The Bright Angel is the most popular and well graded of the rim-to-river trails. First used by Havasupai Indians to reach fields at Indian Garden, prospectors widened it in 1890. A hike all the way down to the river and back in one day will exhaust even the strongest hikers and could be dangerous in summer, so it's best to day-hike part way down or arrange to stay overnight at Bright Angel Campground or Phantom Ranch in the bottom.
Split over two days, the 9.3-mile (one-way) trail is very pleasant and scenic, though the switchbacks can seem endless on the climb out! Hikers usually take 5-6 hours to go down and 7-8 hours to ascend; elevation change is 4,380 feet. Indian Garden is a good destination for a day hike, a 9.2-mile roundtrip and a 3,060-foot climb out, taking 6-9 hours total. From Indian Garden, it's well worth heading out on the gentlebut shadelesstrail to Plateau Point and a spectacular 360-degree panorama from a perch directly above the Colorado River. This will add 3 miles to your day. Indian Garden has drinking water. Resthouses 1.5 and 3 miles below the rim may have seasonal water (check before relying on it).
Spring and autumn offer the best weather. Winter can be fine, with the possibility of some ice and snow on the upper part. In summer you'll need to drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration. A sunhat, sunscreen, and snacks will add to the enjoyment of the hike.
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- Plateau Point is the best side trip, but you could also explore some of the Tonto Trail, which also branches off near Indian Garden. A campground at Indian Garden provides the option of a more leisurely visit; you'll need backcountry permit. At the bottom, you can hike along the River Trail and take either of the two footbridges across the swiftly flowing Colorado River.
- If you would rather ride than walk, drop by the rides desk in Bright Angel Lodge and see if there's an opening for a day or overnight mule ride.
- For an introduction to hiking in the Grand Canyon, the Bright Angel is a good choice because of the drinking water half way down, an easy-to-follow path, and the usual abundance of people to help if you run into difficulties.
Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023
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