Ultimate Grand Canyon | Guide

Bright Angel Trail

The Bright Angel Trail is the Grand Canyon National Park's most popular and safest trail. The well maintained trail has drinking water and covered rest-houses along the way. This route dates back to 1891 and has been the premier hiking trail of the Grand Canyon ever since. There is little more to say about this epic tail other than "if you haven't been there, get there".

Trail Statistics

Length:  Bright Angel Trail to Bright Angel Campground: 9.5 miles one way

Trailhead Elevation:  6,860 ft.

Gain/Loss:  -4380 ft.

Difficulty: Difficult

Rating: 10/10

Solitude: Low/Moderate

Season: All Year (Summer can be very dangerous)

Dog Friendly: No

Trail Description

Located on the South Rim, the Bright Angel Trail is located just west of Kolb Studio. There are several lodges near the trailhead and all are within walking distance. The trail follows the head of a side canyon and winds down to the Colorado River. It begins with an almost endless amount of switchbacks through the canyon. There are great photo opportunities of massive cliffs and rock formations as well as an abundance of plant life and natural water flows.

The Bright Angel Trail will descend most of it's elevation with the first 3 to 4 miles. Along the way you will see several popular spots. The first is the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse which is located exactly 1.6 miles (not the 1.5 miles the name suggests) from the rim. Another 1.5 miles from the Resthouse you will come to another Resthouse. Right at 4.5 miles you will find Indian Garden which is a popular resting and turning around spot for most people. It is an oasis in the desert and was deliberately set up for tourists in 1903. There is a campsite there with large Cottonwood trees and several picnic type areas.

The trail will follow a creek from Indian Garden until you reach the Colorado River. This is one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of this trail. The small creek cuts through cottonwoods and sculpted stone. There is no potable water in this section so I suggest filling up at Indian Garden. You will pass River Resthouse 1.5 miles past Indian Garden.
Once you meet the enormous and unbelievable beauty of the Colorado you know that you have almost reached your destination. You will cross the Bright Angel Bridge and continue on the path until you reach Bright Angel Campsite on your left.

Hiking Tips

1. The Grand Canyon is a place of extremes. Everything is volatile so check weather, maps, and conditions before heading out.
2. The weather is very deceiving. At the top of the canyon it may be freezing cold but the inner canyon can be scorching. The weather is very different at the top than it is at the bottom. Check out the weather dangers with this link.
3. A camera is a must have.
4. Plan your trip several months in advance. Do tons of research.
5. Day use does not require a permit. Only backcountry backpacking requires a permit.
6. Stay at least 3 days. There are a lot of finger trails to explore so take your time.
7. If you would are staying the night but don't want to pay the fee to stay at a campsite or lodging in the park, we camped just a few miles out of town on national forest land for free. I was surprised to find nicely graded forest service roads and campsites. We did not see anyone else while finding our own spot. This tip was actually given to me by a police officer who pulled me over in the park! I was looking for a campsite (everything was full and it was dark) and I accidentally ran a stop sign in the park.
8. Hit the trail as early as you possibly can. There will be less crowds and it makes for awesome sunrise photos.
9. DO NOT ATTEMPT to go rim to canyon to rim in one day. Although this is exactly what we did I do not recommend it for two reasons; 1. It is fairly dangerous and it sucks losing 5000 ft. and gaining it back the same day and 2. You have to really book it down and back up to make it in one day. This leaves very little time, if any, to explore and take in the views of the canyon.

Get There

Directions: The Bright Angel trailhead is located just west of Kolb Studio in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.
It is within easy walking distance from Maswik Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, rim lodge parking areas and from Parking Lots E and D. Out of consideration for daytime park visitors, it is recommended that overnight hikers park at Parking Lot D (the Backcountry Information Center parking lot). Though this is notthe closest parking area, it is the most secure and is also where the largest number of parking spaces are located. "from the NPS website"