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Grand Canyon, Part II: Going Up is Mandatory

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

(The title of these posts comes from signs posted near the rim to discourage unprepared day-hikers into the canyon.)

As promised here is part 2 of our Grand Canyon hike – the walk out.

After having breakfast next to the creek, we packed up our gear and hit the trail.  We took the Bright Angel trail out, which is longer than the Kaibab – over 9.5 miles (probably over 10 when you include our walk from the cabins to the official trail head) but less steep, so generally thought to be easier for the uphill journey.  It also has more water along the way than the Kaibab – essential for a canyon hike, where the rangers recommend each person drink at least 2 liters on the way down and 2-3 on the way back up.

It was another beautiful day.  We really lucked out with the weather – 2 perfect days in between days of rain and snow.

The Bright Angel Trail goes more into a crevice of the canyon and feels a bit narrower than Kaibab, which is all about impressive, wide views.  Bright Angel is intimate, following a creek most of the way up.  We passed deer and crossed the creek a few times, and stopped for lunch at the Indian Garden campground about 1/3 of the way up – as the name indicates, an old native farm site.  My favorite part of the trail is that it has well maintained rest houses (composting toilets & shaded areas to sit and catch your breath) every 1.5 miles, so it’s easy to have clear break points to give your legs a rest before continuing the intense elevation climb – which is about 4800 feet, but with half of that climb in the last 1/4 of the trail.

Ready to go!

We crossed a different bridge to get back to the south side of the canyon – don’t remember the name, I just think of it as the suspension bridge.

Suspension bridge



Bright Angel Creek

Looking back at the trail - Bright Angel Trail switchbacks

Grand Canyon pack mules

Stream Crossing


Bright Angel views... that rim sure still looks really far away

Bright Angel Rest House

View of Indian Garden campground and the Bright Angel trail - the dirt line right in the middle

Seth had some crazy amounts of energy and actually ran the very last part of the trail.  I joined him at the top and we got this shot-

Made it! back at the top

After a long shuttle ride to pick up our car near the Kaibab trailhead, we checked into our room for the night (at the Bright Angel Lodge, very close to the trail we’d just come up), cleaned up, and took our famished selves to dinner.  One final treat for completing the course:

Reward after the hike - hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps

We got to see a teeny bit of sunset.  When we come back, something I’d do every night is park myself at a lookout point and just watch those colors change.  But this night we were too hungry to linger so we took a peek and ran off to dinner. You can see some of the Bright Angel trail – it’s the squiggly line running through the middle of the photo.  This pic looks like it’s cropped at the top, but that’s just how flat the top of the plateau is.  Crazy, huh?

Sunet at the canyon

Seth has already started talking about doing a rim-to-rim hike (a long journey from the remote North Rim of the canyon, through the Phantom Ranch area and back up the South Rim, where we stayed & hiked) or about other options we’d try when we return.  I never thought I’d get him to be such a hiker… I hope this sticks.

I’m so glad I did the hike a 2nd time.  The first time I did it, 6 years ago, I was a little apprehensive and constantly wondering what was up next on the trail – almost too worried about the hike to enjoy it.  This time, I relaxed and took in the views.  Hiking to the river and back is an incredible experience, one I’d strongly recommend.  It’s a completely different feeling to be in the canyon, rather than on the rim looking down.  To see the layers of rocks up close, and the ever changing views in all directions – it’s unlike no other hike I’ve ever done.

More pics are at our Smugmug gallery –

Post of Part 1 of the hike is here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:05 am

    I get the feeling I would be about 1/4 of the way up and looking to hire a helicopter to get me out (or raft all the way to the Lake). Perhaps this suggests I should consider getting in better shape…

  2. slavomir Kolada permalink
    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 6:03 am

    Hi Kriste/Seth – great job – jeaulous -will do it again; great pictures and great stories / great memories – Love D

  3. Milly and Herb permalink
    Monday, April 11, 2011 12:47 pm

    Wow and double wow! You made it seem so simple. What a wonderful memory. You two are inspiring us to do this next year. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kristen permalink*
      Monday, April 11, 2011 4:17 pm

      You should definitely do it – you would love it! And Herb would love the bragging rights!

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