Bright Angel Trail

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3.6 - 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 6850 feet (rim)
          5729 ft (1 1/2 mile resthouse)
          4748 ft (3 mile resthouse)
          3800 ft (Indian Garden 4.6 mi.)
          3740 ft (Plateau Point 6 mi.)
          2400 ft (Colorado River 7.8 mi.)
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Mule - No Dogs
Time: 1 hrs. 45 mins. (1st resthouse round trip)
Facilities: Flush toilet on rim
               Vault toilet at 1.7 miles
Trailhead: Bright Angel
Fee: $25/vehicle or $12/person
Attractions: Scenic views
   


View Bright Angel Trail in a larger map

The Bright Angel trail is located in the South Rim Section of the Grand Canyon National Park. Day hikes of various lengths descend into the canyon with popular turn around points at the 1st and 2nd resthouses at 1.5 and 3 miles, Indian Garden at 4.5 miles and Plateau Point at 6 miles. Anything longer would need to be a backpacking trip which requires first obtaining a backcountry permit from the Backcountry Information Center. The Colorado River is at 7.8 miles and the Bright Angel campground is at 9.3 miles on the River trail. It is possible to cross the river on a suspension bridge and hike up to the North Rim via the North Kaibab trail for a total distance of 23.4 miles. Alternatively you could take the Tonto trail at Indian Gardens 4.7 miles east to the South Kaibab trail and return to the South Rim to form a loop or take the River trail to the South Kaibab trail for an even bigger loop.


The Bright Angel trailhead is located near the Bright Angel Lodge. The best way to get from place to place in the South Rim Section of the Grand Canyon is to take the free shuttle buses. Take the Village Shuttle from the Visitor Center or wherever you are staying and ride it to the Hermit Shuttle transfer. That is the stop right after Bright Angel Lodge and the point where the Village Shuttle turns around and heads back to the Visitor Center. From the bus stop simply walk toward the rim and look for the trailhead.


The Bright Angel trail is a nice and wide and well maintained. As you can imagine the upper sections that are shaded during the winter months can get icy making them somewhat treacherous.


The early morning hours are the best time to hike the trail during warmer weather. You have to admire the backpackers as they trudge their way up the trail laden with all of their gear. Many of them begin the ascent at daybreak before the sun gets a chance to heat things up.


The trail passes through 2 tunnels that add to the enjoyment of the hike.


The uppermost part of the trail is long sweeping sections that descend at a moderate slope.


Once the trail passes through the second tunnel and gets to the area of the Bright Angel fault it begins a series of tight switchbacks where the slope of the trail becomes much steeper. The Bright Angel fault cuts a gash through the canyon wall that over time has filled with talus and dirt making a perfect place to construct a trail.


As the trail descends through geological time the colors change to that of the current rock formation that it is passing through. The variety of colors adds to the enjoyment of the experience.


The first resthouse is right about the 1.5 mile point. Besides a shady place to sit there is a water spigot, thermometer and an emergency 911 phone. The water is only on when temperatures are above freezing and when there are no breaks in the water line. Most day hikers probably turn around at this point although some turn around sooner. When all a trail does is descend for mile after mile you can't hike until you are tired before turning around. Having hiked this far you will have a good feel for what it is like hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon.


There is a restroom another hundred yards or so down the trail and that is as far as we ventured for this post before turning around.


It is common to meet mules on the Bright Angel trail. Hikers are told to get off the trail on the uphill side, follow the guides instructions and don't return to the trail until the mules have passed by 50 feet.


There is an edge on one section of cliff that resembles a face that has an Indian legend tied to it of a maiden that ventured into the canyon never to be seen again. The face is that of her father that went into the canyon looking for her and is still searching to this day.


The Bright Angel trail is the most heavily used trail in the canyon. It has been in use for thousands of years. When settlers first came to the Grand Canyon the Havasupai Indians were already using the trail. The trail fell into private ownership for a number of years which caused the Park Service to build the Hermit, Kaibab and other trails within the canyon. That turned out to be a benefit for present day hikers by increasing the number of developed routes within the canyon. The Bright Angel trail can provide just the adventure you are looking for whether it is a short day hike or a more intense backpacking experience. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.