Julie United States 76 Comments

The South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails are two of the Grand Canyon’s classic hiking trails. You can combine these two trails together to create one massive day hike or a two-day backpacking trip. It is a long, challenging hike but it makes for some incredible memories.

With its long distance and nearly a mile of elevation gain, this is a beast of a hike. However, there is something very special about starting on the rim, hiking down to the Colorado River, and then working your way back up to the rim.

If you are up for an adventure, this hike is one of the best ways to truly experience the Grand Canyon.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Hiking the Grand Canyon “Rim-to-Rim”

The “true” rim-to-rim hike is the hike from the North Rim to the South Rim (you can also do it as South Rim to North Rim). This is a 24-mile journey that most people do as a two-day backpacking trip. It is possible to do it as one mega day hike if you are extremely fit and fast.

If you hike the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail (or vice versa) you are also hiking rim-to-rim, since you start on the rim, hike to the Colorado River, and then hike back up to the rim. However, when people refer to the rim-to-rim hike, they are referring to the North Rim to South Rim hike.

The south rim-to-rim hike has several advantages that make it a nice option for many people. For one thing, it’s a heck of a lot shorter…7 miles shorter. Since you start and end on the South Rim, you do not need to arrange a shuttle service to transport you to the North Rim. And finally, snow closes the road to the North Rim for half of the year, so there is just a short window of time that you can get to the North Rim by car.

Curious about what it is like to hike rim-to-rim? Read our article How to Hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim.

Hiking the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail

Overview of the Hike

This information is for the hike on the South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground to the Bright Angel Trail.

Distance: 16.5 miles
Elevation Change: 4780 feet loss (to the Colorado River) and 4380 elevation gain (Bright Angel Campground to the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail). As a reference, there are 5,280 feet in one mile.
Difficulty: Extremely strenuous
Length of Time: Usually done as a two day backpacking trip. As a day hike, the average amount of time is 9 to 10 hours, although this can vary quite a bit depending on your level of fitness
Permits: None needed for the day hike; you will need a permit to camp in Bright Angel Campground (if you do this as a two-day backpacking trip)
When To Go: This can be done year round, however, summer is the worst time to do this hike. Temperatures can soar, and with the heat, this can be a dangerous hike. Fall and spring are ideal. Winter is very pleasant but snow can make the trails slippery and dangerous.

The hiking distances and elevation data in this article were taken from the National Park website.

Map South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail

Map of the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab Trail is red and the Bright Angel Trail is blue.

Rim to River to Rim Elevation Profile

Elevation profile of the hike

Doing this as a Day Hike

Before we go any farther, you should know that the National Park Service does not recommend doing this as a day hike. There are numerous warnings on the Grand Canyon National Park website telling people not to hike the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail as a day hike. There are also signs posted at the trailheads to discourage people from doing this as a day hike.

Even so, many people hike the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails in one day.

In order to do this as a day hike, you need to be fit and fast and know what you can handle. Park Rangers make many rescues per year for people who get in over their heads. Don’t be one of these statistics!

The South Kaibab Trail

Getting to the Trailhead

The trailhead is located near Yaki Point. The best way to get to the trailhead is to take the free Grand Canyon shuttle from the Visitor Center directly to the trailhead. The shuttle is called the Hiker’s Express Shuttle Bus. The hours of operation change throughout the year, but in general, the first shuttle is 5 am during the summer months and 7 am during the winter months.

Click here to see the updated shuttle schedule.

You cannot drive to the trailhead. The road to Yaki Point and the South Kaibab Trail is for shuttle buses only. If you want to skip the shuttle, there are a few parking spaces on Desert View Road. From here, it is roughly a half-mile walk to get to the trailhead. Don’t forget that later in the day you will need to get back to your car.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are doing this as a day hike, we recommend starting the hike no later than sunrise. This gives you a full day of sunlight (which is quite brief during the winter months) to complete the hike. During the summer months, this early starts allows you to hike a portion of the trail before temperatures really heat up. It can get well over 100°F in the bottom of the canyon during the summer months.

Overview of the South Kaibab Trail

Starting elevation: 7260 feet
Ending elevation (at Bright Angel Campground): 2480 feet
Elevation Loss:  4780 feet
Distance: 7 miles
Length of Time: 2 to 4 hours

As you hike down the South Kaibab Trail, there are several landmarks along the way. Here are their elevations and distances from the South Kaibab Trailhead.

South Kaibab Trailhead:  7260 feet
Ooh Aah Point:  6660 feet, 1 mile
Skeleton Point:  5200 feet, 3 miles
The Tip-Off:  4000 feet, 4.4 miles
Bright Angel Campground:  2480 feet, 7 miles

From the rim to the Colorado River, it is essentially a downhill walk the entire the way. There will be a few, brief sections where you walk uphill, but honestly, this gives your legs a nice break from the constant downhill pounding they take.

By the time we reached the Colorado River, I was thrilled to finally walk on level ground again. Sure, walking downhill can be fast, but it really does tire out your legs.

We started at 7:15 am. It took us two and a half hours to hike to the Bright Angel Campground. We were moving fairly fast but I also stopped a lot to take photos. The views on the South Kaibab Trail are more spectacular than those on the Bright Angel Trail.

Trailhead to Ooh Aah Point

The first section of the South Kaibab Trail is the steepest and most strenuous. For one mile, a series of steep switchbacks descend below the level of the rim.

South Kaibab in December

South Kaibab Switchbacks

Ooh Aah Point in December

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are doing this hike in the winter months, be prepared for ice on the trail. During our visit in late December, there was ice on the top part of the South Kaibab Trail. Hiking poles can help on these slippery surfaces and we saw some people using crampons.

The views are great all long the South Kaibab Trail but Ooh Aah Point gives you your first panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. And isn’t this just the best name for a viewpoint?

Ooh Aah Point sits at 6660 feet, which is 600 feet under the rim. Stretching out in front of you is the South Kaibab Trail, the Tonto Plateau, and the colorful layers of sedimentary rock that makes the Grand Canyon so beautiful.

Ooh Aah Point

Tyler at Ooh Aah Point

Hike Grand Canyon

South Kaibab Trail

Skeleton Point

From Ooh Aah Point, you pass to Cedar Ridge. There are toilets here but no water. The views keep changing as you hike to Skeleton Point. However, you still cannot see the Colorado River.

This is the point where the National Park Service recommends that you turn around if you are day hiking the Grand Canyon.

Skeleton Point

The Tip-Off

The section between Skeleton Point and the Tip-Off was one of my favorites of the hike. You have to descend a series of switchbacks again, but the sweeping views across the Grand Canyon are some of the best of the day.

Grand Canyon Hike

Grand Canyon Day Hike

Tyler Rivenbark

The Tip-Off is located on the Tonto Plateau. The Tonto Trail intersects the South Kaibab Trail at this point. This is the final landmark until you get to the Colorado River.

From here, it is one final, steep descent to the Colorado River.

Tip Off

The Colorado River

Another series of switchbacks takes you from the Tonto Plateau to the Colorado River.

Near the Colorado River

By this point, my legs were starting to feel fatigued. As much as I was not looking forward to the massive climb, by the time we got to the Colorado River, I was thrilled to not be walking downhill anymore.

This part of the Colorado River sits at 2480 feet. Temperatures can average 10 to 20 degrees warmer here than on the rim. During the winter months, the river can be a brilliant green, like you see in these photos. However, for most the year, the river is usually brown from sediment in the water.

Kaibab Bridge

Colorado River Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Campground

Cross the Kaibab Suspension Bridge and then it is just a short walk along the north bank of the Colorado River to the Bright Angel Campground. Here you have access to toilets and water.

We spent a few minutes here to use the toilets and have a snack before setting off again.

Bright Angel Trail

Overview of the Bright Angel Trail

Starting elevation: 2480 feet
Ending elevation: 6860 feet
Elevation Gain:  4380 feet
Distance: 9.5 miles
Length of Time: 5 to 8 hours

The Bright Angel Trail is longer than the South Kaibab Trail. But with less elevation gain over a longer distance, it is slightly less strenuous than the South Kaibab Trail. There are also restrooms and access to water along the way, so many people choose to hike up the Bright Angel Trail for these reasons.

As you hike up the Bright Angel Trail, there are several landmarks along the way. Here are their elevations and distances from the Bright Angel Campground.

River Resthouse:  2480 feet, 1.5 miles
Indian Garden:  3800 feet, 4.7 miles
3 Mile Resthouse:  4748 feet, 6.5 miles
Bright Angel Trailhead:  6860 feet, 9.5 miles

Along the Colorado River

Cross over the river at the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge.

Enjoy the one-mile, almost flat walk until you get to the River Resthouse. At this point, the trail turns away from the river and now the real fun begins. It’s time to start the climb back up to the South Rim.

Indian Garden

From the River Resthouse to Indian Garden, it is a 3.2-mile walk. At first, you hike along a small creek. The trail steadily gains elevation but it is really not too bad. It’s a pretty walk but since you are in a canyon, you do not have the same sweeping views like you get on the South Kaibab Trail.

South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails

Eventually, you come to your first series of switchbacks. They don’t last long but they can be tiring and this is a nice preview of what is coming at the end of the Bright Angel Trail.

The views open a little bit more. Once at Indian Garden, you have access to potable water and restrooms.

Canyon View

Indian Garden

Indian Garden

The Final Climb

From Indian Garden, it is just 4.8 miles to the rim. Doesn’t sound so bad, right?

But then you look up at the rim and it’s just a giant wall of rock. It looks nearly impossible to hike up it. I had this weird combination of excitement and dread for what was still to come. But not Tyler. He was still smiling and full of energy.

Four Miles to go

Once you get to 3 Mile Resthouse, appropriately named since it is just 3 miles from the end of the Bright Angel Trail, you are really feeling the climb. By now, you have already started winding your way up the switchbacks. Your thighs are burning, your lungs are burning, and most likely, part of you is wondering why you ever thought that this was going to be a fun thing to do.

3 Mile House

The final three miles is killer. Take frequent breaks and even though you might not care anymore, try to enjoy the view across the Grand Canyon. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you will reach the top of the Bright Angel Trail.

Bright Angel Trail

View of the Trail

Hike Grand Canyon Bright Angel

From the Bright Angel Trailhead, enjoy the view and take a few celebratory photos.

Julie and Tyler Grand Canyon

About Our Experience

Our original plan was to do this hike on Christmas day as a family. However, Kara was recovering from an injury so she had to sit this one out.

On Christmas Eve, Tyler and I did this as a day hike while Tim and Kara went on a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.

The morning started off cold, with temperatures in the teens. Later in the day, the high temperature reached 52°F in Grand Canyon Village. This was great weather for hiking. We never got hot and we didn’t sweat very much, which meant that our demands for water were low. Tyler and I each carried 3 liters of water and maybe drank 2 liters during the hike.

We did have to be fast since limited daylight was a big factor. Sunrise was 7:30 am and sunset was at 5:15 pm. That gave us about 10 hours of daylight.

But we did this fast. Tyler and I did the entire hike in 6:48, including time to take photos, eat, and use the restroom.

Here is a breakdown of our times:

  • South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground (7 miles): 2.5 hours
  • Bright Angel Campground to Indian Garden (5 miles): 1.75 hours
  • Indian Garden to South Rim (5 miles): 2.5 hours

The first seven miles goes fast. Since it is all down hill, it is easy to keep a fast pace. However, the views from the South Kaibab Trail are so spectacular that we stopped a lot for photos.

Our fastest section was on the Bright Angel Trail along the Colorado River and up to Indian Garden. It’s an uphill walk but not overly steep so we kept the same pace as on the South Kaibab Trail. Plus, the views on this part of the Bright Angel Trail are nothing special, so we took very few photos.

The final four miles on the Bright Angel Trail take the longest. By now, you’re most likely feeling wiped out and those last, steep switchbacks really slow you down.

How Hard Is It?

At the end of the hike, my Garmin watch told me that I just climbed 899 floors. If you were going to climb up the Empire State Building, it’s only 102 floors to the top. Imagine doing that almost 9 times.

In 2017, we hiked Half Dome in Yosemite as a day hike. The Half Dome hike is roughly the same distance but has slightly more elevation gain than this rim-to-rim hike. Even so, I say that this hike is slightly more difficult.

What makes hiking the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail so hard is the elevation profile. By the time you get to the Colorado River your legs are already feeling fatigued. Those same muscles now have to get you back up to the rim.

This is a true test of your endurance and you need to come prepared.

How Fit Do You Need to Be?

If you are hiking the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail in one day, you need to be a very fit and fast hiker.

Before doing this hike, I was doing long runs of 8 miles with shorter runs during the week. I also swim and bike several days a week. Tyler runs Track and Cross Country and he has a very high level of physical fitness. Honestly, I struggled to keep up with him.

You also need to have hiking experience. There are no technical sections and the trail is so well marked that it would be almost impossible to lose your way, but it helps to have experience doing big climbs and big descents.

This is not a good hike for beginners since it covers such a long distance with so much elevation change.

If you plan to do this hike, you need to be in great physical shape. You should be able to walk 10 miles while wearing a backpack with little difficulty. You need to be prepared for lots of elevation change and if you are doing this from May to September, you also need to be prepared to hike in temperatures reaching over 100°F.

I also recommend spending some time on a Stairmaster. I did not do this but I think it would help a lot, especially during the final three miles of the Bright Angel Trail.

When to Hike Rim to Rim

The best months to do this are in the Spring and Fall. Temperatures are pleasant and just as long as you are not here on a holiday weekend, crowds should be low.

The summer is the worst time to attempt this as a day hike. Soaring daytime temperatures can create a dangerous situation. Your water demands will be very high and you run the risk of getting heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.

Winter can be a great time to do this hike but snow can make the trails slippery and potentially create a dangerous situation. When we did this in December, there was some snow and ice on the first section of the South Kaibab Trail.

If we did this again, I think that November would be a great time to do this hike. It’s cool but not too cold. Crowds will be low (aside from the days around Thanksgiving). And you have more daylight than during the winter months.

Packing List

Tyler and I each wore a hiking backpack. Here is what we carried with us:

I also wear a Garmin Fenix 5s watch. This is one of my favorite gadgets. While hiking, I had instant access to all kinds of numbers like altitude, heart rate, time and distance. It even shows the hiking trail and our location on a map.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.

Doing this Hike in Reverse Order

You can hike these trails in either order, but there are several good reasons to hike down the South Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail.

The South Kaibab Trailhead sits 400 feet higher than the Bright Angel Trailhead. By starting on the South Kaibab Trail, you eliminate a nice chunk of climbing from the hike. 400 feet really makes a difference!

With less elevation gain and a slightly longer trail, the hike up Bright Angel is easier than South Kaibab.

There is no potable water on the South Kaibab Trail. If you are doing this during the warmer months, you will need to carry every drop of water with you if you plan to hike up the South Kaibab Trail. However, on the Bright Angel Trail, there are a handful of rest houses strategically placed on the trail where you can refill your water bottle. Since you will need the water more on the climb up than on the hike down, it’s a very good idea to finish the hike on the Bright Angel Trail.

Tips to Have the Best Experience

Start early in the day. This will give you the maximum amount of daylight. And if you are here when the weather is warm, you can knock out a portion of the hike before the temperatures really heat up.

Eat frequently. Tyler and I ate a snack roughly every hour to hour and a half while hiking. This steady supply of calories kept us fueled up for the final climb. Eat salty snacks and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

There is potable water on the Bright Angel Trail but I have heard that it is not always available.You can get updated information about the available water sources in the Visitor Center the day before your hike.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at The Grand Hotel in Tusayan. It is the highest rated hotel in the area. The hotel looks impressive from the outside and the lobby is very nice but the rooms are nothing special. On Booking.com it is listed as a 5-star hotel but it looks and feels a lot more like a 3 to 4 star hotel. However, the rooms are clean and quiet and fit our needs.

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim

Six months after hiking the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails, Tim and I returned the Grand Canyon and hiked rim-to-rim…North Rim to the South Rim. It’s a massive hike, 23.5 miles in length, that crosses the Grand Canyon from one side to the other.

It’s challenging, it requires advance planning, and a high level of physical fitness and prior hiking experience are a necessity. 

We have two articles about the rim-to-rim hike. The first article covers the hike from start to finish. The second article covers the logistics such as what to pack, how to train, how to arrange the shuttle, doing the hike in one day or in multiple days, and more.

How to Hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike:  Planning Guide and Checklist

Did we miss anything? If you have questions or want to share your experience, comment below!

More Great Hikes in the United States:

Planning a trip to Arizona? Read all of our articles in our Arizona Travel Guide.

You Might Also Like:


Grand Canyon Travel Guide


Grand Canyon Hike Bright Angel Trail

Hike Grand Canyon South Kaibab Trail


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Comments 76

  1. Julie, this is the most inclusive article I have read on Rim to River to Rim in one day. So much useful information on the entire experience. I found it most helpful and includes some great links as well such as shuttle schedules, head lamps, etc. A group of 4 of us are planning this hike for November 2021. I shared it with the other 3. Thanks so much.

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  2. Hey, i did this hike (Bright Angel Trial to Phantom Ranche and back up) in one day with my father a month after i got 17 years old. We started about 4 pm and finished at 2:30 am as it was mid July and Temperatures were peaking. It was a very very difficult hike, and if you can‘t endure a long and painful march i wouldn‘t suggest to do it in one go, rather do it in 2 days. But if you want this and think you can do this it‘s worth it because afterwards you know that your body is able to endure high levels of stress from the extreme surroundings, as such very dry air, high temperature up to 40 Grad Celsius of the sun and a backpack with at least 10 kg as we always had 5 liters of water and lots of food with us if someone had problems with going further. Also we both hat caps, very important advice, otherwise the sun would’ve destroyed us completely from above, we were also making the cap wet whenever we were able to, to cool ourselves. You will sweat heavily, therefore you also need essential nutrients to fuel your body to keep going. If you have all of this, I can assure you it‘s an experience of a lifetime. I will never forget it and it was the most beautiful experience I ever made, nonetheless the pain and will you have to give into it. Sorry if my English was bad im from Germany, i wish you all the best and good look with hiking the trial, also i need to mention again that my experience is manipulated by the fact we did it in Mid July, and it was extremly hot that day, as i know a lot of people would do it in Spring or Fall.
    Greetings from Germany keep it up!

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  3. This is so informative, just like your other blogs (I used your half dome guide last year and it really provided some very useful info for us), thank you for posting!

    I am wondering, where did you park? I saw you used Hiker’s express…is there a shuttle that takes you back to that same area where you got picked up?

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      When we did this, just two of us did the hike (me and Tyler) so Tim dropped us off and picked us up. You can park in Lot D and take the Hikers Express to the South Kaibab trailhead. When you are finished, it’s a relatively short walk from the Bright Angel Trailhead to Lot D. Just double check the shuttle times for your visit. Cheers, Julie

  4. I backpacked in July 1997, one day down the SKT, 3 days at bright angel campground then 2 days. up bright angel trail. it was 126 Degrees at the bottom the river was so cold that one could not stand in it but bright angel creek was wonderful

  5. Thank you for this beautiful post Julie. My husband and I did this one-day hike some 8 years ago, and we plan to do it again this year. While we remember some highlights from our hike, we don’t remember most of the details. Your post is a very good reminder on what we experienced in this hike. I’ve bookmarked it 🙂 And your blog is so lovely and informative too! I’m going to keep coming back for info on other hikes.

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  6. Thank you for providing this great info! We completed the hike yesterday (4/29/21) in just under 8 hours, including a stop at Phantom Ranch, for a total distance of 17.6 miles.
    We took the 6am Hiker Express bus from the Backcountry Office. We arrived to the bus stop around 5:30am & were around 25th in line. Since the buses are currently only taking 15 people per bus, we were concerned that we may have to wait for the 7am bus, but when the bus arrived the driver let us know that they were going to send over 2 more buses. We arrived at the trailhead at 6:20am, made it down to Phantom Ranch by 9:00am, Indian Garden at noon & top of Bright Angel trail at 2:15pm.
    Overall, the hike wasn’t as difficult as we were expecting (still challenging, nonetheless!) because the trails are very well maintained and used for mules, so there weren’t any parts that we felt were exceptionally steep. The last 4 miles from Indian Garden to the top are certainly the toughest portion of the trail. We are experienced hikers, but by no means “extreme” hikers. That said, I do recommend you be a strong & experienced hiker before attempting this hike.
    We did have GORGEOUS weather, which helped a lot! 40 degrees when we started in the morning & high was around 70. I wouldn’t advise doing this hike in temps much warmer than this so April & November are probably the prime months to do this hike. I carried 3 liters of water in a Camelbak. I drank about 1 liter on the way down to Phantom Ranch & 1.5 liters from Phantom Ranch to Indian Garden where I refilled to a full 3 liters as it was getting warm & I knew the toughest part of the hike was ahead of me. I drank about 1.5 liters from Indian Garden to the top.
    Overall the hike was fun, beautiful & enjoyable!

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      Hello Michael. Thanks for writing in and sharing your experience. It sounds like the national park service is prepared to volume of hikers they have been getting this spring. Enjoy the rest of your visit to the Grand Canyon and I wish you happy travels to wherever you will be going next. Cheers, Julie

  7. Thank you very much for the detail you provide in this post. It gave me confidence to do it, despite all the warnings from the park service and the skepticism from my wife NOT to do it (I understand why–it is only for those who are in good shape and well prepared). I am 51 years old and in excellent shape, and this blog post is outstanding in preparing you for exactly what you will encounter. I did this hike on Saturday, April 2, 2021. Late spring is ideal because of the long daylight hours and relatively cooler temperatures. I started at 6:50am at South Kaibab (my wife dropped me off–we ignored the signs that said park staff only) and it was 34 degrees. Dress lightly–I saw many people way overdressed for the conditions. I wore hiking boots for the support and traction (there was some snow and ice along the top sections of both South Kaibab and Bright Angel), but could have done it in running shoes. I don’t use poles because I feel they slow me down, but that is personal preference. I carried 2.5 liters of water, which was about 1 more than I actually needed, given that I was able to refill at Bright Angel Campground and at Indian Garden. The signs are very clear as to which water stations are open at the trailheads–I was amazed that so many foolish people were surprised that 1.5 and 3.0 mile rest houses on Bright Angel don’t have water in the spring and didn’t plan accordingly. I ended up giving 2 bottles away to others who looked parched. I walked at a good pace the whole way, only stopping for pictures and sat about 15 minutes at Indian Garden to eat a sandwich and take my boots and socks off to give my feet a rest. The way up Bright Angel is difficult, but if you are athletic and used to doing the mind-over-matter trick of telling your body to keep going when it wants to stop, you’ll be fine. I’ve done 14’er hikes in Colorado–this was actually easier because of the (relative) lower altitude and excellently maintained trails. I finished at 12:45pm, for a time just under 6 hours. I could have gone slightly faster, but no need–you’re in one of the most spectacular places on earth, after all, might as well look around and enjoy it. Again, can’t thank you enough for all the detailed information in this post. I’ve done many of your other “top 20 hikes in the world” and I agree with many of them. I would add the Kalalau trail in Kauai, Dragon’s Crest in Krabi, Thailand, and Mount Elbert 14’er climb for a few extras. Keep up the good work!

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      Thanks so much for this awesome trip report! You were flying on this trail!

      The Kalalau Trail is high on our list. Thank you so much for the other hiking suggestions.

      Cheers, Julie

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  8. this was such a well-informed post! i had a few questions – in terms of level of difficulty, how would this hike compare to the 8mi fairy loop at bryce canyon (if applicable). would it still be worth it to just hike south kaibab to the suspension bridge and turn back and skip the bright angel trail?

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      Hello Esther. Unfortunately, we have not hiked the Fairyland Loop yet, but I am familiar with it. South Kaibab and Bright Angel is significantly more difficult than the Fairyland Loop. The Grand Canyon hike is more than double the distance with much more than twice the amount of elevation gain of the Fairyland Loop. Plus, most of the elevation gain comes at the end of the hike, as you climb back up the rim. Going rim to river to rim is a very challenging hike…think about doing the Fairyland Loop at least 2 times (maybe even 2.5 times) to get some perspective.

      As far as skipping Bright Angel, I think it is worth including the Bright Angel Trail. You add a little extra distance, but you have different views on the way back up, and more importantly, you have access to water and some shade. If you plan to do this in the warmer months (April through October) it is best to go down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel.

      The Grand Canyon hike is very challenging but it is so memorable. Hiking down from the rim, crossing the Colorado River, and hiking back up to the rim…it’s a hike you will never forget.

      Cheers, Julie

      1. Yea I mean we plan on going back but my parents definitely won’t survive this hike if we do the full loop. I wanted to check out the suspension bridge at least and head back. I think we will do a check-in at Skeleton point to see how we feel and either carry on to the bridge or just head back.

  9. Thanks for this guide. I did the hike this past week, when temps were cool. It didn’t get much above 75 degrees hiking into 3 mile camp. It took me just over 9 hours, starting at South Kaibab trailhead at 6:30 a.m. The trail was a bit icy on both ends. I used microspikes as I approached Bright Angel. They weren’t absolutely necessary but I didn’t want to take any chances while being tired. It was an incredible experience.

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  10. My wife and I did this hike on 29 September. We enjoyed a slight dip in temperatures for that time of year, with a high of only 31 C.

    I would just like to add that you should bring more food than this blog lists. Snacks are not enough. You need a hearty sandwich for when you get to Phantom Ranch for the hike out on Bright Angel. We only brought snacks, and on the last two miles of switchbacks I was starting to really fatigue from lack of real food.

    We started 6,30 on S. Kaibab and arrived at Phantom Ranch at 10,30. Started Bright Angel at 13,30 and finished at 20,30. It was a full moon so it was really cool to finish under the moonlight!

  11. Thanks for sharing this! I completed it yesterday in 8 hours! Unfortunately I parked at the visitors center and there wasn’t a shuttle from BA so I had to do an extra 3 miles to my car😓 you were SO right about starting at South Kaibab. I could never imagine hiking up that trail!!

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    2. Tiffany –
      Any comments on the shuttle limitations? The website says only 15 people per bus so we are concerned that buses will be full. We plan to try this November 2 and we were going to try the hikers express shuttle from the backcountry office but are very concerned about not being able to fit on one of the 3 shuttles each morning as that will only be 45 people.

      Julie – thanks for a wonderfully detailed itinerary! It has helped us plan this trip. We just hope Covid and shuttle issues don’t mess it up too much.

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        The closest place to park, that I know of, is along Desert View Drive before you get to Yaki Point Road. There are a few pullouts on this road that you could park in…I think it’s allowed for all day parking but you could confirm this the day before you hike at the visitor center. Cheers, Julie

  12. Hi Julie-

    Thank you so much for this information, it is extremely helpful. One question i do have is about the shuttle after the hike? If we started at the S Kaibab trail near Yaki Point and end at the Bright Angel trail, is there a shuttle that takes us back to our car near Yaki Point? I know you mentioned having someone be able to drop you off, so I’m assuming they picked you up as well, but thought you might have information about this. Thanks in advance!

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      Yes, there are park shuttles that connect these two places. I think you might need to take 2 shuttles: one to the visitor center and a second shuttle to Yaki Point. If you are planning to do it soon, check the NPS website because the shuttle might not be in operation because of Covid (although this can change). If there is no shuttle running, you could rent bikes and bike to the trailhead in the morning or back to your car at the end of the hike (but then you would need to lock them up…there is a way to do this because we met a couple who used bikes to get from trailhead to trailhead). I don’t think taxis or ubers are a possibility here. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  13. My bucket list stay at Phantom Ranch this May was cancelled due to Covid – so bummed. Planning a trip to Grand Canyon this July 23 and hiker shuttle buses still aren’t operating My daughter and I are staying at the Kachina Lodge and I am open to any suggestions on how to get to the South Kaibab trailhead if busses aren’t running and parking is limited.

    Loved your post about South Kaibab and Bright Angel hike in one day. Also, all of your photos, posts and detailed info are perfect. You are a travel Super Hero!!!

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      Hello Dana. I’m so sorry to hear that your Phantom Ranch reservation was cancelled. I know how hard it is to get that. Without the shuttle service, it is tricky getting to the trailhead. If you have a friend or family member with you, they could drop you off (that’s what we did). You could park closer, in the main lot near the Visitor Center. This saves a little bit of walking. There is parking on Desert View Drive, near Pipe Creek Vista. The day before your hike, you could go here and see if there is a sign limiting how long you park, but this could be an option. Then, walk the Rim Trail to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Tyler and I were dropped off right where Yaki Point Road meets Desert View Road, and I think it was a 3/4 mile walk, and you would do about the same from the small parking lot on Desert View Road. But I do recommend making sure you are allowed to leave your car there all day. Since it is a lot for the viewpoint. I hope this helps. And I hope you have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

      1. Hey Julie,

        We are planning to be at South Kaibab Trailhead on Feb/27 at 6:30 AM.
        Shuttle in February month starts at 8 AM .

        Is it possible for my friend to drive a car to Yaki Point for drop off, We are not expecting to park the car.

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          There is a sign that says Yaki Point Road is closed to vehicles, other than the shuttle bus. When we did this, Tim dropped Tyler and I off at the intersection of Yaki Point Road and Desert View Drive. We walked the half mile to the trailhead. If you were just being dropped off, you might get away with having your friend drive you right to the trailhead, especially since you will be on the road before the shuttle is in operation. That would save you a little bit of extra walking. You might want to double check if this is OK at the visitor center the day before your hike. But that’s great you have someone who can drop you off…it saves a lot of the hassle of transportation before the shuttle is in operation. Have a great hike! Cheers, Julie

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