One of the most popular rim-to-river hikes in Grand Canyon National Park is down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch, then up Bright Angel Trail.
There are many, many posts on the web about how to do this hike. In my opinion, people have overanalyzed it. I believe my tips below, from one friend to another, are simple enough for anyone to follow.
I received this actual question from a friend and former colleague in Denver:
I’m hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with my family in mid-May. Have you done that hike? If so, any advice? We are staying one night at the bottom and then hiking back up.
Here’s my response:
Yes, I’ve done it twice, without the overnight stay. May is a good time of year to do it.
Key tips for this hike:
- pack light
- hydrate like crazy
- break your shoes and socks in well in advance
- poles help big time
- sleeves of Ritz crackers or Pringles will be your friend
- best to get a super early start up Bright Angel as the first 3 miles are brutal in the heat
- bring a small towel so you can dip your feet off in the creek(s) to cool off
Don’t be misled: even though this hike can be simple to plan for, IT IS NOT EASY.
I know the fitness level of the individual I dispensed the tips above to, so I know he’s in good enough physical fitness to handle this hike. If you have any concerns about your ability to hike 17 miles with a 5,000-foot elevation change, you should definitely take on a physical training program to prepare for this hike.
Overview of the hike down South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch and up Bright Trail
- South Kaibab/Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Trail Loop is a 17.4 mile (28 km) heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located in Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Elevation gain is 5,071 feet (1 – 1/2 km)
- Rated as difficult
- The trail is best used from October to May
- There is no drinkable water on South Kaibab but there are reliable sources at Phantom Ranch and on Bright Angel Trail
- A permit is required only if you’re camping overnight at Bright Angel or Indian Garden campground
- Advance reservations are required for lodging at Phantom Ranch
Below is what the hike looks like from an aerial view. The green dot in the lower right of the image is the starting point on South Kaibab and the black dot in the lower left is the end point.
For trail conditions and additional details, check the official Grand Canyon website.
Want to see more pics and read others’ descriptions of the hike? Check out alltrails.com.
I remember reading and researching this hike like crazy before my first attempt. I quickly became overwhelmed with all the advice out there. If you’re in decent shape, it’s not that bad. Don’t make it worse than it is.
Questions? Thoughts? Let me hear them in the comment box. We’re all friends here. 🙂