The Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, is one of the most inspiring landscapes on earth! About 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. It is a wonderful destination to visit all year round. The park covers an area of 4921 square kilometers (1900 square miles) and is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. The Grand Canyon is the result of geological processes over millions of years. The geological story includes colliding landmasses, landmasses that drift apart, the Colorado Plateau rise, and erosion because of moving water. The Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon over 5 to 6 million years.

Hiking the Grand Canyon is the best way to explore this Mother Nature’s masterpiece. Many routes are available. It depends on your personnel interest and your hiking abilities which route to pick. You can hike above-rim trails, or hike a trail that goes into the canyon.  Most visitors explore the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. The South Rim is most accessible for tourists.  From the Grand Canyon Visitor Center that is located on the South Rim, you can take the shuttle bus to various viewpoints, hiking trailheads, the Grand Canyon Village, shops, and visitors centers. In total, four shuttle bus routes run around the South Rim. The shuttle bus transportation is included in the park entrance fee. Day hikes from the South Rim include Rim Trail, Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Hermit Trail, and Grandview Trail. The North Rim is less popular due to its remote location. The below-rim trails provide spectacular views over the inner canyon.  Bright Angel Trail is a popular hiking trail you must do when visiting the Grand Canyon. The Trail offers wonderful views over the Canyon. There are two options to hike. You can either follow the trail to Plateau Point, or hike to the Colorado River.

Hike to Plateau Point

The most common option for a day hike is to follow the trail to Plateau Point. The hiking trail starts at the Bright Angel Trailhead. The Bright Angel Trailhead is located on the South Rim, which is west of Bright Angel Lodge. Originally, the Havasupai Indians used the trail. Prospectors improved the trail in the late 19th century, and the ownership of the trail was transferred to the National Park Service in 1928. Overall, the hiking trial to Plateau Point is a well-maintained path. The trail is randomly patrolled by park rangers to whom you can ask questions, or who will help you in case of emergency.  Along the trail, there are four stops:

• Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse;
• Three-Mile Resthouse;
• Indian Garden;
• Plateau Point.

The hike to Plateau Point is extremely strenuous due to the distance and heat. From Indian Garden to Plateau Point, there is no shade. At the rest of the trail, there are some shades from the canyon wall, which depends on the time of day. When you go down into the inner canyon, the temperature rises. Temperatures may vary 10 degrees Celsius (about 20 degrees Fahrenheit) between the top and the bottom of the canyon.  In summer, daytime temperatures at the inner canyon may exceed 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Furthermore, you should remember that hiking the way down is easier than hiking the way up. Going up can be a daunting task! Plan that going up takes twice as long as going down. 

Bright Angel Trailhead

View over the Grand Canyon from Bright Angel Trailhead

On the first part of the trail – from the trailhead to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse – there are two tunnels. From the first tunnel, you have a nice view over the canyon down to Plateau Point. This is a good stop for a photo. Near the first tunnel, you also find some petroglyphs (rock art) carved into the rock. The first part is not too steep. The Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse is a good turnaround point for terrible hikers and late starters. After the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, you can continue to the Three-Mile Resthouse. The section between the two resthouses is very scenic and is perfect for some incredible photo opportunities. You have some great views over the inner canyon. For most people, the Three-Mile Resthouse is a good turnaround point.

The third stop is Indian Garden, which is 7.4 km (4.6 miles) one-way from the Bright Angel Trailhead. From here, you can either go to the Colorado River, or to Plateau Point. Follow the trail that leads you to Plateau Point. To do the hike to Indian Garden, it is recommended to start early. Indian Garden is a good stop for a picnic. Picnic tables and park benches are available. The giant cottonwood trees and cooling shades make it is a good resting place from the heat of the canyon. About 2.4 km (1.5 miles) from Indian Garden, you have an amazing view over the Colorado River and the Inner Canyon Gorge. This viewpoint is named Plateau Point. Plateau Point is 9.8 km (6.1 miles) one-way from the Bright Angel Trailhead.

Sign at Indian Garden

From Indian Garden, it is 2.4 km to Plateau Point with a view over Colorado River.

Colorado River hike

It may be challenging to reach the bottom of the canyon! However, hiking to the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon in one day is dangerous. Each year, hikers suffer from serious illness due to exhaustion. If you want to go to the river, you have to stay overnight. There is a campsite located on the north side of the Colorado River.  On your way to the campground, you can stop at the River Resthouse. From the Canyon Rim to the campground, it is a 15 km (9.3 miles) walk.

Colorado River

Colorado River at Grand Canyon National Park

Hiking tips

There are a few things you must consider when you are hiking the trail. First, it can be extremely hot in the canyon. Do the hike in the early morning, especially when you are planning to do the hike up to Plateau Point. It becomes hotter and hotter when you descend the canyon. In summer, thunderstorms are common. When a thunderstorm comes up, seek shelter and stay away from exposed areas. Also, stay away from the rim when lightening threatens. Plan your hike before you start. Always carry enough water with you! Dehydration is a common issue. Water to fill up your water bottle is available all year round at the Bright Angel Trailhead and at Indian Garden. At each stop along the trail, water is available seasonably from May to October. However, you need to bring and carry water all times. When hiking in a group, everyone should bring their own water bottle. Also, you need to bring enough food, because you use lots of energy during the hike. Balance your food and water intake. Also, eat salty snacks. Furthermore, wear the appropriate shoes, sun protection, and the appropriate clothes.  And most importantly: stay away from cliffs!


Bright Angel Hiking Trail

Bright Angel hiking trail