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Bright Angel Trail Out-and-Back

Intermediate/Difficult
  4.8 ( 61 ) Favorite

Trail

16.0 mile 25.7 kilometer out and back
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 4,366' 1,331 m
Descent: -4,367' -1,331 m
High: 6,825' 2,080 m
Low: 2,458' 749 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 38% (21°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Jason Doedderlein

A bucket-list hike from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and back.

Jason Doedderlein

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers

Overview

This trail starts on the Grand Canyon's southern rim and sends you plummeting into the depths of the 'Big Hole'.

Amazing views are the order of the day.

Beware, however, as this is no easy task. The combination of mileage, elevation gain (and loss), and heat can do a number on even the strongest hiker.

This trail is one of the most crowded trails in one of the most popular national parks. Leaving early eliminates most of the masses on the way down and they tend to not venture too far from the rim, so you'll only have to deal with them the last couple of miles on the way up.

The Bright Angel Trail is considered the parks premier trail. It's well maintained, graded for stock, with regular drinking water and covered rest-houses, and is without question the safest trail in Grand Canyon National Park. There is a ranger station located at the trails halfway point (Indian Garden) and one at the bottom of the canyon (Bright Angel Campground). Visitors hiking for the first time at Grand Canyon often use this trail in conjunction with the South Kaibab Trail. Particularly during hot weather, it makes sense to ascend via the Bright Angel Trail because of potable water, regular shade, emergency phones, and the ranger presence.

Need to Know

There is a cafeteria style eating establishment very close to the trailhead. Eat here for a well-deserved calorie binge after the hike.

Description

From a scenic standpoint, this will no doubt be one of the best hikes of your life. The view from the rim is impressive, but the scale of the Grand Canyon and the awe it inspires really begins once you descend into its depths.

You'll do that quickly as Bright Angel Trail quickly drops from the rim toward the river that caused this wonder; the Colorado River.

The trail is obvious and there are not many connecting trails. Additionally, the signage is always clear. Simply continue to plummet and remember to enjoy the views.

Around mile four (half way down), the trail begins to flatten as it approaches Indian Gardens. Here there is camping and water. Clearly this is quite the oasis compared to the parched and rocky red earth the trail began on.

After Indian Gardens, the descent begins anew. Follow the trail until you get close to the river. Bright Angel will continue above the river to the right to a bridge that can be taken to complete the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim epic hike. However, for this route, I simply broke off of the trail, found my way to the Colorado River to cool off, enjoy the views, and fear the 6000+ ft climb back to the rim.

History & Background

Following a natural break in the cliffs formed by the massive Bright Angel Fault, todays Bright Angel Trail approximates a route used for millennia by the many Native American groups that have called the Grand Canyon home. Early western pioneers at the canyon first built a trail in 1891 to reach mining claims established below the rim at Indian Garden. Recognizing that the true worth of the claims would be measured in visitation by tourists, these pioneers immediately registered their trail as a toll road and extended the trail to the river. The mining claims and use of the trail as a toll road would be the source of much controversy, first in legal battles with railroad companies that wanted to control tourism and later with the federal government. The trail was turned over to the National Park Service in 1928. Look for ancient pictograph panels and historic structures, and the trails construction to sense its rich history.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Flora & Fauna

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Check-Ins

Sep 18, 2019
Stacy Wyss
Sep 16, 2019
Afshin Mesbahi
Aug 28, 2019
Tara Lavoie
Aug 21, 2019
Susan Wesnoski
Jul 29, 2019
Porter H
Insanely hot. It'll get over 100F by noon so must plan accordingly 5mi — 4h 45m
Jul 22, 2019
Dagnika Main
Includes hike to Plateau point. Hiked with bestie Jana. Hard but amazing once in a lifetime experience. Do it again! Maybe not in July. Got up to 117F 11.5mi — 9h 27m
Jul 10, 2019
Andrea Salapow
Jul 7, 2019
Jose Botran
16mi — 7h 20m

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 61 votes

#3

in South Rim

#61

Overall
  4.8 from 61 votes
5 Star
87%
4 Star
11%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
0%
Featured Hike Rankings

#3

in South Rim

#4

in Arizona

#61

Overall
272 Views Last Month
13,410 Since Apr 2, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Coming down Bright Angel.
Apr 7, 2015 near Grand C…, AZ
Bighorn Sheep crossing the Bright Angel Trail on our way to Plateau Point.
Jun 11, 2016 near Grand C…, AZ
This trail is STEEP!
Apr 7, 2015 near Grand C…, AZ
Always satisfying looking back down at Devils Corkscrew after feeling the burn on the way up.
Jun 15, 2018 near Grand C…, AZ
Bright Angle Trail- South Rim
Jan 25, 2016 near Grand C…, AZ
Viewpoint along the South Rim Trail.
Nov 5, 2015 near Grand C…, AZ

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