The names of most of the viewpoints in Grand Canyon National Park are of Native American origin. Hopi Point, Yavapai Overlook, and Mohave Point, to name a few. Whoever named the rest was apparently not feeling very creative. Case in point: when we hiked down into the canyon, we found ourselves at Ooh Ahh Point. Yes, that’s its official name.
It’s an unspoken rule that when you arrive you have to look around at the view and say, “ooh, ahh.” I’m kidding. I’m pretty sure I just made that up. But it should be the unspoken rule. Regardless, once you turn around and see how far you have to climb back up, you’ll most definitely be saying “ugh.”
Ooh Ahh Point is located on the South Kaibab trail. The trailhead is near the Grand Canyon Village area off of Yaki Point Road. This area is only accessible by shuttle bus, which fortunately are free of charge and depart frequently. The South Kaibab trail provides the shortest route down into the canyon; however, it drops down 600 feet in 0.9 miles, making way for a hot and sweaty climb back up to the rim. Also, contrary to many canyons, it actually gets hotter as you descend rather than cooler.
Ooh Ahh Point isn’t marked by a sign, but it was very easy to spot because the trail opens up into a wide vista. One thing that surprised me about the canyon is the topography of it. I expected something long and narrow and deep. And the Grand Canyon is all of those things at times. But rather than sheer vertical canyon walls that rise thousands of feet above the river, there are also a lot of wide, flat areas far above the canyon floor that give it a somewhat stepwise appearance.
Once we made it back up to the rim (and doused ourselves with water), we continued west by a combo of shuttle bus and hiking the rim trail. The rim trail is mostly paved, relatively flat, and even has sections of shade. It extends west 13 miles from the village area to Hermit’s Rest, where a guy named Louis Boucher lived down in the canyon for a few years in the 1890s. The structure that now stands was built years later on the canyon rim above his dwelling spot.
The shuttle buses stop periodically along the rim trail, so we hiked part of it and rode the bus for others, stopping at each point for views of the canyon. At some of these viewpoints, the Colorado River was visible as it wound its way through the canyon below.
As pretty as all of these pictures are, no camera can capture the vastness of the Grand Canyon. It’s 277 miles long, 10 miles wide (on average), and the Colorado River is 5,000 feet below the canyon rim. The south rim is nearly 8,000 feet above sea level – it’s snowy and cold in the winter while summer temperatures often exceed 100°F. The Grand Canyon is a remarkable example of the sheer beauty and power of nature. I think Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: from US Highway 89 or I-40, follow US Highway 180/AZ Highway 64 to Grand Canyon Village
- Fees & passes: $30 for a 7-day pass; Interagency Annual Pass is accepted
- Camping: Desert View Campground is located at the east end and Mather Campground at the west end of the park road. Mather Campground ($18 per night) accepts reservations; Desert View ($12 per night) does not.
- Hiking: the South Kaibab trailhead is located on Yaki Point Road, which is accessible by shuttle – Ooh Ahh Point is 0.9 miles and 600 vertical feet down the trail
- Other: temperatures in the canyon increase as you go down, shade is minimal, and the time it takes to hike back up is typically at least double what it took to hike down – plan ahead, take lots of food and water, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion