South Kaibab, Phantom Ranch, and Bright Angel Trail Loop

HARD 613 reviews

South Kaibab, Phantom Ranch, and Bright Angel Trail Loop is a 16.7 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Grand Canyon, Arizona that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from October until May.

Distance: 16.7 miles Elevation Gain: 4,596 feet Route Type: Point to Point

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

rocky

scramble

no dogs

Gorgeous views and easy to follow trail with bathrooms along the route and water at the camps. On November 1, things switch over to wintertime conditions and there is water available only at Indian Gardens.

hiking
4 days ago

It’s done. Did it. 10/10/2019. I am 58 with achy knees. Always wanted to do this hike. Held back for 2 years because of knee issues. This year it’s different. Knees felt good. 2 hiking trips to Big Sur, Andrew Molera Ridge and Bluff seemed easy. Another trip to Redwoods was awesome. Glen Berry, James Irvine, Tall Trees hikes were cakewalked. I was ready for South Kaibab, phantom, bright angel. Embarked on Hikers Express at 7am. For sure I will be back before dark. Did bring headlights just Incase. Off I went, solo like always. Coming down South Kaibab was interesting. Seemed innocent. Soon enough I felt the strain as the persistent pounding of downhill taking its toll on the groin and knees. Took out my hiking poles after skeletal point to brace myself against gravity. By the time I viewed the magnificent opening of the river, I was joyed, with aches. The gradual descent to the Colorado River was so amazing. Enjoyed all of it. Crossing the SK Bridge was emotional. Some that I dreamed of for nights. Took some memorable photos East and West. Roaring sound of the Colorado is magical. Off to phantom, along the way Bright Angel camp ground. Heading back now. Seeing the Bright Angel foot bridge was delightful. Helicopter flew overhead as I approached. Crossing with tremors under my feet, what an experience. Once on the other side, I felt different. Sand under my feet. Yes, sand. Unexpected. However I stride ahead. Indian Garden, here I come. Gonna rest a little there. I walked and walked. Where am I going? I thought IG was just around the corner. Oh no. It’s miles away. I kept on going. Sipping away on my water prep. I hear water, more and louder water flowing. I see green. Vegetations, lot of it. But where is Indian Garden. No where insight. Oh oh. Muddy trail, hop and step on rocks. Jumping from side to side. No worries, all well. But getting tired. But it’s okay, cause IG is just up ahead. No, no. More streams to cross, more muddy trails. Finally, there IG. Water resource, resting ground. Keep on going, it’s getting late. 4.5 miles and 3000 feet to climb. Never felt these miles to be so long. Okay, it’s all mental now. 3 mile rest. 1.5 mile rest. It’s 5:45pm. Took out the headlight. Keep on going. My, sunset sure is different below the rim. Bit scary. Still a ways from the south rim. It’s dark now. Very dark. Losing balance due to lack of visual efferent input. Okay, one step at a time. Can be done. Never thought that last mile would be so destructive on my knees, thighs, ego. 7:30pm. Up on the rim. Standing next to the Bright Angel Trail stone. Done. I did it. Next year will be rim to rim. Just need to convince myself to go up on South Kaibab. Hum. Will see.

Took 2.5 hours to get to the Colorado river (the bottom). My watch says 6.5 miles... erins said 7

hiking
7 days ago

Very difficult, but very rewarding. Seeing the canyon from the inside gives a whole new perspective. Hiked this trail 10/10, high temp for the day was about 51. We started from the south kaibab trail at about 545am. Going down was easy, knees were a little sore at the end. We didn’t realize we had to make a reservation to eat at the phantom ranch- no worries cause we brought our own snacks. Spent about 45 minutes at the bottom. The hike back up starts off easy, with a few gradual inclines. It’s not until the last 3 miles that it gets really tough. We were taking breaks every 1/2 mile to pace ourselves. Finally made it to the top of bright angel point around 315pm. Our legs were absolutely shot but it was worth it! There were plenty of fill stations along the trail so we had no issues staying hydrated. Also, the listed distance states this trail is 16.7 miles, which seems low. After finishing this hike my Fitbit recorded over 20 miles.

HARD. I’m sitting on the shuttle back to our car and my legs are throbbing. However it was worth it. The views were spectacular. And there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you conquered something so difficult.

hiking
11 days ago

I don't think I would ever do this trail again in one day but it was an amazing trail. I'm 46 and in great condition. I hiked with a group of 11 people ranging from 23 to 65, all in great condition as well. We took probably longer than usual breaks at each stop just due to the amount of people, plus waiting for everyone in the group to catch up with each other. I carried 3 liters with me and more food than I actually ate. 2.5 liters would have been fine too. I tried to remember to note times arriving at each water fill station so here is a somewhat close breakdown: Started down at 6:48am, 1 hr to first fill station, 1.5 hrs to second, 1.5 hrs to Phantom Ranch (enjoy some refreshing lemonade). Started back up on Bright Angel trail where a detour added on a few miles. 2h50m to Indian Gardens, 45 min to Three Mile Resthouse, 1 hr to the last fill station before the top, then about 1 more hour to the top, finishing at 6:21. Our lunch at Phantom was an hr 10 minutes with lots of breaks here and there for pics and rest. My husband did it separately and finished in about 7.5 hours. His GPS logged about 20 miles with the detour fyi. I bought a bandoo? at Phantom Ranch (with their name on it for a nice keepsake) and soaked it with cool water along the hike up. That was fabulous. If I were to do it again, I'd make it more enjoyable and stay the night at the ranch. Have fun but be safe and hike smart!

God, what a great trail. Relentlessly rewarding. 100% agree this is the best route for doing the round trip to the bottom and back in a day. Here’s a secret for those waffling over doing the whole thing as a day trip: the reason to go all the way to the bottom is because, with your feet in the river (or even just on the bridge), you can hear the harmonic overtones of every echo of the entire Canyon. The sound waves bounce against the walls, split each other, and form octaves above each other. If you listen carefully, you will hear a vast quiet chorus. The other reason is because everything below Indian Gardens (or the Tonto cut off on Kaibab) is very mellow and you’re really not cutting any of the challenge out of the trip by skipping the river, other than time. Some tips for doing this as a day trip. Of note: I am 37, do not use the gym, and pretty much only get my exercise by hiking. I did this starting at 6:45am and finished at 3:30pm, with a 45 minute pause at the bottom. The temperature at the bottom was 90 and conditions were ideal. That said, I was nervous about this trip because my feet tend to give out from the plodding around 15 miles into a hike, so here are some tips that helped me: 1) Unless you need the services, skip Phantom Ranch and take the River Trail over to Bright Angel. It only saves you a half mile, but it will be in the shade. And it’s pretty! 2) Take time to soak your feet in the river for both the music and the medicine of it. 3) Take 600mg of ibuprofen (kidneys willing) at the bottom to reduce swelling *before* it occurs. 4) Bring a proper bandanna and soak it in water when it gets hot. Twist it up and wear it around your neck. You can always fan it out to re-up the cooling effect. 5) Notably, I brought my hiking poles and wished I hadn’t. The trail just isn’t that tricky. Happy trails!

hiking
16 days ago

the trail is absolutely amazing but be sure to be prepared for a long hike. the first 4-5 hours downhill toward the river are very easy and will reward you with a lot of views and ooh - aah moments. Be sure to have enough water since this first part doesn't have any refill stations. It took us another 2 h from the river to Indian Garden and this is still very doable. Some short challenging parts but nothing major. But nothing, nothing is as harsh as those last 3 miles. You're tired, thirsty, your feet ache,... and it keeps on going and going, snaking up the mountains. very rewarding but be in good shape, have plenty if water and: don't be the hero, be the smartass

running
18 days ago

left the trailhead at 530. Took our time running down stopping for many pictures. Made it to the bridge in a little under 2 hours. Phantom Ranch canteen did'nt open until 8 so we had to wait a little bit. Time up took about 3.5 hours with alot of stops for pictures. If you leave early, alot of this run is in the shade. Also recommend doing this in the fall or spring due to the temps in the lower canyon. Lots of places to fill up water on the way up.

running
19 days ago

I did this trail again yesterday and it was absolutely gorgeous. One thing I noticed though is that there is a detour on Bright Angel between Indian Gardens and Phantom Ranch that adds a few miles. Our GPS said it was about 12 miles fron the trailhead to Phantom making the total loop about 20.

hiking
21 days ago

Fantastic hike!! 2 litres of water per person is more than enough. I used 1.5 as there are plenty of paces to fill up water. Lots of shade on both trails

backpacking
23 days ago

This was an incredible two-day hike for us. My party of 3 went down South Kaibob, starting at around 6:30, with 3.5 liters of water each. We weren't setting any records going down, stopping often to munch, and enjoy the scenery. The sun and heat never got too bad, although it was a clear day. The terrain was a little hard on our feet, but no blisters in good shoes. Our campsite at Bright Angel campground was nice, and we got a too-late start the next morning, breaking camp at nearly 7. We were racing against possible storms, but we still took our time, as my companions both had painful blisters, and the younger one maybe did not have the best endurance training for this type of hike. But we plugged along, stopping as needed. Indian Springs was a nice place to rest and lunch, where we saw our first Grand Canyon rattlesnake! Things got decidedly tougher after that. First, the distance between Indian Springs and the 3-mile resthouse was way more than 1.5 miles! Apparently, the detour added a few miles. Then, between 3-mile resthouse and 1.5 mile resthouse, the storm we had been luckily avoiding all day finally caught up with us. It rained hard and cold and turned this steep series of switchbacks into a stream in parts. I put on rain gear, but not before my phone was water damaged! The rain didn't last all that long, but it was enough to make the last part that much tougher, with water-laden packs, and chilly, wet clothes. We finally finished around 10 hours after we started, in what turned out to be a 19 mile round trip. All-in-all, we got every bit of the adventure we were looking for, with the best of mild temperatures, beautiful views, and a little bit of adversity without any serious trouble. But we just scratched the surface and I can't wait to come back and explore more!

hiking
23 days ago

I hiked this amazing trail over the summer of 2018, 12 times, down to Phantom Ranch and back up. Steep going down, views are phenomenal, so much to see....just keep your eyes on the Trail not on the landscape or you'll fall off. I lived in the Canyon 1.5 years and managed 1,100 miles avg in 2018. Top 10 Favorite hikes of all time.

hiking
25 days ago

This trail was absolutely amazing! Seeing the canyon from so many different angles gives a completely different perspective than viewing it from a rim. Seeing the sunrise from South Kaibab trail is absolutely spectacular. My boyfriend and I hiked it in one day with no problem. We are both 24 and very fit. We started at about 5:15 AM and finished by 3:30 PM, with many stops along the way. We brought about 6 liters of water each after reading reviews to bring tons of water, but ended up having super heavy packs unnecessarily since there are water stations along Bright Angel Trail. Since you don’t need much water on the descent (especially if it is before dawn), I think we overpacked water. Nevertheless, better over-prepared than underprepared!

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked solo this trip. Camped overnight at Mather campground 9/16, caught the 6:00 am shuttle 9/17, and was on trail by 6:45 am. Temperature at 56°, very breezy, bright blue skies with lots of clouds, but no rain. Uneventful hike down with awesome views, and I estimate it was about 80° at Tip Off Point. Hardly any hikers the entire trail, which surprised me, compared to my hike here 3 months ago. Checked into Phantom Ranch at 11:15 (so about 4.5 hours for the descent), secured my bunk, and then hiked up to Phantom Overlook. Changed into sandals and laid in Bright Angel Creek which is such a delight when it's hot - it was about 96° at the hottest on 9/17 - then hiked through Bright Angel Campground and down to Colorado River. Had a wonderful steak dinner and met lots of very interesting people. The AC in our dorm was working very well, so we all slept well even though the night started out hot. It was about 70° for the 5:00 am breakfast. Some hikers dashed out as soon as they ate, around 5:20 am, but most weren't finished eating until 5:30-5:40. Was on trail at 6:00 am, and had a spectacular show of sunrise, shadow, and the moon, all at the same time. It was 70° at Indian Gardens, and the ravens were waiting for us, but none of them scored while I was there. Exited Bright Angel Trail at 11:30 am, so 5.5 hours for the ascent, and it was about 74° at Grand Canyon Village at that time of day. I headed straight for some coffee, then drove home to Phoenix. This hike was overall a better experience for me due to my familiarity with the experience from my prior hike, and also due to the really favorable weather. For reference, I am 66, and I did no special training for these hikes. However, I do regularly hike about 8-9 miles per day, 4 days per week, and have done so for almost 2 years. Prior to that I hiked shorter distances, maybe 4-5 miles per day, 4 days per week for several years. So, in my opinion, it is very important to train for this hike, but I think it is more important to have a very good level of endurance and persistence. I'd recommend longer endurance hiking over the stairmaster or running up and down bleachers for a half hour. You need to be ready and able to sustain for a longer period of time, rather than spike spectacularly for a brief window of time.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiking down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch is definitely a leg buster. Started at 6:30am before the sun was up, but by around 7am there was full sun all the way to the bottom. No water on the trail, so make sure you pack enough. Made it down to Phantom Ranch around 11:30am. The last mile or so from Black Bridge to Phantom Ranch was definitely the hardest for us. Flat, but brutally hot compared to the rest of the hike and seemed to go on forever. It was nice to be rewarded with an ice cold lemonade purchased from the PR canteen, but it was several hours before we were allowed to check into our cabin, so there was nothing to do but sit in the canteen in our sweaty gear with our belongings until we were able to get a room and take a shower. Nice to have a hot meal, hot shower, bed, electricity, air conditioning and plumbing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon after a difficult hike. The electricity did go out for a few hours after we got our cabin, but the hot water still worked and they were still able to put out a hot meal for us. The 2 of us stayed in a 4 person cabin with bunk beds. Bright Angel is definitely the way to make the trek out. We started around 5:30am after the first breakfast at PR, with headlamps, and watched the sun come up over various parts of the canyon as we hiked along. The first 5 miles to Indian Garden is relatively easy...after that gets steeper. Definitely recommend getting to that point of the hike as early in the morning as possible. We left Indian Gardens by about 8am which allowed us to get out of the canyon by noon, with relatively little sun on the trails. We didn’t come across any other hikers until we reached Devil’s Corkscrew, and after that there were a fair amount of hikers, which made us feel more comfortable after some of the isolation of hiking alone (but not crowded until you get to 3 mile resthouse and above). Good access to water on this trail due to the water pipeline, and numerous areas with creek access in case of emergency need to filter water. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

We did this trail at the beginning of September and completed in 11 hour (minus the trail to Phantom Lodge. We are not experienced hikers and this is probably our 3rd hike. Go down the S.Kaibab trail due to water refill spots. We sat at ooh ahh point to watch sunrise - beautiful. I found going down way more difficult than coming up. We crossed the bridge and sat in the cold river to cool off - definitely recommend. Crossed back over and made our way out with a lunch spot at Indian garden and regular breaks. We packed energy bars, 4litres of water each, glucose drink, electrolytes, painkillers (which I used for my weak ankles and knees) and fruit for lunch. Weather was overcast after 12pm so we were very lucky. Came out feeling great we got to see and bathe in the river!!!!

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Definitely start early to miss amateur hour. Headlight, electrolytes, water filter and 3L camel pack needed. I would advise trail running shoes and gaiters. Skip the heavy hiking boots. If rim running know that your toes will hate you running down hill. If hiking at walking pace, know your toes will also hate you. South kaibab trail side has no water! So to be smart hike down that side and come up bright angel. Running water at the bottom and multiple spots on bright angel. You can go through 9 - 12L of water while doing the trail in a day. You should be able to run a 5k every other day if you plan on doing this in one day. I would not recommend if you can’t.

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

Know yourself before attempting this hike in a day. The way up is BRUTAL... but the landscape is so amazing!!!!

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

An extraordinary hike for those who want to clear mind and a great challenge. Started at 7am and finished at 6pm. Quick stop at Phantom Ranch for water refill and a power nap.

hiking
no shade
rocky
2 months ago

This is absolutely amazing trail, we just completed on Aug 4 with a night over at phantom ranch, it was quite an amazing experience for me the largest struggle was the heat... it is VERY VERY HOT this time of year, really run though alot of water, def don't do the reverse the South Kaibab has no water access. I would not recommend this as a day hike this time of year. The South Kaibab is a much more challenging trail, I actually found going down this trail was harder than coming up the bright angle. Amazing 360 views of the on the South Kaibab, and beautiful oasis's and canyons on bright angel. phantom ranch is a pretty cool place to check out and take a cool dip in the bright angel creek. also many people who are talking on this hike did not go to phantom ranch instead made a cut prior to crossing the Colorado, which would shorten their hike by 3 miles. phantom ranch does add about 1.5 each way.

Great hike with family- 11yr old, 12 yr old, 14 yr old. Hot at the bottom. Like exerting says, stay off the trail from 10-4 if possible.

hiking
2 months ago

This was one of the best hikes I've ever taken. it was Feb 2014 and we started around 0830 heading down Bright Angel Trail first. Although we managed to hike this route in a day, it's highly discourage to plan a one day hike for those who are not that experienced as hikers. Take plenty of liquids and munchies. The Colorado River was awesome to see and the trip back up had variety of hills, flats, and steep slopes.

hiking
2 months ago

I prefer very hard hikes, I like the challenge. Make sure you go DOWN south kaibab and up Bright Angel trail. I made that mistake and barely made it out.

hiking
2 months ago

Husband and I did this hike in one day, which is not recommended. We just didn't have more time to allot for it. Took about 8 hours total with a lunch stop. Absolutely stunning area, temps were 50s at the top, 90s at the river. Only negative part is the last 3 miles up Bright Angel. Too many people that don't understand hiking etiquette. Aside from that, it was an outstanding experience.

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

I didn’t go to Phantom Ranch on this trip. I just dropped into the water, restroom, and picnic table near the river. Standard Grand Canyon conditions. Trail gaiters help keep the dust and rocks out of your shoe. South Kaibab descent is rocky but manageable. Some of the areas along the river are very sandy. It’s a pretty long stretch to Indian Gardens but after that it’s about 45 minutes to an hour between water stops on the ascent. As always, the Riff-Raff gets heavy above the 3-mile house. Lots of people who don’t know trail right-of-way rules. Other than that, the Bright Angel ascent is moderate to easy if you manage pace and rest breaks accordingly.

hiking
3 months ago

Here some feedback on the day hike of the trail loop South Kaibab (down) - Phantom Ranch junction - Bright Angel (up), yesterday July 11, 2019. Certainly it’s the hottest time of the year, with daily peak temps of 88F at the top and about 106F at the bottom. Took the 5:00 am bus, arriving at the South Kaibab trailhead at 5:10 am. With 64F at 7200feet it was a bit warmer than normal for the early morning. Around 5:30 great sunrise lighting a bit below Ooh Aah point. Passed the Cedar ridge at 5:40 am, Skeleton Point at 5:55 am and the Tip Off hut at 6:25 am. Crossed the first bridge over the Colorado River at 7:00 am and the second bridge at 7:10 am. Temperature at the bottom was pleasant, probably around 75F. Took a 10’min cooling foot bath in the Colorado River at the lovely River Resthouse beach, which was very enjoyable. Reached Indian Gardens at 9:05 am. Until here 70% of the time I was in the shade of cliffs. Until here, drank 1.5 liters of water and 12oz cranberry for a refreshing mix with water. Also ate 2 apricots and 4oz of walnuts. After a 30 min rest at the Garden, slowed my pace down to deal with the temperatures rising to about 90F and now being mostly in the sun. Drank 2 liters of water and ate 2 apples for this last 4.5 mile section of the hike. Reached the top at the Bright Angel lodge at 12:05 noon where it was 87F. Total hiking time was 5h 55min, plus overall 60 min for little stops to take pics & clips, to change shirt, apply sun lotion, toss out gravel dirt from the shoes, to snack and drink. The key is to start the hike early and move fast, then it is an awesome experience. I had a total of 6 liters in the backpack and used 4 liters (enough for a 150 lbs person). After 10:00 am in the deep valley it’ll get close to 100F or more and one shouldn’t be there to suffer that heat. You also got to have the leg stamina to do at least 5000 feet vertical down and up without any (!) problem. Regardless, my legs were somewhat tired at the end because of racing a bit against the heat clock.

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