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Upper Bright Angel Trail:
South Rim to Indian Garden (6,880 to 3,790 ft)

Hiking Around Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trailhead sign during summer (view NE)

Overview

The Upper Bright Angel (BA) Trail generally is well maintained and offers a fairly easy way to get below the rim and experience the feeling of being down inside the Grand Canyon. The first 2 miles include some steep parts, but the remaining miles, including those through the Redwall, are fairly gentle. From there, the trail runs at an easy grade to Indian Garden (IG). Below Indian Garden, the trail continues to the Colorado River and then the Bright Angel Campground at Phantom Ranch. For details of the lower section, see Lower Bright Angel Trail.

Many airy places in the cliffs along the upper part of the trail provide sweeping views into the canyon. During spring through fall, water is available at the 1.5-Mile and 3-Mile Resthouses, and water is always available at Indian Garden. Toilets are available at all three places. During the mule-riding season, when droppings on the trail can make for a dusty mess, pay attention to instructions from the wranglers leading the trips; they probably will tell you to stand quietly on the uphill side of the trail while the mule train passes.

Link to map.

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trailhead information sign during summer (view NE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a 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 are not 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.

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.

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trailhead sign during winter (view NE)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 5 hours southeast of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. From the South Rim Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 0811), ride the shuttle bus or drive to the Bright Angel Lodge bus stop or the Village Transfer bus stop. The Bright Angel trailhead (Site 0814) is located on the rim of the canyon between these two shuttle bus stops. The trailhead is marked with signs and restrooms. The closest public parking is a few minutes walk to the southeast, across the road and the railroad tracks from the Bright Angel Lodge, but better parking is located at the backcountry office, where you pick up your permit, a few minutes walk from the rim.

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trailhead info sign during winter (view NE)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Wpt. 01), the trail immediately starts down into the canyon at a fairly easy grade. The trail starts by angling off to the east towards the lodges (and passes a fork in the trail to the Kolb Studio) before switchbacking left and heading west towards the First Tunnel (Wpt. 02), which is about 0.15 miles below the trailhead. Watch for petroglyphs and fossils on the rock walls near the tunnel.

From First Tunnel, the trail continues westward as it curves toward the Second Switchback (Wpt. 03). There are some fairly steep parts on the trail through here.

From the Second Switchback (Wpt. 03), the trail continues to the Second Tunnel (Wpt. 04). The trail remains fairly gentle and there are more nice views from the trail in this section. Beyond the Second Tunnel (Wpt. 04), the trail descends a number of short switchbacks at moderate grades.

Bright Angel Trail
Starting down into the canyon towards First Switchback (view NE)

This section of trail drops through a gap in the Coconino Sandstone cliffs caused by the Bright Angel Fault. The layers on the west side of the fault are offset about 200 feet higher than those on the east side. Looking at rock layers in the back of the canyon, hikers will see that the rock layers are offset.

Below the Coconino Sandstone, the trail makes a long arc to the east, ending at the 1.5-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 05), which is 1.5 miles below the rim. Water is available seasonally at the resthouse, and there are restrooms off the next switchback (100 yards beyond the resthouse).

From 1.5-Mile Resthouse, the trail makes a long gentle arc west, crossing the Bright Angel Fault and ending at 2-Mile Switchback (Wpt. 06). Here, 2.0 miles below the rim, watch for petroglyphs on rocks above the trail near the switchback.

From 2-Mile Switchback (Wpt. 06), the trail makes a grand arc to the east (back across Bright Angel Fault), then winds down many switchbacks as it descends across the hillside to 3-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 07). Water is available seasonally. The resthouse is located on a point of rock at the top of the Redwall Limestone.

Bright Angel Trail
Starting down into the canyon towards First Switchback (view NE)

A short trail behind the resthouse leads to water, restrooms and an overlook with a great view into the canyon and the remains of an old cableway. The cableway was used to sling supplies and things, including cars, in and out of Indian Garden. The trip to 3-Mile Resthouse and back to the rim makes for a good 6-mile day-hike.

Continuing past 3-Mile Resthouse (Wpt. 07), the trail runs down many short switchbacks through the Redwall Limestone cliffs and the Muav Formation. These switchbacks are in the back of the canyon, and although you get some nice up-close views of the Redwall, the views down the canyon are limited. Below the Redwall, the trail continues at a fair grade and contours into a side canyon (Wpt. 08).

After coming out of the side canyon (Wpt. 08), the trail generally runs straight down Bright Angel Canyon along the east side of Garden Creek. This part of the trail runs on the Bright Angel Shale formation, which forms the top of the Tonto Platform, the wide bench on the edge of the inner canyon.

Bright Angel Trail
First Switchback below Kolb Studio (view NE)

The grade is gentle the rest of the way into the Indian Garden Area. After a welcome to Indian Garden sign, hikers pass an unsigned use-trail to the left, which is the back-way to the Indian Garden Ranger Station.

Staying on the trail, hikers see the Indian Garden Ranger Station on the left, then arrive at Indian Garden Campground Trail junction (Wpt. 09), which is 4.6 miles below the rim. Turning left into the campground, the trail forks in about 20 yards. The left is the main trail to the Ranger Station, straight leads to campground toilets, and right runs down into the campground, proper.

Continuing down Bright Angel Trail, hikers see campsites behind bushes on the left, then arrive at a mule tie-up area on the right. Shortly thereafter, a signed trail left leads into the bottom (north end) of the campground.

Bright Angel Trail

The old Indian Garden Ranger Station is located just below the campground on the left. Next are day-use restrooms on the right, then a rest area with benches, seasonal water, and information signs on the right and mule corrals on the left. This is also the Plateau Point trail junction (Wpt. 10).

While resting, rodents (mostly Rock Squirrels) and Common Ravens can be a problem, so don't encourage them by giving handouts.

Below Indian Garden, the lower Bright Angel Trail continues down to the Colorado River (8.0 miles from the rim), and the River Trail leads to Phantom Ranch (9.8 miles from the rim). From Indian Garden, other trails continue to the Tonto West and Tonto East trails (which run east-west through the canyon on the Tonto platform), and the Plateau Point Trail that runs out to the edge of the Inner Gorge (6.2 miles below the rim).

From wherever you get to, return to the trailhead by the Bright Angel Trail or one of the other trails back to the rim. Don’t hike so far down that you can't get back out.

Bright Angel Trail
Snow on trail in the Kaibab Limestone; First Tunnel (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker in First Tunnel with snow (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker in First Tunnel without snow (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Cliffs here are steep and high (view down)
Bright Angel Trail
Steep trail below the First Tunnel (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker passing Second Switchback (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Second Switchback (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Moderate grade on long arching trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Moderate grade on long curving trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Moderate grade on long curving trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at switchback below long curving trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Switchback below long curving trail without snow (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Descending into the Coconino Sandstone (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Second Tunnel (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker approaching Second Tunnel (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at Second Tunnel (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Descending through a break in the Coconino Wall (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Below the Coconino Wall (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Grand view down Bright Angel Canyon during snow storm (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
1.5-Mile Toilets in the distance (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Stairs lead up to the 1.5-Mile Resthouse (view SE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker inside 1.5-Mile Resthouse (view SE from spur trail)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail signs
Bright Angel Trail
Emergency phone
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at water faucet
Bright Angel Trail
1.5-Mile Toilets in the distance (view E from Resthouse)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail below 1.5 Mile (view W from before 1.5 Mile Toilets Spur)
Bright Angel Trail
1.5-Mile Restrooms on short spur trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
1.5-Mile Restrooms on short spur trail (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hikers at BA - 1.5 Mile Toilet Spur Trail junction (view W from toilets)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail in the Supai (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail in the Supai (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on Bright Angel Trail (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker approaching Bright Angel Fault (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Fault (view W)
Bright Angel Trail
Grand view down Bright Angel Canyon (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at 2-Mile Switchback (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker below 2-Mile Switchback (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Lots of trail ahead (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker crossing Bright Angel Fault for the second time (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Fault (view E)
Bright Angel Trail
More switchback (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail
Cloudy day (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Sunny day (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Descending towards 3-Mile Resthouse (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker descending towards 3-Mile Resthouse (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Signs and spur trail to 3-Mile Resthouse (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
3-Mile Resthouse signs (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
3-Mile Resthouse atop the Redwall (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
3-Mile Resthouse (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Inside 3-Mile Resthouse (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Water faucet behind 3-Mile Resthouse (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Trails to 3-Mile Overlook and 3-Mile Restrooms (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
3-Mile Restrooms (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Inside 3-Mile Restrooms; some mud but pretty clean (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Remains of historic structure at 3-Mile Overlook (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Remains of historic structure at 3-Mile Overlook (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
View up and down trail (view SW from 3-Mile Resthouse)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker descending past 3-Mile Resthouse (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Starting down into the Redwall switchbacks (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker descending into the Redwall switchbacks (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on the Redwall switchbacks (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
A bit of steep trial in the Redwall switchbacks (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Approaching last of the Redwall switchbacks (view SW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at bottom of the Redwall switchbacks (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Below the Redwall (view NE down Garden Canyon)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker descending gentle terrain in Bright Angel Canyon (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel (BA) Canyon (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Desert Mule Deer along the trail
Bright Angel Trail
Desert Mule Deer below the trail
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker approaching Indian Garden (IG) area (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Sign with Indian Garden map and information (view NW)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at Indian Garden (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Sign at edge of Indian Garden (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail - Indian Garden Campground trail junction (view N)
Bright Angel TrailDirectional sign at BA Trail - IG Campground trail junction (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker on BA Trail passing IG Campground (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Hiker at mule "rest area" (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Trail junction to north end of IG Campground (view N)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail at spur to IG day-use toilets (view NE)
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail at IG day-use water faucet (view NE)
More to come
More to come ...

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

Site Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0811 Visitor Center, Canyon View Information Plaza 36.0590 112.1085 400166 3990857 7,092 Yes
0814 Bright Angel Trailhead 36.0574 112.1429 397067 3990721 6,870 Yes

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). NOTE: This is UTM Zone 12S.
Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
01 Bright Angel trailhead 397067 3990721 6,880 0.00 0.00
02 First Tunnel 397032 3990731 6,788 0.15 0.15
03 First Big Switchback 396802 3990896 6,873 0.24 0.39
04 Second Tunnel 396957 3990893 6,160 0.46 0.85
05 1.5-Mile Resthouse 397464 3991050 5,700 0.73 1.58
06 2-Mile Switchback 397196 3991309 5,440 0.44 2.02
07 3-Mile Resthouse Junction 397736 3991599 4,700 1.01 3.03
08 Side Canyon 397953 3991736 4,400 0.72 3.75
09 Indian Garden Trail Junction 398399 3992794 3,790 0.82 4.57
10 Plateau Point Trail Junction 398562 3993031 3,771 0.19 4.76
11 Tonto East Trail Junction 398812 3993417 3,652 0.32 5.08
12 Devil's Corkscrew Top 399751 3994272 3,303 1.01 6.09
13 Pipe Creek 399974 3994080 2,792 0.83 6.92
14 River Resthouse 400054 3995190 2,480 0.96 7.88
15 River Trail Junction 400024 3995242 2,382 0.04 7.92
16 Pipe Creek Beach 400050 3995328 2,440 [0.06 x 2] .
17 View of Silver Bridge 400718 3995367 2,520 0.56 8.48
18 Silver Bridge, South End 401429 3995058 2,450 0.68 9.16
19 Silver Bridge, North End 401461 3995209 2,463 0.09 9.25
20 Bridge, BA Creek Lower 401593 3995346 2,470 0.16 9.41
21 Bright Angel Campground 401416 3995539 2,480 0.25 9.66

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170820

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