By foot, mule or raft are the only ways you can visit Phantom Ranch and/or stay at Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Which ever way you arrive, the scenery along the way is truly one of a kind. Assuming you’re not rafting, there are two trails you can take from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. You can also reach Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch from the North Rim Trail (14 miles).
You should be in very good physical condition to attempt the round trip hike, especially if you’re carrying a backpack (you can arrange to pack it down and back on a mule for a fee). This is a view looking down toward the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The South Kaibab Trail starts near Yaki Point and is the shortest and steepest route to Bright Angel Campground dropping roughly 5,000 feet in about 7 miles. The trail offers dramatic ‘ridgeline descents’ and unparalleled panoramic views, but there is little shade and no water on this trail. You can fill up on water at Bright Angel Campground.
Happy hikers (Tori, Connor and Halley) heading down the South Kaibab Trail pause for a photo on one of the ridgeline overlooks.
Hikers cross over the Colorado River on the South Kaibab Trail bridge (about a mile from Bright Angel Campground).
The Bright Angel Trail is the most popular trail in Grand Canyon National Park. It begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge and is almost 10 miles to Bright Angel Campground (descending 4,380 feet). You’ll most likely see lots of overnight and day-hikers, as well as mules heading down to Phantom Ranch.
Riding the mules down Bright Angel Trail is the ‘easy’ way to reach the bottom. Your bottoms might not agree though.
The Bright Angel Trail has drinking water at a few locations, as well as shaded rest-houses. On your way to the bottom you’ll pass by Indian Garden Campground (the halfway point). There are 15 small group campsites and 1 large group campsite at Indian Garden Campground (reservations required). Vault toilets are also available.
The Bright Angel Trail can have some nice shade early in the morning or late in the day.
David and Connor hiking Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Campground is reservation only and it is difficult to get a campsite. It’s located about 1/2 mile from the Colorado River and right along Bright Angel Creek.. There are 33 campsites here (tent only of course – trailers or RVs are not allowed on the trail down), and each has a table and ammo boxes to store your food. Trees and canyon walls provide some shade. Vault toilets and drinking water are available. You can also get some snacks and drinks over at the Phantom Ranch store (about 1/2 mile away from the campground).
The historic Phantom Ranch has cabins and dormitories to rent if you prefer a mattress to sleep on and roof over your head. Keep in mind that lodging at Phantom Ranch is very popular. Room inventory opens up for sale 13 months prior to your desired arrival day, on the first day of each month. Bookings are first-come, first-serve. Over night trips for mule riders can be booked as a package through the Central Reservations Office.
Overnight hiking and camping anywhere in Grand Canyon National Park requires a Backcountry Use Permit and campsite reservation. These permits are very popular so you should plan to try and get one way in advance of your planned stay.
Hope you enjoyed the post! Please leave a commentary on your trip and visit to Bright Angel Campground.