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Hermit-Tonto-Kaibab Loop: Indian Garden to Cottonwood Campground

Day three traverses the famed Colorado River and heads up the North Kaibab Trail

Hiking Moderate

18 km
674 m
627 m
4-5 hrs
Low Point
737 m
High Point
1.2 km
Hermit-Tonto-Kaibab Loop: Indian Garden to Cottonwood Campground Map

Day three is well worth the wait, as you finally cross the Colorado River to the north side of the canyon. The north side is just as—or even more—spectacular than the south side, and it has fewer people.


Depending on the time of year and weather, this route can be altered. If there isn't too much snow, you can try to make it all the way to the top of North Rim. This will add another 7 miles from Cottonwood Campground (day three's destination) and a few thousand feet of elevation. If doing this trek in the winter, there will likely be too much snow on the upper sections of the North Kaibab trail, so make sure to check conditions.

The day starts with a bang as you descend a beautiful section along the Bright Angel trail. You eventually land right above the Colorado and will likely get to see some of the parties rafting the Colorado. You will marvel at how this section of trail was initially built as you skirt around the ridges.

The famous Phantom Ranch is not much further. This is located right next to the Bright Angel campground and features cabins if you don't want to tent. Note, reservations for Phantom Ranch get booked up nearly a year in advance. If you don't want to hoof it all the way to Cottonwood Campground, you could also stay at Bright Angel if there is space.

The walk to Cottonwood Campground is spectacular. You weave your way through the Canyon and are treated to great views. A big plus is the sound of flowing water is present the entire way.

The views open up a bit once you near the Ribbon Falls junction and Cottonwood Campground. Ribbon Falls makes for a great side trip and is a recommended stop along the North Kaibab trail.

Take in the beauty at Cottonwood Campground, as you've earned it! This is a marvelous spot.



Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between September and June


  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area