Prepare for Bright Angel Trail
So you want to hike into the Grand Canyon. The Bright Angel Trail to the 1.5 mile rest house is a great beginner hiking trail in the Grand Canyon. By the end of this post you will learn what you need to Get Started!
Warning! You need to read the whole post as there are at least four things we will discuss that if not planned for can kill you! But First a little history on the trail and its significance.
The current Bright Angel Trail has been used for many years by the Havasupai people. Indian Garden at 4.5 miles from the rim and trailhead was important to Havasupai for the year round water and fertile land in that location which they used to grow food. In the early 1900s entrepreneurs improved the trail, registered it as the Bright Angel Toll Road, built a hotel at the rim and charged $1 to use the trail to get to the Colorado River and mining sites in the canyon. Much of the Grand Canyon’s history is situated within the Havasupai earlier and capitalist endeavors in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During the early 1900s, the national park service noticed the exploit and need for conservation and were able to take ownership of the trail, involving much effort, at the end of the 1920s. Over the next 10 plus years the National Park Service developed the trail and added rest houses including the 1.5 mile resthouse we are talking about and preparing to hike to today.
There is parking near Village Loop Drive between the railroad station and the Hermit Road Shuttle Stop. Up the hill, the rim and trailhead is just west of Bright Angel Lodge and the Kolb studio. You will notice a corral for the mules at the trailhead as well as a water fill station. Check the trailhead for any news or communications about the trail for any last minute posts. The trailhead is at an elevation of 6,850 feet
As the name implies the Bright Angel Trail is 1.5 miles to the 1st rest house and 3 miles round trip. The elevation change is 1,120 feet. For perspective, the elevation between the rest house and the rim is the same height as 3 World Trade Center in New York City. The trail continues further but this was all we had time and ability to complete. The trail is improved but has varying steps and uneven terrain. Due to the elevation change and Summer heat we consider it a moderate to difficult hike. For every hour you hike down into the canyon, plan on 2 hours back up to the rim. We consider this a 3 hour hike so plan at least half a day.. There are two tunnels. The first tunnel is .18 miles from the trailhead at 6,708 feet elevation. The second tunnel is .75 miles from the trailhead at 6240 feet elevation. The tunnel features add to the fun of the trail. There is normally fresh water at the rest house and pit toilets are available, too.
There are a couple of rules on the trail. Rule 1 is to yield to the mules and stop hiking and stand against the inside of the trail on the wall. Take direction from the mule guides and return hiking after they are 50 feet further along the trail. Rule 2 is when hiking downhill yield to all hikers ascending out of the canyon. Each step is important. Pay attention and stay on the trail so you don’t fall off a cliff.
Depending on the time of day the trail can be in full sun. The hike up is more difficult than you can ever expect so set a stopwatch when you start your hike and turn around at your pre-planned time. If it takes you longer and you are not at the rest house “on-time” consider turning around early for your safety. Really assess your physical ability as you start to descend into the canyon. If you have any doubts, turn around. Knee pain, foot pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and other symptoms are indicators that you should hike less than you may have set out to complete. People die in the Grand Canyon by pushing harder than their ability.
For this hike, we packed as we would for a typical day hike. Priority for this hike is 2 liters of water. As I write this, I am reading that there is a water main break and conservation efforts in effect that are preventing fresh water refills at the 1.5 mile rest house. So, know the trail and plan to carry 2 Liters of water in a hydration backpack. Dehydration can happen to anyone and people die in the Grand Canyon due to lack of water and proper planning. We have been hiking with the Teton Sports Oasis Hydration pack for years and it worked well on this hike. In the pack we also included a first aid kit, protein bars and salty snacks, a trail map, gummy fruit slices for a treat, and cooling towels in a zip lock bag. If you like trekking poles this trail would be great for poles. Finally, take your phone, camera, and binoculars if you want photos and videos of your hike and want an enhanced view of the canyon.
The bright angel trail to the 1.5 mile rest house is a popular trail for seasoned and beginner hikers. The hike provides different perspectives of the canyon as you descend in elevation. On the walls next to the trail are petroglyphs for those with a more keen eye. We enjoyed watching big horn sheep. Keep your distance as we saw one get agitated when unknowing hikers got too close and they can kill. Mules work this trail carrying riders and supplies into the canyon. It is also an active hike on an improved trail with varying terrain that keeps hikers focused and engaged. The geology changes. The start of the trail begins in the Supai region and the rest house is in the Redwall Limestone layer.
We hiked in the Summer so we can’t really speak for the Winter season. Check the weather at Grand Canyon Village as well as Phantom Ranch. The temperatures between the two can vary 25 degrees and even hiking to the 1.5 mile rest house it gets hotter. We recommend wearing layers and then using your pack to carry the layers as you shed them through your hike. Make sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect you from the sun. Heat exhaustion happens on this hike so be prepared. Hiking shoes are helpful on this hike for stability and traction. I used Merrells. Hikers are not needed however, you need to wear good supportive closed-toe shoes with good traction. We will put Amazon affiliate links in our description to help you further understand the gear we packed. If you purchase after clicking on the link we may earn a small commission.
The hike to the 1.5 mile rest house gives you a taste of Bright Angel Trail. There is another resthouse at 3 miles and Indian Garden Campground at 4.5 miles. Plateau Point is very noticeable as shown here and is next to Indian Garden. The River resthouse is 7.7 miles from the rim and the Bright Angel Campground on the other side of the river is 9.5 miles. From the rim to the river is 4,340 feet of elevation change. For more views of Bright Angel watch our video on YouTube Above.