You will find dozens of tips already written on the Bright Angel Trail, just here on Virtualtourist. This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the assorted hiking guides to the region you will find, which include Bright Angel Trail as a primary feature.
The trailhead is slightly west of the El Tovar Hotel and the assorted buildings surrounding it.
The scar scratched into the Canyon Wall is pretty obvious for quite some distance around, and you can see it quite a ways off.
So, I will simply tell you to look for all the other tips that have already been written about the Bright Angel Trail, and warn you to make sure you are properly prepared to deal with the elevation gain coming back up the hill, and don't try to go all the way to the river and back in one day.
This is one of the more popular trails, but it is medium rigorous. It is an easy hike down for a while-i went about 1 1/2 miles in, and there is water along the way. It goes all the way down to the river at about 10 miles. The history is interesting. This was a trail used by Havasupai Indians to get to a garden area. In 1800's prospectors used the trail and expanded it. RAlph CAmeron bought out the others and charged $1 for tourists to use the trail. This went on for years, and in 1908 it became a protected park. That led to strife with CAmeron, who had claim to this part of the land. The Court case went to Supreme Court twice and CAmeron lost and had to give his land to the Government. CAmeron later became SEnator of ARizona and pursued his vengence.
Indian Gardens is a beautiful green oasis in the otherwise brownish tone of the rocks around it. It is located on the Bright Angel Trail 4 1/2 miles one way from the trailhead and another 4 1/2 miles to the river and Phantom Ranch. The days we were there a ranger stood at the crossroads and answered questions, helped the stranded, found the lost, and was kept extremely busy the whole time. From here you can head over to Plateau Point for great views of the inner canyon or head down the trail to the Colorado River. Camping here requires a backcountry permit.
The picture shows the Bright Angel Trail and its two way points Indian Gardens and Plateau Point. Indian Gardens is a 9.2 Miles round trip from the trailhead with a 3000 Feet elevation change. Plateau Point is a 12.2 Miles round trip with same elevation change. Plateau Point is the furthest point a day hiker should pick as a destination.
You'll find the Devil's Corkscrew on the Bright Angel trail. Most people use this trail to hike out of the canyon, so if you're following the crowd, so to speak, you'll find yourself winding your way up this series of steep switchbacks, zig zagging vertically up towards the top. This is the toughest part of the hike, with the exception of the killer last mile out. Take some time to catch your breath at the end of each of the switchbacks since you have a long way to go from this point. Its also a good opportunity to stop and take in the great views which become more expansive with each upward switchback. A great reward for the effort of navigating this steep and winding trail.
Even if you don't hike the Bright Angel Trail, you can have a wonderful view of it from the Bright Angel Trailhead, and from Trailview Overlook on Hermit's Road.
Many people venture at least part way down the trail. Native Americans travelled this natural path as it follows along one of the canyon's enormous fault lines. There is also plenty of shade and natural water sources en route.
You can hike down 1100 feet to the 1.5 mile resthouse, or you can continue down another 1000 feet to the 3 mile resthouse. However, remember that you must also come back up!
The entire length of Bright Angel Trail is 9 miles and descends 4460 feet to Phantom Ranch where you can stay overnight.
The Bright Angel Trail goes from the South Rim to the Colorado River. But the hiker needn't stop there. The hike can extend on the north side of the Colorado into the Bright Angel Canyon for about five miles or so. I haven't personally taken this hike, but it looks fantastic and I would like to do it one day and then spend the night at the Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor.
I made my hike into the canyon in March. At first I was just curious to see what the trail was like, I did not intend to go very far, especially since the signs said crampons recommended and I was wearing sneakers. But I traversed my way past the treachurous ice fields and kept on going. I did not have any water on me and I soon noticed signs to the effect "water pump 1.5 miles." No problem, there was water on the trail. Uh uh. When I got to the pump house, a note informed me that it was closed for the season and would be re-opening on April 15th or some such date. Undeterred I went on because the map indicated a rest station with water even further down the trail. Of course, it was the same story. I went on to Indian Garden 4.5 miles from the trailhead, still no water. I admitted defeat and retraced my steps to the top--dehydrated but not defeated.
To me, this is the one absolute must of a trip to the Grand Canyon. It is all well and good to ooh and awe at the sights from the rim, but to get a true sense of the Grand Canyon it is necessary to hike down into it.
The Bright Angel Trail winds its way to the Colorado River through an endless series of switchbacks. The trail is eight miles from rim to river with a descent of over 4400 feet.
I found it easier coming back up hill, but many people do not. Remember that every step that is taken down hill, must be made coming back up. It is also easy to forget that the rim of the Grand Canyon is at a relatively high altitude of approximately 7000 feet. Therefore, anyone descending very far into the canyon should be in fair hiking shape.
This is the point where most visitors start their descent into the canyon. The trailhead is located not far from Crand Canyon Village and very suitable for day hikers.
Sure the Bright Angel Trail is somewhat of an arduous undertaking, but going down, the beautiful canyon views are always front and center.
The Bright Angel Trail takes one down to the river as it zigzags 8 miles & 4460 feet down. Often you'll encounter other hikers & mule strings.