Sunrise over Grand Canyon - Ooh-Aah Point

Sunrise in Grand Canyon National Park

Date of Visit: Tuesday November 10th, 2015

As if the scenery was not impressive enough over the last several days, today we were all in for an even bigger treat. Once again, our day started with a very early 4am wakeup call. We drove from Maswik Lodge in Grand Canyon Village, AZ to the South Kaibab trailhead. It was completely pitch black outside and the temperature was very freezing.

South Kaibab Trail Map

South Kaibab Trail Map

Attractions/Places of Interest:

We started heading down into the canyon following the South Kaibab Trail with a destination of Ooh-Aah Point. Hours of research lead to us choosing this point along the trail among the many other choices available since terrain maps as well as advice from experienced hikers in the area made it sound very promising. I saw great images taken from this location, but what I was able to capture during sunrise that morning was jaw dropping. Yaki Point was another option that also looked great, however the road was closed due to unsafe conditions.

We hiked 0.9 miles from the South Kaibab trailhead to Ooh-Aah point which descended 600 feet in elevation. What made this experience even more amazing is that none of us have ever seen any part of the canyon in person before that morning’s sunrise. We entered the park late at night the day before and spent an hour hiking down also in pure darkness. Only a few feet of dirt in front of us was illuminated at any given time with our headlamps. To top it off, at that time of day especially in the off season, we were the only people for miles. The experience of witnessing the sun rise over the canyon to give me my first glimpse of it in pure silence and serenity was breathtakingly beautiful. I am extremely satisfied with the images I was able to capture that day, however there is no way I can share that feeling in words or even photos.

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Photo and Travel Gear:

Temperatures dropped drastically compared to our last few hikes throughout Arizona where I just wore shorts and a t-shirt. For this hike I layered up with a very warm Arcteryx Phase SV LS Zip Neck base layer, an even warmer Arcteryx Delta LT Zip mid layer, and finally my North Face Thermoball down jacket. I also needed my ASICS Thermopolis Lt Neck Gaiter, North Face Bones Beanie, and North Face E-Tip Gloves. The thermoball insulated jacket soaks up instantly when it rains, so in my bag I kept my Marmot Mica rain jacket which is waterproof and extremely light and packable. To light my way during the hike on the way down I used my Black Diamond Storm headlamp.

I highly advise using an offline map application such as while hiking down, or save an offline version of the area to your Google maps which you can follow as you hike down. You will not have cell service, however you should be able to acquire a GPS satellite signal without any issues which is all you need since the map itself is saved on your device. I say this now because Ooh-Aah point is not marked with a sign, so you will need to keep an eye out for when to stop.

As far as photo gear, you will find a composition with any focal length you own, however I prefer to stay on the wider side. I took some shots with my Tokina 11-16 f/2.8., however in the end I prefered using my Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 which yields sharper results and was still wide enough to capture the essence of this location. I did not bring my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, and while I don’t regret leaving it I might take it along if I were to go back again. Of course a sturdy tripod like this Sirui model and Induro BHD2 ballhead is a must for a sunrise shot, and this was another situation where I wish I had a graduated ND filter since the shots I captured did have some blown highlights in the sky.