Grand Canyon, Day 2: Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls is a delicate and photogenic waterfall located about a quarter-mile from the North Kaibab Trail. Tucked into a grotto, this tiered waterfall is a great place to relax, contemplate, and meditate upon both the minute subtleties of the canyon.


Distance: 3.2
Elevation Gained: 360′
Difficulty: Easy
Time: ??
Critters: Lizards

One of the most surprising things about visiting the Grand Canyon was how much I loved this waterfall. Generally, I look at waterfalls with something approaching indifference. Sure, it’s nice to sit next to water falling over a cliff, but, given the amount of people a waterfall attracts, it is rarely worth having to get stuck in the crowds. Sturdevant Falls is a great example. Yes, it’s a nice place and a good waterfall. However, SOOO much of the traffic at Chantry Flat is a direct result of this waterfall that I hardly think it is worth investing the time and effort to see it. In short, I really don’t see what the big deal is.

I’ve had similar feelings about waterfalls, both big and small. I was uncomfortable with the pounding aggression of the waterfalls of Yellowstone Canyon, just as I was uncomfortable with the claustrophobic crowds. I religiously avoid Sturdevant Falls, and I am just as religiously avoided the ever-popular Cedar Creek Falls in San Diego. However, Ribbon Falls was one of those powerful exceptions to the rule that made me fall in love with the place for its numerous merits in spite of my feelings about waterfalls.

It probably helps that Ribbon Falls is 14 miles and a good 4,500′ of climbing away from the nearest major populated area. It probably helps that I did not come across another soul – Kyle excepted – on this hike. But most of all, it probably helps because Ribbon Falls is unusual. First of all, it falls in two tiers. The upper tier falls straight down from its precipice. The second tier occurs as it collects on a rock outcrop that is covered in delicate mosses. There’s a pool that looks like a birth place of faeries. There’s a trickling side stream, as well as the front of the rock formation, which is carpeted in moss.

Additionally, one can easily walk behind the waterfall and observe it from the back. It was fascinating to watch the water move with the wind. As the wind shifted the water’s flow, the sound of the waterfall changed, and the path of the falling water changed as well. It was almost like watching a dance of sorts to observe the waterfalls subtle unpredictability.

The grotto also lends itself to leisurely exploration. The alcove behind the waterfall lends itself to some semi-sketchy exploration, which Kyle undertook and I avoided in favor of simply sitting and soaking in the water. Unlike my normal monkey antics, I was mostly content to sit behind the waterfall and get lost in the shifting water flow and the sounds of water trickling in a number of different ways.

After a generous amount of time spent exploring, Kyle and I both filled up our water bottles with a generous amount of clear, sweet water. This was a nice contrast to the drinking water available at the campgrounds, which was colored orange and almost opaque due to sediment being present in the spring water. Honestly, it tasted just fine, but nobody wants to drink orange water.

We enjoyed this waterfall for a good, long time. Eventually though, it was time to make it back to camp to prepare for and rest up for what would prove to be one of the greatest hiking experiences of my life: the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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