Be smart and be safe. The knowledge of basic Bright Angel Trail hiking tips and etiquette comes in handy as you tackle the trail. Whether you go up the trail on the last day of an Upper Canyon raft adventure or down the trail on the first day of a Lower Canyon raft adventure, the Bright Angel Trail is mandatory. The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most breathtaking hiking trails in the world and traveled by thousands each year. This said, it also covers challenging terrain and often affected by extreme weather conditions. Befor e you commit to this hike, carefully consider your own abilities as well as anyone you are traveling with.
Once you commit, here are simple Bright Angel Trail hiking tips to assist you along the way. SHARE THIS INFORMATION with others in your group to help ensure that everyone is informed to make healthy choices and smart decisions. We also offer basic Bright Angel Trail Hiking Etiquette and Choosing Hiking Socks in separate posts. Our Bright Angel etiquette offers additional advice for being a polite and informed steward of the trail.
Bright Angel Trail Hiking Tips for the Day of the Hike
FOOD = FUEL = FUN
Your body spends an enormous amount of energy (food calories) keeping you cool in the heat. Eating is your most important defense against exhaustion and water intoxication. Eat small amounts every 1/2 hour. We provide snacks for the hike. It is important that you eat even if you don’t feel hungry. Eating helps balance the nutrients in your body.
Everyone sweats around 1/2 to 1 quart of water and electrolytes each hour hiking in the heat. Do not wait until you are thirsty to start replacing fluids and electrolytes. By the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Drink 1/2 to 1 quart of electrolyte replacement drink each hour. We provide a powdered electrolyte drink for your hike. If possible, use a hydration pack system to ease your ability to drink water while you are moving. There are a few locations along the trail where you can refill your water bottles.
REST IN THE SHADE
Stop and take a break if you find shade. Or, make your own shade by draping your sarong over your head.
STAY WET AND STAY COOL
If you cross a stream or water pump, stop and dowse yourself. As your clothes dry, the air flows through the wet cloth and as it evaporates it cools your body. This coolness effect reduces fluid, electrolyte and energy loss significantly. Know where the water is and always stop. If it is going to be a really hot day, carry a gallon size Ziploc bag and store a wet sarong, long-sleeve shirt and a bandana. Then, during the sections of the trail that are hot and no water in site, you have a soggy garment to pull out and cool off with. We know it sounds a little silly, but hey, it works.
TAKE BREAKS AND STRETCH
Every one half to one hour, take a seven to nine minute break. This break can flush out approximately 20-30% of the waste products that build up in your legs while hiking. Remember to have a snack while you are resting.
When you huff and puff, your body does not get enough oxygen to function efficiently. If you can talk while you are walking, you are walking the perfect speed.
Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
KNOW THE WEATHER FORECAST
While weather is always unpredictable, it is good to have an idea of what conditions lay ahead for the day.
Stay close to your traveling companions. This allows you to keep an eye on each other and watch for signs of trouble such as dehydration, heat illness or extreme muscle fatigue. If you stick together and one member has trouble, you can assist or go for help. The Grand Canyon is no place to be alone. This is a serious recommendation when it comes to Bright Angel Trail hiking tips. Whatever your hiking style, communicate with your traveling companions before you hike and commit to a plan.
CONSIDER HIKING POLES
While hiking poles may be cumbersome in some cases in the Grand Canyon, they can also be extremely helpful on a hike like the Bright Angel Trail. Use hiking poles to help distribute your pack weight and provide stability. Weigh the pros and cons of using hiking poles.
CARRY A LIGHT LOAD
The less weight you carry in your pack will make the hike easier and more enjoyable. You should be physically fit enough to carry your own gear. However, for your comfort and hiking pleasure you can consider using the mule duffle service provided by Xanterra Parks and Resorts to haul the majority of your river gear on the trail. There are very timely and specific instructions if you should like to request this service. Please refer to the trip information.
BEGIN TO HYDRATE A COUPLE DAYS BEFORE YOUR HIKE
Traveling often promotes dehydration so begin hydrating before you travel to Arizona. Then, drink about 4 glasses of water before you go to sleep the night before your hike. The climate in Arizona is a dry heat. Your perspiration evaporates so fast that you might not realize you are dehydrating.
EAT A GOOD DINNER THE NIGHT BEFORE YOUR HIKE
This meal will give you the necessary fuel for your hike. Avoid drinking alcohol the evening before your hike as it exacerbates dehydration.
EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE HIKE
Eat a light breakfast with essential nutrients and minerals.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET
Trim toe nails before the hike. Consider sock liners and socks with heel / toe cushioning. Tighten or loosen laces throughout the hike as needed and address blisters immediately.
SUN PROTECTION IS KEY
The sun dehydrates you so keep your skin covered as best as possible. Utilize a long-sleeve shirt, pants, sarong, wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Especially if you are hiking to join a Lower Canyon adventure. Because, you definitely do not want to start your adventure with a sunburn!
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR HIKING GUIDE
We provide a hiking escort on the trail. This guide helps to ensure your group makes it to your destination (whether it be going up or down the trail). As the group naturally begins to spread out, the hiking guide falls to the back of the pack. They will most likely not be with you. Therefore, it is imperative that you communicate with them if you begin to experience any difficulties or deviate from the original plan.
Take Responsibility For Your Own Success
Hiking the Bright Angel Trail is a mandatory part of a raft adventure if you choose one of our Upper Canyon or Lower Canyon adventures. You MUST BE IN GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION. The Bright Angel Trail is 7.5 miles long and ascends or descends about a mile in vertical feet. Be kind to yourself and do not exceed your normal level of physical activity or training. This is a serious hike. That being said, the hike is very doable for most people. Review the Bright Angel Trail hiking tips before you hike and most importantly, have fun! This is, after all, part of the adventure.
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I am afraid of heights when I am on ladder type heights with lots of exposure. Does the trail allow me to hug one side of the trail during areas that have precipice type drop offs. I am fine as long as I am not exposed on both sides or have enough room to be away from a cliff like drop off.
Hi Chris, thank you for the question! It is a very valid question and concern. I have to admit that being close to the edge the whole time will make the trail slow-going for you, and really stressful. My husband and I tried to hike in on a trip a few years back, and I had no idea at the time how severe his fear of heights was. It sounds similar to yours, and he only made it a few feet before we just decided it wasn’t doable for him. Not to say it’s not possible for you, but the trail is quite wide in most places, does have a side you can hike along in most places, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. However, there are a few places where there isn’t a side to walk along, and when you meet the mules going up or down the trail, you do have to stand along the edge to wait for them to go by you. This video is really helpful, specifically at minute 3:50, you get an idea of what the sides can look like where there is less of a wall along the way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqsgpOVHBbM&t=146s. Give us a call if you have any other questions!