I went to the Grand Canyon in August of 2004. On August 2nd I hiked from the South Rim down the Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, then along the Colorado River to the Bright Angel Trail and up to Indian Gardens, took a short detour to Plateau Point, returned to Indian Gardens, and finally back up to the South Rim. It was a mostly overcast day which made for great hiking, but less than perfect pictures.
The next day I acted like a tourist on the South Rim, stopping at the various turnouts and overlooks. It was pretty cool to be able to look down and see where I had been and the trails I had hiked. Unlike the day before, the skies were clear and so were the pictures. I hope you enjoy this virtual hike.
|Map of South Rim trails with my shown route in red. 20 miles, 11 hours.|
Me on the 5am shuttle bus from Bright Angel Lodge to the South Kaibab
trailhead. It was actually quite chilly at the time!
I was tired. I arrived at the park at about 11pm last night, having just finished a two day survival course. The campground was full, so I ended up sleeping in my car.
The National Park Service does their best to discourage people from
attempting what I am about to do.
I should probably mention that I run 3 miles a day, and that I spent the previous week in Phoenix, hiking and getting used to the heat.
A warning to mere mortals...
My wife made me promise I wouldn't attempt to hike to the river and back. As my wife, it is her duty to demand such a promise. And as my wife, she knows this was a promise I would break. She knowingly shakes her head...
I added this photo in 2006. I realized my comments above were quite cocky.
They were meant to be in fun. Nevertheless, I would hate to think that I may
contribute in any way to someone experiencing illness or death inside the
Grand Canyon. It does happen as described here:
Margaret died just a few weeks before my hike. Many people attempt a rim-to-river-to-rim hike every day. Many have no trouble. Please, be in shape, leave early, carry three times as much water as you think you'll need, wear a brimmed hat, allow plenty of time, and stay on established trails.
|I began my descent at about 5:30am. Not the best light for photos. You can see part of the trail I will hike.|
|Down, down, down...|
|Every step is down...|
|Looking back up to the rim.|
|I actually had a little rain.|
|In truth, I hadn't planned to go to the river. I was going to go part way down and take the Tonto trail over to the Bright Angel trail. But with these overcast skies, it seemed like a great opportunity to hike to the river.|
|The trail below Skeleton Point.|
|Looking from Skeleton Point to Plateau Point. I will return to the South Rim via the Bright Angel trail through the wide canyon below Plateau Point.|
|Some parts of this trail are not for the faint of heart.|
|First view of the river...still very far away...|
|One of two millipedes I saw on the trail.|
|Not even half way down yet. And this is the easy part!|
|Natural arch. Do you know the difference between an arch and a bridge? Answer: A bridge spans water, and arch does not.|
Second of two composting toilets. No water. You actually go to the
second floor to take care of your business!
The Tonto trail crosses the Kaibab trail here.
|Getting closer to the river, but still a long way to go. You can see the river trail which I will take to the Bright Angel trail.|
|The first of two pack trains coming up the Kaibab trail as I was descending.|
|Looking down (almost straight down!) to the silver bridge and Phantom Ranch.|
|Looking down to the black bridge and Phantom Ranch.|
|Pack train on the trail, rafts in the river.|
|The tunnel which leads to the black bridge.|
|Above the black bridge, looking downriver to the silver bridge.|
|Emerging from the tunnel onto the black bridge.|
|Me on the black bridge.|
|On the north shore of the Colorado River, looking up river.|
|Indian ruins near the river.|
|Indian ruins near the river.|
|Bright Angel Creek below Phantom Ranch. A true oasis.|
The phone at Phantom Ranch. No coins. Checking in with the office...Hi Bessie!
Have cheese crackers, will travel.
|The silver bridge.|
|Along the river trail with the silver and black bridges in view.|
|More water than I expected.|
|Long climb up. It's just the beginning.|
|Approaching Indian Gardens.|
|Looking back from just before Indian Gardens.|
Enroute to Plateau Point (1.5 miles from Indian Gardens.)
This was the warmest part of the hike: the trail is fully exposed to the elements.
|Approaching Plateau Point.|
|Colorado River and Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point.|
|Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point.|
|Skeleton Point from Plateau Point (I was there this morning.)|
|Colorado River from Plateau Point.|
|Me at Plateau Point. The last time I was here was 1979, 25 years ago. Plateau Point hasn't changed, but I have!|
|Looking west from Plateau Point.|
|Heading back to Indian Garden from Plateau Point.|
|Thermometer at Indian Garden.|
|Well past Indian Garden on my way to the top. I felt great until mile 17 when I really bonked...|
|This tunnel is just a hundred yards or so from the top. I made it!|
|Red dust from the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, showers are available at the campground!|
Begin Day 2
|Plateau Point and a tiny glimpse of the river from the South Rim.|
|Kaibab Trail from the South Rim.|
|I'll stop talking now and let you just enjoy the scenery...|
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Copyright © 2004 by Bill Qualls. Last updated March 10, 2006.