South Kaibab Variation, 2005
Grand Canyon National Park

  Notch Route and Miners Trail to the River


The goal of this dayhike down the Grand Canyon's South Kaibab Trail was to explore a secondary route to the river below the Tipoff. I started down the South Kaibab Trail at 9:15am on a beautiful sunny day. When I arrived at Skeleton Point approximately 70 minutes later, I eyeballed the notch at the top of the Kaibab switchbacks, while waiting for a mule train to pass, wondering if I should give it a try. My original intention for the day was to explore the Miners Trail as an alternative route from the Tonto Platform down to the river. However, I had recently became aware of the route off the west side of Skeleton Point at the notch and made an impulse decision to give it a look.

South Kaibab Trailheadl

O'Neill Butte

Looking down the notch

I would at least start down from the notch and see how it looked. Since I was travelling alone, I cautiously worked my way down being very careful to not take any chances. After successfully negotiating the moderately tricky upper part, which was relatively steep, I felt optomistic that the route was not too difficult. A bit of a footpath led to the southwest in order to skirt above some cliffs. The footpath eventually faded out in an area where an easy slope led down to the Tonto Trail below. Moving cautiously and slowly, I arrived at the Tonto Trail nearly an hour after having left Skeleton Point.

Below the notch

Notch Route - a look back

Notch Route - a look ahead

Notch Route viewed from the Tonto Trail

On the Tonto

Now on the Tonto, I followed it easterly for 5 minutes before peeling off to the north to where I believed the Miners Trail would begin, based on trip descriptions picked up online. A large cairn presented itself in the vicinity where the trail was expected to start and I headed for it. An old and unmaintained, but obvious trail led downward. I followed it and with careful attention, was able to stay on it. Only in one place was the route indistinct enough that I had to hunt around for it. On the lower half of the trail, the grade steepened as the Silver Bridge loomed sharply below. After more slow and careful negotiating of this secondary trail, I arrived at the River Trail only a short distance west of the Silver Bridge. The Notch Route and the Miners Trail had been an interesting variation to the lower South Kaibab, but took me considerably longer to get to the river.

Start of Miners Trail

Halfway down

Junction with River Trail

Now on good trail, I walked across the bridge and headed northward to Phantom Ranch for some much appreciated lemonade from the Canteen. After relaxing for nearly an hour, it was time to start back. My return route would be directly up the South Kaibab Trail to the rim, with no off-trail variations. The South Kaibab is a favorite climb due to its spectacular views and general lack of crowds.

Silver Bridge

Visit Phantom Ranch

Up South Kaibab

On the Kaibab switchbacks

Above Ooh Aah Point

It was a nice afternoon on the South Kaibab, with hardly any other hikers to share the trail. The climb was pleasant, but uneventful and at 5:45pm, I reached the rim, walked to my car and headed for home. It had been another fine day in the Canyon.

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