Trail Description : North Kaibab Trail
The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained trail into the Canyon from the north rim. It takes you 14 miles from its trailhead to its terminus at Bright Angel Campground and the Colorado River. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow throughout its entire length. The top portion, 4.7 miles from the trailhead to Roaring Springs, is very steep and is by far the most difficult section, especially if you are climbing out. With the round trip distance to the river being 28 miles, this is not recommended as a day hike.
There are, however, some good day hikes along this trail:
Those last two are probably pushing the limits for most people as a day hike but if you are in good shape and know what you are doing, they are possible.
The trailhead for the North Kaibab Trail shares the same parking area with the trailhead for the Ken Patrick Trail and the Uncle Jim Trail. This parking area is located two miles north of the Grand Canyon Lodge off of the main park road.
Mileages are as follows (one-way):
Like the other rim to river trails the top sections looks easy enough on the way down. Just pray that you are not coming back up this way. After a long day of hiking this trail is a killer of a way to end it. If you are hiking out from the Colorado River it is advisable to spend a night at Cottonwood Camp to rest up for the climb out along this section. The steepest section from the top to Roaring Springs is at some times covered with rockfalls and can require some care. The buildings you will see as you approach Roaring Springs are the pumping station and the caretaker's dwelling. In the summertime there is often a pitcher of ice cold lemonade sitting in the shade beneath an old Cottonwood next to the caretaker's garden. It's hard to not love some people! This is especially true if you've just finished the hike up from Phantom Ranch and still have the climb out ahead of you, as I did back on that hot July 4th many year ago. That was still the best glass of anything, let alone lemonade, that I have ever had to drink.
From Roaring Springs on down to the Colorado River the trail is long but not difficult. More than half of the drop along the trail occurs in the top 1/3 of its mileage. The descent along the rest of the route is very gradual and hardly noticeable at times. It's worse coming up but only because of the length. About 2 miles further south you will pass through Cottonwood Camp. There are a good number of sites available here if you want to plan it as a layover. From here it is an easy walk to Ribbon Falls and back. The trail to Ribbon Falls is about one mile south of Cottonwood and from there it's only a half mile to the falls. If you are going to or coming from the river, Cottonwood Camp and Ribbon Falls make for excellent rest or lunch stops as they are both just about half way between the river and the trailhead.
The trail to Ribbon Falls is not maintained and you have a choice of either using the footbridge to the north or fording Bright Angel Creek further south. If you are coming from Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground you will encounter the ford route before the footbridge route. You should not attempt to ford Bright Angel Creek if it is at flood stage.
From the junction of the trail to Ribbon Falls the trail meanders along the east bank of Bright Angel Creek for about 4 miles until you each the north end of The Box, where the walls of Bright Angel Canyon begin to close in on you. In this section of Bright Angel Canyon you enter the Vishnu Schist. The walls soar high above you as the trail continues to follow the meanders of Bright Angel Creek, crossing it a couple of times with the aid of footbridges.
After a little more than a mile you will come to the junction of the Clear Creek Trail and less than a mile beyond that, Phantom Ranch. From Phantom Ranch it's only slightly more than a quarter mile to Bright Angel Campground.