Hiking the Bright Angel Trail (Grand Canyon National Park)

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park is a must do for any avid hiker. The Bright Angel Trail might be considered the Grand Canyon National Park's premier hiking trail and is certainly one of its most famous hiking trails. Ashley and I had the opportunity to hike a portion of the Bright Angel Trail while on our recent trip to the Grand Canyon National Park and we look forward to coming back and hiking the entire trail and spending the night at Phantom Ranch in the future. For more pictures of our trip to the Grand Canyon, make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: The Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim (which is open all year) is located approximately 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via route 64 from Interstate 40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180). The Grand Canyon lies entirely within the state of Arizona and is roughly a 7 to 8 hour drive from Southern California. Multiple commercial air carriers provide options to fly into Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas. There is also limited air service into Grand Canyon Airport (7 miles/ 11km south of the park) from Las Vegas and elsewhere. From Los Angeles, CA, the trip is approximately 500 miles to the Grand Canyon. From the Los Angeles area, take the I-15 east to Barstow, CA; from Barstow, CA take the I-40 east to Williams, AZ; and from Williams, AZ take Highway 64 north to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The cost to enter the Grand Canyon National Park per private vehicle is presently $25. The fee pays for 7 days access and is good for both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon. For more fee information of the fees charged at Grand Canyon National Park, click Here. Plan to park at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and ride the Village Route Shuttle bus to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer stop or park at the back county information center and walk to the trailhead.

Description of Trail: The Bright Angel Trail follows the Bright Angel Fault down Garden Creek Canyon on a very well maintained hiking trail. The Bright Angel Trail follows a north facing wall that can accumulate snow and ice during the colder months of the year, becoming potentially treacherous in snow and ice conditions. Water is available at the trailhead. During the summer months there is potable drinking water at Bright Angel Campground, Indian Garden Campground, Three-Mile Resthouse, and Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse. From mid-October to early May, water is only available at Bright Angel Campground and Indian Garden. There is never potable water available at the River Resthouse. Please note that, due to occasional pipeline breaks, potable water is not guaranteed: bringing an alternative form of water treatment, such as iodine tablets or a water filter, is essential.  The south rim trailhead sits at an elevation of 6,860 feet and the trail travels a total of 9.5 miles one way to the bottom of the canyon at the Bright Angel Campground sitting at 2,480 feet. Here is a better location of mile stones to make your trip shorter for day hikes. 

Locations/Elevations Mileages:
South Rim Trailhead (6860 ft / 2093 m) to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse (5729 ft / 1748 m, and 1.5 mile hike): Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse (5729 ft / 1748 m) to Three-Mile Resthouse (4748 ft / 144 9m, and an additional 1.5 miles): Three-Mile Resthouse (4748 ft / 1449 m) to Indian Garden (3800 ft / 1160 m, and an additional 1.7 miles): Indian Garden (3800 ft / 1160 m) to River Resthouse (2480 ft / 756 m), and an additional 3.3 miles): River Resthouse (2480 ft / 756 m) to Bright Angel Campground (2480 ft / 756 m, and an additional 1.5 miles):

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed our short day hike along a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. There was snow and ice on certain sections of the trail when we hiked in February. We made it down to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse which was a great location to turn around for those only looking for a shorter moderate day hike. This hiking trail offers stunning views of the Grand Canyon and allows you to observe and see firsthand all the geological changes in the Grand Canyon. The Bright Angel Trail offers wonderful views all along the trail making it very easy to lose 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.

One of the neat things about the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is that there are free Shuttle Buses which allows you to travel quickly and efficiently throughout the park. During the winter season there are only two bus routs that are open. The blue line takes approximately 50 minutes for each bus to complete the round-trip. The blue line runs through the heart of the south rim and goes between the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, hotels, restaurants, and campgrounds. Buses run every 30 minutes from 6 am to 8 am; they run every 15 minutes from 8 am to 6 pm; and they run every 30 minutes from 6 pm to 9 pm. The orange line runs from Yavapai Point and the Geology Museum to Yaki Point, buses run every 30 minutes from 6 am to 6:30 am; and they run run every 15 minutes from 6:30 am to to one hour after sunset. It take approximately 50 minutes for each bus to complete the route. The red line runs only from March 1 to November 30 and it takes each bus 80 minutes to complete the rout which runs from hermits rest transfer center all the way out to hermits rest. Buses run at similar 15 minute and 30 minute intervals. For a detailed map of the Grand Canyon Bus system make sure to click Here.

Along the Bright Angel Trail, the only campgrounds are at Indian Garden (CIG) and Bright Angel Campground (CBG). At-large camping is not permitted on Corridor Trails; visitors must camp in designated campgrounds. It is not recommended to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day, especially May to September. During the warm summer months temperatures in the bottom of the canyon can soar well above 100 degrees. Additionally, there is limited shade along much of the trail. The water in the Colorado River released from Glen Canyon Dam stays a fairly consistent, from 46 to 50 degrees as it passes through the park. Please note a day hike from the rim and back is extremely strenuous and should only be undertaken by hikers in excellent physical shape with the proper gear. For a great photo journey of the entire Bright Angel Trail check out Arizona Wanderings.

Rating: South Rim Trailhead to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse: Elevation Gain: 1,120 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 3 miles roundtrip (moderate). South Rim Trailhead to Three Mile Resthouse: Elevation Gain: 2,120 ft. (Strenuous), Distance: 6 miles roundtrip (Strenuous). South Rim Trailhead to Indian Garden: Elevation Gain: 3,040 (Strenuous), Distance: 9 miles roundtrip (Strenuous). South Rim Trailhead to River Resthouse: Elevation Gain: 4,380 ft. (Very Strenuous), Distance: 16 miles roundtrip (Very Strenuous). South Rim Trailhead to Bright Angel Campground: Elevation Gain: 4,380 ft. (Very Strenuous), Distance: 19 miles roundtrip (Very Strenuous).  

Time to Complete HikeSouth Rim Trailhead to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse: 2 - 4 hours. South Rim Trailhead to Three Mile Resthouse: 4 - 6 hours. South Rim Trailhead to Indian Garden: 6 - 9 hours. South Rim Trailhead to River Resthouse: 10 - 12 hours. South Rim Trailhead to Bright Angel Campground: 11 - 13 hours.


Bright Angel Trail (This Post)

Grand Canyon Rim Trail

View Bright Angel Trail (Grand Canyon National Park) in a larger map


  1. I love that people have to be told not to do a 19 mile round-trip hike in the middle of the summer in Arizona. I bet the rangers rescue someone every day.

  2. Great post guys, lots of useful info. I really enjoyed the Bright Angel Trail when we did it recently. Not sure if I'd of been quite as keen in that snow and ice though! Did you guys manage to make it back there and down to Phantom Ranch yet? If you're thinking about giving it a go and you're feeling energetic, I put together a post all about how to hike it down and back up again in a day. Here's the link incase you or anyone else wants to check it out http://www.matt-burns.com/destinations/usa/hiking-grand-canyon-rim-river-rim-one-day/


Post a Comment

Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.