About Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail descends the cliffs of the Grand Canyon beginning at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Following Garden Creek Canyon, one of the many cliff-lined side canyons of the Grand Canyon, it loops back and forth across the canyon in seemingly endless switchbacks as it traverses layer after layer of the earth's crust. The Battleship, a mountain-sized feature resembling a battleship, stands across the canyon for most of the descent, far below at first, and towering high above later on.
After descending 4.6 miles by the trail, a 3,000 foot drop, the trail arrives at Indian Gardens. A spring feeds a grove of trees and hundreds of prickly pear cactus. A campground, restroom, and drinking water wait to refresh weary hikers in the shade of the trees. Indian Gardens sits near the level of the Tonto Platform, where a harder layer of rock forms a false bottom to the canyon and a relief from the steep descent. At Indian Gardens there is a fork in the trail. The Bright Angel Trail continues into the Granite Gorge, and the Plateau Point Trail stays on the Tonto Platform, leading to a popular overlook of the Granite Gorge. It is also a connecting point to the Tonto Trail, a remote trail that follows the Tonto Platform along the south wall of the Grand Canyon. Most hikers turn aside toward Plateau Point. The hike into the Granite Gorge is not recommended for a one-day hike.
The scenery along the final descent to the river changes after leaving Indian Gardens. The gray-colored cliffs of the Granite Gorge hide most of the familiar cliffs far above. Water actually flows in Garden Creek along the trail. But 3.1 miles and a 1,400 foot drop still have to be traversed before reaching the water's edge. A resthouse with water await at the river. A footbridge crosses the river about a mile from the resthouse and Bright Angel Canyon begins right across the River.
Oddly, Bright Angel Trail never reaches Bright Angel Canyon. From the resthouse on, it is called the River Trail, and across the river, the trail ascending Bright Angel Canyon to the North Rim is called the North Kaibab Trail. The Kaibab Trail, which leaves the South Rim near Yaki Point, crosses the Colorado River on a separate bridge and the two trails meet at the mouth of Bright Angel Canyon. There is also a connecting trail on the south side of the river.
Unlike Garden Creek Canyon, Bright Angel Canyon makes a gradual climb up from the river, not reaching the level of the Tonto Platform until it is miles from the Colorado River. Very few switchbacks plague the trail until it is near the North Rim.
Hikers pass through a number of tunnels along the Bright Angel Trail. Two of them are found close to the South Rim. Another lies on the Kaibab trail just before the bridge crossing the River, if you want to take the long way just to see it. A fourth one is near the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail.
For those who want to experience the Grand Canyon in a more intimate way, the Bright Angel Trail is the most popular way to contribute a few drops of sweat to the ecology. The views are stunning and the cliffs never look so precipitous as when you're nearly on their face. Anyone who has hiked the trail will agree that the hike down is wonderful. The hike back up is described in other terms. However, hikers making the climb actually have little to say, with most of their thoughts being portrayed in their expression. With that proper word of caution, the hike, in a carefully selected quantity, is highly recommended.
These facilities are located at a resthouse 1 1/2 miles down Garden Creek Canyon, at Indian Gardens, and at the Bright Angel Campground.
No hike into the canyon can be considered without taking water. This is simplified on the Bright Angel Trail since water can be resupplied enroute. It is available year-round at Indian Gardens and at the River Resthouse. During the summer months it is also available at the 1 1/2 mile and 3 mile resthouses.