Hiking Bright Angel Trail
If you prefer a Grand Canyon oar or paddle trip, but cannot spare two weeks, a partial trip involves hiking Bright Angel Trail and might be a solution for you. Hiking Bright Angel Trail allows the option to divide the full Canyon trip into two shorter trips; we refer to these shorter sections as the “upper” and “lower” segments.
If you choose to do an upper or lower Canyon trip, you will either begin or end with hiking Bright Angel Trail; a 7.5 mile trail (4,500 vertical feet) connecting the Colorado River and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
We offer you advice for hiking Bright Angel Trail, tips for the day of the hike, video recommendations, photos and ample information about the hike itself. It is important to take time to thoroughly educate yourself and everyone in your group about the mandatory hike. While the trail is well-traveled by hikers and maintained by the National Park Service, hiking Bright Angel is very demanding and includes challenges such as elevation change, uneven footing, large steps, rocks, ball bearing-like surface conditions, and extreme heat exposure. With this being said, the hike is very doable for most people if… you take the hike seriously, are in good physical condition (both health and fitness wise), pack light, stay cool, and eat and drink properly.
Is this trip option for you? If you are booking a trip involving hiking Bright Angel, you should be a person who chooses to live an active lifestyle rather than a sedentary one, you should engage in strenuous physical activity/exercise several times a week, and you should have experience carrying a loaded backpack on trails with significant elevation change.
Ask yourself and everyone in your group the following questions:
- Do you live an active lifestyle?
- Do you vigorously exercise at least three times per week?
- Do you participate in some sort of strength training exercise?
- Do you have experience carrying a backpack weighing 20-30 lbs?
- Is this the best trip option for you?
- Do you think hiking Bright Angel Trail sounds like fun?
- Did you do your own research when booking this trip?
THE ANSWER TO ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS SHOULD BE YES!
While the trail is well-traveled by hikers and maintained by the National Park Service, it is a very challenging hike. It requires proper preparation and physical conditioning. The amount of time it takes to complete the trail varies on your fitness level, experience, weather, and whether you hike up or hike down. If you are hiking up the Bright Angel Trail, the average hiking time is 6-8 hours. If you are hiking down the trail, you should plan on making the hike in 6 hours or less. You must also carry your personal gear for the trip along with at least 3 quarts of water (3 quarts of water weigh 6 pounds). The hiking conditions of the trail vary from day to day and during the summer it can be extremely hot, possibly well over 100 degrees, and maybe little to no shade depending on the time of year and time of day. In the spring, there could still be ice on the trail in spots.
Although many of our guests understand the seriousness of hiking Bright Angel Trail, we have at least one guest every year who is evacuated via helicopter during or after the hike, and we have several guests every year who take upwards of 12 hours to complete the 7.5 mile hike, becoming extremely sore, dehydrated, and sometimes injured in the process. Most of those who have troubles on the hike overestimate their abilities and/or underestimate the strenuous nature of the hike.
While most of our passengers make the hike without incident, you should also consider other trip alternatives if any of the following conditions apply to you or anyone in your group. These conditions may not exclude you from making the hike but can pose complications and should merit additional thoughtful consideration:• asthma (exercised and dust induced) • history of heat related problems (heat exhaustion or stroke) • pregnancy • taking prescription medications which might increase your susceptibility to dehydration or hyponatremia • heart disease • vertigo, balance issues, or unusual fear of heights • foot, ankle, knee, hip or back problems • a generally sedentary lifestyle • more than a few pounds overweight • smoker • out of shape • age (be honest to yourself about your current physical capabilities).
OPTION FOR THE MULE DUFFEL SERVICE: We feel it is best to be physically fit enough to backpack your
personal gear out of the Grand Canyon. However, arranging a mule to carry your gear may be an option and
we acknowledge that the duffel service may make your hike easier and more comfortable. The mule riding service provided by Xanterra Parks and Resorts is NOT an option when traveling with AzRA. Therefore, you should be physically prepared to hike some or all of your personal belongings. We will provide you with a list of recommended equipment but most guests end up with backpacks weighing 20 lbs or more (unless using duffel service). We provide all of your camping gear so you do not need to hike with a sleeping bag or tent. Review tips for hiking Bright Angel Trail.
The duffel service is not owned and operated by AzRA (rather Xanterra Parks and Resorts) and logistics may or may not work with your travel plans. It is imperative to understand the service clearly before making the arrangement. Contact Xanterra Parks and Resorts or call them at 888-297-2757.
If you choose to make this arrangement it is absolutely necessary that we are aware of the arrangement so that we can inform your trip leader as they will have to coordinate the drop off or the pick up into their agenda. Please call or email the office to let us know when you have the service reserved.
OUTBOUND: Upper Canyon
To use this service, you have to arrange the duffel for the DAY AFTER YOUR HIKE. This is because we cannot guarantee that your trip will be at Phantom Ranch, where outbound duffel service is arranged, by the 6:15 am drop off time. You will be able to retrieve your clothing and gear the following day between 3-4 pm at the mule barn. If you arrange this service, you should still carry a small daypack with 2-3 liters of water, snacks/lunch, a rain jacket, a
polypropylene top or fleece (spring or fall trips) and other personal items (camera, medications, sunscreen,
etc) for your hike out of the canyon.
INBOUND: Lower Canyon
The inbound duffel service logistics may or may not work with your travel plans as you have to drop your gear
before 4 pm the day before the hike at the mule barn at the South Rim. Then, the morning of your hike, the
mules will carry your duffel down the trail and drop it off at the Phantom Ranch Boat Beach. You also still
need to carry a small daypack with 2-3 liters of water, snacks/lunch, a rain jacket, a polypropylene top or
fleece (spring or fall trips) and other personal items (camera, medications, sunscreen, etc) for your hike into
Understand the layout of the land. The full Canyon non-motorized trip is 14-16 days long and 226 miles in length. Because of the remote location of the Grand Canyon, there are no access roads between river mile 0 and river mile 226. However, the commonly traveled Bright Angel Trail, connects the river and the rim and intersects Pipe Springs beach, located at river mile 89. The upper Canyon trip requires a hike up the trail on the last day of the trip. The lower Canyon trip requires a hike down the trail on the first day of your trip. The Bright Angel Trail is not required if you sign up for the Full Canyon Classic, all-paddle or the motor trip.
It is hard to capture the Bright Angel Trail in one photo but you can see the vastness of the Canyon and the many switchbacks and stair steps you will encounter along the way. The hike is quite beautiful and often rewards guests with a personal sense of accomplishment. To see more photos of the Bright Angel Trail, check out The Bright Angel Photo Album on the AzRA Facebook page.
For additional information regarding hiking Bright Angel Trail provided by the National Park service, check out the following two web documents. The first page describes the Bright Angel Trail from the rim down to Plateau Point. Note: You will be hiking from the River Rest house instead of Plateau Point. The second page provides a little history on the trail and also notes mileage from the Rim. There are also several home made video clips on YouTube; easily found by searching “hiking the Bright Angel Trail”.
Advantage Grand Canyon, one of our travel agent partners, made two great videos one describing the hike down and one the hike up. You may find them useful too.
“After hiking down the Bright Angel Trail my muscles ached for 3 days, making all the other hikes more difficult. I wish I had gotten in better shape before the trip.”
Diane Mercurio, Metacher, NJ
“Your information should stress the need to bring less stuff for those who are hiking into or out of the Grand Canyon. It is surprising how little you need. Many in our group woefully over packed.”
John O’Brien, Phoenix, AZ
“The hike out the Bright Angel Trail on day six was my favorite. Truly awesome…and a great sense of personal accomplishment.”
Eric Polesuk, Morristown, NJ