Black Peak as seen from Heather Pass

Hike Info

Time-lapse of the hike

Map of the Hike


14 Miles

3,308' ascent

3,308 descent

The Bright Angel Trailhead is located in the Grand Canyon Village, near the start of Hermit Road.  It's highly recommended to start this hike early so you're not ascending back out of the canyon during the heat of the day.

*clicking the map of the hike will take you to my Garmin Page where you can find an interactive map. You can also download the course to your GPS devices.  

Elevation Profile

Hike Details

A common phrase when hiking in the Grand Canyon is "down is optional, up is mandatory." These are very important words to live by when hiking the Grand Canyon.   It's so easy to keep walking and walking when it's all downhill, but remember you have to hike back up to get back to your car. Also, it usually means that you'll be hiking the most challenging part of the hike, uphill, during the hottest part of the day.  So, I'd recommend getting as early a start as possible on this hike. That way, you're not hiking back uphill when the sun is beating down on you.

To get to the trailhead, you'll want to go to the Grand Canyon Village, and the trailhead is right near the entrance to Hermit Road.  Make sure to stop and read the information board before beginning your hike so you'll know which water refill stations are open or closed.  When I did this hike in early May, the only water station you could refill your water bottle was at Indian Garden Camp.  

As soon as you step foot on the trail, you're greeted with incredible views down into the Grand Canyon.  Within the first mile, you'll pass through 2 tunnels as the trail hugs the canyon walls. Then, descending switchback after switchback, you'll quickly start drop into the canyon, and after about 1.5 miles, you will have already dropped about 1,300 feet. At the 1.5 mile mark, you'll reach the 1.5 Mile Resthouse, which has a shaded rest structure, a bathroom, and sometimes a water filling station.  Another bathroom and water filling station is coming up again at the 3-mile mark, so we kept on hiking and didn't stop here.

When you reach the 3 Mile Resthouse, you will have already descended two-thirds of the total descent.  We chose to stop here for a quick snack and to take in the view.  If you walk past the resthouse, there's a great view down into the canyon and looking down on the oasis that is the Indian Garden Camp.

From the 3 Mile Resthouse, you'll descend more switchbacks before you reach a longer, more gently sloping downhill trail, and after 1.7 miles, you'll reach Indian Garden Camp.  Here you'll find a ranger station, water, a campground, bathrooms, picnic tables, a stream, and trees.  It really is an oasis in the desert.   Speaking of desert, as you descend into the canyon, take note of the changing vegetation.  Now you'll notice more cacti and less greenery except for the cottonwood trees alongside the stream.

Setting off from Indian Garden, you'll soon leave the Bright Angel Trail and follow the Tonto Trail to the Plateau Point Trail.  This part of the hike is very much exposed, so make sure you filled up with water back at Indian Garden.  The good news is the hike is mostly level, and most of the descent is over.  Make sure to stop once you get out on the plateau to look around.  The canyon takes on a whole new feel from within the canyon, and you realize just how big and deep it is.  From this vantage point, you'll realize why they say to truly experience the canyon, you have to go below the rim.  I completely agree.  

Once you arrive at Plateau Point, you are still about 1,500 feet above the Colorado River.  From here, you can see the rafting trips going down the river, but they are still small white specs on the water below.  It's tempting to want to head all the way down to the water and go for a swim but remember you already have over 3,000 feet of ascent to get back, and if you go all the way to the river, you're looking at a mile of climbing to get back out of the canyon.  Remember that saying, "down is optional, up is mandatory?"  If you decide to hike down to the water, you have to go back to Indian Garden and take the Bright Angel trail the rest of the way down.  You can't get to the water from Plateau Point.

From Plateau Point, turn around and look back at where you started up on the South Rim.  Yep, you get to hike all the way back up there.  The most challenging part of the hike is still ahead of you, so don't dilly-dally at Plateau Point.  We chose to eat lunch and rest in the shade at Indian Garden and refill our water, plus soak our shirts before the hike up.  If it's getting into the afternoon, I'd recommend waiting out the heat of the day under a cottonwood tree and head up later.  Whatever you decide, make sure to bring lots of water and take it easy on the way back up.  It will take much longer hiking out of the canyon than it did descending, so be safe and enjoy.

When you get back to the top, find a tavern or place to stop, get some food and some ice-cold beer, and celebrate your day's accomplishments.                                                                         

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