17 December 2014

Going For A Walk With Potato Chips: The Kaibab Trail {Grand Canyon National Park}

When we were at the Grand Canyon, Scott and I walked on part of the Kaibab Trail on both the North and South Rims. At first, when Scott suggested we go for a walk "below the rim" on the Kaibab Trail, I thought he said the Kebab Trail. Turns out I misheard him. Which is a shame, as the Kebab Trail is wonderful. It's a short hike along flat terrain and, if you find yourself getting tired, there is a moving sidewalk you can hop on and off as needed. At the end of the trail, a man dressed in a bright green apron emblazoned with "Mr Kebab" on it, smiles at you and hands you a lamb kebab wrapped in pita bread complete with hummous, sliced onion, tomato and feta cheese. Delicious.

Turns out the Kaibab Trail is a completely different proposition. The trail is anything but flat, you work up a sweat and you're at a very high elevation which makes it hard to catch your breath. Which is why the National Park Service advises that you take salty snacks with you and eat them constantly. Finally, someone has exercise advice that makes sense - they're basically telling you that hiking and eating potato chips go hand in hand. The Kaibab Trail was sounding almost as good as the Kebab Trail!

North Kaibab Trail & Polar Bear Spotting

Do you want to go for a guilt-free walk while eating potato chips, then check out the Kaibab Trail. We started off on the North Kaibab Trail - described as the least visited, but most difficult of the three maintained Grand Canyon trails. You start off 1,000 feet higher than any of the South Rim trails - that's your first clue as to why it is hard. If you're really keen, you can hike all the way down to the Colorado River, but that's 14 miles long with an elevation change of 5,761 feet. Sound almost doable when you're going downhill, but as they warn you, "going downhill is optional, coming back up is mandatory." Needless to say, we just opted to do a small portion of the trail, from the trail head to the Supai Tunnel. A measly 1.7 miles one way and elevation change of only 1,441 feet. 

Sounds easy enough, but going down is always the easy part. I skipped down the trail bundled up in a fleece, hat and mittens while clutching a bag of potato chips.

 We made a brief stop at Coconino Point where we spotted some polar bears. 

After offering the polar bears a few potato chips, I continued skipping down the trail. We met a few people coming up the trail. They all seemed to be sweating and more than a little out of breath. I started to worry a little about the return trip, but quickly put it out of my mind as I had some more potato chips and took in the views.

Finally, we got to the Supai Tunnel. It is pretty much as advertised - a tunnel. After a quick peek through the tunnel, we turned around and headed back up.

And that's when I ran out of potato chips. Walking back up 1,441 feet is such a drag without potato chips. I stopped a lot to catch my breath. And I mean a lot! But I made it. I looked around for Mr Kebab at the trail head for my lamb kebab, but he was nowhere to be found. Very disappointing.

South Kaibab Trail & Mule Spotting

A day or so later, we decided to "go below the rim" again on the South Rim. But this time, it was much, much easier. Four reasons - we started off at a lower elevation, it was a pretty short hike, the elevation change was much smaller and the mule trains were a great excuse to stop and catch your breath. 

We started off at 7,260 feet and hiked down only 0.9 mile to Ooh Aah Point (elevation of 6,660 feet). I thought the views were much better on this portion of the Kaibab Trail, although there were a lot more people on the trail.

The mule trains were so much fun to watch. They use mules to transport supplies, baggage and people up and down from the canyon bottom. The trail is kind of small, so when the mule trains come by, you have to step off on the uphill side and wait for the mules to pass by.

It wasn't long before we made it down to Ooh Aah Point. We spent a few minutes "oohing" and "aahing" before heading back up. I only had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath!

Still no sign of Mr Kebab, but it turns out you can get a really mean baked enchilada pie at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant. Almost makes you forget about how delicious lamb kebabs are. Almost.

We walked the Kaibab Trail while eating plenty of salty snacks on 9 and 11 November 2014.


  1. Beautiful. It must be such fun to travel and see these gorgeous places.

  2. It has been a blast! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. One of the differences between sailing and land travel. Sailing you are almost always at sea level where as land travel has all those pesky elevation changes.

    We hiked a bit down into the Canyon when we were there. Going back up was hard. I am so out of shape. With Mexico in our sights for this coming winter and all those volcanos I want to climb, I decided to start training. Stairs, up and down, up and down, increasing the amount of stairs each day. I was totally rocking it until I developed Plantar Fasciitis.

    This ticks me off not only because I can’t walk without pain now and can’t do my stairs, but because Plantar Fasciitis seems to be such a trendy ailment and in what language does one spell a word with two “i”s in a row?

    I’m glad you finally got the “awe” of the Grand Canyon!

    Sorry I missed my promised random comment yesterday while you are on you blogcation. It was a busy day of running around and then icing my freaking heel.

    Wonder if they got polar bears on any of the Mexican Volcanos?


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