A Grand Hike

April 24, 2016  •  1 Comment

I had the opportunity to walk a wonderful loop hike through the Grand Canyon this April. I had walked it once before and even ran it once upon a time, so knew it was going to be an epic endeavor now that I'm in my 60's. The hike gets you from the Rim to the River and back in a grand loop, winding steeply through the incredible rock layers, giving one a chance to see the geology close up and personal.

Bright Angel ViewBright Angel View


It's a popular hike with runners and long distance hikers, and not for the casual day walker. The starting point is the South Kaibab Trailhead to the east of Grand Canyon Village. To access the trail, and return to your vehicle/campsite later that day, utilize the free bus system. The bus schedules are seasonal, so check them out to find the earliest bus before sun up to get you to the trail head for an early start. The return loop from the River is via the Bright Angel Trail, which goes back up to the Rim at the Village. This hike is not recommended by the Park Rangers, being over 17 miles in length, with over 4400 vertical feet in loss, and then gain, making for a total of nearly 9000 feet in elevation change.

The South Kaibab Trail is the shorter, and steeper, of the two, and has no shade or water, so plan accordingly.  The Kaibab also offers an excellent opportunity for photos of the Canyon at sunrise.

Break of DawnBreak of DawnEarly light from South Kaibab Trailhead


The trail drops steeply over endless water bars and rock steps on its way to Cedar Ridge. The trail is heavily used by mule trains, and can be a real knee bender.


Pastel DescentPastel DescentThe descent to Cedar Ridge, the flat pink spot to the right

Train in the Sky 2Train in the Sky 2The South Kaibab Trail Trail Through the AirTrail Through the AirThe Kaibab Trail appears to lead into thin air above Cedar Ridge




Cowboys Still RideCowboys Still RideA cowboy, or muleteer(mule driver), guides his mule train down the Kaibab to Phantom Ranch


Cedar Ridge offers views and a rest stop before the trail falls off the Redwall limestone layer to the Tonto Plateau below.


Cedar Ridge SunriseCedar Ridge SunriseA large cedar clings to life on Cedar Ridge, the ranger building visible on the right

Century BloomCentury BloomA century plant sends up it's stalk, a moment it's lived for for decades. Prickly BeautyPrickly BeautyPrickly Pear in bloom, Zoroaster Temple in the far distance


From the Tonto Plateau, the trail descends the Tip Off, falling through its steepest part to the Black Bridge and the Colorado river.


Black Bridge - First ViewBlack Bridge - First ViewThe Black Bridge comes into view, the way across to the North Kaibab The Black BridgeThe Black BridgeA view of the bridge from the north side, you can see the dark hole of the tunnel entrance



Black Bridge ApproachBlack Bridge ApproachThe bridge comes into view through the dark Tunnel ViewTunnel ViewA look back at the tunnel on the Black Bridge






























The Black Bridge begins in a tunnel on the south bank, and provides a suitable dramatic approach.

















A short hike along the river brings one to the Bright Angel campground and a side trail that leads up to Phantom Ranch, a small resort offering cabins, food and a bunkhouse. To continue on your way, cross the Silver Bridge back to the south bank and walk along the river for another mile, enjoying the views and flat ground before the trudge up hill.


River WalkRiver WalkThe Bright Angel Trail's first mile is a walk along the river in the sand before starting the long trudge uphill.


The Silver BridgeThe Silver BridgeThe Silver Bridge takes one back to the south bank, and to the start of the Bright Angel Trail back up to Grand Canyon Village


The Bright Angel Trail soon leaves the river and begins its 4400 foot, 8 mile climb back to Grand Canyon Village. The next stop is Indian Gardens, where there's water, a small campground, and green shade.


Cactus WalkCactus WalkThe trail near Indian Gardens is lined with cactus near the ranger station The Black TowerThe Black TowerThis outcropping of Redwall Limestone means you're about to get a steep uphill workout!






















The Three Mile Resthouse greets you at, yes, 3 miles from the top. Water, shade, and rest for the final push.


Three Mile ResthouseThree Mile ResthouseA welcome site, this rest house means only 3 more miles until the top! Good spot to take a break out of the sun, and visit with your fellow hikers


The trail switchbacks steadily  through the Redwall limestone and Coconino sandstone, running through two tunnels before depositing you gratefully at the Village, where ice cream and cold drinks await!


The Bright Angel TrailThe Bright Angel TrailGood view of the Bright Angel Trail switchbacks, from just above the Three Mile Resthouse to the top.

Trail TunnelTrail TunnelThis is the first of two tunnels on the Bright Angel Trail on your uphill climb, one more and you're on your way to ice cream!









Hike FinishHike Finish






KC Lukow(non-registered)
Awesome pictures with lively commentary !
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