If you want to hike down the Bright Angel Trail (located just West of the Bright Angel Lodge), the National Park Service just made it easier to locate the trailhead with a new stone sign. Please do yourself a favor and hike down into the Canyon, even if it is only a mile or less to enjoy a unique experience "below the rim".
This is a great place to day hike. There are a bunch of trails for everyone from coach potato to long-haulers with scenery ranging from rim panoramas to peaceful forest surrounds.
We did several; our favorite being North Kaibab down into the canyon for several miles, just beyond Supai Tunnel. They don't recommend going father than Roaring Springs (10 miles round trip) although this trail goes to the bottom. It's steep, there's not much for shade, and it's a bit fragrant in warm weather as it's also a mule path (watch your step!) but a great below-the-rim experience. If you look closely at the picture you can see the trail falling off towards the canyon floor.
Other of the trails we did during our short 2 days and can recommend were:
Bright Angel Point: paved and only 1/2 mile round RT to killer viewpoint
Cape Royal: paved and only .6 mile RT to another killer viewpoint
Roosevelt Point: at .2 mile, another easy stroll to another nice eyeful
Uncle Jim: 5-miler through forest to a great overlook and North Kaibab trailhead
Point Imperial: easy 4-miler through a recovering burn area
Transept: easy 3-mile RT along the rim from lodge to the campgrounds and back.
See the link below for the full listing, and do read the highlighted safety warnings, OK?
While I don't recommend doing the above stated, since we didn't get a "Backcountry Permit" we were forced to do exactly this! After all, we traveled over 2000 miles to hike the GC and it just didn't make sense not to reach the bottom. I warned my buddy to "Be Ready" for a long grueling day. We started down at sunrise (6:00AM), reached Phantom Ranch at 10:15AM, took an hour break for lunch and reached the S. Kaibab Trailhead at sunset (6:15PM). My buddy experienced some cramping while going up, but worked his way out of it and the hike went smoothly from there on. He showed great resilience and complained little. The only drawback to this day hike, you may not get to enjoy the beauty of the Canyon because you're in such a hurry! This was my third hike to the bottom so it wasn't that big of a deal.
We hiked down part of the South Kaibab Trail, past Ooh-Aah Point and onto Cedar Ridge, a distance of about one and a half miles.
Plan on taking twice as long to hike up as it took you hike down and take plenty of water with you.
The South Kaibab Trail begins out of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. Access to the trailhead is by shuttle bus. It offers hikes that range in distance up to six miles (round trip). Best views of the canyon for relatively short hike.
It took us about an hour to leisurely walk down and about one hour forty five minutes for a leisurely walk back up. A good excuse to take a rest and a drink is to take plenty of photos.
There are plenty of squirrels on the trail but advice is not to feed them, not even the one eyed one that we saw.
Ranger advice is not to attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back on one day, especially during the months of May to September.
This is an easy half mile (each way) walk to a small spring and excellent view point. The path descends a wooded ravine, past a small Anasazi ruin and along the side of a small off-shoot canyon. The spring that gives it its name is little more than a dripping rock, but the surrounding area is pretty and the view of the canyon very good indeed.
We also found this a good place to spot chipmunks and they seemed especially unafraid of us, probably because other visitors had been feeding them which is not a good idea. As you can see, they will pose for your photos without any enticements, and as they have to fend for themselves most if the year it isn’t good for them to start to rely on the temporary human visitors who invade their territory for a few months each summer.
The Bright Angel Trail is a nice trail to head down into the canyon where you can go 50 yards or 9 miles and still get a better appreciation of the canyon. We went down about 2 1/2 miles into the canyon and then walked back up. You get a great variation of vegetation and geological formations. Bring plenty of water and wear good hiking boots.
Take Bright Angel, or another trail, down into the Canyon. The impact of the canyon is more readily realized from inside the canyon.
Bright Angel can be a bit crowded, and it is the same trail used by the mule trains, so be prepared. I've heard it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to hike down, and about 4 hours to hike back. Also, it is much warmer at the bottom of the canyon than at the top.
This trail didn't offer very many views of the canyon (at least the part we were on). What it did provide was awesome views of the forest and wildlife. We were able to get so close to 5 deer. We didn't want to spook them, and they wouldn't move, so we turned around and headed back to the lodge. It's a nice easy trail that's about 3 miles roundtrip.
It's a heavily traveled trail and the same the mules use, so watch out for dung. We were there in March so there was some snow but not right on the trail. My 9-year old son got kind of freaked out by heights and ledges, so we didn't go down too far. But lots of beautiful views. Be sure to carry water.
We started down into the canyon from the north rim. We went for about 20 minutes and never got below the level of the south rim. Because we didn't have a lot of time, we started back up. It was over 40 minutes before we were back on top. If you head down, figure 2 to 3 times as long to get back up. The further you go, the more tired you'll be for the climb back up.
Oh, we did enjoy the hike.
If you enjoy a short hike (one to two miles) and great views, here are a couple of great options the Grand Canyon has to offer.
I highly recomend the Kaibab Trail just east of the main Village. Take a shuttle bus to the trailhead. Don't forget to bring a lot of water, a hat and possibly some snacks. The Kaibab Trail isn't as demanding as some of the other trails the Canyon has to offer but don't under estimate any trail. The South Kaibab Trail doesn't have any water or shade. Try to hike it earlier in the morning or later in the day.
If you can make it around the bend about one to one and half miles down you will be able to see some great views of the Grand Canyon. I wouldn't suggest going past Cedar Ridge unless you are prepared with enough supplies.
The other more visited and congested option is the Bright Angel Trail just west of the main Village area. Last year I was only a half mile down when I noticed 6 or 7 female big horn sheep approaching up onto the trail. It was neat to see their littles ones crossing the trail and going up the steep embankment without any effort. We watched them for about 10 to 15 minutes. The part I liked was when the two mothers started to square off and bunted heads repeatedly.
The problem with the Bright Angel Trail is it is very crowded and your views of the Grand Canyon are somewhat limited versus the South Kaibab Trail.
Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
Whether you have one hour to hike or all day, to enjoy what beauty the Grand Canyon has to offer you need to get into the Canyon with a short hike. You will never regret it.
There are hiking trails into the canyon for every level of hiker. My grandson and I just wanted an hour or so, so went about 3/4 mile down the Bright Angel Trail and then back. The trails all descend (except the Rim Trail) at varying rates, so pick up The Guide, the newspaper from the National Park Service or some other publication which will give you information about distances, time, water and restroom facilities. Bright Angel is a bit steep but is not really difficult if you pace yourself and don't try to do too much of it. It is fairly wide and well maintained although footing can be tricky in soft soil or mule droppings so watch out. The whole trail is over 9 miles to the bottom but we did a small portion which gave us great views and we were able to see some petroglyphs left by early Native Americans.
The trails don't seem steep going down, but do coming back up so plan on a much longer time to ascend than to descend. There are lots of switchbacks so descending about a mile takes a walk of about 9 miles. You can see some of these switchbacks in one of the photos.
This photo gives you an idea of how difficult some of the trails can be. The easiest trail to follow is the RIM TRAIL. It's perfect for visitors who would like an easy walk. You can pick it up at Grand Canyon Village or Herman Road.
BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL is considered steep and begins west of Bright Angel Lodge. It is noted that the upper portion of this trail could be extremely icy in the Spring. Some portions are very strenuous.
SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL is another steep trail, which begins south of Yaki Point located on Yaki Point Road. Access to the trailhead is by shuttle bus and is a short-moderate hike. (see shuttle schedule below)
HERMIT TRAIL is an unmaintained steep trail and is only for the experienced desert hikers. This trail begins 500 feet west of Hermans Rest.
GRANDVIEW TRAIL is extremely steep and is for experienced desert hikers only. The trail begins on the canyon side of Grandview Point, which is along Desert View Drive. Be on the alert for ice in the early Spring.
**Shuttle schedule for S. Kaibab Trail: Hikers express shuttle departs directly from Bright Angel Lodge and the Backcountry Info. Center to the S. Kaibab trailhead daily: March-7am, 8am & 9am. April-6am, 7am & 8 am. May-5 am, 6 am & 7am.
(This info. courtesy of the National Park Service)
I'm not a hiker ... a bit of a walker and wanderer actually. So I can't DO the walks far into the canyon. And I was with my Dad who is disabled so didn't want to leave him for more than an hour at a time .... the rim trail was perfect for my needs. You can take this trail all along South Rim, or you can take bits a pieces of it as you desire. Since it hugs the edge of the canyon, the views are awe inspiring. I walked from Bright Angel lodge up to Maricopa point, which the books say is about a mile and a half. It was tough for me in spots as the trail was a bit steep, but the views were wonderful! It took me much less time to come back down :) I met a few people along the way and all had joyful faces, despite some huffing an puffing. There is something about the vistas that just brings out the child in us all ..... there are flatter portions of the rim trail between Bright Angel and Mather Point ... there are steeper sections heading up to Hermit's rest. The section I walked was perfect: challenging without being overwhelming. So take a piece of the rim trail yourself and see what you can see :)
There is a webpage that has more detail about the rim trail that I've linked here so you can learn about the parts I didn't take :)
The rimtrail is the easiest hike this side of the canyon. The American way of doing this hike, is to get on the bus and press your nose aganinst the window. But Europeans should really walk this trail. You can also take the bus to hermits rest (last stop) and walk your way back. It should take a few hours, so bring water and food.