The most popular hiking trail into Grand Canyon, the Bright Angel Trail lets hikers walk in the footsteps of Native Americans, canyon miners and pioneers, and early tourists as they descend into the canyon's depths. Offering big views, morning and afternoon shade, resthouses, vault toilets, and drinking water during the summer, this trail offers an excellent first trip into the canyon.
*Note that all trails into the canyon are steep and difficult.
0.1 miles (0.2 km) roundtrip / 20 minutes
1.8 miles (2.9 km) roundtrip / 1-2 hours / 590 feet (180 m) elevation change
3 miles (4.8 km) roundtrip / 2-4 hours / 1,120 feet (340 km) elevation change
6 miles (9.6 km) roundtrip / 4-6 hours / 2,120 feet (645 m) elevation change
Indian Garden - Check with a park ranger before attempting as a day hike.
9 miles (14.4 km) roundtrip / 6-9 hours / 3,040 feet (925 m) elevation change
Plateau Point - Check with a park ranger before attempting as a day hike.
12 miles (19.6 km) roundtrip / 9-12 hours / 3,080 feet (940 m) elevation change
Consult a park ranger before heading down to the Colorado River for safety tips and overnight permits. Destinations below Indian Garden are not recommended day hikes due to the long distance, extreme temperature changes, and an approximately 5,000' (1,500 m) elevation change each way.
Water is available seasonally (May - October) along the trail at 1½-Mile Resthouse and 3-Mile Resthouse, as well as year-round at Indian Garden. However, water availability is subject to weather conditions and may be interrupted by pipeline breaks. Check at the Visitor Center or Backcountry Information Center for water status on the trail. Even though the Bright Angel Trail has water stations along the trail, carrying your own water is still necessary. Water from natural sources such as creeks and springs should be purified. When hiking in a group, each person should be carrying water.
Bright Angel Trail is considered the most popular hiking trail in the park. Well-maintained and graded for stock, it is fairly easy to walk down. This can be a blessing or a curse. Wide views of the inner canyon and distant formations often distract hikers from just how far down the trail they've walked. The return hike back up and out of the canyon is far more difficult and requires much more effort. Plan for at least twice as much time back up as it took to go down.
While South Kaibab Trail follows a ridge line, Bright Angel Trail is tucked deep within a side canyon along a massive fault, which keeps the trail in this side canyon for the first few miles. The majority of the trail's elevation change takes place in the upper four miles via a series of switchbacks that seem endless. Views are framed by massive cliffs, with more plant and animal life thanks to a higher degree of shade and natural water sources. If you're interested in geology or wildlife, this is a trail with complementary features. You can expect to see mules on the trail as well. See below for more information.
The trail levels out as it approaches Indian Garden, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) and over 2,000 vertical feet (925 meters) below the rim. This destination is an oasis within the canyon, used by Native Americans until modern times. From here, you might consider the relatively flat (but very exposed) 3-mile (4.8-km) round trip hike to Plateau Point for sunrise or sunset.
Hikers interested in planning a trip beyond these destinations should consult a park ranger.
Make a Plan
Once you have researched your trip and are confident in what to expect on the trail, communicate your plan to someone who will notice if you are overdue and report it to 911.
Check the Weather
Summer temperatures in the shade routinely pass 100°F (38°C). Avoid hiking between 10 am and 4 pm, the hottest times of day.
From July to September, monsoons can build large, violent lightning storms. Seek shelter immediately.
During late fall, winter, and early spring, temperatures regularly drop below freezing, and upper portions of this steep trail can become dangerously icy. Over-the-shoe traction devices are highly recommended during these times of year. Consult a park ranger for current trail conditions.
Before your hike, it is critical to determine your needs for fluids and for snacks high in calories and salts. Consuming twice as many calories as during normal exercise is realistic for summer canyon hikes. The hike out of the canyon will likely take twice as long as the hike down. Wearing sun hats and cool, wet clothing will help regulate your core body temperature during warmer hikes.
Your body needs energy-balancing: proper nutrition and hydration are critical to your hiking success! Eat and drink while resting, sip fluids only when thirsty.
Too little water leads to dehydration and heat stroke. Excessive hydration and insufficient salt intake causes hyponatremia—a seizure-producing, electrolyte disorder. If you do not feel well: seek shade, get wet, cool off, eat, and rest. Turning around may be your best option.
Mules and Hikers
Mules use this trail regularly.
Expect to encounter aromatic evidence of them on your hike!
Always give mules the right of way.
Encounters between hikers and mules have resulted in injuries to packers and even death to mules. To ensure safety for yourself, other trail users, mules, and mule riders, follow these steps when encountering mules on the trails:
- Step off the trail on the uphill side-away from the edge.
- Listen for and follow the directions of the wranglers.
- Remain completely quiet and stand perfectly still.
- Only return to the trail when the last mule is 50 feet (15 m) beyond your position.
A permit is required for all camping below the rim of Grand Canyon. Learn more and apply online, or request a permit in person at the Backcountry Information Center.
- Only camp in designated campsites - Indian Garden Campground offers 15 small group sites and 1 large group site. Stock is not permitted.
- Bright Angel Campground, located on the north side of the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch, offers 30 small group sites and 2 large group sites. Stock is permitted here!