clif Bars, Cheese-its, PB&J)
- Sunglasses (Goodr)
- Gloves and hats
- Rain Jacket (Hers: Patagonia Torrentshell)
- Camera (Nikon Z6) with Peak Design Camera Clip and Matador Camera Bag
Tips for a great hike
- Start early | It’s the best way to be the crowds and the heat!
- Pack plenty of water and snacks | This is a tough hike with little shade – make sure you have enough food and water to keep you fueled!
- Yield to donkeys | The South Kaibab Trail is shared by tour groups traveling by donkey. Be prepared to step to the inside of the trail to let them pass.
- Check the weather before hike | Weather conditions can change quickly in the canyon so make sure you are prepared.
- Always leave no trace | Help preserve this beautiful place for generations to come.
Where to stay before hiking Skeleton Point
The closest major town to the Grand Canyon South Rim is Flagstaff, Arizona, located about an hour and a half from the Visitor Center.
There are also some hotel options in Tuyasan and Grand Canyon Junction, just outside the South Entrance. However, the most convenient place to stay is inside the park, near the South Rim Village.
Campgrounds on the South Rim
There are three campgrounds on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Mather Campground and Trailer Village RV Park are the best options for the Skeleton Point hike, located about 5 minutes from the Visitor Center. Mather Campground is open year-round and offers 327 campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and space for up to 6 people.
Trailer Village RV Park is also open year round and is the only campground inside the park that offers full RV hook ups. The third campground, Desert View Campground, is located near the East Entrance of the park and is about 40 minutes from the Visitor Center.
Campgrounds in the Grand Canyon book up well in advance so make sure to plan ahead if want to camp. Reservations may be made online at recreation.gov.
Hotels and lodging in the Grand Canyon
There are also a few hotel and lodging options conveniently located just minutes from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. The Yavapai Lodge is a great budget-friendly option, with clean rooms at reasonable prices for the location, but nothing fancy.
Just like the campgrounds, these hotels are in high demand so be sure to book well in advance.
Other useful resources
Planning a trip to the Southwest? Check out the resources below to help plan your trip!
- Arizona | How to Spend One Amazing Day in Page, Arizona
- Arizona | 4 Beautiful Hikes You Can’t Miss in Sedona, Arizona
- Bryce Canyon | 10 Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park
- Zion | Zion West Rim Trail: Backpacking Guide
- Zion & Bryce | The Perfect 3-Day Zion and Bryce Canyon Itinerary
- Canyonlands | How to Hike to Druid Arch in Canyonlands
Have you hiked to Skeleton Point in the Grand Canyon? Questions about planning your hike? Let us know in the comments below!