Bright Angel Trail
Each year thousands of hikers enter
Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel
Trail. They follow a tradition - and a
trail route - established by prehistoric
people. For centuries humans have
used this route for two key reasons:
water and access. Water emerges from
springs at Indian Garden, and erosion
along the Bright Angel Fault creates a
break in the cliffs, providing access to
When prospectors arrived here in the
late 1890s, Havasupai Indians were
using the route. Prospectors improved
the Havasupai route, but soon realized
that the canyon's wealth lay in tourism,
not ore. By 1903 one prospector, Ralph
Cameron, had secured control of the
trail by strategically locating mining
claims. He then charged a $1.00 toll
per trail user.
For years Ralph Cameron battled to
defend his precarious legal claim to
the Bright Angel Trail, all the while
collecting tolls. In 1928 the National
Park Service gained control of the trail
and tolls ceased. The Bright Angel has
been Grand Canyon's most popular
trail ever since.
1. Pictographs, like these found near
the head of the Bright Angel Trail,
and other archaeological evidence
attest to the use of the trail route by
prehistoric and historic Indians.
2. Ralph Cameron, circa 1915, and
Cameron's Bright Angel Trail toll
gate. Cameron once boasted that he
"would make more money out of the
Grand Canyon than any other man."
For more than 20 years Cameron
collected tolls on the Bright Angel Trail.
3. A typical Bright Angel Trail mule
ride, 1927, photographed from Kolb
Studio. The tradition of Bright Angel
Trail mule rides continues today.
4. Indian Gardens around 1910,
during the time of Ralph Cameron's