Bright Angel Trail at Indian Garden day-use toilets (view NE)
The Bright Angel Trail begins near the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim and descends some 3,000 feet over 4.6 miles to Indian Garden. The trail is open and airy, with many grand views over the cliffs and out into the Grand Canyon. For details of the upper section of the trail, see Upper Bright Angel Trail.
From Indian Garden, the trail follows Garden Creek until the creek pours over a cliff, then the trail turns and winds down the Devil's Corkscrew through the Vishnu Schist to the bottom of Pipe Canyon. Pipe Creek is followed to the Colorado River, which is then followed upstream to a bridge across the river and to the mouth of Bright Angel Creek. Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground are a short ways up the creek, about 9.5 miles below the rim via this route.
Link to map.
Bright Angel Trail at Indian Garden day-use water faucet (view NE)
Toilets are available at Indian Garden, River Resthouse, and Phantom Ranch, and potable water is available at Indian Garden and Phantom Ranch. During the mule-riding season, when droppings on the trail can make for a dusty mess, pay attention to instructions from the wranglers; they probably will tell you to stand quietly on the uphill side of the trail while the mule train passes.
Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a wide and pretty safe trail if you stay on it, but there are many places where you could stumble off the trail into the abyss. The elevation at the South Rim is surprisingly high, about 7,000 feet, so take it easy if you aren't used to the elevation. Don't be fooled by the cool summer temperatures on the rim; these temperatures quickly give way to scorching heat lower in the canyon. Trails here are made by putting down wooden cross-timbers, filling between the cross-timbers with rock rubble, and covering it all with dirt. The trail is easy to walk on when dry; but when wet, each crossbar makes a dam that holds a puddle of mud.
Bright Angel Trail departing Indian Garden day-use area (view NE)
While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This is a fairly long hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. Be sure that you are physically fit and that you choose routes of the appropriate difficulty for your skills and endurance.
Getting to the Trailhead
This hike is located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 5 hours southeast of Las Vegas, and starts near the Bright Angel Lodge. For details of Getting to the Trailhead, see Upper Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail at Tonto East Trail (view NE)
From the trailhead (Table 1, Wpt. 01), the trail immediately starts down into the canyon at a fair grade and quickly passes the first and second tunnels, the 1.5-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 02), the 2-Mile Switchback (Wpt. 03), and the 3-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 04). The trail then drops through the Redwall, before leveling out somewhat and following Garden Creek to Indian Garden (Wpt. 05), which is about 4.6 miles from the trailhead. For details of this part of the trail, see Upper Bright Angel Trail.
From the entrance to the Indian Garden Campground (Wpt. 05), the trail continues downhill past the campground, picnic shelters, piped water, and composting toilets to the corrals, which also marks the trail junction (Wpt. 06) to Plateau Point. This is a good place to stop and rest in the shade of the tall Cottonwood Trees. Common Ravens and rodents (mostly Rock Squirrels) are a problem here, so be sure to guard your food.
Descending into the Tapeats Sandstone (view NE)
From the corrals, the Bright Angel trail stays right and passes a stone building (pumphouse) and continues downhill at a moderate grade along the east side of Garden Creek. After about 0.3 miles, the Tonto East Trail (Wpt. 07) forks off and runs east out across the hillside.
Below the Tonto East Trail junction, the canyon narrows as Garden Creek cuts down into the Tapeats Sandstone. The trail runs on carved ledges above the creek for awhile, then drops into the wash and skips back and forth across the creek.
About 0.9 miles beyond the junction with the Tonto East Trail, the canyon opens up onto the shoulder of a at the top of the Vishnu Schist. Garden Creek pours off into a narrow gorge and over cliffs into Pipe Canyon, but not before providing potholes with drinking water. This is the top of the Devil's Corkscrew (Wpt. 08).
Great Unconformity at our feet (view SW)
Devil's Corkscrew is a part of the trail that winds around and switchbacks down through the Vishnu Schist to the bottom of Pipe Canyon. The trail here is open, airy, steep, and hot, but it is only 0.7 miles from the top of the cliffs to the wash in bottom of Pipe Canyon (Wpt. 09). The wash is normally dry at this point, but Garden Creek feeds into Pipe Creek a short ways down the canyon.
The trail generally runs down the bottom of Pipe Canyon or on ledges above the wash for about 1.0 miles to the Colorado River. The trail passes the River Resthouse (Wpt. 10) on the left across the creek just before the Colorado River comes into view at the Pipe Beach spur trail junction (Wpt. 11), which overlooks the beach and Granite Gorge. This point is about 3 miles below Indian Garden, and there are composting toilets here.
At this point, the Bright Angel Trail technically ends, but from here the River Trail runs east along the south side of the river. However, it is not really useful to think of this part of River Trail separately from the Bright Angel Trail.
Fording Garden Creek (view N)
Following the Bright Angel Trail (River Trail) upstream along the Colorado River, the trail climbs to run along the cliffs about 200 feet above the water. The trail here was blasted out of the cliff, so there are many nice, unobstructed views of the river. The trans-canyon water pipe runs under the trail in this area, and exposed pipe and valve covers will be seen along the way.
After the first view (Wpt. 12) of the Silver Suspension Bridge in the distance, the cliffs give way to gentler slopes and sandy soils with bunchgrasses, various cactus, and soaptree yucca.
After following the Bright Angel Trail (River Trail) for about 1.1 miles, the trail arrives at the south end of the Silver Suspension Bridge (Wpt. 13). The River Trail, proper, continues upstream along the south side of the river for about 0.5 miles to the Black Suspension Bridge, but the Bright Angel Trail (No Name Trail?) crosses the river to the north side.
Approaching top of the Devil's Corkscrew (view E)
Across the river (Wpt. 14), the trail runs northeast above the beach. The trail quickly passes the stone NPS Mule Barn and Corrals, and then runs through a NPS housing area (note emergency phone outside a house) to a bridge over Bright Angel Creek. It is useful to think that the Bright Angel Trail ends at this point.
While perhaps not official, it is also useful to think that the North Kaibab Trail begins here and runs up the west side of Bright Angel Creek through Bright Angel Campground (Wpt. 15) and on past Phantom Ranch Lodge (Wpt. 16) to the North Rim.
It is also useful to think that the South Kaibab starts here, runs across the Bright Angel Creek bridge, turns right passing Boat Beach, crosses the Black Suspension Bridge, and continues south to the South Rim, passing a trail junction with River Trail, proper, along the way.
Also across the Bright Angel Creek bridge, an old road turns left and runs up to Phantom Ranch Lodge bypassing the campground.
Top of Devils Corkscrew (view SE)
In the Phantom Ranch area, Bright Angel Campground is located about 0.25 miles above the river and is tucked between Bright Angel Creek and the cliffs on the west side of Bright Angel Canyon. The trail runs up the center of this area, with campsites on both sides of the trail. Water, flush toilets, and electricity are available in the restrooms.
Common Ravens, Mule Deer, Rodents (mostly Rock Squirrels) and Ring-tailed Cats can a problem here, so be sure to guard your food and store it properly. Store plastic bags too because the mule deer eat them and develop blockages in their digestive system.
Table 1. Hiking Coordinates (NAD27, UTM Zone 12S). NOTE: This is UTM Zone 12. Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
||Point to Point Distance
||Indian Garden Camp Trail
||Plateau Point Trail
||Tonto East Trail
||Top of Devil's Corkscrew
||Pipe Creek Beach Trail
||View of Silver Bridge
||South end of Silver Bridge
||North end of Silver Bridge