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Lower Bright Angel Trail and River Trail:
Indian Garden to Phantom Ranch

(includes River Trail)
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Packed up and departing Indian Garden Campground (view E)

Overview

The Bright Angel (BA) Trail begins near the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim and descends some 3,000 feet over 4.6 miles to Indian Garden (IG). 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 IG, the BA 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 BA Campground are a short ways up the creek, about 9.6 miles below the rim via this route.

Link to map.

Bright Angel Trail
Exit trail at bottom of campground (view NE)

Toilets are available at IG, River Resthouse, and BA Campground, and potable water is available at IG and BA Campground. 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.

Watch Out

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 hikers 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 summer 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
Sign at edge of campground (view NW)

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 BA Lodge. For details of getting to the trailhead, see Upper Bright Angel Trail.

Bright Angel Trail
Lower campground trail at Bright Angel Trail (view E)

The Hike

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, 1.5-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 05), 2-Mile Switchback, and 3-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 07). The trail then drops over the Redwall, before leveling out somewhat and following Garden Creek to IG Campground (Wpt. 09), which is about 4.6 miles below the rim. For details of this section of the BA Trail, see Upper Bright Angel Trail.

From the entrance to IG Campground (Wpt. 09), the trail continues downhill past the campground, picnic shelters, piped water, and composting toilets to the corrals, which also marks the trail junction (Wpt. 10) 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.

Bright Angel Trail
Sign at trail junction (view E)

From the Plateau Point Trail junction (Wpt. 10), the BA Trail stays right and passes a stone building (pumphouse for the trans-canyon pipeline) and continues downhill at a moderate grade along the east side of Garden Creek. After about 0.3 miles, the Tonto East Trail (Wpt. 11) forks the the right 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 rock ledges above the creek for awhile, then drops into the wash and skips back and forth across the creek several times.

In this cottonwood-shaded canyon, the trail eventually passes below the Tapeats Sandstone and enters the Vishnu Schist layer (the bottom layer in the Grand Canyon). Where the two meet, at the Great Unconformity, some 1 billion years worth of rock are missing from the great book of history. Here, a mountain range formed and eroded away, then the sea came in and laid down beach sand on the billion years schist, and the rest is history.

Bright Angel Trail
Sign at trail junction (view N)

The narrow canyon eventually opens onto the shoulder of a ridge at the top of the Devil's Corkscrew (Wpt. 12). Garden Creek pours off left into a narrow gorge and over cliffs into Pipe Canyon, but not before providing potholes with drinking water.

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, fairly 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. 13). The wash is normally dry at this point, but Garden Creek feeds into Pipe Creek a short ways down the canyon.

Looking back on the left, there is a mine opening and horizontal tunnel (an adit) that runs back into the mountain. This worthless mine, and a couple of others like it, almost prevented the Grand Canyon from being protected as a National Monument in 1908, and then upgraded to a national park in 1919. This little mine is a reminder of why people like Teddy Roosevelt with longer and broader visions must work to protect lands like this while we can.

Bright Angel Trail
Hiker continuing down Bright Angel Trail (view NE)

The trail generally runs down the winding bottom of Pipe Canyon or on ledges above the wash, but it also crosses the creek a couple of times. After winding around a couple of tight corners, the trail passes a short spur trail (Wpt. 14) to the River Resthouse on the left across the creek. This is a picnic shelter, and composting toilets are just a bit farther down around the next corner.

Just as the Colorado River comes into view, the trail forks (Wpt. 15). The BA Trail continues straight (left) while the River Trail (and composting toilets) goes right to head east.

Continuing straight, the BA Trail runs another 100 yards to end at Pipe Beach (Wpt. 16) on the edge of the Colorado River. This point is about 3 miles below Indian Garden.

Back at the trail junction (Wpt. 15), the River Trail turns right, passes the composting toilets, and continues east following along the south side of the river.

The River Trail climbs somewhat steeply to run along cliffs about 200 feet above the river. The trail here was blasted out of the cliff, so there are many nice, unobstructed views of the river.

Bright Angel Trail
BA Trail at Indian Garden day-use picnic shelter (view NE)

After the first view (Wpt. 17) 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, and eventually the south end of the Silver Suspension Bridge (Wpt. 18).

The River Trail continues upstream along the south side of the river for about 0.5 miles to end at the South Kaibab Trail above the Black Suspension Bridge, but hikers heading for the Phantom Ranch area need to cross the bridge to the north side of the river.

Across the river (Wpt. 19), the North Kaibab Tail 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 trail junction (Wpt. 20) just before a bridge over Bright Angel Creek (not to be confused with Bright Angel Trail).

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail at Indian Garden day-use toilets (view NE)

The North Kaibab Trail turns left at the junction (Wpt. 20) and runs up the west side of Bright Angel Creek through Bright Angel Campground (Wpt. 21) and on past the Phantom Ranch Lodge and Cantina (Wpt. 23) to the North Rim.

In the Phantom Ranch area, Bright Angel Campground is located about 0.4 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 campground, 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 properly too because the mule deer eat the bags, develop blockages in their digestive system, and have to be put down.

Return to the South Rim by retracing your steps back up the BA Trail, or consider hiking out the steeper, but shorter, South Kaibab Trail.

Bright Angel Trail
BA Trail at Indian Garden day-use rest area (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
IG area information sign (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
BA Trail at IG day-use water faucet (view NE)
Indian Garden
BA Trail departing IG day-use area (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail signs at Bright Angel--Plateau Point trail junction (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
IG Mule barn and hitching posts; trail to Plateau Point (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail signs at Bright Angel--Plateau Point trail junction (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
BA Trail at IG water pumphouse (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Information sign about the Transcanyon Water System (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker passing final Indian Garden area sign (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Final Indian Garden area sign (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Grand scenery down Bright Angel Canyon (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Finally getting to the warmth of the sun (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail at Tonto East Trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail at Tonto East Trail (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
BA Trail--Tonto East Trail directional sign (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Descending into the Tapeats Sandstone (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Descending into the Tapeats Sandstone (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Open canyon with cottonwood trees (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Crossing Indian Garden Creek (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Great Unconformity at our feet (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Crossing Indian Garden Creek again (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Open canyon with cottonwood trees (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Approaching top of the Devil's Corkscrew (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
IG Creek descends into narrow canyon with falls (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Looking back at IG Creek descending into narrow canyon (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Top of Devils Corkscrew (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Pack trail approaching top of the Devil's Corkscrew (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Pack trail at top of the Devil's Corkscrew (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker descending into Devil's Corkscrew (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker descending into Devil's Corkscrew (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at seep along the trail (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Wetland plants in the desert (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker continuing past the spring (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker crossing Pipe Creek (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Park Service helicopter heading for Indian Garden (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Middle of Devils Corkscrew (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Middle of Devils Corkscrew (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Top of Devils Corkscrew switchbacks (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Devils Corkscrew switchbacks (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Bottom of Devils Corkscrew switchbacks; Pipe Canyon (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Historic mine adit (it is never safe to enter mines)
Bright Angel Trail
That's all there is: historic mine adit (mines are never safe)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker continuing down Pipe Canyon (view N)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Fording Pipe Creek (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Fording Pipe Creek again (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Stone wall along the trail (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
River Resthouse across Pipe Creek (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Technical end of BA Trail: Pipe Beach Trail at River Trail (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Sign at trail junction (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on Pipe Beach Trail (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at Pipe Beach and the Colorado River (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Colorado River downstream and Pipe Canyon Rapids (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Colorado River upstream (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Sharing the beach with friendly little green wasp
Bright Angel Trail
Pipe Beach, starting back up Pipe Beach Trail (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
South Rim (view S from Pipe Beach)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on River Trail approaching River Resthouse (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
River Trail climbs above the Colorado River (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
High above the Colorado River (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
River Trail above the river (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
River Trail above the river (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
A good spot for a "hero photo" (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Another sunny spot for a "hero photo" (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
River Trail descending slowly towards the river (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Sandy trail churned up by mules (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
River Trail on sandy flats (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Silver Bridge over the Colorado River comes into view (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker approaching Silver Suspension Bridge (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
River Trail at Silver Suspension Bridge (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail signs at Silver Bridge (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Silver Bridge (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on Silver Bridge (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Colorado River (view E from Silver Bridge)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on south edge of Silver Bridge (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on middle of Silver Bridge (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Colorado River (view W from middle of Silver Bridge)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on middle of Silver Bridge (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker exiting Silver Bridge (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on north side of the Colorado River (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Approaching Phantom Ranch area (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Looking back, information sign about Silver Bridge (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Information sign about Silver Bridge (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
NPS Mule Corrals along the trail (view N)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Phantom Ranch area directional sign (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Emergency Phone outside ranger residence (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Ranger residence (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail junction (left to Bright Angel Campground; view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Sign at trail junction (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
North Kaibab Trail (view NW towards Bright Angel Campground)
Bright Angel Trail
Don't stop on this short bit of trail (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Campground information sign (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Campsite in Bright Angel Campground (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Campground Restrooms and drinking water (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Campsites in Bright Angel Campground (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Campsites in Bright Angel Campground (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Bridge at upper end of Bright Angel Campground (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Bridge at upper end of Bright Angel Campground (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Creek (view N from bridge)
Bright Angel Trail
Looking back, Bright Angel Creek (view S from bridge)
Bright Angel Trail
Following Bright Angel Creek towards Phantom Ranch (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail junction to PR Ranger Station (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Sign at trail junction to PR Ranger Station (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail junction to PR lodge (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker arriving at Phantom Ranch dining hall (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Phantom Ranch dining hall and water faucet (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
North Kaibab Trail continues past dining hall (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
North Kaibab Trail continues up the canyon (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
North Kaibab Trail continues up the canyon (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Departing PR heading back to campground
Bright Angel Trail
Campsite in Bright Angel Campground (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Campsite in Bright Angel Campground (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Canyon Wren visiting the campsite
Bright Angel Trail
Campsite in Bright Angel Campground (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Sunset colors on the South Rim (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Light sunset colors and moon in the evening sky (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiking in the tent getting ready for bed (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Dark sky (view S)
Bright Angel Trail
Dark sky with a bit of red-painted tree (view S)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates (NAD27, UTM Zone 12S). NOTE: This is UTM Zone 12. Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt Location Easting Northing Elevation Point to Point Distance Cumulative Distance
01 Trailhead 397064 3990710 6,864 0.00 0.0
02 1.5-Mile Resthouse 397471 3991048 5,761 1.7 1.7
03 2-Mile Switchback 397204 3991307 5,469 0.4 2.1
04 3-Mile Resthouse 397736 3991600 4,718 1.0 3.1
05 Indian Garden Camp Trail 398405 3992796 3,851 1.5 4.6
06 Plateau Point Trail 398578 3993030 3,760 0.2 4.8
07 Tonto East Trail 398836 3993435 3,700 0.3 5.1
08 Top of Devil's Corkscrew 399736 3994275 3,500 0.9 6.0
09 Pipe Wash 399982 3994074 2,600 0.7 6.7
10 River Resthouse 400026 3995198 2,480 0.9 7.6
11 Pipe Creek Beach Trail 400067 3995294 2,440 0.1 7.7
12 View of Silver Bridge 400709 3995363 2,520 0.5 8.2
13 South end of Silver Bridge 401420 3995045 2,450 0.6 8.8
14 North end of Silver Bridge 401460 3995210 2,450 0.1 8.9
15 Campsite 10 401425 3995536 2,480 0.3 9.2
16 Phantom Ranch 401550 3996071 2,500 0.3 9.5

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170810

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