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The Trails to Phantom:
Bright Angel, South Kaibab, North Kaibab

Bright Angel

The Bright Angel Trail is wide and maintained. This begins in Grand Canyon Village above the West Rim Shuttle stop. There is water in the two resthouses during the hotter parts of the month (usually May through September). There is always water at Indian Garden. Garden Creek below Indian Garden runs all year round.

Goal Distance (one way) Time (down)* Elevation
1 1/2 mile resthouse 1.5 mi.
2.4 km
.75 to 1.5 hrs 1140 ft
347 m
Restroom; seasonal water
Three mile resthouse 3 mi.
4.8 km
1.5 to 3 hrs 2140 ft.
652 m
Restroom; seasonal water
Indian Garden 4.6 mi.
7.4 km
4 to 6 hours 3060 ft.
933 m
Restroom, water, picnic area, campground
Plateau Point 1.6 mi. (2.5 km)from Indian Gardens one to 2 hours to lookout 80 ft.
6 m
Three mile side trip with fantastic view
Colorado River 7.7 mi.
12.4 km
Five to ten hours 4460 ft.
1359 m
No water except in River
Phantom Ranch 9.8 mi.
15.6 km
Seven to twelve hours 4620 ft.
1408 m
You made it!


*(Times are very generous: if you travel faster than this congratulate yourself, but don't email me about it. Usually traveling out takes one and one half to three times as long)

bright angel trail profile

The Mile-and- a-Half resthouse has seasonal water (usually May through September) and a toilet.

The rocks along the trail are beautiful, but due to the fact that the trail follows a canyon, there are no sweeping views. There are Indian pictographs as soon as you go through the first tunnel, and above the trail between mile and a half and two mile corner. I am not going into more detail, because there are persons out there you would paint over them (you know who you are).

The Three mile resthouse has seasonal water and an outhouse. If one walks out behind the resthouse there is a nice view down the Redwall cliff.

Indian Garden has a campground, a picnic area, water, bathrooms, and many, many signs informing hikers that if they continue to the River on a dayhike, they may abandon all hope. My personal favorite was the one that states: "Hiking in the Canyon is not a test of your physical fitness, it is a test of your intelligence".

If one has the time and the energy, there is a three mile round trip jaunt out to Plateau Point for a sweeping view of the Colorado River. Personally I think this is one of the greatest views in the Canyon. In a spectacular area, Plateau Point is double plus spectacular. One is perched on an isolated, cantilevered slab of shale that juts out dramatically over the raging waters. There are fossils of jellyfish, worm tunnels, and trilobite tracks. Ravens float overhead contemptuous of those of us who have to utilize our nether limbs to get in and out of their playground. I highly recommend Plateau Point for a side trip.

Below Indian Gardens, the trail descends through a truly lovely section of Tapeats with Garden Creek sparkling through a narrow slot just below. One of the most beautiful sections of trail in the whole Canyon. Hiking down to the Colorado River, one will descend steeply through the Devil's Corkscrew (now, why do you think they call it that?), and eventually meet the Colorado at the mouth of Pipe Creek. There is an outhouse at this trail junction.

From here the River Trail picks up along the river (where else?) for about two miles along the River and another mile to Phantom Ranch. You have to climb a stinking 200 feet that you promptly lose at the other side of the cliff.

South Kaibab

The South Kaibab is wide and maintained. This begins off the road to Yaki Point. This road is closed to private vehicles and access is via shuttle. You are not allowed to drive into this trailhead even to drop people off and doing so can result in a fine. The cars you see at the trailhead belong to rangers and the employees at Phantom Ranch. If the car doesn't have a "resident" sticker, it can be towed.

This trail is shorter than the Bright Angel, but despite its reputation, really not much steeper in most parts. The Bright Angel is two and one half miles longer, but much of that is the River Trail. There is no water and no shade on the South Kaibab. However since it was built on a ridge rather than in a canyon, it has spectacular views. It often has spectacular winds as well. The Park Service recommends that hikers do not come out the South Kaibab in summer, since there is no shade and no water.

Goal Distance (one way) time (down)* Elevation Change Etc.
Cedar Ridge 1.5 mi.
2.4 km
.75 to 1.5 hrs 1500 ft.
457 m
Skeleton Point 3 mi.
4.8 km
1.5 to 3 hrs 2670 ft.
814 m
First view of River
Tonto Point 4.6 mi.
7.4 km
4 to 6 hours 3260 ft.
994 m
Restroom. No Camping (though someone always tries)
Colorado River 6 mi.
9.7 km
Five to ten hours 4860 ft.
1481 m
Water at Boat Beach and campground
Phantom Ranch 6.9 mi.
11 km
Six to twelve hours 5020 ft.
1530 m
You made it!

*(Times are very generous: if you travel faster than this congratulate yourself, but don't email me about it. Usually traveling out takes one and one half to three times as long)

south kabiab trail

Cedar Ridge is an exposed butte with great views. There is a fossil fern exhibit on the west side of the butte. There is a pit toilet and no water. It is steep and exposed to get to Cedar Ridge. On the west side of the ridge, one can see switchbacks of the Bright Angel Trail Devil's Corkscrew, far, far below. On the east side, one can see switchbacks down the Redwall, not quite as far below.

There is a view of the River at Skeleton Point, just below the Redwall. There is a sitting and stopping place atop the Redwall: Skeleton Point is exposed and usually windy.

The Tonto Plateau has an outhouse, but no view. One switchback down is a good spot to sit and look at the River.

The trail below the Tipoff (where the Tonto Plateau ends) is really spectacular and one of my favorite spots anywhere. It cuts through red Hakatai Shale and has great views of the River, still more than one thousand feet below. At the bottom, one hits the junction of the River Trail, which leads two miles over to the Bright Angel Trail. Here there are two bridges: the Black Bridge built in 1928 and the only one the mules will condescend to cross, and the Silver Bridge, built to carry the water pipeline from Roaring Springs to the South Rim. I like the Silver Bridge: it is possible to get vertigo standing in the middle of the bridge and watching the Colorado rush between your feet through the metal grating. Many people do not share my enthusiasm for this activity.

If you are short on water at this point, there is a faucet at the boat beach and another by the billboard where the Bright Angel Trail leaves to cross Bright Angel Creek.

North Kaibab

The North Rim is only open during the snow-free months, usually May 15 through mid October. Some years they do leave the North Rim open until the mid to end of November. The North Rim gets about one tenth of the visitation of the South Rim.

The North Kaibab offers a different experience than the South Kaibab. It is more wooded and shadier. It is a long, long 14 miles to Phantom, so get an early start.

Goal Distance (one way) Time (down)* Elevation
Supai Tunnel 2 mi.
3.2 km
.75 to one hour 1440 ft.
439 m
Restroom, seasonal water
Manzanita Rest Area 5.3 mi.8.6 k
4 to 8 hrs 2720 ft.829 m
Seasonal water: outhouse
Cottonwood Campground 6.9 mi.
11.1 km
7 to 10 hours 4240 ft.
1292 m
Restroom. Seasonal Water. Campground
Ribbon Falls 8.2 mi.
13.2 km
eight to twelve hours 4520 ft.
1378 m
Side trip to gorgeous waterfall
Phantom Ranch 14 mi.
22.5 km
ten to fourteen hours 5680 ft.
1731 m
You made it!
Colorado River 14.6 mi.
23.5 km
ten to fifteen hours 5841 ft.
1780 m

*(Times are very generous: if you travel faster than this congratulate yourself, but don't email me about it. Usually traveling out takes one and one half to three times as long)

north kaibab profile

The Supai Tunnel has nice flat rocks for a rest and an outhouse. The water is turned on here when it is warm enough. There are no sweeping views because the trail is built in a canyon. You can, however, see a good bit of the trail below you here. The route through the Redwall is steep, exposed, and spectacular.

Roaring Springs is the water source for the South Rim. There is water here during some months, and spring water all year (though it should be treated before drinking) and an outhouse. There is also water and an outhouse at the Manzanita Rest area, about a mile and a half from Roaring Springs. From here on you will hike along side Bright Angel Creek.

Cottonwood Campground has seasonal water and restrooms. You need a permit to camp here. A bit below is the side trail to Ribbon Falls: well worth the stop to cool off and marvel.

A couple of miles below Ribbon you enter the Inner Gorge. Even though these spectacular cliffs provide shade, you are not always cooler because the black rocks collect heat and radiate it back. This part of the trail is dramatic, with granite and schist walls rising ever higher overhead as Bright Angel Creek dashes over small waterfalls and deep pools.