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South Kaibab, Tonto and Bright Angel Trail

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Grand Canyon National Park

South Kaibab, Tonto and Bright Angel Trail is a 12.4 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Grand Canyon, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round.

Length 12.4 mi Elevation gain 3,395 ft Route type Point to Point
Hiking Nature trips Bird watching Views Wild flowers Wildlife No shade No dogs
Description
Waypoints (0)
Tips

Perfect long day trip! Hike down South Kaibab, across the plateau on the Tonto Trail, connect to Bright Angel at Indian Garden and return to the south rim. Hiker Shuttle leaves the Bright Angel Lodge bus stop daily, dropping you at the South Kaibab trailhead. Your walk up Bright Angel dumps you back to your room or campsite. As always, check for water availability at Indian Garden, 3-mile and 1-1/2 mile rest stops on Bright Angel. No water on South Kaibab (except for the trailhead in summer).

There is no cell service once you get below the rim. While you may encounter hikers on South Kaibab and Bright Angel, you will likely cover the 4+ miles of Tonto alone. Be self-sufficient and there is no shade.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (48)
Photos (5216)
Recordings (20)
Completed (182)
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Kate Elizabeth
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 5, 2020
Hiking

What a hike! My original plan was to head down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch and then up Bright Angel, but I chickened out when I saw the 115° temperature forecast. This was an excellent consolation prize! The views down Kaibab at sunrise are stunning, and walking across Tonto with zero people around is such a cool experience. Incredible views in all directions. The hike itself isn’t terribly difficult - the descent to Tip Off goes quickly, then you have 4 miles of a mostly flat plateau, and then a 3k climb over 4.5 miles. That said, this was an absolutely grueling experience and I would definitely not recommend doing it in early September like I did. The plateau was absolutely sizzling by about 9AM - I found myself dragging and had gone through about 3 liters of water by the time I got to Indian Gardens. The climb up Bright Angel is a slog, but your knees will welcome the uphill by then. Take breaks and refill on water at the rest houses, and you’ll get there eventually. And eat! I forced myself to eat a granola bar or a Gu at each stop, and it helped immensely. There was a decent amount of shade on parts of Bright Angel, which also helped. I started at 5:30 and it took me just about 8 hours round trip.

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Caroline Kanaskie
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 22, 2020
Hiking

We did this hike with two nights at the Indian Garden backcountry campground. First day was South Kaibab to Tonto to camp. Second day, we hiked down into the canyon via Bright Angel and back to camp. Third day, we hiked from camp to the Bright Angel trailhead. I highly recommend spending some time down in the canyon if possible!! Walk in permits are available, so give that a shot if you weren’t able to apply for the lottery.

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Chris Hausman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 24, 2020
HikingMuddyNo shadeSnow

Hiked on 2/24. South Kaibab & Bright Angel were both a bit icy at the top, crampons helped but not 100% required. I thoroughly enjoyed the Tonto portion of this hike. Saw only one other group of hikers the entire time I was on Tonto. Loved having that solitude down in the canyon. I added on a quick trip to Plateau Point after refilling my water at Indian Garden. Ended up logging 17 miles in just over 7 hours. I jogged down portions of South Kaibab. This hike is a really great option if you have either (a) already done the hike all the way down to the river and are looking for something different or (b) aren't quite sure that your legs are up for the full 5k elevation change of the full rim to river hike.

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C.W. Gross
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 2, 2020
Hiking

South Kaibab to Tonto to Bright Angel was one of the best and worst things I've ever done. We stayed at Bright Angel Lodge and hiked the entirety of August 19, 2019 (yes, AUGUST) from sunrise to sunset, catching the hiker shuttle at 5am and reaching the Bright Angel Trailhead at 7pm. We aren't the expert adventurers recommended by the trail description, so it was slow going and the hike up Bright Angel was absolutely awful. The difference maker was preparation. Do your research, watch videos, read reports, familiarize yourself with the trail as much as possible before you go, bring the recommended supplies and then some, and take seriously what the NPS says. We met plenty of people, even fitter than us, who were having a much harder time because of inadequate planning and supplies (including one family whose "day hike" to the river and back became a two night ordeal at Phantom Ranch to recover from electrolyte loss, exhaustion, and heat stroke). Of course make sure you're in at least moderate shape, but preparation is the real key. And yes, it will be beautiful and incredible and awe-inspiring and brutal and horrible and awful all at once. It's gruelling and demands everything from you physically, intellectually, and emotionally. But to spend a day surrounded by the solemnity of the Grand Canyon is indescribably rewarding.

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Troy Quillin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 11, 2019
Hiking

Fantastic, Tonto trail was a treat, I didn't expect much but was pleasantly surprised. The spring crossings were beautiful, trees changing color, incredible views through the side canyons, not especially challenging part of the hike, but if you've done the river before you might like this for a change. We logged around 15 miles, but added Plateau Point for fun and finished at 18.4 miles.

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Andrew Sweetland
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 14, 2019
Hiking

Definitely would recommend this route. Going down S Kaibab, over on West Tonto, and up Bright Angel was definitely the right call if you only have one day to do the canyon. Very difficult hike going up, but you get the best of the two popular trails (the better views from S Kaibab and Tonto, and the rest houses going up bright angel). My GPS recorded just under 15 miles and about a 3,500' climb. Took about 7 hours for a mostly in-shape and inexperienced hiker.

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C Pav
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 13, 2019
Hiking

Very challenging for my first hike below the rim. My app registered 16.5 miles, 9.5 moving hours, 12.5 total time. On the way up I was fatigued and assumed my water was still good while passing the 1.5 mile refill, well shortly after passing it I ran out. The final 1.5 mile stretch was very difficult.. lack of water, lack of energy from not eating enough calories. At the end I was happy to have my campsite waiting for me at Mather campground.. the more you prepare yourself, the more you will enjoy it, the less you prepare yourself, the more u will feel the suffering

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Liz Elder
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 14, 2019
HikingNo shadeRocky

This trail was okay as far as trails go. You don’t see too much after getting down into the canyon and honestly Indian garden was pretty disappointing after hiking 8mi. Not to mention a waterline had broken at the time of our visit over Memorial Day so there was nowhere to get water for the first 9 mi. I definitely recommend hiking on a cooler day if you do decide to do this trail. Otherwise I think you could have better views elsewhere

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John Kozel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 14, 2019
Hiking

My wife, Wendy and I, found the hike to be a difficult, but worthwhile. we started down the south kaibab trail at 7:30 and made our way across the tonto trail at the tipoff point. The tonto trail was amazing, we were the only ones out there, very quiet and peaceful. Bring plenty of water to make it over to bright angel trail. There is a water station at Indian Garden. The difficult part was the 4.6 mile climb up the bright angel trail. We already hiked about 9 miles and completed the hike in 8 hrs.

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Steve Black
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 6, 2019
Hiking

I’ve hiked to Phantom Ranch multiple times and decided to take Tonto at the Tip-off and cut over to Indian Gardens. It was early July and there were two springs active on the Tonto. I hiked in and out early morning before the mid day heat. Loved the Tonto! it was so awesome to feel alone on that Mesa. I was on it for about four hours and didn’t pass a soul!!!! Be sure to pack plenty of water and don’t count on the springs. I would only recommend this to during the summer months to someone with some experience in the Grand Canyon.

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Greg B
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 6, 2019
Hiking

I had 1 day to experience GC so I opted for the combination of Bright Angel and South Kaibab. I added about 9km total to this hike by going beyond the drop off down to the river, so total hike was ~29km. I started down the Bright Angel at 5am and got back to the top of SK at 9:58, so just under 5 hours. I pretty much ran the first 3 hours however. I would say completing the 20km (or probably closer to 23) can be done in 6-7 hours even for someone with moderate fitness. Bright Angel is exquisite, sheltered, picturesque, almost fairy tale like esp at sunrise. Tonto is more exposed and desolate (having said that I didn’t see a single person for the first 3 hours). South Kaibab is more rugged and pretty tough coming back up. I wouldn’t recommend coming back up this trail on a very hot day. Overall if you have 6-7 hours and want the “best of” I can highly recommend it. One of the best hikes I’ve ever done, period.

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Justine Parker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 5, 2019
Hiking

Found this trail moderately challenging and incredibly beautiful. It’s actually 14 miles and took us 8 hours and not easy on the knees. The Tonto portion has zero shade so be sure to prepare. Whatever the temp on top, add 20 degrees for the Tonto Trail. Went Kaibob-Tonto-Indian Garden-Bright Angel. Used 3 liters of water. The canyon had lots of rain recently and our views were green and lush. One of my favorite hikes!

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Deb Wehrung
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 22, 2019
Hiking

South Kaibab to Tonto up Bright Angel.

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Vanessa Dempel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 13, 2019

Just the most perfect day hike offering a good challenge. Our GPS clocked 12.87mi and we finished in just under 7 hours with plenty stops to take it all in and snack breaks. I recommend going down S Kaibab, quick and steep and back up Bright Angel which is a more winding slow, climb. We were the only ones on the Tonto Trail! On the Tonto there are 2 lush springs, and then the glorious spring at Indian Garden. Couldn't recommend this lovely day- hike enough! The ranger said he preferred this hike to the rim-river-rim hike because Tonto offers an expansive view of the canyon.

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Peter Weber
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 3, 2019
Hiking

We started at Bright Angel lodge at 7am in Late April, there was no snow at the top. The hike was amazing and the trail at east Tonto was overgrown like no one had walked the trail yet this spring. What was most amazing was seeing the Keyhole rock formation way up the cliff and realizing we had to hike up tp it, also the switchbacks on the kaibab trail are steep and one of the hardest switchbacks I have ever done, it got hot in the afternoon but still had cool spring breeze. I have hiked the canyon in August and could not even think how hot Tonto would be without a cool spring breeze.Amazing hike, did not see any hikers on the Tonto trail the entire hike, it took 10 hours and I am in good shape.

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Isaac Mattson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 24, 2019
HikingMuddyRockySnow

As someone who has hiked a considerable amount of trails this by far was the most challenging. Hike this Feb. 16th and there was plenty of ice and snow. Even with it being colder than usual I highly recommend packing twice as much water as you think you’ll need. Many water spots are still shutdown. All things considered it’s something I would recommend everyone do (if physically capable). There’s very few who venture onto Tonto, but views from the bottom are mind blowing. Well worth it!

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James Nolan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 2, 2018
Hiking

Beautiful hike. Parked near Bright Angel two shuttles Blue then Orange to trailhead. Started down Kaibab at 5pm early July a little cooler made it to Indian Gardens at dark. Tonto trail not difficult but much less traveled vs Kaibab or Bright Angel. There are campsites there but had good headlamp spare batteries no trouble following Bright Angel to top. Water available at Indian Gardens. Tough climb up total time about 7 hours showing closer to 15 miles. Can't emphasize enough take extra water! Stay safe.

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Houston Douglass
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 30, 2018
Hiking

Awesome hike, pretty much all downhill till mile 9 and then 4.5 miles up bright angel to end your day. Despite what all trails says it being 12.4 I actually clocked it with gps at 14 miles exactly. 3,600+ elevation all at the end, be prepared. Took us (in shape for the most part) 7 hours from trailhead to trailhead. Hiked at the end of October and temps were topping out at 80. There’s is a small stream about 6.5 miles in if you had to purify you could do there but doubt it’s running in summer months. The Tonto trailhead is easy to miss so when you get down to the plateau be sure to look left! Bring water and food. Views are unbelievable. Enjoy!

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Peaks Summits
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 12, 2018
Hiking

10/9/18 Amazing: 14 miles in 6.24 miles with very few stops. Lightly packed with trail running vest and 2.5 L water. Days prior and morning of was rain and cold . Began around 1200 and finished 6:24.

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Chelsea Sholander
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 23, 2018
Hiking

Beautiful hike! We started around 0630 and ended around 1545. Park at Bright Angel and took the early morning hiker's bus to the South Kaibab TH. We only saw one other person on the Tonto trail as we crossed over. As others have said, bring plenty of water. There are a few stations on the Bright Angel Trail but none coming down on the South Kaibab or Tonto Trail.

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Cory Wood
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 4, 2018
Hiking

Absolutely Outstanding Views!!! This hike will test your will power. The trail turn off to East Tonto Trail is a bit tricky. The trail marker is confusing. Once you reach the Tip Off you’ll find the trail turn off. East Tonto drops you off at Indian Gardens. Be sure to bring at least 3 liters of water as there is no water on Kiabab and East Tonto trails. Most of this trek has no cover so prepare for direct sunlight. The Bright Angel is where the will power/workout comes into play. There are 2 water stations and shaded rest areas on the way out. Be sure to work up to this hike as it is a butt kicker! The total trip took me a little over 6 hours.

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AllTrails Steve Meachum
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a hard hike but well worth it.

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Luke Kratz
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 5, 2018
Hiking

Second time. This is a great trail and a superb way to see max canyon in a single day.

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Martijn Weghorst
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 26, 2018
Hiking

Very nice day hike, we (30-yo guys) started at 9:30 AM and finished around 5 PM, and made a lot of stops on the way. There was some ice at the higher parts of the canyon, at the first and last 0,5/1 mile. I had spiked soles, my friend did it without. Going down the South Kaibab trail are some other people (most going down to the Phantom Ranch), but on the Tonto trail we only saw 3 other people. If you've got the energy, make sure to walk a few hundred extra feet of the South Kaibab trail after the Tip Off point to get a great view of the river!

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Kevin Causey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 22, 2017
Hiking
First to Review

This is my favorite day hike in the Grand Canyon! Get a room or campsite for two nights so you can adjust to the altitude a bit before hiking. The Hiker's Express shuttle leaves the Bright Angel Lodge bus stop year-around, and delivers you to the South Kaibab trail head. From there, enjoy the 13 miles down, across the plateau, and back up. You'll walk out at the Bright Angel trailhead, and straight to your room/tent. I'll do this in February 2018 and give you the scoop on the winter version...

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