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Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, United States

The Grand Canyon: Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail

Experience the Grand Canyon like few others with this unforgettable 2-3 day trip down into the canyon.

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 (8 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 16.0 miles / 26 km
Duration: Multiple days
Overview: If you are looking for the perfect hike in the Grand Canyon, this is it. The 2 (or 3) day hike will take you down into the canyon to where few visitors have the privilege of going. Although the Bright Angel trail is not as steep and has more shade cover and water, the views from the South Kaibab trail are unbeatable. It is best to start from the South Kaibab, hike down to the Bright Angel campground, and back up the Bright Angel trail. This way you get a change of scenery and can hike up where there is more available water.

If you have a few more days to spare, you can spend another night at the Bright Angel campground (there are some good day hikes from there), or spend a night at Indian Garden on the way back up to the Rim. However long you stay, it will be an experience to remember for a long time, as there is no better way to see the Grand Canyon that by staring up at it from the river below.

Tips: Bring LOTS of water, the air is very dry and you may not see visible sweat but you will be losing water very quickly.
It is hotter at the bottom of the canyon, make sure you stay in the shade and drink plenty of water (and go in the water to cool off).
Do NOT attempt to hike this whole trail in one day, it is too hot during the summer and there is not enough water.
Make sure you get an early start to avoid the hottest times of the day (and the early morning light makes the rocks walls look spectacular!)

Points of Interest


South Kaibab Trailhead

Start your journey by taking one of the free NPS shuttles to the trailhead (you can't park overnight). In the Summer, you should start very early (4-5) to ensure that you make it to the Bright Angel campground by the time the midday heat starts to take its toll (11am-3pm). DO NOT attempt this as a 1-day hike in the Summer months. While there are stops for water, you will not be able to carry enough between stops, and because of the dry heat, you will not realize how much you are sweating and will easily become dehydrated.

It is about 6.5 miles down to the Colorado river, with consistent amazing views the entire way down. As there is little shade, it is better to hike down the South Kaibab trail, and up the Bright Angel trail, where there is more shade and more water stops as well. There is a bathroom about half way down, but no stations to fill up water, so you must carry all of your water for the 4,820 feet down to hold you over until you ready Bright Angel campground.

Ohh Ahh Point

Appropriately named, this point will make you audibly mutter "oohs" and "ahhs", especially if you are around here for sunrise, when the red rock is almost surreal. It is about 1 mile from the top, and a popular turnaround for those looking for just a taste of the canyon. Below you will see the next couple of miles of the trail and even a resting spot at Cedar Ridge below.

Cedar Ridge

1.5 Miles, and 940 vertical feet from the start you can take a break to use the provided restrooms or just to let your knees rest (it's fairly steep up to this point). Being on a ridge definitely has its perks: you will have great views on both sides of the ridge, and can see the next mile or so of the trail's switchbacks winding back and forth among the bright red rock. It's quite a sight. After another 2.5 miles you will hike around O'Neill Butte, followed by some very steep switchbacks for another mile or so towards Tonto Plateau.

Note: This is a great turn around point for a half-day hike.

Skeleton Point

After 3 miles from the start of the hike you will arrive at Skeleton Point. Don't let the name turn you away just yet, as this is this the first place along the train where you will be able to see the Colorado River below. The switchbacks get a bit steeper after this point, so make sure you are rested before moving further. Note: DO NOT go past this point if you are looking for a day hike.

Kaibab Suspension Bridge

With about a mile left to go you will have some spectacular views of the Colorado river winding through the canyon below. After walking through a tunnel through the rock you will walk across the river on a suspension bridge, and you're almost there. A few moments later you should arrive at Bright Angel campground where you can rest and fill up water.

Bright Angel Campground

If you are backpacking down (which you should be in the Summer months, because it would be too hot to attempt a hike back up at this point), you will likely stay here. You are free to pick any available spot (try the ones on the river bank for quick access). There are boxes for food to keep the animals out, a picnic table, and often somewhere to hang your packs or jackets to keep out unwanted animals. You are probably a bit tired by now, so take off your shoes and jump in the Bright Angel creek to relax. Small fish have been known to swim around biting at your dead skin (don't worry, it only tickles). Some places you need to pay big bucks for this kind of spa treatment.

There is a beach just beyond the campground, at the Colorado River. Either way, stay cool until after sunset, and turn in early! You will want to get an early start the next morning. The campground has tap water and bathrooms with sinks, so you will be able to wash your face.

Phantom Ranch

Another alternative to Bright Angel Campground is Phantom Ranch, where you can stay in individual cabins. It is likely that you will run into a group arriving on Mule back (make sure to impress them with your stories of hiking down), and there are often Ranger led talks about the nearby area. You can sign up for dinner at the restaurant if you didn't bring anything of your own. If you are staying for a couple of days, there are some great day hikes in the nearby area (and it may get a little boring down at the bottom of the creek). If you are only there for the night, make sure to leave early the next day to avoid the heat, as the hike is about 5000 feet up and exposed to direct sun for a few stretches. It is 9.6 miles all the way up to the top, or 4.7 if you are planning to spend the night at Indian Garden.

Indian Garden

4.7 miles from Bright Angel, and 4.9 miles from the Rim, this campground is a great place to stop if you want to extend your trek into 3 days. You can also hike our to Plateau point (it's fairly flat) for some more views and another perspective of the canyon. For those hiking through, there are restrooms and water (the next rest house is 1.9 miles further, and up several switchbacks).

Plateau Point (detour)

From Indian Garden, you can take an optional detour to Plateau point. It's a fairly level hike and will give you yet another perspective of the amazing canyon. It may be a bit much if you are hiking from Bright Angel to the Rim, but a nice add-on if you are staying at Indian Garden for the night.

Three Mile Resthouse

Appropriately named, this rest house is 3 miles from the Rim and has restrooms as well as stations to refill your water. It is pretty steep the rest of the way up, so make sure you have enough water, but don't weigh yourself down too much, as there will be another stop in just 1.5 miles.

Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse

Conveniently located 1.5 miles from the Rim, you can fill up on water, use the restrooms, or just sit down as you save up enough energy for the final push up to the top. But don't forget to take a second to take in the view, its amazing as always.

Bright Angel Trailhead

Back at the top you can take a final picture overlooking the canyons and join the group of people who have hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Reward yourself with some refreshments at the top before taking the shuttle back to your next destination (which may likely be a cold shower and a long nap).
Pictures in this guide taken by: mhansen514, chris, AllenRbrts, LagunaHiker, chrisdfeld, navratil
An awesome hike if you're adequately prepared. Here's how to do it in one day safely.

1. Start early. You should set out down the Kaibab no later than 3:30am.
2. Bring a lot of food & water. You burn a LOT of calories & sweat a lot of water. Come prepared.
3. Train properly. Do not do this in one day without being in good shape. Period.
4. Refill water at every place possible. At the bottom and the 3 stations on the way up.
5. The hardest part (in my opinion) is the first 2-3 miles of the ascent along the Colorado river in the sand. Take it slow, drink plenty, rest in shade as you find it.

That's about it. Seeing the sun rise as you descend into the canyon is something I'll never forget and everyone should experience. Just be careful to not waste too much time hiking down to the river or else it'll be pretty scorching on the way up. We took our time and it was over 100 when we started our ascent. Be careful, but have fun. And be sure to take a picture with the sign encouraging you not to hike rim to river to rim in one day!

Visited on Jul 29, 2009

by UGASinfonian on Sep 06, 2012
This trail may be my favorite trail I have ever hiked. You must leave very early to avoid the afternoon heat but it absolutely worth it. When we hiked down into the canyon the walls were bright orange and red from the morning sunlight. There is no better way to see the canyon than from within it.

We were a bit underprepared at the bottom (the ranger told us not to bring a sleeping bag or tent because it stays 80 degrees. It rained that night and we were mad), but it was nice to be able to sit in the small stream near Bright Angel campground just relaxing and cooling off.

The entire trip wasn't more than about 7 hours of total hiking time (we were moving pretty quickly), but I wouldn't recommend it in a day, because we got very hot while hiking around 8am, I couldn't imagine hiking around noon. Be careful and pack PLENTY of water.

Visited on Jun 25, 2009

by chris on Mar 17, 2011
Excellent! Takes me back...

by Mike_Cravey on Jun 12, 2010

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