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Bright Angel Trail is your best choice if you have never hiked in the Grand Canyon before. It is very well maintained. There is regular drinking water and covered rest-houses along the way. In addition, there are ranger stations located at the trail’s halfway point (Indian Garden) and at the bottom of the canyon (Bright Angel Campground).
Above all, be prepared to be absolutely stunned by the sweeping views as you hike below the rim along Bright Angel Trail.
Where Is Bright Angel Trail Located
Bright Angel Trail is located on the South Rim. It begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge. Simply follow the path along the rim until you reach the mule corral.
How to Get to Bright Angel Trailhead
In order to reach the trailhead park at the Backcountry Information Center (Lot D) and walk 5 minutes to the trailhead. Another option is to park at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and catch the free shuttle bus. It is about 20 minute one way trip.
Following is a detailed post about the Grand Canyon shuttle bus service. It has everything you need to figure out transportation within the park.
Read more about the Grand Canyon South Rim shuttle bus service: Grand Canyon Shuttle Bus – Everything You Need to Know
Map of Bright Angel Trail
How Long Is Bright Angel Trail
To start with, the Grand Canyon Park rangers warn not to attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day. All in all, it is a good advice. Consequently, majority of the hikers trek to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse or Three-Mile Resthouse and back.
Some hikers continue on to Indian Garden or Plateau Point. It is entirely up to you how far you want to hike. It all depends how much time you have and how physically fit you are. Keep in mind, Bright Angel Trail is 6.1 mi one-way, starting at the trailhead and finishing at Plateau Point.
Given these points, following are the distances between each stopping point:
- First of all, Bright Angel Trailhead to Lower Tunnel – 0.9 mi one-way
- Lower Tunnel to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse – 0.6 mi one-way
- Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse to Three-Mile Resthouse – 1.5 mi one-way
- Three Mile-Resthouse to Indian Garden Campground – 1.5 mi one-way
- Finally, Indian Garden Campground to Plateau Point – 1.6 mi one way
How Long Does It Take to Hike Bright Angel Trail
It usually takes 9 to 12 hours to hike from Bright Angel Trailhead to Plateau Point and back. Furthermore, you do not need to trek all the way to Plateau Point to catch great views. You can turn around at any point and head back.
Notably, it is very misleading to hike down the canyon. It might take you 1 hour to reach Lower Tunnel. Yet, it might take you twice as long to cover that same ground on the way back. Needless to say, hiking out of the canyon is tough. Furthermore, plan your hike according to your capabilities. Above all, hiking is not a race, take your time and immerse yourself in a beautiful scenery.
- For example, to hike from Bright Angel Trailhead to Lower Tunnel and back, might take you about 1-2 hours.
- Next, if you decide to continue to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse and back, it will be about 2-4 hours round-trip.
- If you hike to Three-Mile Resthouse and back, it will be about 4-6 hours round-trip.
- Next, if you continue trekking to Indian Garden Campground and back, it might take you about 6-9 hours round-trip.
- Finally, if you reach Plateau Point and start heading back, it might take you about 9-12 hours round-trip
What Is the Elevation Change on Bright Angel Trail
Hiking from the rim down is an opposite what a usual hike is for me. With Bright Angel Trail, you start with a descent and finish with an ascent. I think that is why it could be so misleading and you might underestimate the time needed to get back to the rim. As a rule of thumb, if it took you about 1 hour to hike down, then reserve about 2 hours to get back to the rim.
Following are elevation changes:
- First of all, Bright Angel Trailhead sits at elevation of 6,840 feet. There is a 590-foot descent from Bright Angel Trailhead to Lower Tunnel.
- Next, Lower Tunnel is at the elevation of 6,250 feet and there is 530-foot descent from Lower Tunnel to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse.
- Furthermore, Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse sits at elevation of 5,720 feet and the descent from Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse to Three-Mile Resthouse is 1000 feet.
- Three-Mile Resthouse is at elevation of 4,720 feet and the descent from Three-Mile Resthouse to Indian Garden Campground is 920 feet.
- Finally, Indian Garden Campground sits at elevation of 3,800 feet and the descent from Indian Garden Campground to Plateau Point is 40 feet, with Plateau Point being at the elevation of 3,760 feet.
Furthermore, while you are descending down the canyon, think about your physical capabilities and plan accordingly.
Bright Angel Trail Quick Facts
- Lower Tunnel – .9 mi one-way
- Mile-and-a Half Resthouse – 1.5 mi one-way
- Three-Mile Resthouse – 3.0 mi one-way
- Indian Garden Campground – 4.5 mi one-way
- Plateau Point – 6.1 mi one-way
- Elevation Change
- Bright Angel Trailhead – elevation 6,840 ft
- Lower Tunnel – elevation 6,250 ft
- Mile-and-a Half Resthouse – elevation 5,720 ft
- Three-Mile Resthouse – elevation 4,720 ft
- Indian Garden Campground – elevation 3,800 ft
- Plateau Point – elevation 3,760 ft
- Difficulty Level – Strenuous
- Access – Bright Angel trailhead is located west of Bright Angel Lodge
Bright Angel Trail – What You Need to Know
To start with, the trail begins with a series of switchbacks. They are wide and long and easy on the way down. However, they are killers on the way back up.
After .9 mi you will reach Lower Tunnel.
Next, after .6 mi you will reach Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse. Once you pass beyond the first resthouse the switchbacks come a little closer as the canyon narrows. The section of trail between the first and second resthouses is very scenic. There are some more petroglyphs carved into the rock above you at around the two mile mark, at a spot called Two Mile Corner.
The Three-Mile Resthouse is a good point to take a break and decide whether to continue or turn around and start climbing back up. Furthermore, check how much time it took you to get to this point. It will take you twice as long to get back to the rim.
There is a very nice spot for viewing just beyond the resthouse. Follow the trail that leads up past it to the right.
Beyond Three-Mile Resthouse the trail becomes a little steeper.
The switchbacks at Jacobs Ladder will seems to go on forever on the climb out.
Once you are beyond this the trail levels out to Indian Garden.
Indian Garden Campground
As you approach Indian Garden you will be walking across a formation known as Bright Angel Shale. Indian Garden is another good turnaround point. If you decide to continue for another 1.6 miles you will reach Plateau Point.
For one thing, Plateau Point gives stunning views of the Inner Gorge and the Colorado River.
All in all, as soon as you are ready start your hike back to the rim. Altogether, as I said before, hiking out of the canyon is tough. Take your time, take breaks, eat your snacks and drink water.
Following is a list of essential hiking gear and some hiking tips.
Essential Hiking Gear And Hiking Tips
Appropriate footwear – trail shoes are great; hiking boots are even better since they offer more support.
Plenty of water – without enough water your body’s muscles and organs simply cannot perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
Food – food will help keep up energy and morale.
Rain gear and extra clothing – the weatherman is not always right. Be prepared for unannounced rain or a cold spell. Dress in layers. It will allow you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
First aid kit – prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter.
Knife or multi-purpose tool – these enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, etc.
Sunscreen and sunglasses – especially in the summer time , you will need sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
Daypack/backpack – you need something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in.
Trash Bag – this will make sure that the trail will stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip-lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.
LOOKING FOR MORE HIKING IDEAS IN THE GRAND CANYON? Check out my post: South Kaibab Trail – Top Best Hike
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The Grand Canyon National Park