The project contains two separate panoramic views of this viewpoint in the Coconino Sandstone – a morning view photographed on October 1, 2006, shown above, and a sunrise view photographed on February 1, 2009. The following is a transcript of the narration for this panorama. To listen to the narration, enter the project at this location and press the play button.
When the National Park Service chose a route for the South Kaibab Trail, they wanted a route that would be everything that the alternate route, the Bright Angel Trail, was not. First and foremost they wanted a trail under their own control, since the Bright Angel Trail was, back then in the early 1920’s, privately held by hostile owners. But they also wanted a trail that would be usable year-round. The Bright Angel Trail, nestled as it is within a north-facing canyon, is icy and treacherous through much of the winter. The park service didn’t want pack mules, not to mention tourists on foot, falling and breaking their bones.
So instead of being in a valley, the South Kaibab Trail, in its upper, snowy portions, runs mostly along ridge lines exposed to the sun, and snow that falls in the winter usually doesn’t last long. And that route decision makes the upper South Kaibab Trail, probably not intentionally by the trail engineers but certainly in fact, home, in my estimation, to the most spectacular hiking scenery in the entire park.
Nowhere is that more evident than right here in the Coconino Sandstone. For a couple of hundred yards before reaching this spot, the trail follows directly along the crest of Cedar Ridge, with spectacular views not only down the ridge but all around you as the canyon falls away to both your left and right. Here, just before you switchback to follow the east side of Cedar Ridge for a time, you have a nice little platform to stop and rest for a moment, and enjoy tremendous scenery in all directions.
Looking back up the spine of the ridge, you see the trail climbing its way back on up through the Coconino, and you can follow the ridge all the way back up to Yaqui Point. Turning to the west, we see the Battleship just coming into view from behind Yavapai Point, and we continue to have a fine view of the sequence of formations on the far side of Pipe Creek Canyon. We have dropped down a bit closer to the Redwall Limestone, and its cliffs have gotten a bit more intimidating. Looking down the spine of the ridge, we can see that we are nearing the small, flat area down in the Hermit Shale. We also can still see a bit of Skeleton Point off in the distance, but it is beginning to disappear behind the mass of O’Neill Butte growing larger in our field of view. Off to the east our field of view is expanding as well, with Pattie and Newton Buttes coming fully into view.
There is much to see in this morning view shot in October of 2006, but I was very fortunate to capture a beautiful sunrise from this same spot in February of 2009, and you can enjoy passing some time viewing that sunrise before moving on. When you do move on and head up the trail, you will follow the ridge up through the Coconino back up to another spectacular viewpoint at Ooh Aah Point. Heading down the trail, you switch back to the east side of the ridge, then back around to the west side of the ridge, descending down through the lower portions of the Coconino Sandstone before passing into the Hermit Shale just before reaching the flat area of Cedar Ridge, where most hikers will stop and rest for a time. But we will head on just a bit further out on the narrow spine sticking out from the rest area to our next panorama point, at the very top of the Supai Formation.