Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Bright Angel Trail

Tuesday June 7, 2011
Grand Canyon National Park
David here:

We left the coach early
(6:15 is REALLY early for me),
to beat the heat and see if we could do
this 6 mile hike before the heat of the day.

The buses are on a 30 minute schedule before 6:30 AM,
so we took the blue bus back to the visitor center
and waited for it to start out again to get us to the trailhead,
which we reached at 6:45 AM. 
Normally we could have caught a west bound bus
and been at the trailhead in 10 minutes,
but due to our extra early start
it wound up taking us 30 minutes.
We were not upset though as it was still early
and still nice and cool - another beautiful day.

Here is a shot of the Bight Angel Trail from near the top. 
The green patch down in the valley is Indian Garden
- about 4.6 miles down the trail.


The Bright Angel Trail descends
through a break in the canyon wall
created by the Bright Angel Fault. 
A hiker walks back through time
passing layer upon layer of progressively older rocks.
Havasupai Indians had used this trail for centuries,
due to the natural spring (at Indian Garden)
and the natural break in the cliffs
that provided access to get down from the rim. 

This is the most heavily used trail
in the Grand Canyon today as well. 
It descends 4500 feet from the rim
to the Colorado River in 7.8 miles.
From there it is another 1.8 miles to the Phantom Ranch
where there are camping, overnight lodging in cabins
and dormitories and meals available
- reservations required LONG in advance. 

We had no reservations and were thinking
6 miles might be plenty for today
- three miles down and 3 back up. 
Conveniently there are water and restrooms
at 1.5 mile and 3 mile "resthouses",
so our plan was to go to the 3 mile resthouse & return. 

All downhill going in
(1132 feet down to the first resthouse
and nearly another 1000 feet down to the second),
and all up coming back - 2112 feet climb in elevation.

Here is what some of the trail looks like from above
- what can be seen anyway.

Grand Canyon Day 5 008
Grand Canyon Day 5 028 

So the downhill was nice. 
We passed through a couple of cool tunnels
the CCC had added to the trail in the 30's

and reached the 1.5 mile resthouse at 8 AM,
after only an hour and 15 minutes -
which is faster that our usually pokey pace. 
We generally read everything
and take pictures of anything we can't read.  ;)

Like the S. Kaibab trail,
hikers and mules share this trail,
and in case you ever encounter the mules,
you need to know they have the right of way.

Here they come 

carrying a load of folks with sore butts. 
If they weren't sore yet, they will be before they get off. 

And there they go in a cloud of dust
- much to Sherry's dismay!

What they heck are these?

We reached the 3 mile resthouse at 9:25 AM,
about 20 minutes ahead of our usual 1 mph hiking pace. 
Sherry found a comfortable shady perch
away from the traffic and we shared some snacks. 

I started to consider whether I might go further
since it was still early and I felt good
and was not worried by the forecast of heat. 
I did want to see the Indian Garden which is the next stop
and has a lot of trees and shade
and a number of facilities there for hikers. 
It was another 1.6 miles down
and almost another 1000 feet of drop in elevation. 

Sherry declined the invitation but was not worried about me,
so I left her in the shade at about 10:30

and reached the near end of Indian Garden at 11:20 AM
- again, faster than I had expected. 

Here is more of the descending trail.

You know you have reached the Indian Garden
when you start seeing trees and happy cacti.

Small trees at first,
then monstrous , big cottonwoods,
30 inches in diameter and larger. 
It should be noted that Havasupai Indians still lived here
when the National Park was established in 1919.

I found an empty bench by a big cottonwood beside the trail
and had my lunch. Took off the shoes & socks
to air and cool down, did some runner stretching
and just relaxed a bit. 

An older gentleman in long sleeve and long trousers
came shuffling by at a very slow pace. 
I thought he might be 80 or so
and I wondered how he got there
and how he would ever get out at the pace he was going.
At 90 degrees or more,
it was awfully hot for long sleeves and long pants. 
I ran into him again later on my way up
but I am getting ahead of myself.

After lunch I went on to explore
what else was here in Indian Garden. 
I found the biggest cottonwood
- probably 5 feet in diameter at chest height! 
(thanks to gorillapod for the above picture)

Right below that,
the first stream I have seen in a long time
that actually had water in it!! 
Key to the cottonwoods - should have known. 

Found the campground, restrooms, water,
several buildings including one small
unmanned information center,
a place for the mules to rest in the shade and refresh. 

Lots of shade and shelters. 
Then at the very bottom end,
I saw a small sign by the stream
and went to see what it was. 

Couldn't resist. 

Sat beside the woman and let them read.

Pretty soon we were chatting. 
They were part of a group of 8 making the hike
from North Rim to South Rim. 
They were camping at Indian Garden tonight
and would hike out to the South Rim tomorrow. 
The man was certain he was going to lose 
both of his big toe nails from all the down hill hiking
the two days before. 
He could see and feel them coming off.
The woman's husband had injured himself
and was resting elsewhere. 
Still they were in very good spirits. 
One from Mississippi
the other currently enrolled at Texas A&M
- where I got my Masters. 
We had a small Aggie chat.

Started back up at 12:50 PM
after soaking my feet in Victor's Oasis. 

Just after leaving Indian Garden
I was passed by these four men in a rush. 
They were speed hiking from the north Rim
to the South in a single day - a 24.x mile trek! 
Wow.  I'm impressed - how about you?

Hiking steadily uphill in the heat, pacing myself
I came upon the older gentleman
about 1:30 PM and stopped to ask him
how he was making it. 
He had passed me almost two hours before in Indian Garden. 
He said he was doing fine, had plenty of water,
and he would make it out eventually,
might be morning, but he would make it just fine. 
He had a bit of an accent so I asked where he was from
and it turns out he is from Cologne, Germany
and this is the third time he has done this hike. 
The first time was 30 years ago. 
He says he has hiked all over the world
including Hawaii, Japan and Australia to name a few,
and always travels alone. 
I asked his name and permission to take his picture for you.   

This is Ben.
Ben normally wears glasses, but took them off for the picture. 
He had started hiking from the North Rim of the canyon
and I'm guessing this was his 3rd and final day
as there are two places to stay coming down
from the North Rim.  Pretty amazing man.

I reached 3 mile resthouse at 1:50 and left at 2  PM
- Ben had not yet made it there and I did not see him again. 
Met a woman from Switzerland at the resthouse
who was also hiking north rim to south rim,
also older than me I believe though I did not ask her age,
and this was also not her first time. 
She was hiking alone too. 
I did not get her name or picture,
but the stories were fun to hear. 
Sorry I don't trust my memory for detail or I would tell you more...

I reached 1.5 mile resthouse at 3 PM
and chatted with a couple from Australia for a bit. 
They had big plans to rent an RV after leaving the Grand Canyon
and see a whole bunch of other parks
in a couple of weeks before heading home.

I left the 1.5 Mile resthouse at about 3:20
and saw this fellow up to the left of the trail. 
Nice head gear!! 

After a lengthy photo shoot I headed on up the trail. 
Fortunately the last hour of my hike was mostly in the shade
due to the late afternoon angle of the sun. 
It felt great to be back up and not totally exhausted. 

Anxious for a nice cold beer and my home made tacos
I jumped on the bus at about 4:45 PM
- almost exactly 10 hours after I got on the trail. 
9.2 miles with a 3100 foot drop in elevation
assured me a great night of sleep too!
And what did Sherry do after David left?
Sherry here:

Well before I tell you what I did let me
show you the one thing I think David left out.
What some of the trail looks like up close.

Bright Angel Trail Hike 075 
Back to what I was doing.
My shady spot was right behind the white rock
in the foreground

Bright Angel Trail Hike 092

Here’s my sweet view.
Bright Angel Trail Hike 094 

After a while I moved out of my
shade to take a look around the rest of the area
and found another nice scenic view underneath
a Pinion Pine.
Great view from here too.  That’s the trail David
was walking down through the Yucca leaves
and I actually found him walking
along through my binoculars.
Bright Angel Trail Hike 120
So here I am sitting under my tree on
a log someone had put there just for me I’m sure.

Bright Angel Trail Hike 143
I wanted a picture of my view with me in it and
David had the gorillapod
so I put the camera on a convenient rock behind me. 

I had to take numerous shots to get one
that had the view and me and not just my head
and well you know. 

While doing that, I took
off my glasses set them on the log.
And you guessed it, when I ran back to get in the
timed picture I sat one them and popped both
lenses out.  I can’t tell you HOW long it
took to put them both back in being
mechanically challenged as I am.
BUT I got it done. 

Went back to picture taking
and am SO used to wearing contacts
rather than glasses, that I did it again.  :-)

Of course without my glasses I couldn’t
see my glasses.  This time I only popped one
lens out and thought to take a picture of it.
Bright Angel Trail Hike 130
At that point, I thought it was time to start
back up!
I didn’t meet any interesting people although
there were probably a lot of them
although no one passed me and I think
the folks that I went by who were coming
down at this time of day were nuts.
Here’s when I got back and what I did. :-))))

Bright Angel Trail Hike 188


  1. You guys ROCK!!! I love the picture of the ram David, and Sherry, the picture of the ice cream is to die for!!

  2. Wow, sounds like you both had a grand time (pun intended).

    A Arizona Holiday

  3. David, we really appreciate you taking us all the way to Indian Garden. What great photos!! Love the Big Horn :o)) Very interesting all the people from foreign countries that you met along the trail.

    Sherry, not sure how you were able to fix your glasses?? I would not be able to find them without glasses;o)) Bill is so impressed with the ice cream photo;o)) He wishes he was right there with you!!!

  4. David, love the picture of the ram. Kudos to Ben for making the hike -- that's amazing!

    Sherry, sitting on your glasses -- I'm the biggest klutz in the world, so that's definitely something that I would do. In any event, your picture came out great!

  5. I enjoy your posts, Dad! Great how you talk with people and share stories. 10 hours!!! You know I wouldn't have had the patience ;) -Mom - how frustrating about the glasses! You can't see them without them - that's no good :( Glad you managed - made me smile. And, it was a great picture you finally got!! That is a LOT of ice cream :)


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!