Point Imperial

Ken Patrick Trail

General Description

Ken Patrick Trail is the least traveled trail on the least visited rim of the Grand Canyon, almost guaranteeing solitude.  The trail winds through the Englemann spruce, Douglas fir, and aspen forest, while occasionally meandering along the rim.  After 9.8 miles, it leads to Point Imperial, the highest point in Grand Canyon National Park, giving visitors an amazing vantage point to what’s in the canyon and beyond.  The Painted Desert, San Francisco Peaks are all visible to the south, and Mount Hayden, Alsap Butte and Hancock Butte are visible within the canyon.

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Getting to the Ken Patrick Trailhead

The trailhead is located at the east end of the parking lot of the North Kaibab Trail, 2 miles north of the North Rim Lodge on Highway 67.  It shares the path for the first mile with the Uncle Jim Trail.

History of the Ken Patrick Trail

The Ken Patrick Trail is named after Kenneth C. Patrick, a National Park Ranger at Point Reyes National Seashore in California.  Patrick was shot three times while tracking poachers in August of 1974.  He was the first Park Ranger to be killed in the line of duty, and is buried in Shrine of the Ages, at Grand Canyon’s South Rim.  The trail is named in honor of him.

North Rim Trail

2 Best Day Hikes on the Ken Patrick Trail

If you are seeking solitude and hoping to get away from the crowds, this is the best trail for you!

Below are the primary options for day hiking the Ken Patrick Trail:

Destination Miles Elev Difficulty Style
Point Imperial 9.8 mi  400 ft Moderate Thru-hike or Out and Back
Uncle Jim Loop 4.7 mi 230 ft Easy Loop

1. Point Imperial

There are two options for beginning this trail as a day hike.  The first is if there is a car shuttle available to you; park one car at the trailhead, at the North Kaibab parking area, and the other car at Point Imperial.  Ken Patrick Trail to Point Imperial as a through hike is 9.8 miles, which makes it more than a day hike if a car shuttle is not set up.  From the trailhead, the path is shared with the Uncle Jim Trail, and after a mile, there will be a junction.  Stay straight at this junction and follow the trail as it winds through the forest, giving you miles and miles of escape from the crowds.  At 6 miles, the trail intersects Cape Royal Road and begins again on the other side.

The other option for doing Ken Patrick Trail as a day hike is to start here at Cape Royal Road.  From the road to Point Imperial is approximately 4 miles one-way.  It starts a gentle climb and rewards you will sights of the Grand Canyon to the east.  After climbing up and down a couple of saddles, you will be rewarded another incredible view, the Little Colorado River gorge and the San Francisco peaks are visible.  From here, the trail follows the rim uphill to Point Imperial, the highest point in Grand Canyon National Park, giving you a great vantage point.

2. Uncle Jim Loop

Uncle Jim Trail starts on the same path as the Ken Patrick Trail.  Just under a mile into the trail, there is a junction for the Uncle Jim Trail.  Stay to the right here, and  the trail dips into a drainage, climbs a short hill and comes to another junction, this is the beginning of the loop trail.  The loop takes you to the rim of Bright Angel Canyon and straight to Uncle Jim Point.

From Uncle Jim Point, you are able to see the North Kaibab Trail; Bright Angel Canyon; Zoroaster, Deva and Brahma Temples; the South Rim; Bill Williams Mountain– in the town of Williams; and the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff.  The loop continues back to the trail where it split, and to get to the trailhead, simply turn and hike out the way you hiked in.

Maximize Your Visit to Grand Canyon on a Day Hiking Tour

Guided day hike tours and multi-day packages allow visitors the opportunity to make the most of their time in Grand Canyon National Park and to do it hassle-free. Guided tours include gear (backpack, trekking poles, crampons in winter), meals, accommodations on multi-day tours, local transportation, and a professional Grand Canyon hiking guide. Through their knowledge, stories, and personal passion, guides can bring a place to life in a way that’s much more difficult to do on your own. Read more about Grand Canyon Hiking Tours.


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3 Backpacking Trips Near Ken Patrick Trail

While the Ken Patrick trail itself isn’t known for it’s backpacking, there are plenty of backpacking trips that start near the Ken Patrick Trail.  Below are the three best backpacking trips:

Route Miles Difficulty Campgrounds
Ken Patrick Trail to Point Imperial 20.6 mi Moderate Use Area NC9
North Kaibab to Clear Creek  45.4 mi Strenuous Cottonwood CG
Bright Angel CG
Use Area AK9
Rim to Rim  24 mi Strenuous Cottonwood CG
Bright Angel CG
Havasupai Garden CG

1. Ken Patrick Trail to Point Imperial (2 days)

The Ken Patrick Trail continues past the junction for the Uncle Jim Trail.  It winds through the forest, and the first section has little views of the Grand Canyon.  That being said, it provides excellent solitude in the spruce, pine and fir forest.  This trail is one of the least traveled trails on the North Rim, making it great for hikers who hope to escape the crowds.  Starting from the trailhead at the North Kaibab parking area, it is roughly 6 miles through the trees to Cape Royal Road, where the trail intersects the road and continues on the other side.  The trail continues and begins a gentle climb, at the top, the view opens up to the east where Point Imperial, the Nankoweap Basin and Mount Hayden are visible. Eventually, the trail ends at the parking area for Point Imperial, the highest point along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  In this area is a great spot to pitch your tent and lay beneath the stars.  Camping is permitted in Use Area NC9, and does require a backcountry permit.

2. North Kaibab to Clear Creek (5-6 days)

On this backpacking trip, start by hiking down the North Kaibab Trail into Roaring Springs Canyon.  The trail continues past the impressive waterfalls and it’s pump station toward Bright Angel Creek. Cross over the creek and make your way to Cottonwood Campground, where you could spend the first night.  Or you could continue on toward the Colorado River and spend your first night at Bright Angel Campground.  The junction for Clear Creek Trail is .3 miles from Phantom Ranch.  Once on the Clear Creek Trail, you will climb a series of switchbacks to Phantom Overlook, which gives a great view down on Phantom Ranch.  After the overlook, you will climb up the Tapeats, where you are exposed to the Great Unconformity, a billion year gap in rock history.  The trail traverse the Tapeats for about a mile, until the Tonto, where you cross  Sumner Wash.  From this drainage, Clear Creek Canyon becomes visible, but don’t get too excited yet, you are still only half way there.

At the end of the Tonto traverse, the trail dips into a drainage, surrounded by orange Hakatai Shale.  There is no trail from here to the creek, so follow the cairns and hike down this drainage for 150 meters to it’s intersection with Clear Creek.  Just downstream is an impacted campsite that is recommended for use, this area is at-large camping.  Enjoy the creek and the solitude of being somewhere others only dream of.  When you are finally ready to leave the Clear Creek Area, pack up all your belongings, and begin hiking back toward Phantom Ranch.  Spend the night again at Bright Angel Campground, and make sure you go to the evening ranger program.  Then either hike back up the trail to Cottonwood, or all the way to the trailhead if you wish.

3. Rim to Rim  (4 days)

Completing a Rim to Rim in Grand Canyon National Park is an incredible accomplishment.  Begin at the North Kaibab Trailhead and descend to Cottonwood Campground.  Pitch your tent here for the first night, and listen to the bull frogs croaking in Bright Angel Creek, while starring at the stars above you.  The next morning, make your way down the last 7.2 miles of the North Kaibab, but first, take the small hike to Ribbon Falls, an oasis in the desert.  The last few miles of the trail, you will be in “The Box”– where you are surrounded on both sides by Vishnu Schist.  Finally you will reach the Colorado River!  Spend the evening at Boat Beach, send you postcards from Phantom Ranch’s Cantina and enjoy the evening ranger program.

The morning of the third day, fill you hydration packs with plenty of water, cross the silver bridge over the Colorado River and begin making your way up the Bright Angel Trail.  You will climb a series of switchbacks known as the Devil’s Corkscrew, and eventually make your way to Havasupai Garden.  Leave your pack at camp, and take the easy trail out to Plateau Point on the Tonto for one of the best views overlooking the Colorado River.  The last day, hike the 4.5 miles from Havasupai Garden to the Bright Angel Trailhead.  And then get some ice cream at The Fountain, you deserve it.

Join a Guided Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip

Joining a Grand Canyon backpacking tour is a worry-free, adventurous way to experience Grand Canyon. With your gear, meals, local transportation, permits, and fees taken care of for you, you can travel light and focus 100% on enjoying the hiking experience, while the guide company takes care of everything else. Also, by going with local experts you’ll enjoy a greater level of safety and gain a much better understanding of the history and ecology of this remarkable region. Read more about a guided Grand Canyon backpacking trips.


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Hikers overlooking north rim

When to Hike and Seasonal Considerations

The North Rim is closed for the winter from October 15th to May 15th.  Since the rim is over 8,000 feet in elevation, the weather may be different than what you expect. Always check Grand Canyon weather before starting a hike.  Also, be aware of monsoons in the summertime, and know what to do in case of lightning.

Necessary Permits

Day Hike Permits

Permits are not required for day hiking in Grand Canyon National Park.

Backpacking Permits

Backcountry permits are required for any overnight trip.  Most at-large camping is available without advanced planning.  Any backcountry permit on corridor trails such as the North Kaibab or Bright Angel require reservations months in advance.  For more information on Grand Canyon’s permit system, click here.

Suggested Packing List

Day Hike Packing List

  • 3-6 liters of water (more in summer)
  • Salty, calorie-rich snacks
  • lunch
  • backpack
  • trekking poles
  • crampons (in winter)
  • wide-brimmed hat
  • sunscreen, sunglasses
  • non-cotton t-shirt (winter)
  • rain jacket
  • warm non-cotton layer
  • 1st-aid kit

Backpacking Packing List

  • all items listed for day hikes PLUS
  • multi-day backpack
  • 3-season tent
  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping pad
  • backpacking stove and fuel
  • backpacking meals
  • 3 pairs wool socks
  • extra t-shirts

About WildlandTrekking

Wildland Trekking, a home-grown USA adventure travel company started in 2005, has become one of the world’s leading trekking companies. Learn about the origins, mission and people of Wildland, America’s #1 source for Unforgettable Hiking Vacations!

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