South Rim Trail Visitors Center To South Kaibab

South Rim Trail: Visitor’s Center to South Kaibab Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn-by-Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • What to Expect on the Rim Hike to the South Kaibab Trail
  • Tips on Weather, Parking, and Planning for the Hike
Distance2.8 miles (4.5 km)
Hike Time1-1.5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)180 feet (55m)
Highest Elevation7,260 feet (2213m)
Fees & PermitsNational Park Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park Website (?)Grand Canyon National Park
Park Phone928-638-7888
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Hiking in the Grand Canyon doesn’t have to be a leg-busting trek to the bottom. There’s a beautiful trail called the (South) Rim Trail that allows you to walk along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s a wide, easy, and flat trail where you can enjoy the views without breaking a sweat. This Rim Trail hike starts right at the Visitor’s Center and takes you eastward to the legendary South Kaibab Trailhead. You’ll be rewarded with dozens of vista points that don’t have the crowds. At the end, you can hop on a free shuttle bus back to the Visitor’s Center.

Want a similar hike that takes in more attractions? Try the Rim Trail hike to Bright Angel.

Don’t forget to check out my Grand Canyon hiking tips here!

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike conveniently starts right at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center, the first stop for many folks coming to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. If you’ve been driving for a while and just want to stretch your legs and get away from the crowds, this hike is a great option.

Here is the Visitor Center address:
Grand Canyon Visitor Center, S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

There are multiple lots at the Visitor’s Center and there are always people coming and going, so if at first you don’t find a spot, keep driving around. The Visitor’s Center also a free offers shuttle bus service to all the attractions on the South Rim, so it’s a good place to use as a base.

Start Of Short Rim Trail Hike
This hike starts right in front of the Visitor’s Center building.

Gear for the Hike

This is more of an easy walk than a hike, and you can get away with everyday clothing here. If you do have fitness or hiking clothes, it will make the hike more pleasant. There is no water on the hike, so bring 1L with you for the walk. You can fill up with water at the start and end of the hike.

Weather can be extreme at the Grand Canyon. In the winter there can be snow and ice, and in the summer the temperatures can be high. Wear the appropriate clothing for the conditions. If there are thunderstorms in the area it’s best not to do this hike.

FYI >> REI 50% Clearance Sale on now

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos Blue

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

This is one of the only hiking trails in the Grand Canyon where you can bring leashed pets. Unfortunately they are not allowed on the shuttle bus, so if you do this hike with a pet, you’ll have to walk back.

Trail Maps

The Rim Trail is a wide and well maintained (and often paved) walking path that stretches a total of 13 miles along the South Rim. This hike is entirely paved and only has some small, gradual ups and downs. There are no climbs or hard parts. It’s easy to follow and there are lots of signs, so it’s a great beginner’s hike. Even if you are an experienced hiker, the trail is spectacular as it follows the rim and offers lots of great viewpoints.

Click To View Map

South Rim Trail: Visitor’s Center to South Kaibab Trail Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

Visitor’s Center to South Kaibab Trail Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn-by-Turn Directions

Rim Trail To South Kaibab 2
If you’re facing the entrance of the Visitor’s Center, hike to the right toward Mather Point.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 3
Just after the Visitor Center building, bear left and hike up the wide paved path.
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The path to Mather Point is wide and easy to follow. In the summer this is packed with people, so try to come early in the morning or later in the afternoon for a more pleasant experience.
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Continue on the wide paved path to Mather Point. You can see the small brown sign in the lower right that helps point the way.
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When you go straight through the intersection you’ll pass over this medallion honoring all the tribes that call the Grand Canyon their home. The medallion was funded by donors to the Grand Canyon Conservancy.
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Soon after that you’ll reach the chaos called Mather Point. It’s truly one of the best overlooks on the South Rim, but the constant churn of tour buses can make it madness. We’re going to check it out and then continue on the Rim Trail for some views with peace and quiet.

Use extreme caution when near the edge. Don’t go off the trail right to the edge unless there is a railing. Don’t take selfies on the edge. You might think most deaths occur from hikers deep in the wilderness, but that’s not the case. More people die on the South Rim. In 2019 three people ignored warnings and fell from the edge of the canyon in one week. There’s nothing dangerous about this hike or visiting as long as you follow the rules. If you go off the trail and start taking selfies, who knows?

Rim Trail To South Kaibab 9
There’s one spot on the left side of Mather Point where you can see the Colorado River a mile below. It’s that little black-green dash in the distance.

Mather Point is named after Steven Mather, a millionaire businessman, conservationist, friend of John Muir, and creator of the National Parks Service. If you’re interested in learning more about the Grand Canyon, Mather, and the National Parks in general, I highly recommend watching the Ken Burns National Parks documentary. It will add a deeper appreciation to your visit at the Grand Canyon and any National Park.

Rim Trail To South Kaibab 10
Once you’re done at Mather Point, make the left at the intersection, following the signs for the Rim Trail.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 11
It will immediately mellow out at you walk up the Rim Trail.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 12
Continue around to the right along the fences.
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Soon you’ll pass the amphitheater to the left. It’s used for ranger programs but you can also just sit in there and look into the Grand Canyon.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 15
Now you should have most of the trail to yourself. The crowds of the Visitor’s Center are behind you and a mellow walk with incredible views in front of you. There are many interpretive displays like this one on the left to help you understand what you’re looking at.
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You’ll have some great views into the canyon from the many viewpoints along the trial.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 1
The Rim Trail winds in away from the rim for a stretch. Normally you’d see more Ponderosa Pines here but a fire in 2006 burned them down. Everything you see here now has grown since then. The new growth makes it a popular spot for grazing mule deer and elk.
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The trail continues next to the edge (but far enough away to be safe).
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The trail will gradually start turning south (right) as it makes its way around the Pipe Creek Canyon below. The other side of the cliff across the canyon is Yaki Point. It’s a nice and quiet place because it’s closed to vehicles. You can visit Yaki Point  with the shuttle bus at the end of the hike.
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Avoid any unpaved side trails and continue on the paved Rim Trail.
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Soon the trail winds its way along next to the road.
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And then you arrive at Pipe Creek Vista. If you’re tired you can hop on a shuttle bus here back to the Visitor’s Center. Otherwise the end of this hike at South Kaibab is only a short distance away.
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The views from Pipe Creek Vista are incredible. You can see the creek below you meander and then drop into the gorge, eventually reaching the Colorado River.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 22
Continue on the Rim Trail as it makes its way toward the South Kaibab Trail.
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Soon the trail goes along the road (closed to private traffic). You’ll see the mule pens across the street. These mules supply Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon.
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Eventually you’ll reach the road crossing.
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Head across the street to the South Kaibab Trail shuttle bus stop. Catch the bus here to return back to the start of the hike (more later).
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There are bathrooms here.
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And you can get more water beneath the sign at the shuttle bus stop.
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Continue up the paved trail from the shuttle bus stop to see the start of the legendary South Kaibab Trail. This is the end of the hike! From here head back to the shuttle bus stop.

You can do the short hike down to Ooh Ahh Point if you have some energy. Or if you want to try something more ambitious and you’re prepared, try the hike to Cedar Ridge or Skeleton Point (where you can see the river).

Shuttle Bus Back to Visitor’s Center

To get back to the start, just hop on the Orange Line Shuttle Bus back to the Visitor’s Center. The bus is free and takes about 10 minutes. You can also take the bus to Yaki Point since you’re so close.

Orange Loop Diagram
The Orange Loop Shuttle Bus runs year-round to the South Kaibab Trailhead.
Rim Trail To South Kaibab 31
That’s the hike! Have a great time, be safe, and pat yourself on the back for doing a nice hike.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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