In October 2016, Kim and I visited the Grand Canyon’s North Rim as part of our Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon holiday to the USA. We were staying in Hurricane, Utah, so it was quite a long drive down to the Grand Canyon, but well worth the effort. While there, we decided to walk down the Kaibab Trail as far as the tunnel. We did this trail with the intention of doing a photo hike, although in the end we did it mainly as a hike taking a few photos as we went. The reasons for this were mainly:
- We were pressed for time, due to the late start (mid-afternoon) and the long drive back to our hotel.
- We were carrying too much weight for our level of fitness. Both of us took a range of gear inc 1dxs, 16-35/24-105/70-200/50/filters etc. We reduced the weight a little by not taking our tripods, but not enough given the time pressure we felt we were under. In terms of fitness, this type of hike is not something we’ve had much experience of. Usually, in the UK and elsewhere for that matter, we tend to start by walking up something and then walking back down. For the this walk it’s the other way around, which, combined with the high altitude (for people based in the UK anyway) did make a difference.
- Much of this section of the walk (trail head to tunnel and back) is switchbacks down a small section of the canyon wall. So while it’s an interesting walk, the scene doesn’t offer a great deal of variety for the type of landscape photos we had in mind.
Although it didn’t quite work out as we thought, I still think this trail is worth walking from a photography point of view. Even though you are walking down a very small side canyon of the main Grand Canyon, it is still pretty impressive. So while the scale is still very large, it’s not as overwhelming as the view from the lookout at the lodge where you are looking across the main canyon itself. If you want to do this as a photo walk and are pressed for time or carrying a lot of gear, I’d suggest only walking as far as the Coconino Overlook though. This still gives some great views, that from a photography point of view, I didn’t feel were substantially improved by going down to the tunnel.
As I mentioned, we stayed in a small town called Hurricane, which is a few miles to the west of Zion National Park. It takes a few hours to drive down the Grand Canyon from here. It’s by no means a tedious drive though. At the start the landscape is pretty arid as you drive across large flat plains. After some time the land starts to rise up and the semi-dessert landscape is replaced by forest. The forested area continues all the way to the Grand Canyon. If you do decide to go here outside of summer it might be worth checking the opening times; The park is closed between mid-Oct and mid-May each year.
The three images I’ve added below hopefully give an idea of the view and some indication of the scale, especially if you look at the size of trees. It’s also worth keeping in mind, if you’ve not been to the Grand Canyon before, that this is a tiny side canyon!
This image, taken with my 1dx, is a handheld panorama. It was taken very soon after you leave the trees not long after the trail head.
This image is taken from the Coconino overlook is looking straight down the side canyon in the direction you’d walk if you were heading for the ranch or doing the rim to rim walk.
This final image is another handheld panorama taken from approximately image is taken from roughly the same place, but with my 1dx.
Stills: iPhone 6s
Stills: Canon 1dx, Canon 50mm f/1.8
Video: Filmed on a GoPro Hero 4 in 2.7k, medium view.
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