Hiking the Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail

Hiking the Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail

The Bright Angel Trail Grand Canyon Adventure

Last October my current full-time job decided to fly us out to Phoenix for a meeting. One of my travel buddies Vanessa immediately jumped at the opportunity for us to hike the Grand Canyon. So we flew out a few days early (Never hurts to ask your company if it matters when you fly in or out) and headed out to the Grand Canyon to hike the Bright Angel Trail.

Looking for Tips for Hiking the Grand Canyon? Check out my post with ways to survive the Bright Angel Trail! 

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. Best hike in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Tusayan, AZ is a small town directly outside of the Grand Canyon National Park. They have a few low-end hotels and a couple of places to fill up your starving stomachs after conquering the Canyon. To get to Tusayan from the Phoenix airport you will need to rent a car and drive about 3 hours. You can also fly into Flagstaff but normally Phoenix Sky Harbor is a bit cheaper. We ended staying at the Best Western which was the cheapest option only 1 mile away from the Grand Canyon.

We woke up early the next day (7 am is early to us) and went to walk around the South Rim of the Canyon. It was beautiful but hot so make sure and come prepared with a hat, sun shirt, and sunglasses!

Hiking the bright angel trail in the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

This is a real yoga pose right?

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail inspiration

Besties in the Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail

Before we got to the Grand Canyon, Vanessa and I had decided that we wanted to hike the Bright Angel Trail. We wanted to hike the 12-mile round trip,  despite knowing how much we both despised hot weather and how we wilt like flowers underneath the blistering sun. It was a challenge so naturally something neither of us could say no to.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trailhead

So the second day we woke up early and got to the trailhead by 7 am as the sun was rising. The trail we took was at the South Rim- The Bright Angel Trail. Now the trail is broken up into 4 portions. Each stop has shade and water plus a bathroom. This allows you to take a break and decide if you want to continue on. The problem with hiking the Grand Canyon is that it is backward as far as hikes go. Naturally, you are used to going up on a hike and relaxing on the way back down. Unfortunately, this is the downfall of the hike. As you go down you begin to realize just how hard it will be to get back up. (3800 ft in 4 miles to be exact).

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail

We have to go alll the way down

 

On the way down since it was early morning we saw several backpackers coming up from the canyon after spending the night under the stars. Seeing the varying age groups (some possibly around 60 years old and as young as 5 years old) made me confident that I too would make it out of the Canyon without being emergency evacuated by a camel.

How to hike the grand canyon in October

Indian Gardens

The last bathroom before heading out under the hot sun is in a desert garden with plenty of trees and shade. It is another 2 miles until you get to the Colorado River lookout. It is flat and unappealing for a girl with vampire white translucent skin such as mine. This almost resulted in Vanessa and I giving up and turning around. We had never seen pictures and if you were to look out in front of you, all that can be seen is just desert upon more desert. Lucky for us backing down from a challenge stings worse than the burn from the hot sun, so on we continued. Speaking of sun don’t forget to bring sunscreen!

Bright Angel Trail Grand Canyon

Glamourous bathrooms at Indian Gardens

Walking these last two miles was challenging to say the least. We started to run out of water and the mirages began. If you have never seen a mirage in the desert it is like seeing exactly what you want only a few 100 yards ahead only to find more desert. I do believe for the last half mile Vanessa and I began to get delirious. I imagined this was what the Israelites felt like when wandering for 40 years in that Egyptian desert (Again I was beginning to lose it so you’ll have to forgive my sacrilegious thoughts). We walked and we walked some more. Once we thought about turning around and giving up we saw a well just a few feet ahead. We were able to grab water and drench our clothes.

Bright Angel Trail Grand Canyon in October

The Colorado River

To our surprise, there was a fence just up ahead of us. We were almost angry realizing this was the end and it just a metal fence keeping us from some ledge. I was irate that anyone would tell us to venture out these last two miles for what? More Canyon? Before you get irate like my dehydrated mind had gotten, walk a little further. There you will find a breathtaking view of the Colorado River. It is thousands of feet below and a sight to behold.  To the right of the outlook, you can even see Havasu Falls, a famous waterfall many travel to and camp beside.

Bright Angel Trail

If you are able please trust me when I insist that you continue on to the full 6 miles of the Bright Angel Trail. The Grand Canyon is beautiful to look at when you are inside the bowl, however, nothing compares to staring thousands of feet above the roaring Colorado River surrounded by ragged rocks.

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail

Hiking up the Grand Canyon

After the high of feeling like you are on top of the world the realization that now the hard part of the hike actually begins. By this time it was around 10 o’clock and we had 2 miles of flat ground to conquer and then that pesky 3800 feet to climb all within the heat of the day. This would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do.

Bright Angel trail

Time to conquer the climb

If you haven’t known me long you will see I love to hike, I love being outdoors, and I love adventure. However, if you know me even better, you know I am a little bit of a wuss. I have a pesky problem with hypoglycemia and sometimes I’m a little weak. Despite that nagging voice in my head, I arose to the challenge with my friend Amanda’s ever constant positive chant claiming, “You can do anything Brie, just go slow and you will make it”. These words got me out that Canyon without giving in to my daydream of using that emergency phone at the bathroom asking for a Camel to be brought down for the little weak girl who couldn’t continue on. For that Amanda dear, I thank you.

Bright Angel Trail

Success at the bottom of the Canyon

Vanessa my fitness-minded friend, stayed with me for about 3 miles. She found shade for us when the sun was relentlessly beating down and gave me encouragement when I thought of dying in the desert. Unfortunately, about the time the Canyon walls began to provide us shade the closer to the sides we got was about the time she realized she had a time frame to beat. We had been told that the Bright Angel Trail takes about 10-12 hours to complete, and she was determined to kick that time frame’s booty. When presented with a challenge never doubt my friend Vanessa whether it has to do with money, fitness, or food I guarantee you she will come out on top.

Bright Angel Trail

“I’ll meet you ALL the way over there”

So now Vanessa was but a tiny figure in the distance slowly becoming a figment of my imagination. I took a few 100 steps and stopped if I needed and I made friends with others who found the ascent back to the top as great of a challenge. I left people behind and others floored passed me. I saw 70-year-old hikers with their trekking poles blaze past me and put me to shame.

Success at the top of the Grand Canyon

In the end, I made it out of that Canyon hell. Step by baby step I managed not to die underneath that unforgiving sun. I made it out to see Vanessa’s triumphant face smiling down at me wondering what in the world could have taken me an hour and a half longer than her. Despite my late arrival, I was undoubtedly so incredibly proud of myself for undertaking a challenge I was not sure I was capable of completing. Never doubt yourself as you are capable of so much more than you could imagine.

Bright Angel Trail hiking inspiration

My reward for surviving.

For more inspiration check out:

Tips for surviving the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Information

Grand Canyon National Park

The Bright Angel Trail Grand Canyon Adventure Last October my current full-time job decided to fly us out to Phoenix for a meeting. One of my travel buddies Vanessa immediately jumped at the opportunity for us to hike the Grand Canyon. So we flew out a few days early (Never hurts to ask your company [...]

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Beginner Tips for Surviving the Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail

Beginner Tips for Surviving the Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail

So you want to hike the Grand Canyon? Do you think 12 miles in the desert heat sounds like a fun challenge? By all means, hike your heart away but please listen to these tips for surviving the Grand Canyon that I learned while hiking the Bright Angel Trail.

Water is your Best Friend

I mean it kids, make sure and stay hydrated while out in the Grand Canyon. Keeping hydrated should be your number one priority. When choosing a hike, make sure and go to the Visitor Center first. Find out which water stations are turned on. If you are lucky they will all be functioning which on the Bright Angel Trail meant a water station every 1.5 miles. Personally, I just brought a refillable Camelbak 16oz bottle and it was perfect. However, another great option is the Hydro flask which is heavier but keeps your water colder.

A Camelbak bladder is also an option but personally, I wouldn’t fill it all the way up as that just adds unnecessary weight in the desert heat. (This was meant ONLY if all stations are functioning, you should ask the ranger if they are all on to be sure. If you are worried then keep your Camelbak bladder completely full!)

How to Survive the Grand Canyon- Trail in Arizona

The Desert trail had no end

 

What to wear hiking the Grand Canyon

I know that desert heat may be making you lean towards some skimpy shorts and a tank but don’t forget those heat rays will cause an epic burn if you don’t watch out. I personally wore yoga Capri’s with a light workout tank with a cotton jacket. It came in handy for that early morning hike when it was chilly and it felt great to soak it in water to cover up my burning shoulders. Another great option is a shirt with SPF protection. There are many great options and one of the top rated is the Columbia button up sun shirt. Shawn has one and I am super jealous and often steal it from him.

Surviving the Grand Canyon

Vanessa all bundled up in the early morning

Packing snacks for the Grand Canyon

If the world was in an apocalypse you would want to join my friend Vanessa and I as we are chronic snack over packers. Anytime we go on a hike you would think we were hiking Everest. However, when hiking back up the Canyon in the heat of the day you will find yourself slowly dwindling and will be happy you packed some energy boosters. Suggestions for snacks are:

  • Peanut Butter Sandwich
  • Granola Bars
  • Almonds
  • Trail Mix

It’s great to have variety so you don’t get sick of eating the same thing when your body really needs the fuel.

Tips for hiking the Grand Canyon

Sun protection in the Grand Canyon

Sunscreen and I are always at odds since I’m not convinced those nasty chemicals don’t always do harm while doing some good. However, when it comes to the desert sun rays and my vampire translucent skin, I’ll take the chemicals until I can come up with a better solution. The last thing you want in the middle of your hike back to the top of that canyon is to start feeling an epic sunburn coming on. Not only do sunburns hurt but they can easily make you sun sick. My personal favorite is SunBum sunscreen. I NEVER burn when I use it AND it great for the environment, it’s a win-win! So pack that SPF 100 and get to moving!

Beginner Tips for hiking the Grand Canyon

Bring a Hat

Sunglasses are great but I promise you nothing will save you from those rays beating down on you quite like a hat. Lucky for me my friend comes dually prepared and had an extra hat for me to wear. I have no idea how I would have survived if she wasn’t so generous! Also maybe don’t wear white in the Grand Canyon, the red dirt will NEVER come out. That goes for your clothes too! My shirt still has a tinge of red! If you don’t already have a great hiking hat, check out these hats from Amazon. They provide SPF 50 and at a low price, you won’t be devastated if they get some red on them!

Do you want to hear my personal story on hiking the Bright Angel Trail? Check it out here!

When to hike the Bright Angel Trail

The best thing you can do when going on a long hike in the Grand Canyon is to start as early as you can bear. We got to the Canyon around 7 am and it made the hike down much more endurable. It also meant we were hiking up around noon so my suggestion is to start as early as 5 am.

beginner tips for hiking the bright angel trail

 

Go at your own pace

Hiking down is quite a breeze and once you get to the cliff you really feel accomplished and on top of the world. However, that hike back up can really take a toll on you. It’s about 4000 ft back up and you definitely can feel it. If you are going with a partner my best advice is to go at your own pace. Vanessa is a fitness freak and was able to go much faster than I was so she sped to the top. Instead of trying to keep up with her I went at my own speed taking breaks when needed (which was every 100 feet or so at some points).

It’s ok to go slow, it’s better than getting sick!

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail 3

Vanessa ahead of the curve on the downhill and uphill battle

Take tons of pictures

Trust me when I say “You’ll want your camera for this one”. The Canyon was so breathtaking at the bottom of the trail above the red river. We could have stayed there for hours taking pictures. Take your time and take pictures, you earned it!

For more information on the Bright Angel Trail check out the link below

http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/Bright_Angel_Trail.pdf

 

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