Length: 9.5 miles
By far the most popular trail along the South Rim, the Bright Angel Trail provides the most gradual slope of any of the trails in the Grand Canyon. For this reason, it makes for the perfect trail for ascending from the Canyon floor.
Beginning at the Bright Angel Campground, the trail immediately crosses the Colorado River over the Silver Bridge. Although similar to the older Black Bridge (which is just upstream), the Silver Bridge has a mesh wire bottom that allows for some rather scary views of the fast-moving water directly below. From the bridge, the trail turns west and continues running along the shoreline with little incline.
After approximately 2 miles, one encounters the River Resthouse (a set of restrooms and emergency phone), and the trail makes a sharp left turn and begins its incline. From here the climbs along a small creek, which actually passes over the trail in several spots. The trail and creek eventually lead to the first major rest-stop along the trail - Indian Gardens Campground. Located at the halfway point of the trail (about 4.5 miles each way), this is the first stop with potable water. The campgrounds also mark the end of the "easy" portion of the trail; from here, the trail becomes much, much more steep.
The upper four-miles of the Bright Angel Trail can be described as nothing more than an exhausting climb straight up! The trail continues in this manner with an endless series of switchbacks, which even the mule-trains seemed to have difficulties climbing! Fortunately, this top half of this trail is divided into 3 segments with well-established resthouses at both the 3-miles point and the 1.5 miles point. Both houses provided much need shade, potable water, and restrooms.
Upon reaching the upper region of the Canyon, one again encounters countless hordes of tourists enjoying a brief walk along the top. The final stretch of the trail has two short tunnels before the first welcome sight of the El Tovar Lodge. One can finally emerge into the crowded parking lot know that you were one of the small percentage of people who actually make it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
To view more photos of the Bright Angel Trail, click here.