COMPLETED: Grand Canyon Hike - To the Colorado River and Back in a Day -- April 2019

Morning on the South Kaibab Trail
First let me tell you that the National Park Service does not recommend this hike.  It is very strenuous -- the hardest part is hiking back out of the canyon.  However, my husband and I are in good physical shape, and did not have a problem completing the hike.  The hike was 19 miles long and took us 10 hours.  If we had hiked without stopping, it would have taken us 7 hours -- but we took our time and had a long lunch at Phantom Ranch and took long breaks in a few other areas -- and generally stopped and "smelled the roses".  We did see some people struggling to hike out of the canyon -- one woman was very distressed and she was still 4 miles down with the 4 hardest miles to hike out yet in front of her.  So be careful!

We woke up at 5:30 a.m., packed up our things and got in the car to drive to the Grand Canyon.  We were staying in Williams and our drive to the canyon was about 1 hour.  At the canyon we parked and got on the shuttle bus that would take us to the South Kaibab Trail.  Our plan was to hike down this trail, have lunch at Phantom Ranch and then hike back to the rim on the Bright Angel Trail.  We did this route because we knew that the Bright Angel Trail had a water supply on it at Indian Garden.  Our hike ended at around 5:00 p.m. at the rim.

We took one day pack filled with both of our needs for the day and then we alternated carrying it.  Our pack had 3 bottles of water (32 oz each).  We had food for lunch and snacks.  Take sunscreen.   We both wore hats.  Just in case it got late and dark on our way out, I packed a flashlight and a headlamp (we didn't need these though).

Switchbacks on South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trail gives you spectacular views right away -- and you should reach Ooh Aah Point in about 20 minutes.  If you want to hike part way into the canyon and out, take this trail.  The Bright Angel Trail does not give you great views until about mile 3 or 4.  You might see mule trains when you hike - remember they have the right of way - step off the trail at a safe place to let them pass.  You will see the Colorado River come into view.  You might see raft boats at a little beach by the suspension bridge.  You will cross over the bridge and you can hike to Phantom Ranch or continue on, cross the second suspension bridge back over the Colorado and get on the Bright Angel Trail and go back up.  We decided to check out Phantom Ranch.

Phantom Ranch has a restaurant and picnic tables outside and tables inside to sit at.  You can purchase lemonade for $4.75 a glass with refills being $1.  There are other beverages and snacks you can purchase there too.  When we were there it was lunch time and the place was filled with hikers eating and lounging.  The picnic tables were filled and we sat on the grass and enjoyed a little rest.  There are bathrooms here as well.

Hiking to Indian Garden
The hike back up to the rim on the Bright Angel Trail is a treat.  There are several bubbling brooks and at one we took off our shoes and washed our feet (Pine Creek).  We were here in April, so not sure if these dry up more in the heat of the summer.  The hike to Indian Garden was beautiful.  It was another oasis spot -- the cottonwood trees were snowing their cotton, birds were singing, the wind was blowing gently -- it was enchanting!  There is a water spigot and a bathroom at Indian Garden - you can't miss it - both are right by the trail.

The last 4 miles up on the Bright Angel Trail are the hardest.  We were hiking at a rate of about 2 miles per hour and gaining approx 700 feet of elevation each mile.  I believe that the Bright Angel is an easier hike out than the South Kaibab though -- according to my calculations, on that trail you would have 5 miles of 700 feet gains and 2 miles of 500 feet gains.  Of course, my data from the South Kaibab is based on our descent and we were moving a bit faster going down.  But I do believe the South Kaibab would be steeper and a harder hike, even though it is 2 miles shorter than the Bright Angel.

Hiking into the canyon is a great way to experience the grandeur of the canyon.  You don't have to hike to the Colorado to get this -- just hike down a mile or two -- or as many as you think you can safely hike out.

Map:  National Geographic Grand Canyon Map

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Happily may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty is it finished.

~Anonymous, Navajo Night Chant

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