Grand Canyon: South Kaibab to Bright Angel

April 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Since we had not made plans in advance, our only chance at getting a backcountry permit would be to show up at the office in the morning, wait in line, get a number, then wait in line with our number the following day so that we could get our permit for the following day. Everything worked out and we finally got our permit, but had a couple days to kill on the rim. It actually worked out nicely because we were there for the full moon rise. So we headed out to find a good spot and just as we figured where the moon would come over the horizon we noticed a faint GIANT moon coming up over the rim. What an awesome sight. As it rose the sunset and we were front row to a great sunset on the rim.

Full Moon Rise from Yavapai PointFull Moon Rise from Yavapai Point Yavapai Point SunsetYavapai Point Sunset Full Moon Sunset from Yavapai PointFull Moon Sunset from Yavapai Point

The following day we packed and then started down the South Kaibab trail for a night at Bright Angel Campground and Havasupai Gardens. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the trail but damn is that thing steep. We had the trail to ourselves for the most part. The trail work is pretty cool to see, lots and lots of switchbacks.

Hiking down the South Kaibab TrailHiking down the South Kaibab Trail Hiking Down the South Kaibab PanoramaHiking Down the South Kaibab Panorama

After a few miles and few thousand feet down, we got our first views of the Colorado River. There were plenty of amazing views, but it was definitely a relief to see the campground. All the downhill with a heavy pack takes a toll on your joints.

Overlooking Phantom RanchOverlooking Phantom Ranch

The lack of shade, increasing temperature, dust, and the constant downhill was starting to wear on my knees and ankles. But on we went.

Hiking the Final Stretch of the South KaibabHiking the Final Stretch of the South Kaibab Hermit Shale Colored BootsHermit Shale Colored Boots Blooming Prickly Pear Cactus Along the South KaibabBlooming Prickly Pear Cactus Along the South Kaibab Exploring Near Boat BeachExploring Near Boat Beach Bright Angel Creek Looking UpstreamBright Angel Creek Looking Upstream

But once we made it down to Phantom Ranch we headed to the canteen for some lemonade and cheap beer. We changed shoes and headed to the river to cool off, explore around, and watch the sunset.

Bright Angel Creek Looking DownsreamBright Angel Creek Looking Downsream Sunset Along the ColoradoSunset Along the Colorado

The next morning we were pretty beat so we didn't get up early. We only had a few miles to get to our next spot, so we weren't too worried about it. We finally saw some wildlife on this stretch.

The Colorado Near Pipe Springs CreekThe Colorado Near Pipe Springs Creek Yellow-backed Spiny LizardYellow-backed Spiny Lizard Male Queen ButterflyMale Queen Butterfly

We rolled into camp that afternoon and took the time to relax in the shade. We hiked out to Plateau Point for sunset and decided to make our dinner out there versus staying in camp. Turned out to be a solid move.

Bolting AgaveBolting Agave Plateau PointPlateau Point Pleateau Point Evening LightPleateau Point Evening Light 20180324-jwf-5516-pano20180324-jwf-5516-panoNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180324-jwf-5557-pano20180324-jwf-5557-panoNPS / Jacob W. Frank

When we made it back to camp it was mostly dark, but we could hear frogs calling. After a little exploring we found this little canyon tree frog.

Canyon Tree FrogCanyon Tree Frog

We enjoyed our sunset from the night before we thought we should do it again for sunrise. Again, didn't disappoint.

20180325-jwf-562920180325-jwf-5629NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180325-jwf-563720180325-jwf-5637NPS / Jacob W. Frank

We headed back to camp, packed up and started making our way back up to the rim. We had 3K more feet to climb in about 5 miles. It was an overcast day but I still was sweating like a beast. Again, we had the trail mostly to ourselves until we got within a mile of the rim. We started seeing people in flip flops who smelled good, we knew we weren't far from the top! The hike out of the canyon isn’t terrible in the spring, but I can’t imagine doing it in the summer when it’s hot outside. We made it out just in time for the bad weather to roll in, grabbed some beers, and then grilled out before crashing early.

Morning Hike on Bright AngelMorning Hike on Bright Angel Morning Light Overlooking Indian GardensMorning Light Overlooking Indian Gardens

Trip notes: We hiked a little over 20 miles with the trips out to Plateau Point with a vertical mile in elevation gain. The thing I'm not a fan of about canyon hiking is that it's all down, or all up. Your muscles rarely get a break with varied terrain. Starting early was also a good move, it's usually much hotter in the canyon even if it feels nice on the rim. Usually less breeze and 3 degrees warmer for every thousand feet. Then add the radiant heat of the rocks in the afternoon as they have been baking in the sun all day. I had a blast and I would do it again. If you plan way ahead you can order dinner at the ranch instead of just buying drinks like we did.

Screen Shot 2024-01-01 at 8.59.15 PMScreen Shot 2024-01-01 at 8.59.15 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-01 at 8.58.39 PMScreen Shot 2024-01-01 at 8.58.39 PM

Bonus: We stayed an extra couple days on the rim and figured I could share some other sunrise/set pics. Enjoy!

20180320-jwf-498220180320-jwf-4982NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180323-jwf-534920180323-jwf-5349NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180320-jwf-499020180320-jwf-4990NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180321-jwf-503220180321-jwf-5032NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180323-jwf-523520180323-jwf-5235NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180329-jwf-6023-pano20180329-jwf-6023-panoNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180329-jwf-604620180329-jwf-6046NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180329-jwf-609320180329-jwf-6093NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20180329-jwf-613920180329-jwf-6139NPS / Jacob W. Frank


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