Grand Canyon National Park, one of the world’s largest canyons is located in Northern Arizona. With its behemoth size, it is bigger than the state of Delaware and actually touches four states: Arizona(South Rim), Nevada (West Rim), Utah, and Colorado. The Grand Canyon’s vastness is so outstanding that you can see parts of it from outer space. It is also immensely deep that you can stack three Empire States on top of each other to equal its depth. This natural wonder is between 5 million and 70 million years old! Civilizations, such as the Hopi and other Native American nations, were able to flourish in parts of these canyons. The Colorado river cutting through 277 miles of the Grand Canyon is a spectacular example of the power of erosion changing the landscape of planet Earth.
Ooh Aah Trail: Best Short Hike in Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon has tons of amazing trails, which vary from breathtaking mile loops to multi-day treks. Whatever you choose will depend on how much time you have and your fitness level. If you can only do one hike in the Grand Canyon, we highly suggest the Ooh Aah trail.
Difficulty: Easy going down, moderate on the way back up
Distance: 1.8 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: ~685 ft
Length: 1.5 hours
How to Get There
The trailhead is located at Yaki point on the South Rim accessible only by shuttle bus. You can park at the Visitor’s Center and take the Eastbound Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route shuttle from there. Once you are done with the hike, take the same bus going back to the Visitor’s Center.
If you want to skip the shuttle, there are various parking lots along route 64 towards the trailhead. We used the parking lot next to Pipe Creek Vista Point and walked the paved road leading to the shuttle bus stop. We mistakenly estimated that this was the nearest place we could park. It added 0.8 miles one way to our planned hike and for someone who has knee problems like I do, I wish I had saved my joints for other walks. In this case, taking the shuttle was a better idea if you don’t want to walk far to the trailhead.
From Route 64, go towards Yaki Road and Yaki point. That’s where the Ooh Aah trail begins.
The Beginning of The Trail
The Ooh Aah trail is a well-maintained single dirt trail that’s part of the longer South Kaibab trail. It leads to the Ooh Aah point, which is a popular spot to catch the sunrise. The hike down offers magnificent views of the canyon. You will meet mules along this trail as they use them to transport supplies between Phantom Ranch and facilities in the inner canyon and Yaki point. With the significant role that this trail plays both in transportation and tourism in Grand Canyon, South Kaibab was designated as part of the National Trails system. When you encounter the mules along the trail, it’s important to follow the mule guide’s directions for your own safety. Do not try to feed the mules, as they can bite you. Apart from mules, you will also encounter other wildlife on the trail like the big horned sheep.
The hike going down to Ooh Aah point is relatively easy and pretty straightforward. With the breathtaking views of the canyon every step of the way, it is very easy to get distracted and forget how much you’ve walked going down. Make sure that you reserve twice the time and energy going back up. The trail is well maintained and under the shade a lot of times. However, it is exposed on one side and it is so easy to fall off the cliffs if you are not paying attention to your footing, especially when there are a lot of people on the trail. If you have fear of heights, this is going to be a challenge for you every step of the way.
When you reach Ooh Aah point, make sure you spend time admiring the views safely. There are a lot of accidents and deaths from people falling off the cliffs while taking photos. After this point, you can turn around and start the ascent back up or you can go further to Cedar Ridge, the next viewpoint. Cedar Ridge is another 20 minutes down and is also one of the best viewpoints along the trail. Just remember that the hike back up will take double the time and energy it took for you to go down. This is important especially if you’re doing this around sunset time.
Other Things to Do in Grand Canyon
Other than hiking, there’s so much to do in the Grand Canyon. You can ride the helicopter to see the Grand Canyon from the sky, ride a raft in the Colorado River, rent a bike, and (the best of them all) to simply take a free drive to the numerous scenic viewpoints. Most of these drive-up and park scenic points are along the Desert View Road. These are our favorite viewpoints.
5- Desert View
Among these five, Shoshone was the most fun for us to visit. From the parking lot, it’s a 1 mile walk under pine trees and if you’re lucky you will see elks grazing behind trees. There is a restroom and picnic rest areas here. Our favorite part was the walk toward the rock.
Shoshone was the most fun to visit, but my favorite view of them all was the majestic scenery from the Desert View point. From this side, you can see the mighty Colorado river snaking up its way along the Grand Canyon, and you are witnessing both the power of time and erosion in changing the surface of this part of the earth.
Suggested Itinerary for 2 - 3 Nights
If you have 2 nights in the Grand Canyon, this is how you can do your itinerary:
Day 1: Day of arrival
Get a map and spend time at the Visitor’s Center. There’s a bike rental nearby, and you can do this while waiting for the sunset. Afterwards, walk nearby Mather Point and watch the sunset. Buy snacks and supplies for your hike early the next day.
Get an early start before the crowds come in. Do the Ooh Aah trail (1.8 miles round trip) and add Cedar Ridge (3 miles round trip) if you have more energy and time. In the afternoon, visit all the viewpoints along Desert View Road(link up). This can take 3-4 hours.
Take the shuttle to Bright Angel Trail. This hike is as easy or hard as you want it. We did this a few hours before the sunset, and since we are not excellent hikers, we set a timer for 30 minutes and decided that we were going to go around after that. 30 minutes of descent meant an hour of ascent along the steep switchback trails of Bright Angel. Plus, we take most of our photos on the way up, so we also set some time for this. To avoid the crowds on the trail and the long lines in the shuttle, do this in the morning. The trailhead is in front of the Bright Angel Lodge, so you can also park nearby the hotel if you’re driving.
In the afternoon, take the Blue shuttle to see these viewpoints along Hermit Road:
1- Powell Viewpoint
5 – Hermit’s Rest
- The Grand Canyon is a land of extremes so always remember to hike smart. During the summer, the the temperature in the shade can pass 100F. NPS discourages hikes between 10am and 4pm, the hottest times of the day. We went there in November, and the temperature was 20-30 F. Make sure you check the weather the day before your hike so that you can plan your clothes properly.
- Along the trail, the mules have the right of way, and it’s important to follow the mule guide’s directions for your own safety. Do not try to feed the mules, as they can bite you.
- Pack properly – have enough snacks like bananas (carbs for energy; potassium helps prevent muscle cramps) and nuts (small enough to pack and packed with protein and fats for energy). Don’t forget to bring enough water!
What To Wear And Use While Hiking
We are middle-aged adults (the parents, at least) with knee and back pains but we don’t let these things stop us from hiking. Having said this, here are the tried and tested things we use while hiking – https://wanderingchicken.com/hiking-clothing/