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A Summer Climb Up the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail

Updated on June 21, 2012
Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

Bright Angel

Unless you are in phenomenal shape, and even if you are, when you wake up in the morning at Phantom Ranch you will be sore. If you go in the summer, you want to get up as early as you possibly can so you can take advantage of the cooler morning hours. Climbing up the Grand Canyon is as hard as it sounds. Since my last posts, I have invested in trekking poles. They are a life saver! They would have definitely helped me out on the climb out.

After hiking down the South Kaibob, the recommended trail out of the Grand Canyon is Bright Angel. It's a little bit longer, but most of the climb is not as intense as South Kaibob. The first several miles of the trail actually follow a creek. Soaking your clothing in the creek will help cool you off. You can drink the water, but make sure to treat it. About five miles up, you will reach Indian Gardens. Some people will spend the night here before heading up to the rim. If you're up to it, after a short rest fill up your water bottles and prepare for what I think is the most difficult part of the hike. The last four miles of Bright Angel are straight switchbacks up the side of the Grand Canyon. There is little shade and only one other place to get water before you reach the rim.

Fortunately there are nice rocks that you can rest on. While you are catching your breath, take a moment to enjoy the view. It's different from South Kaibob because for much of the climb it does not change; however, it is so spectacular you won't get tired of it. From this vantage point, the bands of contrasting color along the walls of the Grand Canyon are vibrant. The reds and tans are bright against the deep blue of the sky. If you are lucky, a passing cloud might even hide the beating sun for a few minutes.

The last time I was hiking this particularly gruesome part of the trail, a light rain started. It lasted just long enough to cool me off and give the endurance I needed to make it to the rim. Walking was painful for the next few days because my muscles were so sore and I had blisters on my feet. That's not what I think about though when I look back on that hike. What I remember is the scenery of the Grand Canyon and the feeling of accomplishment I had when I reached the rim.

near the rim, Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
near the rim, Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park


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