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The Best Hikes of GC - Above Rim Trails

405 Triplog Reviews in the GC - Above Rim Trails
Most recent of 177 deeper Triplog Reviews
1 mi • 1 ft aeg
Joel and I had been mulling over a summit off the north rim for most of the summer, but various factors prevented us from linking up until this Labor Day Weekend. After going over several options off the north rim, we committed to Freya Castle, as it had just enough technical aspects to keep it interesting and on paper it did not appear to be as committing as some of the other ones on our radar up there.

We set off at 6:15 a.m. on the paved Cape Royal Trail, which couldn’t have been any more dissimilar than the terrain we would encounter the rest of the way. From the far point, we dropped off tourist left down a steep slope and then quickly encountered a series of manageable Kaibab shelves, before reaching the crux of the Kaibab layer descent; A narrow ledge traverse and semi committing step over where the ledge is most narrow. Two stayed upright, two crawled. From there, it was a couple of class four down climbs to reach the steep slopes and traverse that would take us to our coconino “break.” I use the term break loosely, as this break would require two rappels to clear. We left fixed lines at both rappels to ascend on our return. Once at the base of the coco, we began a slightly taxing, but short traverse to the saddle of Freya Castle, which was made less fun by the warm morning. From the saddle, we gained a couple of hills and then completed a quarter mile traverse along the base of Freya to a bit of a gully and the first obvious class three terrain that goes all the way to the summit. Most of this traverse was in the shade and I personally felt it went easier than the half mile we traversed to the saddle. The class three ascent to the summit was warm, steep and loose.

The summit offered a nice vantage point to Vishnu and the muddy Colorado bending through the Unkar Delta, however, the sun was hot, so we spent most of our time hunkered down in the shade, trying to force down enough food to prevent us from bonking on our return. We were all partially successful in that endeavor. The traverse back to the coco break felt more tedious on the return and the sun was hotter, but we persevered and were rewarded with a shady first jug out and scramble to our final fixed line.

Overall, it was an engaging, fun, sometimes warm, but rewarding ten hours below the rim. It was nice to finally link up with Joel for a significant summit, after admiring his work in the Canyon from afar for years now. I thought the four of us made a great team and I had a lot of fun in route to my 54th Grand Canyon summit.
1 mi • 0 ft aeg
After the cave we headed up to the canyon. Original plan was a jaunt down Hermit, some concerns about kid endurance kept us to the Rim. Took Hermit bus to Hopi, picnic lunch, then walked to Mohave. Flirted with continuing to Hermits Rest but… 2 adults with 5 kids along that trail, with the kids messing around and those drops, no railing… called it v early. With hindsight I wish we would’ve done a section of the trail closer to the village with more protection. Oh well, we got to see some cool views all the way down to the river along this section.
15 mi • 4,500 ft aeg
We started our day camped around 9K ft on the Kaibab Plateau. We would pack up our camp and then drive to the North Kaibab Trailhead. We scored a parking spot on the road roughly a quarter mile back & started hiking a few minutes before 8am.

Our hike started with the Ken Patrick Trail. The going is relatively easy as you work your way through the forest. I found myself out of breath and remembered we’re hiking above 8K ft. We set a steady pace and headed for the start of the Old Bright Angel Trail. We arrived at the sign and took a short break to fuel up and apply sun screen. It was then go time!

The Old Bright Angel Trail starts off with a steep descent and then you have to push through an overgrown section. This initial section was a bit confusing but we had a GPS Route preloaded and this kept us on track. After pushing through the brush the route is mostly obvious as it drops into the Canyon. It’s a mix of heavy brush and a lot of downed trees to navigate over. The views are spectacular! We set a modest pace and worked our way down. Most of this was shaded as its east facing and it was still early so the sun was not overhead yet. We continued down and it’s rugged with steep switchbacks through the Coconino & then easy going for a bit. We arrived in the creek bottom and took a much needed break.

After our break we continued to the top of the Redwall. From here the route stays high on the right as it traverses its way down canyon. The footing is poor as its loose & off camber. We carefully worked our way down as we got closer to the bed of Bright Angel Creek. Along this stretch we crossed the top of a solid waterfall coming off a side drainage. Soon after we arrived at Bright Angel Creek & took another break. This area was very confusing as we weren’t sure if you follow the creek or climb back up in hopes of finding the trail. We would split up and got lucky & found the trail about 100ft above the creek. This section was rocky & off camber but relatively straightforward. We kept at it and could see the North Kaibab Trail straight ahead. A few minutes later our route turned to the left and headed south. We stayed high and followed the trail. There’s a route but sections are in poor shape. It’s steep with poor footing but we got through fine. A few minutes later we arrived at the bridge by the Manzanita Rest House where we took an extended lunch and soaked our feet in the frigid Bright Angel Creek.

After our break it was time for the slog up the North Kaibab Trail. It’s been about three years since I’ve hiked this trail and I was pleasantly surprised to see the trail conditions are top notch! No wonder so many people like to trail run it. We set a steady pace & headed up & we got lucky with some clouds that provided pockets of shade. The going went well & we encountered more people as we ascended. The climb up the Supai took some work and the Coconino was hardy as well. I took a break near the top of the Coconino & then continued up. I was delighted to arrive back on the rim and the end of the hike. We would load up and then headed north and camped near Jacob Lake & returned to Phoenix the next day.

The Old Bright Angel Trail was a joy to hike. It’s not easy but is worth the effort. I would recommend having a GPS Route loaded. This saved time & effort. All in all it was a great holiday weekend getaway and I’m already thinking about the next trip to the Grand Canyon! It never gets old!
27.61 mi • 8,432 ft aeg
The big day-hike had arrived!

Saturday: After driving up from the valley, we spent the night at the Triple Alcoves TH and went out to its rim. Easy/smooth trail to the rim, where you can easily move up and down the rim for various views. Definitely worth hitting while in the area and the camping is better than the Nako TH and less that 10 minutes away.

Sunday: Started the hike at 5:43 (just before sunrise). Truck read 31 degrees at TH with little to no breeze. Started with 1.5L in the bladder and 2 liter bottles to cache. We moved quickly up to the saddle (caching a liter each there), and then the long traverse over to the top of the shoulder that heads down to Nanko creek (caching another litter each here at the top).

With the light day hiking weight, the downhill went smoothly. After entering the creek section we stopped to filter water for the trip to the river/granary and back to same spot. Down the creek making quick decisions as to the "best" route of the many presented.

Arrived at the river at 11:29 (just under 6 hours from the start and within 10 minutes of projected time). Hung out shoeless at the beautiful "emerald beach" and had lunch - temps low 70s. Then headed up to the granary! What an awesome experience and the lighting/clouds down canyon were pretty good for the middle of the day. Spent some time here taking photos and then headed down and back up the creek to our same filter spot. Another 1.5L for the bladder plus the 2 2L caches for the hike out.

At this point we were slightly behind my projected times (which I thought were on the padded side). Then within the first mile of the steep up I knew I was not right - I just didn't have the energy that I normally do. It was slow going with a fair amount of stopping/resting (increasing the rest time well above projections).

Once on the traverse, I was picking up a little speed, but still not right and resting. Looks like it will be after dark when we get out - which I was hoping we would get out before dark (based on time only - no issue with hiking in the dark). Made it back to the TH at 9:06 (my projection was 7:30).

Back at camp, no hot meal or celebratory beer - instead a sponge-bath, bowl of cereal and hit the bag.

Mon: Drive back to Chandler. In bed by 7:30 and up on Tuesday at 7:00 - yes, 11.5 hrs of sleep! Felt great at work on Tuesday, back to normal.

My buddy that went with me is an Ultra Trail-Runner, so he had no issues and could have gone 2-3x faster if he weren't hanging with me. While I was a little disappointed with my speed/time, it was a GREAT hike and I had an amazing time! Next month is North Bass and hopefully a less than 15hr day - but I promise you I will have an incredible day in THE Canyon either way!

86.7 mi • 28,282 ft aeg
Butte Fault Loop
Disclaimer: This is not a very good route, and I do not recommend it. It is of course incredibly scenic and geologically (and historically) fascinating, but there are long sections of unpleasant hiking due scratchy brush and lots of loose, sharp rocks. I like hiking off trail as much as the next guy, and have done a lot of it in the desert and elsewhere, but this is non-terrific. IMO, this route if for Grand Canyon aficionados only. Also, there are long distances between reliable water sources. Buzz & I are strong, experienced hikers, and were able to camp at water every night. Others may have to dry camp at times. As always, YMMV.

The GPS track to this trip is attached. It is also available here: https://caltopo.com/m/78G3
These are from Buzz's Strava https://www.strava.com/athletes/184882, edited somewhat to remove GPS errors and such. You can also view more photos on there.

I read whatever trip reports I could find for this route and studied it carefully to come up with a track to load into Gaia on my phone. This turned out pretty well. We did find some of the route descriptions to be confusing and sometimes just wrong. So maybe our GPS track will help future hikers.

April is the best time to do this hike due to good weather, long days, and not too much snow on the North Rim. Unfortunately, the North Rim is mostly inaccessible in April. We simply added a bit of on-trail hiking by starting at the South Rim and making a lollipop loop. There are certainly other, shorter ways to do this, such as by starting at the Nankoweep TH and ending on the South Rim, which of course would require a shuttle. We figured a little extra hiking was simpler than dealing with logistics.

We didn’t want to camp on the North Rim, which would have been at least 15 degrees colder than anywhere else on the route, so we took a short first day and hiked the South and North Kaibab trails ~14 miles to Cottonwood CG.

Leaving camp at 6am on Day 2 was the last time we saw any people for over 3 full days. We decided to go up the Old Bright Angel trail, since neither of us had done it, and it seemed more in character with the route we were doing. Though easy to follow, Old BA is very overgrown in many sections and kind of a thrash. Buzz commented that in 5 years it will no longer be a viable route due to the brush. Though I think ~ 3 miles shorter I believe it took longer to go this way than just following the main trail. There was some post-holing on the Ken Patrick Trail, and we just did a short bush-whack up to the main paved road on the North Rim. Hiking on the closed paved road was of course fast and pleasant. We were relying on finding water at Neal Spring, which is on the USGS map, but it turns out the spring does not exist in real life. Which left us facing a very long stretch with no water, since we had not carried extra water up from Bright Angel Creek. Fortunately the weather was very cool (40s) and we found patches of snow that we could eat to sustain us passably well. Going down Nankoweep Trail the ephemeral spring near Marion Point was bone dry. Having made a really dumb route finding error earlier in the day which cost us over 90 minutes, we finally reached Nankoweep Creek ~ 90 minutes after dark. About 24 miles for the day, mostly on trail.

On Day 3 we hiked ~16 miles (all off trail) to upper Lava Creek. The only water between Nanko and Lava was in Kwagunt Creek. We carried plenty out of Kwagunt, but the day was cool enough and we didn’t have a problem. Route finding is easy – you’re just following along the obvious fault – and there were no technical difficulties. There don’t seem to be great (or any) established camp sites in upper Lava, but we found a very reasonable spot.

The hike from Lava Creek to Juno Saddle is definitely the technical crux of this route. It is brushy, steep, loose and I’d say dangerous. We started by heading up Lava Creek past the source spring. There is a large Tapeats abutment on the south side of the Lava Creek. We went just past the abutment and found an easy (though very brushy & steep) route up through the Tapeats. From there we continued up a bit and then descended into the main creek just below the junction of the 2 major arms of this drainage. We then turned up the (hiker) left drainage. Everyone says don’t miss this drainage, but it is obvious. The trouble begins after this point. You are not going all the way to the head of this drainage. Instead, at some point you will turn right and head up the slope out of the drainage, which is very steep, loose and overgrown. We turned out of the drainage at around 5200’, heading for the right side of an obvious tower (which turns out to be more of a fin). This was a lousy route, but I don’t know if there is a better one. About 100 vertical feet lower than where we left the drainage there is an obvious chute entering from the right. I would think that would be a better route, but since the route description we were following didn’t say “take the obvious chute at 5100 feet” we didn’t go that way. Anyway, we just kept thrashing our way up and eventually found ourselves on top of the Redwall and had an easier walk over to the saddle at 6012’. Descending Unkar was straightforward. At 4700’ there’s a cairn marking where you have to exit the drainage hiker left to bypass a dryfall. Going up the southwest arm of Unkar you will bypass a similar dryfall by climbing out of the drainage hiker left. The ascent up this arm of Unkar is straightforward with a lot of boulder hopping/scrambling but no route finding issues. The descent from the Redwall saddle into Vishnu is also obvious. Just head down (steep & loose!) into the drainage. After several hundred vertical feet you will encounter a huge dryfall, and you can scoot out right on Muav benches for a ways until you can find an extremely loose and annoying (SHARP rocks!) descent into the north arm of Vishnu. Just awful but mercifully short. From there we walked down Vishnu, through the lovely narrows to a nice campsite at a huge undercut just after the small, steep side drainage where you want to leave Vishnu for the next section. There was water at this spot, but it was relatively stagnant. Our Day 3 was about 12 miles, and we arrived at camp pretty early.

We got up early anticipating a long last day. There was a little scramble leaving Vishnu via the side drainage just above the undercut camp spot. Following the drainage up, then aim to go pretty far left to get around the Muav layer. You can try to find a more direct route through, but probably like us you will just wish you had headed left in the first place. From above the Muav just angle right to an obvious break in the Redwall (which seems to be a fault) just north of Hall Butte. From the saddle you follow the top of the Redwall layer mostly north for quite a long way (2 miles?) There are vague signs of past use. The climb down through the Redwall from the saddle between Angels Gate and Wotans Throne is the steepest, most exposed climbing we encountered, but the rock is relatively solid. Continuing down the drainage toward the east arm of Clear Creek, you must leave the drainage (heading west) just above a huge dryfall in the Tapeats layer and after a short way find a use trail down into the drainage, where you will encounter running water. I think it may have taken us 6 hours to hike the 7 miles from Vishnu to Clear Creek CG. From there we just motored out, happy to be on excellent trails finally. Capping a ~23 mile day, we reached the South Kaibab TH at 7:30pm, just before headlamps would have been needed, and just in time for the last shuttle bus.
18.7 mi • 0 ft aeg
I think I should get a tattoo that says "the North Rim is also hot in the summer" because I seem to always forget...

Nick, Carlos, and I headed up to the North Rim on Friday after work with the goal of bagging Shiva Temple on Saturday and possibly a couple less-traveled North Rim summits on Sunday. After some pretty rough miles on the Tiyo Point road, we reached a dead end: a huge downed tree blocking the road. Much to our surprise, there was another car parked right in front of the tree. We (okay, maybe just me) were a little annoyed that we might be sharing the summit with someone else, but we never ran into the other fellow and the car was gone by the time we returned to camp Saturday night.

We set up camp and went right to bed, planning on a 5am wake-up call the next day. Around 4am, Nick and I woke up to some growling/grunting noises that we first thought might have been Carlos snoring. We quickly determined it was definitely an animal and after our recent canyoneering adventure with a mountain lion, I was not in the right mindset to fall back asleep with a growling animal nearby. I convinced (forced?) Nick to hop in the car with me, and Carlos joined us a few minutes later, making me feel a little less crazy about being nervous. Our sleep for the next hour was obviously pretty compromised, as three adults and a ton of gear in a RAV4 is not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement in the world. Low on sleep, we got a later start than planned, finally leaving camp around 7:15am.

The first 5 or so miles through the forest were pretty quick going. None of us had done extensive research on the route before this trip, so we didn't realize how much of the mileage was through the forest. We were actually kind of relieved that a majority of our hiking would be on the rim and shaded, though it was a little tedious. When we finally got to the rim, we admired the views from Shiva point (Brahma and Isis looked epic, as always), had a snack, and chose our gully to descend. The next few hours were the usual off-trail canyon slog on steep, very loose terrain. A mile or so down, I was out front and heard a rattle and quickly jumped onto a big rock. The guys thought it was a cicada until it rattled - very clearly and loudly - again. Nick and Carlos both got some awesome photos of the pink canyon rattlesnake (the first I've ever seen) under a rock.

The ascent up Shiva was probably the low-point for all of us, with the beating sun and 90-95 degree temps wearing on us. We made slow progress on this part, probably not selecting the best route a few times and meandering along very loose terrain. Once we got to the base of the Coconino for the traverse west, we were at least in the shade and all started feeling (marginally) better. Scrambling through the Coconino and Kaibab was, by far, the most fun part of the hike - but I was bummed at how little of this there was, compared to the frustrating traverses and steep scree hiking.

We topped out on the summit early afternoon (I wasn't wearing a watch and can't really remember the time), took photos next to the water jugs and signed the log book, and enjoyed a long break on the edge of the summit, overlooking beautiful Isis and tons of other summits. Realizing it was going to be a much longer day than we expected, we tried to pick up our pace on the way back and the Canyon gods blessed us with overcast skies for the rest of the day. As I feared, those overcast skies also meant an impending storm. As we made our way back down Shiva, across the saddle, and up to the rim, we watched the sky in front of us (over the North Rim) get darker and darker and periodically flash with lighting. I was in the lead, again, and hustling as fast as I could. Then, low and behold, I heard another rattle!! I looked down and saw another huge pink canyon rattler slithering away a foot or so from my feet. This one shook me up way more than the first, and I spent the rest of the ascent clumsily tripping and whacking my head with branches. By the time we reached Shiva point, the thunderstorm had subsided and we were all relieved to be back on solid, flat ground. The last couple miles of the hike dragged, as they usually do, but we made good time (an hour and a half faster on our return than our way out).

Back at camp, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and beer. After the bushwhacking, heat, and rattlesnakes, none of us were super motivated to investigate some of the other summits we had on our radar, so we decided to enjoy a pleasant morning at camp on Sunday and checked out the North Rim lodge on our way out. Of course, while standing at one of the overlooks at the lodge, we identified at least two more summits to add to our list. I'm pretty excited to be living 4 hours closer to the North Rim this Canyon season. There is so much to explore up there and I feel like I've barely scratched the surface!

Shiva Temple was my 19th Grand Canyon Summit.
3.4 mi • 50 ft aeg
I started this a little east of Pipe creek Overlook. I did an out and back on a nice paved trail. Lots of nice views along the way. I like the view from Mather Point. It has a good view of Cheops Plateau. The one Canyon summit I've done(with help). No inner Canyon trips for me this year. This was the one section of the Rim Trail I needed to finish it. I climbed the Desert View Watchtower on the way out of the park for some more cool views.
On an (I'm old) side note. I locked the car up before the hike and when I got back I noticed I left the window down... :o
5.4 mi • 277 ft aeg
The plan was to start this hike right about sunrise from the Point Imperial side. I started my drive early enough but come across a heard of Bison which was a real treat for me. Second day seeing them but a little lighter out today. I had to sit and watch for a spell. Between the adults attitudes and the young ones prancing around it was a real hoot. I still got to Point Imperial for some good views before the glare. The trail was pretty good for the first 1.8 miles I believe.Some nice sections of 10-15 foot Aspen in this area. That's when my phone changed times and Route Scout went to a straight line. From here the Locust are overgrowing the trail a bit around knee to thigh high. I got scratched up a bit and lost the trail a few times. When I got to the Grand Canyon boundary and the forest road I started Route Scout over for the hike back and it was fine. seemed faster going back too. :D
10 mi • 1,136 ft aeg
I headed out of Mesa late Saturday night to start this hike at first light Sunday morning.. I had a busy day planned. The drive from Jacob Lake to the North Rim is a favorite of mine. Although it was still dark this time it was still cool. The deer were lined up like I was the cool float in a parade :D . Then as I entered the GCNP the Bison were all over the road : app : 8) . My first encounter with Bison. A little dark for my picture taking ability but it was quite enjoyable just checking them out.
It was just light enough to start hiking when I got to the trailhaed. One motorcycle in the lot. Nice trail and a view here and there. When I got to the picnic table there was a couple (their motorcycle) camped there but up at the table already. I went over to the Widforss point sign and took a break. Todd had said there was a good view looking down at Cheops and I agree. great viewpoint from this side. Only saw four hikers on the hike out and one was a Ranger. Nice start to the day.

This was in my Boots and Burgers book. It suggest going to the Lees Ferry Lodge at Vermillion Cliffs with side note about Jacob Lake baked goods. That's a descent drive and I had one more hike to do up top in the morning so I compromised :) . I had two cookies from Jacob Lake for dinner and stayed Monday night at Lees Ferry Lodge and had dinner there at Vermillion Cliffs bar and grill. The rooms are ok with quaint fishing decor for all the fishermen I suppose that go to Lees ferry. I enjoyed the stay. The cheeseburger and fries were tasty as well. The young Lady working there was an NAU student who's dad works with the Condors which I thought was cool. It was a very enjoyable couple days on the North Rim and the surrounding area.
4.1 mi • 50 ft aeg
This trail starts at the turn off for the backcountry permit office. It's right where the Bridle trail crosses the road coming from the NK Trail. It goes between the rim and campground and under the rental duplexes before going right below the lodge and some great views. It's two miles to where it connects to The Bright Angel Point Trail. Then after checking out the Point you connect to the Bridle trail for a loop back to your starting point. I went through the lodge. That lounge area with the big windows (and Brighty statue) is pretty cool. Wouldn't you know it the Deli opened just as I was passing by :o . Hiking the Bridle Trail back was enjoyable with a slice of pizza and a drink. :y:
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