Described by the National Parks Services (NPS) as “a true gem of the North Kaibab Trail” in the Grand Canyon, the picturesque Ribbon Falls (formerly known as Altar Falls) is hidden in a side-canyon a short distance off the trail. The falls are about 35m (100 feet) high and drop onto a giant travertine spire.
The mineral-rich water has created this giant travertine spire below the falls; calcium carbonate as tufa (or travertine) is deposited among the moss gradually building the dome.
A path leads up the left-hand side of the dome, and you can walk behind the waterfall for a different perspective.
There are some shaded spots around the falls and you can cool off in the pool below the waterfall – but it’s too shallow for swimming.
Getting to Ribbon Falls
Ribbon Falls is accessible from the North Rim via a strenous hike down the North Kaibab Trail, and also from Phantom Ranch – which is said to make it the only waterfall in Grand Canyon National Park accessible without backpacking or rafting. The closest campground is Cottonwood on the North Kaibab Trail – from the camping area it’s here it’s only 1.6mi / 2.6km.
- North Rim to Ribbon Falls – 16.8mi / 27km return via North Kaibab Trail (can be done as a day hike, or camp at Cottonwood)
- South Rim to Ribbon Falls – 30.3mi / 48.8km return via Bright Angel Trail and North Kaibab Trail (stay at Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground)
- North to South Rim – 20.4mi / 32.8km one-way via the North Kaibab and South Kaibab trails (waterfall is a 0.9mi / 1.4km side-trip)
If hiking the North Kaibab Trail in summer, Ribbon Falls makes a good place to stop and rest during the middle of the day and afternoon.