All the way up Bright Angel

We woke at 6am on Saturday morning and began taking down the tent and packing our bags. We hit the trail around 7:30, hiking to the river and then over the Silver Bridge. We followed the river for some time, going up and down more than our sore calves cared to. But eventually we cut back into the inner canyon. The trail intersected with a stream at several points, and we took immense pleasure in dousing our hair and backs with cool water.

The hike up the inner canyon on the Bright Angel Trail was breathtaking. Because we were still below the traditional (and rim-visible) upper parts of the canyon, it didn’t even seem like we were in the Grand Canyon at all, but rather some alternate fantasy world. I kept imagining that we’d stumble upon a dinosaur around the next corner.

We stopped for an extended lunch break at Indian Garden, the halfway point, and the place where I’d previously taken the fork to Plateau Point. From here on out we could see our destination at the top of the canyon, and it seemed very far away and very high. Surprisingly going up felt easier than going down, stressing our quads more than our calves. We still took advantage of the resthouses every mile and a half to rest, refuel, and rewater.

The last mile was hard. Awesomely hard. Like climbing an infinite staircase. Rhythmic. I used my poles to pull my body up every step of the way. This is also the part of the trail where we ran into a lot of people who were just walking below the rim for a bit to take a few pictures. We regaled and amazed them with our tale of starting at the river that morning and hiking 9.6 miles out of the canyon.

Just before the top we stumbled upon a whole family of Bighorn sheep, walking precariously along the canyon walls. And attracting a lot of attention. And then, almost like clockwork, nine and a half hours later, nine and a half miles later, we emerged at the top of the canyon. Victorious!

That night we drove to Williams and celebrated with a steak dinner. Then we continued all the way to a hotel in Phoenix, exhausted, dirty, and sore, but totally satisfied in our accomplishment.

Grand Canyon dawn, crossing the Silver Bridge
Grand Canyon dawn, crossing the Silver Bridge
Looking through the Silver Bridge over the Colorado River
See-through bridge! (this one’s for my dad)
Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
Long morning shadows
Ascending the inner canyon
Ascending the inner canyon
Stephanie and Justin still smiling as we hike up the Bright Angel Trail
Still smilin’
Stunning switchback on the Bright Angel Trail
This looks kind of like the Andes, doesn’t it?
Looking back towards Indian Garden
Looking back towards Indian Garden
Looking up towards our destination (the south rim)
Looking up towards our destination (the south rim)
Amazing light and shadows in the Grand Canyon
Amazing light and shadows
Grand Canyon in late afternoon light
Grand Canyon in late afternoon light
Justin and Stephanie at the top of the Grand Canyon!
We made it!


Very nice pics and it looks like you guys had a great time! We were actually out that way at the end of September as well. Unfortunately there was a haze over the Grand Canyon while we were there, and we only had enough time to stop and spend a few hours there. Hoping to go back and do the hike sometime and spend alot more time at each park! I’ve got tons of pics from all of the parks that we hit while out there on my blog if you are interested!


I’m doing this hike in June with the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Really enjoyed reading your log and seeing the pix. Would appreciate being able to speak with you. Could I phone you? I’m in Montreal, Quebec.


I have a serious question that may sound really ridiculous to you youngsters. I would love to plan a trip into the canyon this spring. Hold on….I’m 54 (no, I didn’t mis-type that). I’m in relatively good shape and am willing to work like hell to be able to do this. In your opinion, could someone my age attempt a hike down and up? Not in one day, mind you!

Kate, of course! We were 28/29 at the time, but there were people from anywhere between 16 to 70 making the trek. It’s worth noting that this was our first backpacking trip ever.

We found the going down part much harder than going up, it really kills your knees and thighs (with 20-30lbs on your back). We also began around noon on the way down. People with more time start much earlier, sometimes before sunrise, so they have a lot of time to make their way down and recover once they’re there.

If you don’t want to carry your stuff or camp, you can stay at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom, but realize that requires a reservation almost a year in advance. I think we reserved our campsite in May or June for September.

My only recommendation would be to spend more than 2 nights at the bottom if you can. It would have been nice if we’d had more time to let our sore muscles recover and possibly take some extended hikes up in the direction of the north rim.

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