ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Our National Parks: Deep Into the Grand Ganyon Along the Kaibab Trail

Updated on September 28, 2018
juneaukid profile image

Richard F. Fleck is an active hiker and leads Sierra Club "Hike and Write" treks in the foothills of the Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming.

North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail
North Kaibab Trail
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

Along the Kaibab Trail

After finding a campsite in the dark Kaibab forest of early June (1960) on the North Rim, I knew that I just had to see this vast chasm of the Grand Canyon even if it was dark. The moon appeared just over the rim, and I could sense a vast openness before me even though I could not see anything. A prehistoric silence permeated the air and the very smell of rock and cliff abounded. By chance I caught sight of a tiny flickering campfire thousands of feet below me. It was then that I began to sense the magnitude of the Grand Canyon.

Back at the campsite, I crawled into my sleeping bag and tried to catch some shut eye even though I grew impatient for the coming daylight and my hike along the Kaibab Trail. Though I didn't think that I slept much that night, the pink hue of dawn seemed to come in minutes. I got up in the chilly air and soon had my Coleman stove hissing with a blue flame that sizzled a pan of eggs and bacon. With the last gulp of instant coffee and my lunch packed, I made sure I had plenty of water in my two canteens.

I llterally trotted to the rim. Distant reds and whites showed through the spruce trees. Brushing past the last dewy ferns, I beheld a view that turned me into a small child on Christmas morning. The Grand Canyon spread before me some ten miles wide and well over two hundred miles long. Through it carved the chocolate-brown torrent of the mighty Colorado River, still making the Grand Canyon even deeper.

As I started my descent into the Grand Canyon, my eyes gazed over endless gorges and ravines framed by the jagged South Rim and the distant pure white San Francisco Peaks. I was half tempted to abandon my hike and pick a spot along the North Rim to sit all day and stare out into space as though I were a Hindu mystic. Truly the world of the rim is a world of its own.

But, as park rangers continually suggest, in order to experience the Grand Canyon, one must descend below the rim to the lower, deserty realms and look back up. The descent into the Grand Canyon is the closet physical experience that I can imagine that corresponds to Dante's metaphysical depiction of a descent from a dark wood into the bolgia of the Inferno. I started the North Kaibab Trail of the North Rim to descend into geologic infinity. The forested rim with its Kaibab squirrels (a black squirrel with a bushy white tail), coyotes, deer, and mountain lions became the past; the descending trail my present; the shimmering red-green depths below, my future.

It was a bracing 40 degrees up in the spruce forests, but as I dropped below the spruce into yellow pines, the temperature rose considerably. The towering white cliffs loomed above me, but seemed insignificant compared to the dizzy space still below. The orange trail zigzagged below me deeper still until it disappeared into the depths. Along the side the trail grew orange-flowered pincushion cactus bordered with white-flowered prickly poppies.

Lower still and there were no more Canadian conifers; they were slowly replaced with scaly-barked cottonwood trees. A graceful golden eagle swooped over my head and glided lower into shimmering heat. Now I began to feel the layers of heat rising up from the Colorado River basin. After descending some two thousand feet below the eight-thousand foot North Rim, I looked back up at the sandstone and limestone heights. It was beginning to feel like I was beneath some ancient sea and that I had become a slithering starfish.

Sharp-pointed yucca with black-podded seeds bordered the rocky trail which, every now and then, hugged the very side of the cliff wall (see first photo), affording a direct view some thousand feet below. I gulped down canteen water to fast and realized that I should sip water in order to conserve it. But, boy did it taste good! In the distance I saw the pump house which is some three thousand feet below the rim, and after bouncing ever downward along the trail, I finally reached the building to refill my canteens and to see that the temperature was recorded at 120 degree F! I could not believe that there could be that much difference in 3000 feet.

A sign indicated that Ribbon Falls was but a quarter mile away around a bend, a good spot for lunch. Those gray-green canyon walls looked so aged, yet their barrenness gave them a timeless quality. Down here, and looking back up at those towering mountains, it seemed as if I had never set foot on the rim.

The white torrent of Ribbon Falls was a pleasant thing to see in such a thirsty country. It was even more pleasant after those salty-tasting sandwiches I had packed. Huge thunderheads started developing over the canyon, and in such vast space, I still do not understand why I developed a sense of claustrophobia. But, on I trodded downward, ever downward perhaps another thousand vertical feet to a spot where I could see the Colorado River looking like gleaming silver way in the distance. As the thunderheads began to boom endlessly echoing back and forth, I thought I had better turn around and return to my cool forest campsite. But I had to pause to admire four-foot tall prickly pear cactus with bright golden flowers scenting the air. However, the heat had become almost unbelievable. Another loud boom of thunder awakened me from a heat daze and I headed slowly back up the canyon (the reverse of mountain climbing).

Soon I arrived back at Ribbon Falls and dropped to my hands and knees to scoop up cool water and drink and drink. By the time I reached the pump house I felt a bit weak and refilled my canteens. It is one thing to descend a canyon this size and quite another to climb back out. I burnt up a whole canteen of water within a mile or so and was already working on my second and last canteen. Slowly I climbed higher and the once entirely azure sky turned to gray and thankfully the temperature eased. About ten switchbacks ahead of me, a mule team slowly wound its way along the canyon walls. Every time I stopped to rest and drink a dwindling supply of water, the mule team kept forging ahead slowly distancing itself from me. Those mules were a hell of a lot stronger than I!

Now I was out of water and I slowly crept toward those beckoning conifers. But I was weary--I knew I was beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion. But I am lucky! The ancient Kachina spirits sent down to me torrents of hailstones as lightning flashed in prehistoric fury. I ate some hail and began to regain my strength--enough strength to get me up to the North Rim! Nothing felt better than brushing past very wet ferns in a driving rain.

By the time I had reached my campsite, I lost all sense of perspective. It seemed as if I had journeyed to some other planet. I wasn't even hungry as I watched a full moon set into the canyon:

Through the rim-spruce branches

a full moon set to the west

casting shadows from spire to

spire turning the Grand Canyon

into the very moon itself!

Advice: To hikers who wish to descend into the Grand Canyon, book a year in advance for an overnight stay at the Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River and hike out the following day to the South Rim which is lower and closer or book through the Park Service an overnight back-country camping permit and camp near the trail at an appropriate location. One can also book a pack mule ride down and back. It is an easier descent to the Colorado River from the South Rim than from the North.


Have you ever hiked down into the Grand Canyon?

See results

Grand Canyon

© 2010 Richard Francis Fleck


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      9 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you, Dolores. My daughter and her husband once took a shorter hike from the South Rim down to the Tonto Plateau and sat down to enjoy all the beauty when they suddenly heard flute music wafting through the air from a Havasupai village far below.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Richard - what dramatic scenery and such an incredible change in that hike. I don't think I could handle 120 degrees but it sure sounds beautiful. The only time I saw the Grand Canyon was from a plane and it took my breath away.

    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      9 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you Hello,hello--glad you caught the lure of Grand Canyon

    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      10 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thanks very much for your comment Dohn121. This was an actual experience back in 1960, but at my current age I don't think I would have made it.

    • dohn121 profile image


      10 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      This was amazing, juneaukid. It's the most descriptive piece I've yet to read from you. The stunning scenery, the desperation and weariness of your journey, the heaven-sent hailstorm was all vivid and believable. This was a pleasure to read. Thank you!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      Your way of words made me feel I was there. Thank you so much for an enjoyable read. I was spellbound, as always.

    • profile image

      Raging Bull 

      10 years ago

      Hi Juneaukid, fantastic hub, you have a lovely writing style that is enticing to read. What a great perspective on The Grand Canyon, a place of wonderous adventure, no wonder you felt like you were in another dimension.

      Keep up the good work.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)