South Kaibab, Phantom Ranch, and Bright Angel Trail Loop

HARD 522 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

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
7 days 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
8 days 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
9 days ago

hiking
25 days 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
27 days ago

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

hiking
no shade
rocky
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
2 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.

hiking
2 months ago

First time doing this was a night hike. 6pm to 2am, AWESOME trail. 2nd time was a solo hike, 6 hrs total. Amazing hike, great views complete solitude. Bright Angel was a bit more crowded. There are 3 water spots on the way up. The last 3 miles are a BITCH! HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you trained.

hiking
2 months ago

I did this trail in March a few years ago. I did it in under 30 hours. All the way down to the Colorado river and back up. It was one of the hardest, most grueling things I’ve ever done in my life. It was actually a mistake! I thought that I would just be hiking for a few hours, but I had misinformation from someone how far the trail went down, by the time I got home from Midway, I am most had no water. So I had to go back down for water.i took the bright angel trail down. It was a spiritual experience. You will find your God on this trail. Amazing.

hiking
2 months ago

My boyfriend and I are both 25 years old. Enthusiast hikers and always up for a good challenge. We came prepared to hike the entire 16.7, but decided to officially do it all once we got to Skeleton Ridge on South Kaibob Trail. Rangers will of course never suggest doing it in a day but we came prepared! It took us 2.5 hours to get down to Phantom Ranch, we filled up with water and cooled off for about 15 minutes. We then headed back up. It took us about 4 hours to ascend to the very top of the rim via Bright Angel Trail. Up to Indian Gardens was not too terrible, there was a few switch backs -I believe called Devils Corkscrew- the real hard part was after Indian Gardens. From 3 mile house and up was even harder and from 1.5 mile house and up was the hardest. It was 6.7 down to phantom ranch and roughly 9 miles up via Bright Angel. Total 16.7 miles and we completed in 6 hours and 50 minutes. Bring lots of water. There are no water stops down South Kaibob, but Bright Angel has a few stops, which is nice. I suggest filling up at Phantom Ranch before heading back up via Bright Angel. Definitely hott out being summer time and I suggest starting no later than sunrise. We started at 5 am and it was perfect time.

hiking
2 months ago

My hiking partner and I picked up dorm cancellations at Phantom Ranch for 6/28. We also got a Bright Angel hiker's room cancellation for 6/27, which was more convenient than camping. We took the 5 am shuttle to South Kaibab Trail and were on trail by 5:30 am. My partner, an experienced hiker, developed knee issues on the way down, so our progress was not as fast as expected. He also became heat sick just as we reached the black bridge at Colorado River. We enjoyed the charming Phantom Ranch, laid in Bright Angel Creek (so cold, clear, and refreshing), and had a great steak dinner and breakfast. All hikers were delightful, helpful, and quite the mix of personalities. Partner recovered fairly well overnight at Phantom Ranch, and we started our hike up Bright Angel at 5:30 am. There were plenty of water stops at this time of the year, but going was slower than we anticipated, due to partner's knee issues and illness from the previous day. However, he was a champ and made it all the way on his own. It's a beautiful hike, both ways, and there's no need to rush unless it's some kind of timed event for a person. I am looking forward to doing this hike again this year.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

My husband and I did this trail in one day. The views were amazing! It was easy going down but challenging going up due to the heat. We stopped at Phantom ranch for some lemonade and spend about 20 min there, then headed back up. I recommend if you’re going to do this hike take water, hiking sticks, extra socks, snacks and DON’T do it in the summer. We learned our lesson

It’s definitely not an easy climb out but so worth it. Pack light!!

This was actually an official South Rim to North Rim back to South Rim trek. We started down the S. Kaibab Trail on Thursday 6/6 hiked to Cottonwood Campground for the night. The following day we hiked from Cottonwood Campground to the N. Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim and back to Cottonwood Campground. On Saturday 6/8 we hiked down to Bright Angel Campground just short of the Colorado River and finally hiked up the Bright Angel Trail on Sunday 6/9 exiting at the Bright Angel Trailhead. Total hiking time was actually just over 28 hours but I forgot to pause the recording a couple times. I did this trip with my 16 year old son who hikes with me on weekends. This by far was one of my best achievements and to do it with him was all I could ever ask. All I would say is watch as many YouTube videos on doing this hike, seriously trail and stop along the way to experience one the natural Wonders of the World up close and personal

hiking
3 months ago

I just did this hike yesterday as a day hike. I'm 53, and by my estimate about 15 lbs overweight. But, I hike 1-2 times a week for 3-9 miles with 1,000 foot or so elevation change on every hike and I push it hard for my age. There is a loop hike by my house that is 3 miles and 900 foot elevation change and I hike it in 53 minutes when I'm taking it easy and when I run it I can do it in 43 minutes. Not impressive by trail runner standards but few people my age on the route are keeping up. I didn't attempt to run any portion of the trail as i didn't want to take the risk of sore joints on the final miles. It took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to Phantom and I lost 5-10 minutes behind a mule train. My legs felt fresh at the bottom. For someone doing flat hikes, though, it would be hard on the legs because it is a lot of downhill. If you do downhill frequently, this hike will not be a problem but you must train for downhill. It is a specific movement that flat hiking and a stair master cannot emulate. I spent about twenty minutes at Phantom and headed out. The hike to Indian Gardens was fairly easy and I got there in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I did some maintenance cleaning out my boots, changing socks out, etc. and spent about 15 minutes preparing for the final push up. Then, IT GOT HARD. The final 4.6 miles of this hike took me 3 hours and I gave it absolutely everything I had. I was totally spent by the time I got to the top. Two years ago before when I was a 1x month hiker I suspect it would have taken 6 hours for that final push. You laugh and say it is only 4.6 miles - well, understand this review is for doing all 17 miles as a day hike. The final 4.6 miles is a 3,000 foot elevation gain going from 4,000 to 7,000 foot elevation so the lack of oxygen really starts hitting you at about 5,000 feet. Plus, you have already covered more than 12 miles. Lastly, this isn't a regular trail. They put bracing logs in the trail for the mules and you are high stepping over thousands of these things which adds extra work and fatigue. My advice, if you are a weekly hiker and 45+ years old this is a hard hike but doable in a reasonable timeframe. If you are younger and a weekly hiker, this hike is more a mental challenge than a physical one. However, if you hike 1x month or less, you should be prepared to spend over 12 hours of effort on this hike and it will be a real challenge. Do yourself a favor, in the two months prior, put in a good 6-10 hikes of 5 plus miles with at around 1,000 foot or more elevation change up and down on every hike. The change in your ability to handle this hike will be substantially better and you will enjoy it much more. I ran into many "hikers" at Indian Gardens, 3 mile house, etc. that were pretty messed up and they were only coming up from Phantom after overnighting there. They were not enjoying the hike. With a little bit of real training in the prior months they would have enjoyed the hike much more. If you only hike a couple times a year, no matter what age, you really shouldn't attempt to do this as a day hike unless you can put in some training hikes. Just my opinion. This is a frequently traveled trail with several emergency telephones along the way. Plus coming up Bright Angel, there should be plenty of water (check first at the lodge to make sure the water is on). Since I usually hike in remote areas and haven't been on this trail before I carried too much safety gear, food and extra water that I will not take next time saving about 10 lbs. Don't get me wrong, bring appropriate safety gear, but I brought enough stuff to spend a couple of nights as nature can be a challenge if your body breaks and will not get you to food and lodging. But, in reality, on this hike if you stay on the trail and have a problem, someone will be along in 15 minutes and they will not be more than 30 minutes from an emergency phone. If you have a serious problem you should not need to overnight on the trail. In October, I'm doing North Kaibab to Bright Angel which is 23 miles assuming my 53 year old body doesn't come up with a reason not to. Happy Trails!!

hiking
3 months ago

I did this hike back in April. The views were incredible, and ever changing on the way down.

hiking
3 months ago

3 stars and here's why. I wouldn't do this trail again, nor would I recommend it. After completing this trail, I would tell people to either: 1) Go all in and do Rim-2-Rim or 2) Do Bright Angel to Indian Garden out & back. South Kaibab didn’t add much to the experience, because you already get excellent views from the rim. If you want to check it out on a day hike, you can stop at Skeleton Point. Phantom Ranch wasn't the best canyon oasis I’ve seen in Arizona, making it more of a nice resting spot than a “must see” destination. In training for this hike, we hiked other challenging trails we liked more. Siphon Draw, Mt Wrightson, and “The Window” all rank better than this hike in my book. That being said, Bright Angel was great, and the North rim experience you get from rim-2-rim would make either of those options a 5 star hike. Trails are in excellent condition with great footing.

hiking
3 months ago

Superb!

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful unforgettable!! I’ll definitely do this one again again and again!!! Bring : water, snacks, hiking poles, and multiple pairs of good socks. :)

hiking
3 months ago

I did skeleton point a week before planned on doing this hike then but had some knee pain. Came back a week later and did it! 7 hours moving time hung out for about 30 min at phantom ranch . Crazy to think about 3 months ago I thought 2 miles was hard to hike! With the right amount of training and preparation it was a great hike hard to find ones to match the challenge around here .

hiking
3 months ago

Hiked on 5/24. Started at 6:30am. 35 degrees at the top in the AM, warmed up super fast, 82 in the bottom from pretty much 10am onward. Took about 3 hours coming down with lots of pics. Took maybe an hour of breaks total. Finished a bit before 3pm. Drank 3 liters of water in the last 4.5 miles. The last 3 miles or so aren’t very steep - was never out of breath - but they are relentless. Especially the last 1.5 after you’ve come all that way and then see how far you still have to go up. Like others have said, I feel South Kaibab has better views, in that they are more varied. Or also maybe you just wanna be done when you’re on Bright Angel - and it’s more crowded. I live in Colorado and hike fairly often, for fitness reference.

Beautiful hike! So pretty and a really fun challenge. Surprised myself how fast I was able to do this. Wasn’t really trying to haul ass but felt full of energy and liked feeling like I was covering ground since I knew I had a long way to go. Planned for 10-12 hrs and it took 5,5

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