It was a very early start today, we got the shuttle bus around 5am. This was to ensure we had plenty of time to complete the hike and to try and get most of it done before it was too hot. We really didn’t know what was in store for us, this turned out to be one of the most challenging days…ever, but so rewarding.
*On May 29th 2019, I travelled with Trek America on their Grand Trek tour for six weeks around the USA. We began in New York, travelling south to the West Coast, then North back to the East Coast. I am not affiliated with Trek America. Read all my Trek America posts here. *
Bright Angel Trail – Grand Canyon
Looking back at that day – we all did this trail, not really knowing what to expect. Being our first hike, we had no idea of our own stamina, or how difficult the terrain would make the hike in general. On the plus side, we all went into the hike very optimistic.
The day before, we had stopped at the visitor centre, where our leader ran through the different trails. Some opted for a flat trail, for everyone else he recommend the Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail – Plateau Point Stats
- 12.2m / 19.6km round trip
- 3080ft / 940m below the rim
- The most difficult day-hike destination
As you can see in the image below, there are several stops. The good thing about this trail is that there are water taps!!
You can choose where you are going to walk to beforehand or do what we did and just see how far you can go. Our aim was to just see if we could get to Indian Garden, at which point our leader said if you make here you may as well go to Plateau Point.
Heading down the Grand Canyon
We began the trail just before 6am. Immediately you are presented with an amazing view of the Grand Canyon and we were literally walking down the edge. The amount of times we said ‘guys, we are actually walking down the grand canyon right now, how crazy is this!’
We had a great time making our way down the Canyon, stopping at the rest stops and filling up our water. Gradually, we got lower and lower into the Canyon. There are toilets at the stops, be warned, they are like a scene out of a SAW movie. I was just grateful that there were facilities. Don’t forget your hand sanitizer!
Indian Garden – Bright Angel Trail
At 20 past 8 we had made it to Indian Garden. We were a little surprised to have got there, which seemed to be really quick. Little did we know the hike time estimate would make sense later on.
Reaching Plateau Point – Bright Angel Trail
The last stretch of the hike out to Plateau Point was amazing. A 360 view of the canyon. Plus a great view of the hike you’ve just done and realising…hang on we have to hike back up there?!
I am really glad that I didn’t research this trail too much beforehand, because I had no clue what Plateau Point was. It is absolutely breathtaking, I have never seen anything like it. If you are arranging your own trip, I would suggest researching as you want to choose the best trails & views for you. I didnt want to choose anything specific beforehand, just in case we didnt end up doing it.
Plateau Point is situated 1300ft above Colorado river. Look how close it looks in the above picture. As a comparison, check out the helicopter pictures in Day 15.
Hiking UP the Grand Canyon?!
The Bright Angel trail consists of more than 100 switchbacks down the canyon walls. One thing we didn’t really consider when heading down was, just HOW DIFFICULT this was going to be to hike back up. Can’t be that bad right?! Oh how we were wrong. This hike is incredibly deceiving, once you get to Indian Garden it is fairly flat. So you can walk along to Plateau Point and back, not really knowing how tired your legs are. Then you start going uphill.
It was around 11am that we got to the switchbacks. We didnt finish the hike until 2/3pm. Honestly, this was the most difficult couple of hours I have ever experienced. I legitimately thought this was it, i’m not going to make it haha! Our group split into two, one went ahead and the rest of us hung back and stopped whenever we needed. Such a bonding experience, all of us supporting each other.
I am so glad we chose this trail, because it had water access. We were tipping whole bottles over ourselves to keep cool and refilling again.
Random things that happened on the hike
At one of the stops we were sitting in a shelter for a little while, we noticed that someone had actually fallen asleep in there. I don’t blame them, to be honest! On the switchbacks nearer the top we passed a guy who sprayed us with water – absolute god send.
Even closer to the top, we had stopped and were talking to some people, we were glad they were talking for a while because we got to sit down for longer. However, they then said good luck on finishing the hike…only one more mile to go. We thought we were right at the end 🙁
I can’t decide if we were extremely unprepared or if the hike was disorientating (maybe because you can’t see all of it at certain points) because we just didn’t know where we were, how long we had to go etc. Of the whole trip, this was the longest, most difficult hike we did. Everything seemed easier after this.
Reflecting on our first hike | Bright Angel Trail TIPS!
- First things first, we DID NOT bring enough food. Seriously, pack yourself a substantial lunch and snacks.
- Empty your day pack of anything unnecessary. My bag was SO HEAVY, but I had so many ‘travel related’ things in there that I should have unpacked.
- Think about your timing, we left early but this meant the hardest part of the trail was done in the hottest part of the day. You could leave a little later but you risk not being back before sunset. It is also less busier earlier on.
- Bring a spray bottle to keep yourself cool!
Sunset at South Rim | Grand Canyon
We eventually made it back to the campground and had a little rest. But it wasn’t long before we needed to head back out to watch the sunset and have some well deserved Pizza.
We were trying to see if we could find the Bright Angel Trail from the top of the Canyon. I am pretty sure that the faint line (in the picture below) you can see underneath the tree is the last part of the trail to Plateau Point.
We had a really nice chilled evening after a very exhausting day! Next stop: Zion!
Let me know if you have any questions regarding Trek America or the places we visited 🙂