A trip to the Grand Canyon was on my husband’s bucket list, and for once I let him take the initiative and do all the planning. When he couldn’t get reservations at Canyon Ranch (the lodging at the bottom of the canyon), he set his sights on hiking from the South Rim to the Colorado River.
Although signs and park rangers tried to discourage us from doing it as a day hike in mid-August, we walked the line between badass and dumbass and made out to the river–and back.
The Bright Angel trail starts at the South Rim
and out to Indian Garden,
and then winds around and down
to the river.
The National Park Service website tells this brief history of the trail.
Following a natural break in the cliffs formed by the massive Bright Angel Fault, today’s Bright Angel Trail approximates a route used for millennia by the many Native American groups that have called the Grand Canyon home. Early western pioneers at the canyon first built a trail in 1891 to reach mining claims established below the rim at Indian Garden. Recognizing that the true worth of the claims would be measured in visitation by tourists, these pioneers immediately registered their trail as a toll road and extended the trail to the river.
The mining claims and use of the trail as a toll road would be the source of much controversy, first in legal battles with railroad companies that wanted to control tourism and later with the federal government. The trail was turned over to the National Park Service in 1928. Though it has been rerouted and improved considerably over the years, present day visitors on the Bright Angel Trail can sense its rich history from ancient pictograph panels and historic structures, and by marveling at the trail’s construction over some of the roughest terrain in North America.
We took the warning signs seriously, but with plenty of water and snacks, and with a cloudy sky to keep us from getting too hot, we decided we could make it.
Of course, the ever-changing scenery and spectacular views kept us going.
The clusters of mile markers give a hint of the number of switch backs along the trail, and the elevation speaks for itself!
Overall, the hike took us about 8.5 hours, including a few snack breaks. When we finished, we were hot, tired, and grimy, but glad we had done it–and grateful for the cloudy afternoon skies that made it possible.
Have you done any Grand Canyon hiking?