Bright Angel Trail At South Rim
Bright Angel Trail Tunnel © Chris Luckhardt
The Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most popular of the hiking trails. It is not unusual to have hundreds of hikers on the trail during peak season. The trail head is located just west of Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village and begins at the Mule Stone Corral. Hikers share the trail with those taking the mule trail ride. Some areas of the trail are steep more noticeably so during during the return hike. The trail is randomly patrolled by park rangers. The hiking season is May through September.
Options For Day Hikers
Although this trail leads to the Phantom Ranch, even the most experienced day hikers should not proceed past Plateau Point which is a 12.2 mile round trip. Depending upon available time, physical condition and hiking experience, there are several turnaround points along the trail. The Bright Angel Trail offers great views all along the trail making it very easy to loose track of how far down you have hiked. Additionally, the steepness of the trail is very misleading on the way down. Plan on taking twice as long to hike up as it took to hike down.
First Tunnel. Hiking to this point is a 0.36 mile round trip. The elevation is 6,700 feet so there will be negligible temperature drop. The hike portion is not very steep.
First Switchback. A 0.9 mile round trip. The trail begins to get steep at here, so it is an ideal turnaround spot for those with younger children.
Second Tunnel. A 1.5 round trip and an elevation of about 6,240 feet. Very steep switchbacks begin here along high cliff edges.
1.5 Mile Rest House. A 3.0 mile round trip. Drinking water is available during the season only. All hikers should carry 1/2 to a quart of water per hiking hour. There is a restroom and telephone located at this point. The elevation drops to about 5,700 feet so the temperature will be noticeably hotter. This the ideal place for first-time canyon hikers, casual hikers and late starters to turnaround and begin the return hike.
2 Mile Switchback Corner. A 4.0 mile round trip. The elevation is 5,490 feet. The trail will now become much steeper until it reaches the Tonto plateau.
3 Mile Rest House. A 6.0 mile round trip. The elevation is about 4,760 feet. Water is only available during the season and there is an emergency phone but no restrooms.
Indian Garden. A 9.2 mile round trip. The elevation is about 3,800 feet and will become very noticeably hotter, particularly during the summer months. As a summer day hike, do not hike beyond this point. There is a campground at Indian Garden, but overnight campers must have a permit issued by the Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Information Center.
Plateau Point. A 12.2 mile round trip. Enjoy a great view of the Colorado River here. There is no shade at all at this point and at an elevation of about 3,700 feet where the heat becomes more intense.. Hiking to this point is very strenuous because of the distance. No matter how experienced and no matter how well-conditioned, day hikers should never proceed beyond this point. The return trip to the top of the trail head is 6.1 miles up some very steep inclines. The return hike will take twice as long as the trip down.
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