Supai Tunnel - N. Kaibab Trail (dayhike)

SA Report: Subverted expectations

Trip Date: 8/30/2017

Location: North Rim (Grand Canyon National Park)

Permit/Pass: Vehicle - $30, Motorcycle - $25

Trail maps:

Directions: From Kanab, Utah, take Hwy 89A (also S 100 E) south toward the Arizona state line. Follow 89A for 36.6 miles as it goes through Fredonia, Arizona (where it turns toward the east), then turns south again to head up onto the Kaibab Plateau. Upon reaching the Jacob Lake area turn right onto AZ-67 S. Follow the road south through the forest for 41.5 more miles, passing through the national park kiosk and finally reaching the left turn into the parking area for the North Kiabab Trailhead.

Synopsis: A hike over the edge and down into the Grand Canyon is a thrilling experience. At the north rim it is just as (if not more) beautiful - and can be far less sweltering. The Kaibab Trail requires some real work on the return trip, but that effort will be amply rewarded along the way. 

Trail sequence: North Kaibab Trail

Type: Out and back

Distance: 4.2 miles

Elevation: Min. - 6839', Max. - 8268'


Rating: Moderate-Difficult (factors: altitude, elevation gain, steep sections)

Notes: Be aware that you'll be taking a path followed by organized mule rides. As a result you may encounter a bit of traffic (and droppings), depending upon the time of day. On the plus side there are bathroom facilities at the turnaround point.

Track: Supai Tunnel (N. Kaibab Trail) - Grand Canyon NP: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- Find the trailhead at the south corner of the parking lot and begin the descent. At first, and for the bulk of the hike, the trail is comfortable even with the continual descent. 

  -- Just shy of a half mile or so you come to the signed Coconino Overlook. This lovely shaded rock ledge offers tremendous views, and if one is not thrilled with adding further elevation gain by dropping down to the tunnel this is a good spot to turnaround.

  -- Continuing on from the overlook, the switchbacks become more frequent and there are sandy areas to traverse. At about a mile and a quarter the path levels out just a bit and becomes more shaded as you drop down to the tunnel area.

  -- Just before reaching the turnaround point the trail crosses to the east side of the ravine and hugs the rock wall that leads to the rock tunnel. On the right there will be a spur trail heading up to the bathrooms.

  -- The views from just beyond the tunnel are excellent and tempting, but the trail descends even more steeply from here.

  -- Retrace your steps, or follow the mule prints, back up the trail to the parking area.

Photos: Flickr

Video: Video