South Kaibab, Phantom Ranch, and Bright Angel Trail Loop

HARD 477 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.

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
7 days 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
16 days 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
18 days 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
22 days 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
22 days 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
23 days 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

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
1 month 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
1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month 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
1 month ago

Superb!

hiking
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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

hiking
1 month ago

Had a great time hiking South Kaibab and Bright Angel with my husband and 6 kids ages 7, 10, 11, 13, 13 and 15. We were lucky day one hiking down S. Kaibab because it was cloudy and cooler. We stayed the first night at Bright Angel Campground. Second night at Indian Garden Campground. Started the hike out at 7am and finished at 10am just ahead of the rain!

1 month ago

We are two m 11.05. started at about 6:45 clock. As it rained the evening before, the sandy paths were not dusty at all. Although rain was announced for the day from noon, this happily stayed out. At the beginning of the tour it was still quite cool, so it started in long pants and jacket. But it was quickly warm, so gradually one part could be pulled out. After 3 hours we arrived at the bottom. After a break of 30 minutes (eating, filling up the water, changing clothes (shorts, shirt)) we continued / back up. It took us 4 hours to get to the Bright Angel Trailhead and after a short break we hanged the way back to the Visitor Center via the Rim Trail. It was a great experience, great trail with great views! Is definitely recommended! It certainly makes sense to start early, as well as the right clothing / shoes and enough to drink. Above all, you should not underestimate the warmth down there and the exhausting way.

hiking
2 months ago

Our group of 4 started at 530 and took 8.5 hours to finish. That included a 30 min lunch at Indian gardens. We lucked out and had slight overcast and breezes the entire day. Even so, when the sun peeked through it was low 80s and scorching (even at 9am). The hike was a challenge and tested our mettle but we still had a little fuel left in the tank after reaching the finish line. Poles are a must unless you have knees of steel.

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

I did this trail 5/14/19. I started at SK at 05:30. I would recommend as early a start as possible. The hike down is a quad killer. Drink more water than you think you need and I supplement Ed with either chicken bullion (sounds disgusting, but not bad) or Skratch Labs “Wellness” hydration. 710 mg sodium. The hike down is also mind numbing. I hiked it “alone” and the hike down is pretty desolate after Cedar Ridge. And remember, no water, no shade on SK. The hike to Phantom Ranch was a welcome “flat” hike and then crossed over the creek and headed up. As everyone says, the last 3 miles and especially the last 1.5 is just physically and mentally draining. I am SO glad there was a bit of cloud cover for the hike out.. I don’t think there is any activity that can physically or mentally prepare you for this hike. There’s so much beauty that it really should be on your radar. The only way out is up!! Just FYI, I’ve been on the planet 60 years, if that helps with any reference. I “raced” IM for about 10 years, (age 45-55.....slowly) but haven’t been active in the last 5 years until January.

hiking
2 months ago

The trail is beautiful! We took the first (orange) shuttle from Visitor Center at 4:30am and started hike with headlamps at 4:40am. We were switching between hiking and running down and we hit Skeleton point in about 1 hour. Some serious runners passed us but we were faster than hikers with poles. We arrived to Phantom ranch exactly at 7am. It was about 20 Celsius(68F), mostly because it was still in the shade and the Bright Angel Creek near by. The ranch is opened from 8am. We sadly ate our sandwiches, refilled the water (we used 1.5-2 liters per person on the way down) and left by 7:30am. We were slow on the way up. We reached Indian Gardens at 9:45am. The way there was not bad, it was still half in the shade. We reached 3mi rest house before 11am and 1.5mile rest house before 12am. We were out the trail slightly before 1pm. We refiled our bottles as Phantom Range, Indian Gardens and 3mi rest house. We used just 2 liters bottles per person (but we carried 4 liters per person). I also wet my hair in all these places to prevent overheating. Also we used ton of sunscreen. On the way down I ate 2 protein bars, sandwich at Phantom Ranch and 3 protein bars and jerky on the way up. It gave me cca 1500 cal. (I'm 28, 145lb female with hobby in running). I recommend to eat more. Do the math yourself properly based on your body. My Garmin watches told me that I burned 2700 cal. Overall, I was worried based on these reviews that we won't make it, but what helped is the weather. It was NOT hot. Down in the Phantom Ranch was shade and nice morning weather. However last 3 mi of the hike were the hottest ones. I can't imagine doing this trail in the hot weather. I definitely wouldn't recommend it in hotter weather than this. Please evaluate carefully the conditions and don't do this trail in one day in the summer.

hiking
2 months ago

Not sure I can add anything. Bright Angel was much more lush with seasonal creeks and waterfalls everywhere. Tons of flowers in bloom. Amazing!

hiking
2 months ago

We started down South Kaibab at 5:30am. The views are completely breathtaking coming down into the canyon. It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the bridge and dip our toes into the Colorado River. There was never a point on the descend where the trail seems too scary or too narrow. That being said, the ascend up Bright Angel was definitely a killer. It is a much better option than going back up the Kaibab since there really was never a point where the Bright Angel was too steep or hard to climb. It’s simply 9 miles of a contest grade upward which will take its toll on you, mostly in the last 3-4 miles. We stopped frequently and were not as excited for the views on that side, but probably because we were exhausted. We finished the hike at 4:30pm, so it took us about 7 hours to climb back up. I highly recommend doing to trail in two days, one day was not smart looking back.

2 months ago

What an absolutely incredible experience. We just hiked down on the 7th, stayed at phantom ranch, and hiked back up on the 8th. Both trails were amazing but so different. It took me 5 hours to get down but I took it slow to enjoy the views. Coming up bright angel, it only took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Indian Garden and then 4 1/2 hours to get to the top. WARNING- the last 1 1/2 miles of bright angel are packed with school groups, novice hikers, and much more. This was also the point that we were the most exhausted. It was the hardest 1 1/2 miles I’ve ever hiked. That being said, it was 1000% worth it.

hiking
2 months ago

No doubt the most inspiring and humbling hike I’ve ever done. This hike gave me a new appreciation for the Grand Canyon. We’re in our early 20s and in pretty good shape, but don’t hike too much. Left at 6:10am and it took us 3h20m to get to Phantom Ranch. The hike back up Bright Angel honestly wasn’t bad until the last 3ish miles which were BRUTAL. Such a fun time though, made it back to the top around 3:30pm. A must do if you’re in good shape!

hiking
2 months ago

Adding in the Rim Trail (aka... the 5 mile pre hike) gave a lot of educational information before going down into the canyon. That section is paved, easy for all ages and abilities. I did it in 90 minutes... could have spent longer if I wanted to read more. Going down the Kaibab is where the real hiking began. The first mile was loads of people and mule poop. Once past Ooh Ah Point, the amateur tourists started to thin out. Due to rain all around, I did not linger and kept moving (somehow I stayed dry though). It took me about 4 hours to reach Phantom Ranch. It was so nice to have a steak dinner, hot shower, and a comfortable bed that night. The next morning, breakfast and I was off on the Bright Angel trail up. The first half of the hike was so easy to Indian Gardens oasis I thought I was super hiker man. Then... the last 4 miles and 4,000' were zig zagging straight up. Given the blisters on my feet, it took me an extra 2 hours (8 total, plan was 6) to get back to the car at the top. Yes there are marathon runners doing the 44 mile rim to rim and back in one day kind of people out there. I was proud of myself to do 24 miles over two days and survive. If time and money allow, spend an extra night at the Ranch instead of just one night. I had 23.4 miles round trip on my GPS. Must have items are hiking poles, band aids, a hat, and a good attitude.

hiking
2 months ago

The most epic, magnificent hike I’ve done. Don’t be intimidated, take lots of breaks and get your salts!!! Stop by Phantom Ranch for delicious lemonade and swag!

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked down and back up to Indian campground to stay the night before hiking out the next day. Managed to score our permit the day before turning up at the office at the top of the trail. Amazing experience for our first time to GC.

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