Bright Angel Trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Bright Angel Trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Bright Angel Trail begins on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at an elevation of 6860′ and descends to the Colorado River in the Canyon bottom. I only had time to hike down to the Indian Garden at an elevation of 3800′ so this blog entry contains images of my travels over that 3060′ drop in elevation and the harder return to the top. It is a well traveled trail with many switchbacks (zigzags) down the canyon walls and is shared by humans and mules. I’ve marked the normal stopping points where a decision has to be made to go on or start the long trek back to the top. I chose to go to the Indian Garden. Round trip took me almost exactly 6 hours and my camera equipment got very heavy by the time I got back to the rim. From what I could find out, the normal pace would take about 7 hours so I guess I was moving along quite quickly despite stopping to take a few hundred shots along the way.

One of two ‘tunnels’ in the upper sections of the trail. Most of the upper section has a gradient of about 15 degrees but there are sections where I would estimate that the gradient is more like 30 degrees.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

The upper mile of the trail was still coated in about and inch of ice and packed snow and somewhat slippery in places. As can be seen, snow was still hanging around.
Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

A kindly reminder that hiking in the canyon is dangerous and recommending that hikers not try the full round trip to the river and back in one day.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Going down was a lot easier than coming back up!
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Every so often they lose a mule off the edge of the trail. It’s a long way down in some places!
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

I tried to give some idea of perspective but humans are so tiny in this environment that perspective is hard to capture.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

The three mile rest point at the V in the trail provides a shelter from the elements. Walking out to the point provides an excellent panoramic view of that part of the canyon.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

A sobering thought about half way down.
“Getting to the bottom is optional. Getting to the top is mandatory.”
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Taking a much needed break at the three mile rest point. Those going up were deciding when to add warmer clothes. Those going down were switching to shorts and t-shirts.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

My observation: 3 miles of switchbacks is a lot of switchbacks!
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

The strange sensation at this point is that, after three miles of walking switchbacks, it still seems like you are closer to the top than to the bottom.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

The Indian Garden was the end of the trail for me and a nice spot for a short rest before heading back up to the rim. Left the rim at 10:30AM and arrived at Indian Garden about 1:00PM. Got back to the rim at about 4:30PM and was really trekking at a good speed until I encountered high winds and a brief snow storm about 1/2 mile from the rim.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

The trail is shared with mules which make the trek from top to bottom on a scheduled ‘for hire’ basis booked well in advance.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Just waiting patiently for someone to get on top.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Indian Paint Brush was beginning to flower in the lower reaches of the trial while snow was falling at the rim.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Flowering trees added to the beauty of the Indian Garden.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Early flowing phlox were in bloom along the lower reaches of the trail.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

This hiker left the Indian Garden ahead of me but decided that a nice rest was in order when he found these rocks in the sun. Not sure how he faired when the adverse weather arrived a half hour or so later.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Used my fish-eye lens to bend the rock walls and replicate the feeling I had that the storm was closing in around me.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

One of the two tunnels near to the rim.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Looking back down the trail to see the weather patterns across the canyon.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Looking back down the trail to see the weather patterns across the canyon.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

The white is old snow. The brown part of the trail is about an inch or so of ice. Adding to that danger, the weather had socked in with a wicked combination of wind, rain and ice pellets. Last half hour of the ascent was definitely not pleasant.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

One of the tunnels. A welcome refuge from the howling wind that accompanied the rain, snow and ice pellets that came in sheets every few minutes at this point in the ascent.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

Finally reached the rim again and quickly looked for shelter from the wind.
Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail

After I was back up on the South Rim and the storm had passed, the sun came out again and repainted the canyon.

About Ron

Ron has long had an interest in photography and traveling and, in recent years, has had more time to devote to both activities. Long a Pentax user, Ron switched to Nikon gear when he went digital. The advent of the digital SLR camera, and the ease of the internet blogging process, has provided a venue for sharing his photography and travel experience at the local, national and international level. More about Ron
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